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This came up recently in an all too brief discussion I had with a poster on this forum, who had been looking for crew for a Transatlantic crossing. I was surprised when told that as crew, apart from the  job of crewing, I would be expected to pay to work. I understand that as a non-professional sailor one cannot necessarily be expected to actually be paid for crewing but is it common that people pay to crew for someone needing to move a boat? 

It is not something I had considered at all.  But if there is a realistic market for it, it could change my plans for my boat....    No longer would one need to be either financially self-sufficient before setting off or have to pause to top up the kitty from time to time.

Just off the top of my head, 3 crew at $50/day could provide a good measure of independence with just a couple of decent length voyages a year. And you'd be sailing! 

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Hi Axel,

I think this is a very grey area from what i understand. Yes there are people that will crew on deliveries for free, then there are the crew that are looking for "miles" that will pay for the privilege, and this can range from expenses sharing to a fixed daily rate. Then there is the new AirBnB style accomodation for boats.. With proper marketing there may be a way forward but then this may open you up to "commercial" liabilities and those associated costs and responsibilities...

I certainly think that what you suggest is doable, and i know a few sailors that have survived around asia for many years doing exactly as you describe by taking backpackers sailing, but i think to do this legitimately and legally more research is needed..


From my experience, there are three types of crew positions:

• Professional: Crew members are paid by the vessel owner. Expenses may or may not be paid. On board expenses are usually paid, but other expenses are not. Depending on the vessel type, crew may need special licenses. I have only experienced full paid expense crewing, where the owner paid for 100% of my expenses while on board and ashore while employed, including food and clothing.

• Assistance: Crew members are not paid. Expenses during passages may be paid by the vessel owner, or expense sharing may be required. These situations generally fall under ocean passages, hitchhiking, transits, and some deliveries. I have done both types, where I shared expenses and where my expenses were paid.

Learning/Adventure: Crew members pay for the experience. This is usually a commercial enterprise where the vessel's captain must have a license and the boat certified for paid charters. This is country dependent. I have never paid to be crew.

I crewed on the delivery trip of a Pahi 52, from Thailand as far as Egypt.  The arrangement was that the owner paid all costs while on board, we paid our own airfares plus our share of food and drinks ashore.  That seemed fair in the circumstances. I wouldn't have gone if I was asked to pay a daily rate as well.

That situation was rather different to what Marty mentions, taking people sailing in Asia for a bit of cash.  You're not really doing anything much to help the owner then, so you might expect to contribute.  The legalities obviously depend on where you are, and where the boat is registered.

You do need to be increasingly careful about what is or isn't commercial use of a vessel.  I'd suggest you read the MCA report into the fatal accident with Cheeky Rafiki, it makes very sobering reading.  Please don't post any comments or views about it though, as I understand there is a serious ongoing criminal prosecution and you could inadvertantly commit a contempt of court.

Interesting details about the Cheeky Rafiki. Very sad story. I assume the criminal case is against the owners for negligence?

I had not yet really considered the liability aspect of charging people to work for you. It must give you responsibility for anyone paying to be on your boat. Out in the boonies it seems one might have to worry bit less about it, but then you always run the risk of just being arrested until it gets sorted out.

The loss of the keel on Rafiki is one of the reasons why I chose a wooden catamaran...

And for me volunteering services is one thing but paying to work for someone? Not so much. 

In addition to potential legal problems in the country where you are operating, my understanding is you can be charged with offences by your flag state, where the boat is registered. For most most ordinary folk that will be their home country. Contrary to popular belief it's not quite "the wild west" out there.

Whatever you do, just do it with your eyes open...

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