Yacht crewing – a great place to get into the wilderness

Whale raises tail in a moonscape
(Is it real?!) The things you see at sea!

Want to get away from the world? Just go to sea to see the wilderness. You don’t need a boat to do that – you only need to go yacht crewing to get out there! 

When you leave the dock and pick your way out to sea with that delightful knot of expectation in your belly you are in the wild environment. The smell of the land becomes one of the shore, and you note the seaweed on the shore and just beneath the surface as you pass onward into the unknown. The seas build as you go into open water and the sounds of the land dim behind you. All too soon you are surrounded by nothingness and space. 

You never escape Man’s influence

Greta Thunberg yacht crewing to save the planet
MALIZIA II – Boris Herrmann and Pierre Casiraghi to sail Greta Thunberg across the Atlantic. #UniteBehindTheScience

On two Facebook sailing groups there is a lot about Greta Thunberg and her quest to get the world to wake up to climate change. Somewhat surprisingly there are a lot of what may be termed ‘Earth haters’ out there, for whom money has come at the expense of connection to the world. As someone who has used sailing to get out onto the greatest wilderness of all, I am baffled at how people can not care for the very place that gives them joy. 

I have only once owned a boat. The rest of the time I have had to go yacht crewing to get to sea. Doing this I have several thousands of miles of sailing experience. 

Even on my longer passages I have never really escaped Mankind’s excesses. You cross the English Channel or Biscay and you will always see a merchant ship every few hours or less. Tankers carrying hundreds of thousands of tonnes of crude oil to be burned. Containerships with tens of thousands of containers of manufactured goods. Ferries full of lorries carrying products of commerce. 

The sea is meant to be the wilderness! Storms can snap those ships in two in the bat of an eyelid. Even the quarter mile long beasts are but minnows in Neptune’s vast hands. 

Yet, there are moments where you are surrounded by a veil of precipitation and for a few hours you can imagine that you are the last person on the planet. It can be a scary thought, understanding your anonymity and unimportance – that is just one way the sea can humble you. 

Pollution and the environment

Floating shipping container
With thanks to the USCG – floating shipping container

In the Bay of Biscay you should always keep a weather eye out for shipping containers that have fallen over the side from ships. Worldwide it is estimated that 1,500 20-40ft steel boxes go into the sea annually. The can float just beneath the surface and rip your hull open. Want proof? Solo IMOCA 60 skipper Alex Thomson had two collisions with unidentified floating objects in his 2015-2017 Vendee Globe campaign.

Those are the big things. There are bigger things to behold – I was on a sailing ship off Boston, Massachusetts as a youngster when a Fin whale half the length of the ship objected to us getting to close to her calf. We were 100ft at the waterline! Dolphins come to play or go about their business. Birds of huge variety come in to look for scraps or insects. You are surrounded by the wonders of the planet.

Dawn and dusk in whatever weather can be exhilarating. The light shows this planet can offer are sometimes be seen by just one or two, and you could be one of those lucky few. The same stretch of sea can be 20 different colours over a day. What about the atmosphere itself? I remember as a teenager sitting in the middle of Lake Erie on my ship and seeing the smog bowls of three different cities just before dusk. You can be out of sight of humanity but still kept aware of its privations. 

The anger and calmness of the weather can bewitch you. It can be a life’s study to accurately predict the weather just for the next few hours. You don’t have to be a yacht skipper to do all this – you just need to be yacht crewing. 

Yacht crewing with Onboard Space

So what are you waiting for? Come to Onboard Space to go yacht crewing. Cast off the lines of the land and break free into the arms of the sea. You will probably fall in love – if you don’t there is probably something wrong with your heart!