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Old 04-22-2011, 07:24 AM   #1
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Hello all from a newbie,

It feels good to be sailing the waters of this board for the first time, having stood on the quay for a while, watching.

I do not intend this thread to reignite the whole "Paying Crew" debate, I am just looking for advice on a decision I have almost already made.

Basically, I have set myself the challenge of travelling around the world without flying, and have got as far as Japan (by train, ferry and hitch-hiking). I have been gratefully making good use of these forums to research the arguments for and against paying to be a 'crewmember' as a way of getting transport and yachting experience (in particular threads here and here).

For the next leg of my journey, I have decided to join [a well known sailor] on his [yacht] as a way to get from Japan to Alaska. I understand that [the well known sailor]'s requested "contribution" price of $50US per day will make many members of these boards gasp in horror. However, due to having very little sailing experience (just a few hours in off-shore dinghies) and due also to the timing being perfect for my own itinerary, I have decided that this is the best way for me to cross the Pacific (something I initially thought would be the impossible part of my journey). To my eyes, the yacht [name removed] seems pretty well fitted out [advertisement for yacht removed]?) - this will also give me some good crewing experience for future parts of my journey.

My reason for posting here is to ask if anyone knows (or knows of) [the well known sailor], and to basically reassure myself that he is the genuine article and not just some internet crook with a cheap website and a bank account. It all looks genuine enough (there are some great photos on his website, and the blog is pretty thorough). In terms of the money, [the well known sailor] has asked me to transfer 40% of the money for the voyage to his bank account, and pay the rest in cash when I meet him in Hakodate. Is this the standard way of doing things? Should I be worried about transferring money to the bank account of someone I've never met, and with whom I have only been in touch via email?

Through my various online research, I have gathered that it is best practise to check out a captain's Credentials and the yacht's Certification etc, but being new to the cruising world I have very little idea about what questions I should be asking and what answers to be looking for. There have been no warning signs yet, so my instinct is to trust the [well known sailor/skipper], but the question of the bank transfer just got me asking - what if?

Any pointers, gut reactions, and if possible concrete information / personal references will be much appreciated.

Finally, has anyone on these forums ever sailed from Japan to Alaska in June-July? Got any advice on clothing, equipment, and mental/psychological preparation?

Thanks in advance for anything anybody has to say.

'bye for now,

Sparky in Japan.
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Old 04-22-2011, 09:10 AM   #2
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Hi Sparky and welcome to CL as a contributor.

As a fellow Swede and a sailor, I certainly know of [the sailor in question] and his boat although I have never met him. He is the genuine article with many thousands of miles in his wake and he has written the books in question. I have read some of them but not all.

I believe that his boat is all he claims it to be too. I would have no worries about sailing with him except on two points:

1. is he insured to carry passengers? If not and something goes wrong, as it can on any vessel, and you are, say, disabled in an accident will his insurance pay your medical costs and compensation for disability?

2. as this is a commercial venture, and at the rates he is charging I cannot see otherwise, is he and the vessel appropriately licensed?

As a possible guideline, I can tell you that the boat is registered in Stockholm as a "fritidsmotorsegelskepp", in English -a motor-sailing pleasure vessel. The well-known sailor is the registered owner.

The boat is, according to Swedish law, a ship (rather than a boat) and as such, the skipper has to have a minimum qualification of class B skipper (Skepparexamen Klass B ) as she is classed as a pleasure vessel. I would never think of crossing an ocean with a skipper who does not have a higher qualification than that. In fact, I would ask for a RYA Ocean Yachtmaster or equivalent. If the vessel were classed as a merchant ship, despite her diminutive size, the National Maritime Authority would have issued a "Minimum Manning Document" specifying the numbers and qualifications of the crew depending upon the vessel's area of operation.

As regards the transfer of money, I have no experience of chartering vessels (other than large ships) or paying for passage on a private vessel so I cannot help you on that issue. Sorry!

I have never sailed to Alaska, from any direction, but I have sailed a great-circle course from Japan to Panama, which takes you just south of the Aleutian Islands. You can expect some bad and cold weather. Equally so, you may get a fantastic trip in good weather. High latitudes are notoriously fickle.

The bottom line is, if you are happy with the insurance issue, go for it!

Hope this helps

Aye // Stephen
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Old 04-22-2011, 01:01 PM   #3
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Dear Sparky,

I have removed all reference to the specific sailor and sailing boat since truly, you are providing what is essentially an advertisement for him here on the forums. I have also removed reference to the specific sailor/boat from Nausikaa's kind and informative post in response to your query.

Since I note that the particular sailor is very easy to find information about online (just by a simple Google query), I'd suggest that you start there with your due diligence. This person is in the business of providing a charter experience for paying crew. As such, he's not doing you a "favor" of letting you aboard, rather he is providing you a service that you'll be paying for. It is quite reasonable for you to get in contact with the skipper and ask questions about how many crew are aboard during each leg and ask for references from prior crew. It is also reasonable to ask about insurance and certification levels of the particular skipper.

You are facing the same due diligence tasks that everyone who decides to travel using a paying crew charter service must make. Since you are considering a well-established charter company (I see 10 years and 700 guests listed on the website), you should have little difficulty in getting in touch with prior crew/customers and getting the picture about this particular venture for this particular sailor.

Good luck in finding a good way to continue your journey.

Brenda
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Old 04-22-2011, 03:02 PM   #4
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Hi Sparky. This is a commercial charter operation so make absolutely sure that:

1) The skipper is registered and documented to be in control of a vessel that takes on paying passengers (crew).

2) The vessel is properly documented and registered to carry paying passengers (crew).

3) As mentioned above, ensure that the insurance covers the (documented) vessel and skipper as a commercial charter.

If all the above is in order the skipper should be happy to let you view these documents BEFORE accepting your deposit. If not, steer well clear of this.

Should the above not be in order, you could find that the vessel is impounded in a foreign port and the passengers (crew) will have to find their own way home.

I see that this particular vessel may have been lucky to get away with this operation for quite some time. Up to you to take your chances if you so wish.

FYI - also read the article on the World Cruising Wiki - HERE
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Old 04-22-2011, 07:35 PM   #5
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How much did he say you would have to pay, total? The trip from Japan to Alaska will be cool, but it's not going to be quick. I guesstimate 30 days minimum, 45 days or more would not be surprising. For 45 days that would be $2250, right? And there's no place to get off, so if you avoid flying because you get airsick, woe is you on this trip. My biggest concern since you are totally inexperienced and are going on such a blind excursion is that you have no idea what you are getting yourself into, and we don't know you so we can't even guess whether you are really up for it.

Not cheap, that's for sure.

I also hope you will have warm clothes, lots of, and that somebody provides boots, since the skipper says he doesn't.

Otherwise, I think it will be a fantastic experience and I would hope you would come back to tell us about it.

Fair winds,

Jeanne
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Old 04-22-2011, 09:05 PM   #6
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Not having bluewater experience and jumping aboard for such a long trip at high latitudes is risky unless Sparky doesn't get seasick and perhaps has sailed a bit before. Even then it's risky, yes.

I hadn't even focused on the high cost issue, JeanneP, but it would seem that with that much money set aside for this leg of the trip, Sparky might be able to get more "original" and do what people used to do in the old days--find a passenger-taking ship to make the trip with. From Japan, of course, such a ship might not take Sparky to Alaska, but I don't think going to Alaska is the goal, but rather, traveling around the world w/o flying is the goal. Paying such a premium for being a passenger on a yacht is really no different than finding a good passenger ship, in my book.

Sparky, where did you start your travels and what are each of the legs? Japan by ferry...From...??? What is your nationality? I'm very curious about this trip to date.
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Old 04-26-2011, 05:44 PM   #7
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Hi all,

Thanks for all your useful comments.

I'd like to apologize for unwittingly creating an advertisement - thanks Brenda for speedy moderation.

I have indeed scoured Google for info on the skipper in question, and most of what comes up is related to the books he has written. The few blog entries and press articles that come up shed a positive light on the whole venture, and this is partly why I turned to forums to ask for the take of the yachting community.

Regarding time and cost, it seems that it will take about a month to get to Dutch Harbour (for which I have agreed a slightly discounted rate - about 25% off) and another 8 days to Kodiak, where I will probably switch to ferries.

I realize this is not the cheapest way to cross the Pacific, but then the Trans Siberian Railway was not the cheapest way to cross Eurasia. But it was far more fascinating than sitting still for 12 hours in the sky (not that I have anything against the sky, per se...) My main motivation for not flying during this trip is environmental, so choosing to sail hopefully further reinforces that by use of wind power.

Warm clothes I have a-plenty, having just spent the winter in Hokkaido. I have hiking boots and wellingtons - do you think these will suffice, or should I be in possession of something more specific?

As for my provenance and progress so far, I am from Herefordshire in the UK, and left home (not for the first time) on May the 5th last year, initially travelling by train to Beijing. I spent a short time in South Korea and have been in Japan (on a Working Holiday Visa) since last June. My next goal is Canada, where I have friends, relations, and citizenship, and I'm pretty sold on the idea of visiting Alaska (and the North Pacific) on the way.

More detail of my journey so far can be found on my blog (a bit out of date, as I have been busy working in Hokkaido). (am I allowed to link to that here? I'm not selling anything...)

I expect I probably sound quite naive when it comes to sailing, but I am adventurous, open minded and willing to learn.

My brother has a boat in BC (currently in Lund) so I am planning to do some more sailing with him when I get there.

Now off to get a US visa...

bye for now,

Sparky.
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Old 11-04-2011, 08:03 PM   #8
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Hi,

I thought I should just let everyone know (somewhat overdue, but better late than never, eh?) that the skipper and boat turned out to be genuine, and the trip was a wonderful success and amazing adventure.

I would write more details here, but i'm currently in the process (again, rather overdue) of writing some blog entries about it (see link in previous post) so why duplicate information?

Of course, there were some shortcomings - being on a schedule, we often had to motor or motorsail, and although he gave us good safety briefings the skipper generally allowed us to learn the ropes for ourselves by watching and doing (rather than being "taught") - and he was perhaps not quite as rigorous in the "Health-and-Safety" side of things as I might have thought. But then he learnt to sail in an era when such things were not treated in the same fussy way that modern organizations work.

As with any small-space experience, we all had to learn to get along with each other, and of course a modicum of cabin fever developed - after 40 or so days, it was definitely time to leave the boat and explore mainland Alaska.

Generally, though, it was a very good way to get a feel for the cruising scene, make some very good friends, explore a part of the world that relatively few people have been to, and cross to the next continent! I am looking forward to the next ocean leg of my journey once I have crossed Canada... (Does anyone know of anyone sailing from Halifax to Iceland in eight months or so?)

'bye for now,

Sparky the sailor
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Old 11-05-2011, 04:24 AM   #9
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Well, thank you, Sparky! Glad to hear that you enjoyed the experience. Can't say I know anybody who would be headed to Iceland, but we saw a couple when we were there a few years ago, so it's done.

Sailing adventures can be quite addictive, so keep us informed of your next adventure.

Fair winds,

Jeanne
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