Adventures of a reluctant sailor

From Jackie Ashford – previous co-owner Horizon Antigua and a self-confessed reluctant sailor

People always found it unusual that we had a yacht charter business in the Caribbean but I couldn’t Skipper a boat.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a “life on the ocean wave” as much as the next person, but I’ve never felt compelled to take charge of a sailing vessel and all the crew on board.  This is a big responsibility that comes with many weeks, months and years of experience and….. drum roll…. it’s not for me.  There, I’ve said it and now it’s out there.  I wonder how many other people out there are like me.

I think there is room in this world for all sorts.  I like to think that I make the best crew for the very reason that I can’t/won’t Skipper a sailboat.  Let’s consider what it takes to be a really good crew; I do as I’m told (no backchat – well, not out loud anyway), I am very quick around a boat (no 10 minute tacks for us!), I am very aware of what is happening and focused on the job in hand (no going off in La La Land), I ask questions (“What are we going to do at this mark or How will we be approaching the dock?”), I try and stay out of harm’s way, and finally, I’m good fun to have a beer with when the sailing is over (people tell me).

Perhaps you recognize yourself in this picture? 

The best way to become the best crew your Skipper has ever sailed with, is simple, just do it.  Now that sounds obvious but we meet a lot of crews in our world that have only been on a boat once or twice.  How can you get experience?  Here’s how:  Volunteer to sail with people.  Even if it’s just for a couple of hours racing around the cans on the local lake, put yourself out there.  You can offer to crew at your local Sailing Club; put yourself on the rota of “crew available” if they have such a thing.  Consider taking the ASA (American Sailing Association) 101 certification course.  This will give you a head start with boat terminology, tacking, safety etc.  Do this and you will build your self confidence, knowledge; and make new friends at the same time.

My only real sailing experience is in the world of yacht racing in the UK.  To crew on a racing yacht (OK, it was 24 feet long and not an America’s Cup boat) is a great way to learn.  Your Skipper will undoubtedly want to win so you do have to apply yourself.  When they say “it’s all just a bit of fun” I have learned not to believe them; the silverware is being polished and they want to get their hands on it.  This type of crewing certainly built my confidence and, when you hear the gun fire at the end of the race, and you happen to be the first boat over the line, know that you were as much a part of that win as the Skipper.  This taught me to apply what I know to bigger boats – 33 – 50 feet cruisers.  Yes, there are differences and the loads are different but the processes are the same and, what makes you a good crew on a small boat, will be transferred when you are cruising the Caribbean aboard a larger yacht.

In summary, there’s room in this world for all types of sailors; Skippers, Racers, Cruisers, Navigators and, most importantly, Crew.  Be the best you can be and don’t get left behind on the dock.  There’s a whole world out there to explore and, dare I say it, you will have a whole lot of fun doing it!


Horizon Yacht Charters offers the Learn to Sail ASA (American Sailing Association) Certification starting with ASA 101 from their beautiful Caribbean bases in Grenada, St Vincent and BVI.  For more details on certification courses, please click here:

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