How I Joined a Tall Ship Crew



I’ve been getting a number of asks in my inbox recently from people who want to join a tall ship crew and don’t know how.

There are many ways to get involved in tall ship sailing. I started by joining the volunteer program of the Kalmar Nyckel. There are other similar programs on other tall ships, but this is the only one I have personal experience with.

You don’t need any sailing experience to do this with most crew programs – I sure didn’t have any when I signed up for the class. You don’t need to be local either – many tall ship sailing classes involve living aboard the ship for the duration of the course.

You do need to prepare yourself for lots of studying, for new experiences, for manual labor, for spending time living in cramped quarters with people who start out as strangers, and for all the physical discomfort that tall ship sailing can bring, from sun and heat to cold and rain to seasickness. 

Tall ship sailing can be tiring, painful, and physically uncomfortable. But it can also be transcendent in a way that nothing else can touch. For me, at least, it’s more than worth it.

There are tall ships with these types of crew programs all across the world, with varying levels of cost and time commitment involved.

The Kalmar Nyckel program is under $200 for the 2.5 week class, which includes room and board on the ship. They currently hold three 2.5 week live-aboard classes per year. More information is available on their website!

There are other ways to get involved in tall ship sailing too, but I’m afraid I don’t have any experience with them and can’t really help with them!

I get questions like this in my ask box all the time, too! If you’re on the West Coast, you can look into the Two Weeks Before the Mast program run by Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, the organization operating the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. It’s a two-week training program with room and board included in the cost of tuition. Crews on these boats are some of the kindest and most welcoming in the industry. I highly recommend them!