How to Get Free Accommodations (and Paid Jobs) on Boats

For two months, I lived and/or sailed on five boats spanning three countries. In so doing, I stumbled upon an entire culture, community, and way of life that is sustainable, adventurous, and full of variety.
In those two months, I didn’t pay for one night of accommodations, nor did I sleep on land once. Instead, I helped out with business ventures, cooked meals for charter guests, or just provided an extra set of helping hands wherever needed. Each scenario was very different — from the captain to the boat to the location. For me, that was half the appeal — incredible variety with a common theme of enjoying life on the water.
Here are a few things to know about getting free accommodations — or even paid jobs — on boats. (See also: How to Travel Full-Time for $17,000 a Year (or Less!))

Free Accommodations on Boats

Similar to couch-surfing or hospitality exchanges, nomadic travelers (especially those with nautical skills) can find free passage on sailboats around the world by connecting with captains who need some extra help. (The company doesn’t hurt either; it can be a lonely life on the water for a solo captain.)
The responsibilities vary as widely as the boats do, but depending on your skills, you could be valuable for your technical expertise, sailing experience, or even your cooking talents. One of the boats I lived on operates some mobile video businesses, and aside from my own share of cooking and cleaning, my video production talents were put to use.
Things to Consider
Regardless of the agreed-upon tasks and chores, it’s important to understand that you’re staying in somebody’s home — and a very small home at that. It’s important to be adaptable, flexible, and to pitch in wherever you can with communal chores.
Depending on the arrangement you make with the captain, you might be charged for your share of the provisions — mainly being food, water, and fuel. This is normal, and $10-25 U.S./day is a reasonable fee.
Here is an article written by a boat owner about what not to do when looking for free passage on a boat. Seeing things from the captain’s perspective through this article might help you better position your own skills and set the right expectations.
Where to Find Accommodations on Boats
Here are a number of (mostly free) websites where captains and passengers alike can connect and determine if there’s a fit for sailing together:

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