How to Sail Around the World

How to Sail Around the World | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

July 28, 2020


Sailing around the world can be the experience of a lifetime - an adventure that lets you know you are living life to its fullest and not settling for a life that is too dull and ordinary. However, getting on a boat and sailing around the world is not something you can do a week after you decide you want to do it. Is sailing around the world something that an ordinary person without a lot of money can do at all?

You might worry that sailing around the world is only for the rich. Getting your own boat costs a fortune, and you might fear that without your own boat, it is hard to find an opportunity to go on a long sailing voyage. However, it is easier to find a crew and sail around the world on someone else's boat than you would think.

One of the best ways to sail around the world without having a lot of money is to volunteer on a sailboat. The work that you do on the boat may be enough that the crew will take you for free. Volunteering to work on a sailboat might be the single best way to sail around the world without a lot of money.

Other options are paying money to be part of a crew by sharing costs, finding friends that have sailboats, volunteering on a research boat, or paying a boat off over time if you have the income. People with the right skills, even if they are only cooking or knowing how to be a good deckhand, will find it easier to become part of a crew.


Table of contents for this article

How to sail around the world if you don't already have a boat

If you really want to sail around the world, you can find a way to do it. A sailing trip around the world is a realistic, achievable adventure. You merely have to be serious about doing it.

It is not the same as a trip to space - that you might not be able to achieve even if you are determined to do it. Sailing around the world is something an average person can do if they plan it out and look for an opportunity.

Volunteering to be on a boat

If you have a lot of sailing experience, it might not be difficult for you to find a crew to sail around the world with. Your nearest marina could very well be looking for deckhands. Not every boat will be heading off on an around the world trip, but some of them might be.

Many boats sailing around the world need an extra crew member and will be happy to take you if you have a bit of sailing experience. People underestimate just how much demand there is for volunteer crew members.

When a couple of wealthy people want to sail around the world, they don't necessarily want to do it themselves. Keeping a sailboat going with very few people on board is hard work. If there are only two sailors, they will have to take turns sleeping to keep the boat going safely.

A third or fourth crew member can mean the difference between a pleasant voyage and an exhausting one. Not everyone who sails around the world has a mega yacht and a large crew. They might have a smaller boat and only need a third person.

The best part of volunteering on a boat is that most of the time, it isn't even hard work. Sometimes you will steer the ship; other times, you will do some chores. It is not difficult to do this.

The fun you will have massively outweighs the work you will do. You will get to explore islands, see many different countries, meet new people, and end your voyage with stories to tell. Don't worry about doing unpaid work - it is more than worth it.

Paid work on a sailboat is also possible to get, but you must have quite a bit of sailing experience. Volunteering is a more realistic way of traveling around the world than looking for paid work on a boat.

Sailing around the world on a friend's boat

One disadvantage of sailing around the world as a volunteer is the possibility of not getting along with the people you travel with. While you might like the people you volunteer for very much, there is a chance that you will not. If you have the opportunity, traveling around the world on a friend's boat should be your first choice.

If you go off on shorter sailing voyages, you will meet people that have the resources to sail. Hopefully, you should know the right people when someone decides they want to sail around the world. They might be happy to take you along for free.

Being out at sea with someone you do not end up liking is sometimes a problem even if you know the person a little bit in advance. Even if you like each other now, you might not like each other when you are out to sea together for weeks, months, and years. Don't let this scare you away from going on a long sea voyage, but be confident that you can get along with the person before you head out to sea for years.

Save enough money and get a boat with your friends

While a sailboat that you can take around the world costs around $75000, this is not such a fortune if you split the cost between several people. If you and five of your friends want to sail around the world, it will only cost you $15000 each to get a seaworthy boat. $15000 isn't exactly pocket change, but you might be able to save that in a reasonable amount of time if you cut your costs.

If you had started saving a few years ago, you and your friends would have enough money to pay for the entire trip now. The best time to start saving was years ago; the next best time to start saving is today. If you have friends that have the same dream of sailing around the world, you might be able to talk them into making a serious plan to do it.

Sail around the world on a research ship

You don't have to be a scientist to serve on a research ship that studies marine wildlife. Such vessels also need deckhands, cooks, and so on. You will probably have to volunteer rather than find a paying job, but you will still be able to sail to many locations, perhaps even around the world, for free.

Offer your skills as a cook

Cooking is one of the best skills you can have if you are looking for a crew to sail around the world with. If you are an excellent cook with a bit of sailing experience, you have a good chance of becoming part of a crew. You need to be able to improvise and cook something tasty from the food you have available.

You do not always have to be a certified chef to cook on a sailing ship, merely being a good cook is enough. Only a larger ship might require their cook to be a certified chef, and even then, that is not always the case.

Teach the children of families sailing around the world

If a family is sailing around the world with children with them, they might not have time to homeschool the children. Such families will bring a teacher with them. This is less likely than some of the other options, but if you would be good at being a nanny and teacher on a sailboat, you might be able to find the opportunity.

Pay to be part of a crew

A crew might be happy to take you if you can pay for your share of the cost of the voyage. This may be expensive, but it is much more affordable than getting your own boat.

The daily cost of a trip for a single person might be $20, $50, or $70. Don't get ripped off by people trying to charge a lot more than that. They should not be charging you a very high daily cost, and are trying to make a profit from you if they do.

Paying to be part of a crew is a good idea if you are offered a fair price. It can add up to a lot of money if you are out to sea for a long time, but it is cheaper than buying a boat yourself.

Can you sail around the world on a rented sailboat?

Possibly not. A rented sailboat may have restrictions on where you can sail it, and you might not be able to rent it for long enough to circumnavigate the globe.

Then again, some people might have more luck than others. Give it a chance - try to find a sailboat you can rent for a long time and sail anywhere at a reasonable price - but this is not always the best option.

What if I have no experience on a sailboat?

You are not likely to be offered the opportunity to go on an around the world trip if you have no sailing experience. Also, not everyone loves being out to sea, and you should take a shorter voyage to know whether or not you would like it first. A shorter voyage will also get you the experience you need to find a crew for a longer voyage.

When you travel across the world at the slow speed of a sailboat, it makes you aware of just how large the world truly is. The world is a huge and mostly empty place where you can sometimes sail for days and not see another boat. Even though you can see for miles in each direction and travel many miles each day, a long time can go by without you seeing a single ship.

If you think you would love sailing, there is a better than even chance that you will. However, other people can find sailing too tiring. The crew has to keep the boat going 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether it is pouring rain out or not.

As well as there being a lot of work involved in sailing, there is also the possibility that you might find sailing boring, as it is not fast-paced. Probably, those who think they will love sailing will end up loving it - but there are no guarantees. Don't go off on a long voyage unless you know that you are happy on a short journey.

How can I get sailing experience if I have no sailing experience?

It may be a challenge, but you do have a chance of getting on a boat even if you have never been on a ship before. Don't lie about having any previous experience; instead, look for a crew that will accept a sailor without experience.

Sometimes, even an inexperienced sailor can find a boat just by walking around at the docks. If you live in or near a sailing town, you might be able to find a boat very quickly. Present yourself as a likable and trustworthy person, and you have a chance of getting on a boat with no sailing experience.

A shorter voyage can be a step towards a long one

After you get on a sailboat for the first time, you will probably decide you love it. You will love the escape from ordinary life, and how the night sky looks away from street lights. You will not usually think sailing is difficult or slow-paced.

Hopefully, you can meet the right people and learn enough about sailing that you are included on a trip around the world when someone you know decides to go. You do not need to go on a lot of shorter sailing trips before you sail around the world; you just need some rather than no experience.

How to sail around the world if you have a boat already

If you already have a boat, then you can get to the fun part a lot more quickly. There are still things to take care of in advance and to be mindful of while at sea, but you can get to your adventure sooner rather than later.

What route should you take sailing around the world?

Usually, people sail around the world on an eastward route. An eastward route is with the wind, so a westward route is more difficult. You can choose to take whatever route you want, but most people take an eastward route and follow the wind.

You can sail around the world in 15 months, but it is better to spend a few years at sea and not rush the trip. If you try to make the trip in less than two years, you will not be able to stop anywhere for any length of time, as any delay means that hurricane season will cut you off for the rest of the year. Sailing around the world should be a two, three, or four-year adventure.

An eastward route means that you will sail from west to east, so you will be sailing west on an eastward route. If you are setting sail from the United States, you will first sail to the Panama canal and then sail west from there across the pacific.

After crossing the pacific, you should be north of Australia. Sail from there across the Indian Ocean and around the cape of good hope. From the cape, you can sail northwest again, eventually reaching the United States.

You can choose to sail to many other places as well, depending on how long you want to be at sea. For example, you could choose to sail from southern Africa up to Europe and the Mediterranean before returning to the United States.

One common alternative to the typical eastward route is to sail through the red sea and the Mediterranean rather than around South Africa. This is a somewhat faster route than sailing around the cape of good hope. Don't attempt this unless it is currently safe, as there are pirates off the coast of East Africa.

If you are looking for a more challenging route, you could sail under south America instead of using the Panama canal. A more daring option is to take the northwest passage and sail around North America. These routes take longer, and if you take the northwest passage, it is risky to sail through the arctic water.

How much does it cost to sail around the world with your own boat?

While you are out to sea, you will spend $3000, $2000, or at the very least $1000 per month. If you try to spend only $1500 per month or less, you might have a lot of trouble. Higher numbers are more realistic, and if you stop a lot, the monthly cost can easily go over $3000.

You will also have to buy equipment, which adds to the cost of your boat and the daily cost of living. Equipment can cost you more than $15000, and it is dangerous to be out to sea with shoddy equipment. You will also be charged a fee - more than $1000 - when you cross the Panama canal.

You will also run into other fees while you are out to sea. Having your boat tied down during a hurricane will cost you around $500. You will also have to pay for storage, and you will run into other fees at ports.

Repairs are another part of your expenses, as you may have to pay $1000 or $2000 to fix your autopilot or engine. If you want satellite internet while you are out to sea, this will cost you about $120 per month, and you will only be able to use a very small amount of data. Nonetheless, $3000 a month is more than enough to pay for all of these expenses, and $1500 per month might be enough if you can keep your costs low.

Take everything into account, or else your expenses may be higher than you planned. You might rent a car when visiting a country, have to pay for medical expenses, or go to bars and restaurants. Expenses can appear suddenly and unexpectedly.

Some people also like to fly home during the middle of a long sailing trip. They want to get away from the sea for a while and then return to their boat and continue. Flying home only once or twice might not make your trip vastly more expensive.

Know exactly where you are going before you set sail

A sailing trip around the world has to be taken seriously and planned out properly in advance. You want to see as much of the world as possible on your adventure, so plan accordingly. When heading across the pacific, most sailors want to see Bora Bora, Tahiti, Samoa, and other famous pacific islands.

Estimate where you will be on each month of your trip

You should make a timeline even if you do not stick to it. You should know roughly where in the world you will be during each week or month of your journey. Without knowing where in the world you are going to be each month, it is not even easy to know how long you will be out to sea for.

Timing is also crucial for avoiding hurricanes. Sailing is an adventure in part because it is fairly dangerous. Don't make it any more dangerous than it typically is.

You absolutely have to avoid sailing through hurricane-prone parts of the world during hurricane season. Hurricanes can and do kill foolish sailors. You must time out your trip so that you sail through hurricane-prone parts of the world when there is no risk of a hurricane that time of year.

Take the wind direction into consideration. You can sail against the wind, but it is easier to sail with it. Know which way the wind will blow during each part of your journey.

Know as much about each place you are sailing through as possible

Is it safe to dock in each of the countries you plan to stop in? Some of the countries you are planning to stop in may be dangerous.

Are all of these countries considered safe for small groups of sailors? The last thing you want is to be taken advantage of somewhere where the law might not be able to help you.

Take care of everything in advance

Make sure you get everything done before you leave. Some things can only be done before you set sail and not in the middle of the trip. Get all of the paperwork you need, and get any vaccinations you need before the trip.

If you need visas to visit the countries you plan to visit, get this work done in advance. It will be much harder to take care of these things after you have already set sail. Go to your doctor for a medical examination before you leave, and take enough of any medication you need with you on your trip.

Make sure the boat is in excellent condition

Have a professional look at your boat first. There could be dangerous technical problems with your boat that you might not immediately notice. Be on the safe side and get your boat looked at properly first.

Buying a used boat is not always the best idea. The cost of fixing your boat may be more than you bought the used boat for in the worst cases. Going to sea with a serious problem with your ship could be a disaster, so let a boat mechanic take a look at your vessel first.

Prepare for emergencies

You and everyone you are sailing with should know what to do in an emergency. If a heavy storm hits you, what do you do? Everyone in your crew has to know what to do in these situations.

Pirates are still very real, and you have to know what to do if you encounter dangerous people at sea. The sea can be unpredictable, and your emergency plans should cover many different situations.

Taking the right emergency supplies with you is a must. Bring a life jacket, flares, and a fire extinguisher. Make sure you have clothing that will keep you warm and dry in whatever weather and climate you encounter. Have a list of numbers for all of the emergency personnel you might call if you are in danger.

Make sure your boat is still in good condition whenever you port

One of the most important things you can do for your own safety while out to sea is check your boat every time you stop at any port. Always make sure that your boat is still in good condition. More than a few people die sailing, and this is often because of not immediately noticing and fixing problems with their ships.

As well as maintaining your ship, you have to maintain other equipment. A broken satellite phone or broken radar could get you killed. Regularly test your equipment.

Obey the laws wherever you go

As soon as you sail close enough to the coast of any country, you are no longer in international waters and have to obey the laws of whichever country you are in. You cannot know a lot about the laws of each country you are visiting, but you should know a little. Be aware of any unusual laws that are relevant to sailors.

Be prepared to be away from home for years

Whether you are sailing away on your own boat or not, you are going to be away from home for a long time. While it is possible to sail around the world fast (the world record is doing it in only 40 days), an around the world sailing trip takes three or four years on average. Sailing around the world is not a vacation but an epic adventure that takes up a significant chunk of your life. Eventually, you will return to life on land, and you will see life differently after your sailing experience.

How to Sail Around the World

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