QA&: Preparing For A Trans-Atlantic As Crew

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Question: I have perhaps a total of 40 hours sailing the New England coast. I have been invited by an experienced sailor to sail from Newburyport to Ireland in 2008 on a 32’ boat. My question is, what could I do between now and then to better prepare myself as a useful crew member?

Answer: Sounds like you have an adventure in your future! That’s great.

A list of things to look into:

  1. Make sure the skipper really is experienced and that the boat is a seaworthy boat in good condition (talk to someone experienced who could judge this).
  2. Try and get out sailing with the skipper on the boat before you head across to make sure you are comfortable with the situation.
  3. Try and get as much offshore experience as you can to make sure you like being offshore; not everyone does.
  4. Practice sailing and sail trim—it will make it a lot more fun if you have an idea of how to trim the sails and make the boat move at a good pace.
  5. Make sure that you are heading across at the right time of year—preferably between May and July—and that the skipper understands the danger of being anywhere in the Atlantic during hurricane season (as I write this, there’s a tropical storm heading up the east coast).
  6. If you really want to get into it, you might want to spend a holiday taking a British RYA Competent Crew course. These are hands-on with actual sailing experience. Or else, a cheaper alternative would be to take a sailing course in the States that is hands-on with a focus on being a good crew member, versus a course that focuses on being a skipper (unless you want to go in that direction).

That’s all I can think of for now. Good luck!

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Phyllis has sailed over 40,000 offshore miles with John on their McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, most of it in the high latitudes, and has crossed the Atlantic three times. As a woman who came to sailing as an adult, she brings a fresh perspective to cruising, which has helped her communicate what they do in an approachable way, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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