how to sail the world on a shoestring

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The Independent Culture
Like countless other individuals with wanderlust, Adam Marston dreamed of breaking free from the nine-to-five lifestyle. And dreams became reality when he left England behind and literally sailed off into the sunset.

He had always held a passion for sailing but had never actually done anything about it. "I wanted to sail and I thought it would be a cheap and interesting way to travel around the world and visit different places," he explains.

After completing a few sailing courses, he left for the Cayman Islands with a little money and high hopes. Six months on, he has sailed around the Cayman Islands, to the West Indies on Christmas Day and is currently building boats in Padova, Italy.

Naturally, any individual wishing to be employed as a crew member should possess more than sea legs and a love of sailing. At the beginning of a career at sea, the duties of ordinary crew members require long hours of arduous physical work.

Crew members must also have a basic knowledge of first aid, navigation and VHF radio operation.

"There are many different courses that you can take that will improve your chances of finding work on a boat," Marston explained. "I did a 'competent crew' course which teaches you the basics of sailing so if someone tells you to 'trim the sails' you know what they're talking about. The course took about five days and cost around pounds 300.

"You have to be competent at navigation, radio operation and general shipping codes of practice.When you make a crossing over somewhere like the Atlantic you'll be expected to complete shifts at the 'watch' position, which means you'll be alone at the helm for around two hours at night while everyone else is sleeping."

A log book is vital. As well as holding any certificates you've earned, it will also document your hours at sea. All journeys will be verified by the captain of any vessel you work on. The accumulation of sea miles is essential. Sea miles equal experience and the greater your experience the greater your chance of securing work.

There is one rule above all others for anyone considering life on the ocean wave: contacts. "Making contacts is very important," Marston insists, "especially when you're abroad. That's how you learn the trade and get the jobs."

The Solent School of Yachting specialises in tuition on sailing and seamanship and many of its students have gone far within the industry.

One of the many courses on offer is a Royal Yachting Association course which takes clients through from competent crew to yacht-master level. Beginners can sign up for an RYA competent course of five days - over three weekends.

An intensive 17-week course is available for professionals who need to improve their skills. The course costs pounds 6,500 although 25 per cent can be refunded to individuals who are eligible for vocational tax relief.

"We would recommend that they come down for a trial sail, so clients can assess themselves and we can assess them," explains Terry O'Flynn, director of the school. "There are some people who are dreamers and believe that it would be beautiful to sail around the world. When they actually come down to sail they find out that it's not quite as glorified as they thought."

If the above prices seem out of your budget, individual one-day courses are available in VHF radio, sea survival and first aid from around pounds 60 to pounds 70.

"There isn't a typical person that comes to us," O'Flynn says. "Sailing is a great leveller and you have many people, who may be very senior in there own particular sphere, mixing, crewing or sailing with people from a completely different background."

If you're tired of waiting for the British summer, maybe you should give him a call.

The Solent School of Yachting: 01489 583066. Royal Yachting Association, RYA House, Romsey Road, Eastleigh, Hants SO50 9YA (01703 629962)