How To Sail Around the World With No Experience!

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When I first started sailing, I thought I could just start my circumnavigation and take it as it happens. Head out into the open sea and start making my way west; this was not a smart idea. But how can you sail around the world in a smarter way?

You can sail around the world with no experience. There are several opportunities to sail around the world for new sailors. Some crews are happy to take volunteers on their world sailing voyage. There are also historical examples of solo travelers sailing the world with no experience.

Now that we know it’s possible to sail around the world with no experience, there are a few more questions to explore. In this article, I’ll take you through the different possibilities for sailing worldwide and the prep work involved with embarking on your sailing voyage.

How Much Experience Do You Need To Sail Around the World?

You don’t need any experience to sail around the world. You can start by shorter legs and with time build your knowledge and skillset. Another option is to join a crew, most boats are accepting inexperienced applicants.

Despite not needing any experience, I recommend seeking out some kind of experience beforehand. You don’t want to get two weeks into your two-year-long voyage, only to find out sailing isn’t as appealing as you thought.

Additionally, having some experience, even just a weekend voyage, will make your search for a crew far less complicated. I know what you’re thinking– How can I get experience as a new sailor?

Three Easy Ways To Get Beginner Sailing Experience

Like most other activities, getting your foot in the door of sailing is the hardest part. Embarking on your first voyage can feel like applying for your first job out of college.

Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to get beginner sailing experience:

  1. Join a local sailing club. Most cities with a decent body of water will have a sailing club. Sailing clubs are a fantastic way for beginners to explore the world of sailing. You can check the internet to see if there are any sailing clubs near you!
  2. Take a beginner sailing course. There are organizations like the American Sailing Association that offer beginner courses. Having a completed class from an organization will make you more enticing to potential crews. Additionally, it could give you the experience needed to sail around the world on your own.
  3. Join a chartered boat. Joining a chartered boat with no experience is more complicated than the other options listed above. Joining a chartered vessel is more like finding a job than joining a club or taking a course. Remember to be persistent and professional, and I’m sure you’ll find a chartered boat to take you on board.

Now that you plan to obtain some experience before your global sailing journey, let’s look into some of the logistics around starting your voyage.

How Do I Get on a Boat To Sail the World With No Experience?

You can get on a boat to sail the world with no experience by joining a novice accepting race, volunteering to join a crew, leveraging connections with friends or family, and splitting the cost of a boat with a group.

Join the Clipper Race

The Clipper Round The World Race is a novice-friendly sailing race worldwide. Every team in the Clipper Race sails an identical 70-foot (21.33 meter) yacht.

The Clipper Race will take you through an eight-leg 40,000 nautical mile race worldwide. Additionally, participants can complete as little as one leg or all eight. The flexibility of length in the Clipper Race makes this a fantastic opportunity for new sailors.

Another bonus for new sailors is the supplied qualified skipper and first mate. Having two experienced sailors to guide your journey makes the Clipper Race a safe opportunity for beginner sailors.

Volunteer To Join a Crew

Joining a boat as a volunteer is among the most common methods for new sailors to travel the world by sailboat. Keeping a sailboat moving worldwide is challenging work, so small crews will often be happy to take you on.

Offering a specific service will increase your chance of being brought aboard a ship. Here are a few popular services people provide for a spot on a sailboat:

  1. Deckhand: A deckhand offers manual labor services on a sailboat. They are responsible for cleaning, moving cargo, and equipment maintenance.
  2. Cooking: Beginner sailors will often offer their services as a cook to land a volunteer position on a boat. Volunteering as a cook is a popular choice because you don’t need any sailing experience to prove your value.
  3. Tutoring: If you have any teaching experience, a family may take you along on their voyage. Sailing around the world is a time-consuming activity. Therefore, families will hire a tutor to homeschool their children while at sea so the parents can focus on sailing.

The above-listed services just scratch the surface of the services you could offer to a sailing crew. Think about what skills you have that may apply to the services needed to sail around the world.

Use a Personal Connection To Find a Boat

Using personal connection is a tried and true method to beginning your around-the-world sailing journey. Finding a friend, family member, or even someone who knows someone you know alleviates the uncertainty of searching for a position on a chartered boat.

If you don’t currently know anyone with a sailboat, don’t worry! Joining a sailing club, partaking in a sailing race, or even just taking a walk around your local marina could connect you with a sailboat owner sooner than you’d think.

Buy a Boat With Your Friends or Family

The third method I’ll touch on for getting a boat for your journey is splitting the cost with friends or family. If you know anyone else that shares your world sailing journey dream, splitting the cost associated with boat ownership is a viable avenue.

If you can’t think of anyone interested in starting a boat share program, there are other methods to find fellow world sailors. For example, you could post on sailing club’s Facebook groups.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way! If you search, you’ll come across like-minded sailors to join your boat trip around the world.

What License/Qualification/Documents Do I Need To Sail Around the World?

If you’re sailing a small sailboat, you will most likely never be asked to obtain licensing. However, specific licenses and qualifications will be necessary for joining a chartered boat. Additionally, regular travel documents like a passport are essential for sailing the world.

Despite different regions having different sailing license requirements, obtaining the necessary license is easier than it seems. The ease of securing sailing licensing is thanks to internationally-recognized boating licenses.

Two Most Common International Sailing Licenses

Two sailing credentials will help you stay in good legal standing internationally, as well as make yourself more appealing to charter companies.

  1. International certificate of competency (ICC): The United Nations recognizes the ICC. The United Nations’ recognition makes the ICC a valid qualification for most chartered boats in Europe and the Mediterranean.
  2. International sailing license and credentials (SLC): The SLC is a recreational license for sailing accepted by chartering companies globally. Specifically, the SLC is valid in Europe and Seychelles.

Obtaining either of these two qualifications will differ depending on your location. Do further research online for necessary prerequisites in your region.

What Travel Documents Do I Need To Sail Around the World?

Traveling across country borders requires typical travel documents. You should have a valid passport for the entire duration of your trip and secondary photo identification. Medical travel insurance isn’t necessary but is worth getting for a worldwide sailing expedition.

How Long Does It Take To Learn How To Sail Around the World?

The time it takes to learn to sail around the world with no experience is between two months and three years. Plenty of sailors have embarked on global sailing journeys with no experience. On the other hand, some sailors train for years before they feel ready to circumnavigate the globe.

The best advice I can give you is to start small. If you’re planning a solo sailing adventure, practice honing your sailing skills on a small boat, like a 30ft.

Hone your skills, and pick up helpful information from other sailors. When you feel comfortable sailing on your own, you can consider a worldwide voyage.

Three People Who Sailed the World With Little to No Experience

Were you looking for some inspiration to get on your sailing journey? Look no further than these three sailors who crossed the globe by sailboat with little to no experience sailing.

Chay Blyth

Chay Blyth was a Scottish sailor who embarked on a global sailing journey with no experience in 1968. Blyth’s sailing journey was aboard a 30-foot yacht named English Rose III.

Blyth’s global journey on the English Rose III was part of the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first around the world yacht race ever.

Author Peter Nichols wrote a book called A Voyage For Madmen (available on about Blyth’s participation in Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. In A Voyage For Madmen, Nichols wrote,

“Few people leaving a dock for an afternoon sail in a dinghy have cast off with less experience than Chay Blyth had when he set sail alone around the world.”

Tania Aebi

Tania Aebi was the youngest American woman to sail the world solo at the time. Aebi began her voyage at the age of 18 in May of 1985.

While Aebi wasn’t a complete beginner at sailing, her prior sailing experience was nothing extraordinary. A couple of years before her three-year worldwide voyage, Aebi and her family embarked on a six-month journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

Aebi departed from New York City in 1985 and managed a triumphant return to New York City in late 1987.

If an 18-year-old can circumnavigate the globe successfully with little experience, I’m sure you can too!

Naomi James

James had a connection to a sailor we talked about earlier. Naomi James’ husband, Rob James, worked for Chay Blyth skippering yachts.

In 1978 Naomi James achieved the accolade of the first woman to sail around the world solo.

Naomi James’ connection to legendary sailor Blyth paid off handsomely. The yacht Naomi James sailed the world on was loaned to her by Chay Blyth in 1975. The boat was initially named Spirit of Cutty Shark, and Naomi James renamed it the Daily Express before her expedition.

With only six weeks of sailing experience, Naomi James began her non-stop sailing journey worldwide.

Despite challenges like losing radio and being capsized, Naomi James completed her journey just 272 days after embarking.

Chay Blyth, Tania Aebi, and Naomi James are inspiring stories of people who have circumnavigated the globe with no experience. 

You may want to work on obtaining more experience than the above-listed sailors. However, it’s nice to know people have completed these trips with almost no experience.

Can I Build My Own Boat and Sail It Around the World?

You can build your own boat and sail it around the world. Although most sailors purchase their ships, if you are willing to create your own, you can save money and learn new skills.

Building your vessel will take time and patience, and you’ll have to use the correct procedures and materials, but it is possible if you are dedicated enough.

How much does it cost to build your own catamaran!

Final Thoughts

It is within reason to sail the world with no experience. There are plenty of examples of sailors who have embarked upon successful global sailing journeys.

Although, sailing the world with absolutely no experience isn’t for everyone. I recommend gaining some experience locally before embarking on a multi-year global sailing expedition.


Owner of A minimalist that has lived in a caravan in Sweden, 35ft Monohull in the Bahamas, and right now in his self-built Van. He just started the next adventure, to circumnavigate the world on a Catamaran!

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