INFO ON CREWING
 
We love to have people come join us for short or long passages, or simply for bumming around exotic places. On this page, we give a few pointers to let prospective crew members know what to expect. And even if you don't plan to come crew with us, but might crew with somebody else, these pointers might be useful.

We can always use another hand aboard, so look in Future Plans for a place you want to see or an adventure you want to share in, and come join us!


The Basic Deal. Our financial arrangement with crew members is simple: You pay your way to wherever we are meeting you, then we pay for everything once you're aboard. In return, we expect you to pitch in with the daily chores, routine maintenance, and other projects that arise. When in port, we generally spend an hour or two in the morning doing these chores, before going into town. Ashore, everybody does their own thing and pays their own way. We're really easy about where we're going and when, and within the realm of possibility we'll take Akka where you want to go (or stay where we are if you don't want to leave).

If you're coming as a guest, not crew (for example, if we're not going anywhere while you're with us), we'll expect you to share expenses (mainly food). Regardless of your status, we'll almost certainly ask you to bring our mail and some parts for the boat.

We always arrange in advance when we'll meet, but the location is frequently imprecise until the last moment -- a day or so before you fly, we'll tell you exactly where and how to meet us. This means you might have some additional cost for a bus, train or ferry, but it also means that we never have to put to sea (or stay at sea) in potentially dangerous conditions just in order to meet somebody at a specific time and place.

If you want to learn more about any aspect of cruising and sailing that's new to you, please let us know. We love the life we are leading, and are glad to teach -- but won't do so unless you ask..

What to Bring. Bring everything in duffels or soft-sided luggage. There's no washer or dryer aboard Akka, so bring enough clothes to last you for any passage we take. On the other hand, space for spare clothes is limited, and when we're offshore we tend to wear the same clothes for several days at a time, often sleeping in them. We provide all towels and bed linens.

In warm weather we go barefoot aboard Akka, but unless you're really sure of yourself you'll want a pair of sneakers or boat shoes to wear aboard, and a different pair of shoes to wear ashore. Nobody is allowed to come into the cabin wearing shoes they've worn off the boat, because the dirt and/or pebbles caught in the soles would ruin the 6+ coats of varnish we've painstakingly put on the cabin sole. Offshore in cold weather, we've found that ordinary hiking/camping boots are the best kind of footwear -- they keep your feet toasty warm, shed water, and are comfortable. A pair of good comfortable Teva-type sandals are excellent for going ashore, in all weather.

Even in warm climates, evenings can be chilly (especially offshore), so you should bring a synthetic sweater or fleece jacket and a hat. Of course, if we're going to be anywhere cold, you'll need a few more warm things, but only bring one of each thing -- we have spare warm clothes on board to lend you if yours get wet. Synthetic fleece is far better for warmth than cotton, and better than wool because when it gets wet it dries easily. However, you might bring a few long-sleeved T-shirts, either to wear by themselves in warm weather or under a sweater or fleece jacket when it gets cold..

Bring clothes that protect you from the sun. We wear baseball caps and have plenty of spares to lend, but you may prefer a hat with a brim all round. A long-sleeved shirt and pants are essential. Please bring your own sunscreen. We have found Coppertone Sport, SPF 30 or 45, to be the best. It is water- and sweat-proof, so one slather does you for all day. Bring UVA/UVB protective sunglasses and, especially if you wear prescription sunglasses, get a pair of "Croakies" to hang them around you neck.

Regardless of where we are sailing, you'll need foul-weather gear. We have some spares on board, so check with us before buying. If you do buy any, get a pair of cheap, durable PVC pants at West Marine, Boat US, or elsewhere, then go buy yourself a nice Goretex or other waterproof but breathable windbreaker jacket (with a tuck-away hood) that comes down past your waist. The jacket will be expensive, but will last forever,and looks nice on land. Don't buy a high-end foulweather jacket unless you're planning to do a lot of sailing at home, or are made of money.

We won't be going anywhere that requires nice clothes, unless you're buying! A wrinkle-proof frock for an evening ashore is the most any woman aboard Akka needs, and for men, a golf shirt (with collar) and khaki slacks will do both aboard and ashore.

Bring your favorite remedy for seasickness. Andi, who used to get violently sick every time we left port, uses Transderm Scop, a patch you stick on behind your ear that slowly delivers Scopolomine into your bloodstream. She hasn't been sick -- not once -- since she started using it, and there are no noticeable side effects. We do not recommend Dramamine as it makes you sleepy and unresponsive -- dangerous qualities for offshore work, and not a lot of fun for enjoying the scenery. There are other options, though we're not familiar with them.

Living Arrangements. Akka is a pretty commodious boat, but still, you shouldn't expect much real privacy. When we're in port, we (Andi and Rob) sleep in the forward cabin. There's a huge single bunk (or minimal double bunk) in the aft cabin, and that cabin can be shut off from the rest of the boat, affording some privacy. The two other berths for crew are in the main saloon, which is also the area where the cooking, writing, reading, talking, navigating, and general living is done. All the bunks are big for one person -- more than 6' 3" (1.9 m) long.

When we're offshore, half the crew is always on deck, so the off watch sleeps in the saloon and aft cabin, except for downwind sailing in nice weather, when the forward cabin is the berth of choice.

The galley is large, well-equipped (stove, oven, microwave, fridge and freezer) and we enjoy cooking, so meals together (at least one meal a day) are a big deal, even offshore. You'll need to let us know about any food allergies and preferences, dietary restrictions, etc. in advance so we can plan around them.

There are 2 heads, each with a shower, plus an on-deck fresh water shower. We carry 200 gallons (800 liters) of fresh water to meet all of our drinking and washing needs, so if we're away from marinas for extended periods we watch water consumption carefully. We'll teach you our conservation tricks and techniques.

What's it like to go offshore? The first time offshore is an experience never to be forgotten, and it can be addictive (look at us). When planning a passage, we carefully gather as much weather information as possible to try to avoid putting ourselves in the path of bad weather. This means that departure dates and itineraries are always "guesstimates" as we assess conditions. Of course, because weather is unpredictable, the best planning can be wrong, but Akka is big, well-found, and well-maintained, so even in the worst weather there's nothing to be afraid of. On the other hand, when we're out of sight of land we're pretty much on our own, and if we're more than about 200 nautical miles offshore (beyond the range of land-based helicopters) we're truly on our own. The ocean is vast, and even when we leave at nearly the same time as other cruisers, we almost never see them again until we get to our destination. It's pretty amazing.

There is nothing as grand as a sunrise at sea, with no land in sight. Starlit nights are awesome, too.

Offshore, we serve watches, meaning that at all times some crew members (the watchkeepers) are awake and responsible for the boat while the others (the offwatch) sleep. When we have at least three experienced crewmembers aboard (including Andi and Rob) we serve a three-watch rotation, with each watch serving 3 or 4 hours on, then 6 or 8 off. When we have inexperienced crew we use a two-watch system, serving equal times on and off, with Andi and Rob taking opposite watches, each with a crew member. The nominal length of our watches is 3 or 4 hours, depending on the conditions; but we don't expect crew members to report for their watches until they're called. That way, if the watchkeepers feel rested and comfortable, or if they know that the offwatch has not had much sleep, they have the option of extending their watch by an hour or so and giving the offwatch some more sleep.

We have a strict chain of command overall, from Skipper (Rob) through First Mate (Andi) down to Deck Hand, Common (that would be you); but each watch has a watch captain, who is in charge of the boat while he or she is on watch. When you come on deck, look around to see who's in charge, so you know where to expect orders to come from -- even if Rob is on deck, he may not have relieved the watch captain, and so may not be in charge. This idea of control is absolutely vital for the safety of the boat and its crew, and we take it seriously -- to the point that the new watch captain always formally takes control, saying to the previous watch captain, "I relieve you." The previous captain never leaves his post until relieved.

Being on watch is generally not very strenuous, thanks in large part to the autopilot which, once set up, steers the boat to a compass course. Every 5 minutes, one of the watchkeepers stands up and does a full search of the horizon, checks the wind and sail trim, and the autopilot performance. Once in a while, the watch captain goes below to the nav station, checks position and speed, other systems (e.g., battery voltage), and makes a log entry if anything of note has occurred. Other than that, the watchkeepers can read, adjust the fishing gear, nap, or simply daydream. Of course, if you want to steer, you're welcome to do so.

On long passages, the enemy is exhaustion. None of us are used to getting our sleep in 3- or 4-hour bites, and for the first day nobody gets enough sleep, so for the next day or two everybody is exhausted. The way to solve this problem is to sleep every minute you can, when you're off watch, until your body adapts to the new schedule. When you're on watch, think about doing routine chores such as washing dishes or preparing the next meal, so those activities won't take away from somebody's valuable sleeping time.

Sometimes, all crew are needed on deck (usually to change sails due to a change in wind speed or direction), disrupting the watchkeeping schedule. When that happens, we generally institute a shorter watch rotation at first -- say, 1-hour watches, then 2 hours, then back to 3 or 4 hours when everybody's had a chance to get some sleep.

Safety at sea. We're very conscious of safety. Akka has lots of safety equipment, and we'll explain it all to you when you arrive on board. Every crew member is provided with an inflatable life jacket/safety harness with a tether that attaches to the boat. These harnesses are worn by all crew whenever they're on deck alone, or at night, or in heavy weather, or any other time they feel safer with them on. Of course, if you have your own life jacket and/or harness, you're welcome to bring them along and use them instead of ours.

The bottom line. One of the pleasures of our cruising lifestyle is to have people join us and share the fun as well as the sailing. Most of your time aboard, when we're not offshore, will be spent doing things you like to do, from reading to snorkeling to wandering through exotic ports. So pick a date, book a plane, and come with us on our next adventure!