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Career Sailor - Work on tall ships & traditional boats

Career Sailor ?

The co-founders of Classic Sailing, Adam and Debbie both had other careers before they made the sea a way of life.  Many of the boat owners and skippers we work with have followed unusual paths to achieve their aim of working on boats and sailing ships.  They all have many strings to their bow, and few now would give up a way of life that has many rich rewards.

Many of our customers have gone on to successfully work at sea and follow their dreams - see a few case studies below.

Like all desirable outdoor jobs where you are turning a leisure passion into a vocation, there will always be a lot of competition for voluntary positions.  You can spend a lot of money chasing an elusive dream, which can be a lot of fun, but may not pay the mortgage.

If you are already determined to give it a go, then talk to as many people as possible for advice. 

Everybody has an agenda, and when our skippers are in the office, we are there to sell sailing holidays, so our careers advice is not always impartial.  Spending money to go on a voyage to find out about sailing as a career from the crew at 'the coal face' is not a bad option. If you impress, you might even find yourself with a job or a volunteer placement.

If you ring us at the office and have minimal qualifications and experience below 1st mate level, we will always tell you you need to network and get your foot in the door.  Go down to the quayside. Get on the boats as crew - even if you have to pay. If you go for a 'zero to hero' professional crew training course, make sure it will give you what you want, and still be aware you need to stand out from the crowd.

If you come sailing with any of our professional skippers and mates, you have us cornered on a small vessel, and we can give you a lot more time and advice.  All our tall ships and smaller traditional boats we work with are sail training vessels so when you book a voyage you are signed on as crew, and it is a worthwhile experience for your CV or logbook.

Classic Sailing Director Debbie Purser - Career Path

I dropped out of university and paid to sail on the schooner Sir Winston Churchill. Recommended as a voluntary watch leader. Warned not to become a 'sailing bum' so went back to get my degree. Started to sail regularly on tall ships and Royal Navy patrol boats in my university vacations. I paid to sail on my first voyage with Ocean Youth Club (Now Ocean Youth Trust). Recommended as voluntary bosun. Worked my way up from trainee mate to second mate with OYC and other sail training charities. Notched up over 35 000 miles in my holidays whilst a student and later working for local government. At 30 gave up being a Landscape Architect and did a private Outdoor Leisure Management and watersports instructor course for 13 weeks.  Worked for two private outdoor centres as instructor for peanuts but learnt about running adventure holiday companies and customer care. Gained a 10 month apprenticeship with Ocean Youth Club as worked as 1st mate and trainee skipper on 72ft yachts - again for minimal wages but great experience and gained Yachtmaster Offshore.  Had a sucessful laser eye operation so my eyesight would be good enough for commercial skipper endorsement. Schemed and planned with Adam to create our own adventure sailing business and raised enough investment to buy pilot cutter Eve of St Mawes and created Classic Sailing in Cornwall.  Now been skipper on Eve for 16 seasons, and still keep my hand in on tall ships. Gained RYA cruising instructor and studied at Warsash Nautical College to gain my Officer of Watch Certificate of Competency for sail training ships upto 3000 ton. Now ironically finding it hard to develop a growing business and go to sea. Regrets - turning down a 14 month round the world job on Picton Castle for wages less than my mortgage.....Now principal of Classic Sailing RYA Training Centre.

Debbie on Peter Blake's Round The World Yacht in New Zealand
I do sail on yachts but only if they are famous like Lion New Zealand !!

Classic Sailing Director Adam Purser - Career Path

Yacht sailor who sailed with Debbie on a tall ship in Scotland and life was never the same. Sold a successful Dolls House Business and set up a Tall Ships Information Service (before the internet existed).  Had an ambition to become a tall ship captain and sailed on Sorlandet, Khersones, and worked on the schooner Malcom Miller as bosun before taking a job on the ill fated Maria Assumpta which was shipwrecked off Padstow. A changed man but not defeated, Adam chose to gain proper Merchant Navy qualifications.  Sidetracked by Debbie and we started to make plans for our own sailing business, to fill a gap in the market for traditional sailing on tall ships for adults.  Bought a 'ship with bowsprit and blocks and tackles' but a bit smaller than original grand ambitions.  RYA Yachtmaster Instructor and Principal of Eves School of Sailing for over 6 years. Built up Classic Sailing to a fleet of 19 vessels working all over the world. No regrets yet....apart from that tall ship captain dream.

>> Current job vacancies with Classic Sailing & partner organisations.

>> Volunteer work placements on our boats

>>MCA Deck Officer career path for tall ships & superyachts over 24m

>> How to get a job teaching sailing as a RYA instructor


RYA Professional Practices and Responsibilities 

A compulsory online course for new and revalidating RYA Commercial Endorsement holders. 

This course is designed to give you a better understanding of your obligations and the rules and regulations under which you operate in the commercial maritime world. More importantly, it will teach you where to find the information you need to ensure that you are operating within the law. 

You can complete the course and assessment at your own pace and in the comfort of your home or office.

See more details and sign up here RYA Professional Practice and Responsibilities Course

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CASE STUDIES: A few that have made a career at sea

Clare - Novice sailor with Classic Sailing and Casio croupier to tall ship captain in 4 years

A bright spark and a dangerous woman with a sabre (competitive fencer), Claire sailed on Eve several times after getting hooked on saling. Gaining a place on the ASTO trainee skipper apprenticeship she gave up her full time night job in a London casio for a life at sea with young people. After a meteoric rise up the sailing qualifications ladder and a baptism of fire working with young people on traditional boats, Clare now skippers Queen Galadriel for the Cirdan Trust.

>> see Article about Clare in Zest Magazine

Kirsty - Eve crew and volunteer tall ship cook to Master of a Product Tanker for Maersk

We met Kirsty sailing on tall ships when she was a volunteer cook and she had big ambitions to be a tall ship captain.  Despite a few great role models like tall ship captain's Barbera Campbell and Clare Cupples it looked a difficult path for Kirsty.  After a music degree she shocked her parents by joining Maersk Shipping as a cadet.  Kirsty still moonlights occasionally sailing on Eve of St Mawes as 'mate' or Lord Nelson as 2nd Officer, but she has her Master Mariners ticket and commands a product tanker for Maersk. A   Long way from chasing pilot whales on a 13ft bowsprit......

Future Master Mariner Kirsty - on the bowsprit, escorted by pilot whales
Future Master Mariner Kirsty - on the bowsprit, escorted by pilot whales

Kate - Ocean voyage customer - employed as bar manager and deckhand for Antarctic Voyage

A classic case of being the right person in the right place at the right time. Kate was used to building stage sets for theatres, working with wires, ropes and tackles, and co-ordinating teams to do physical tasks to impossible deadline, Kate was a Classic Sailing customer who fitted perfectly into the tall ship world, despite never having sailed a square rigger before.  She booked several ocean legs on Europa from Rotterdam to the Canaries, then Salvador, Montevideo, Falklands and Ushuaia. Kate was not looking for a career at sea but was offered the post of barman / deckhand at the end of her voyage, and enjoyed her first tall ship job with the penguins of Antarctica.


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