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The Art of Crew Life — Hitching Rides Wherever the Wind Blows

Bay Area sailor Yosh Han is a USCG 25T captain and member of Fairwind Yacht Club and Women’s Sailing Association. She’s doublehanded to Hawaii, raced in the Transpac, and sailed from Tahiti to Tonga and Grenada to South Carolina. This month, she’ll be sailing to the Marquesas aboard Joia, an X-Yacht X 49. In Latitude’s April issue, Yosh shares some of her story about sailing — on other people’s boats.

Since I started sailing in 2018, I have sailed almost 15,000 miles, mostly by crewing for others. In 2016, I was a guest on a kitesurfing catamaran in Micronesia when I first learned about “hitchhiking by boat.” At the time, I was not a sailor, but was fascinated by the concept of hitching rides. A year later, I messaged the catamaran’s captain and asked if there might be an opportunity to join them as crew. As luck would have it, they were preparing to cross from Papua New Guinea to Palau. I booked a one-way ticket to Kavieng. On that equator crossing, I threw a gold ring into the ocean for my shellback ceremony and promised myself to Poseidon, God of the Sea. From that moment forward, my life changed forever. I was hooked!

In spring 2018, I took a sailing course in Baja California. Afterward, I made a crew profile on Latitude 38, Find a Crew, and Go Sailing. I got an email in October 2019 from Myron and Marina Eisenzimmer of the Swan 44 Mykonos — they had seen my profile on the Latitude 38 Crew List. They had a couple from a previous trip crewing, but one of them had to bail at the last minute, so there was an open spot. Did I want to join them? Heck yeah!

How could anyone say no to this?
© 2024 Yosh Han

On almost every boat I’ve been on, the boat becomes smaller even if you all like one another. Some people pitch in for boat chores and others act like a guest, even if they’ve signed on as crew. While I didn’t become besties with my crewmates on that trip, I learned that some boats had it much worse.

In 2021, Myron invited me to go on the Baja Ha-Ha again. In June, he asked me to help with crew selection. We developed a set of questions for interviewees. Their answers, especially “How do you handle confrontation?” helped me assess each person’s temperament.

Here are some sample questions: “Do you have a valid passport? Can you cover your transportation costs? Are you OK if we are delayed a few days?

“Are you willing to sleep in the main salon? Are you OK with showering only at anchor? Will you help clean up the galley after meals? Are you OK with three-hour shifts starting after dinner? Will you participate in events like the baseball game?

“Have you set an asymmetrical spinnaker or doused with a sock? Can you lift a 70-pound life raft if required? Can you set a whisker pole?

“How do you handle confrontation? At what critical point would you wake the owner from sleeping?”

There are new friends everywhere.
© 2024 Yosh Han

One by one, I made appointments to speak with five candidates. The first person I spoke with was Karen Miller, who responded immediately. We had a great conversation. The second person was energetic, but had only 10 days of vacation time. You always need a weather window on either side — it might take 11 or 12 days — so she was out. One interviewee seemed introverted and wasn’t sure if she’d want to attend the beach parties or baseball game, even though those are what make the Baja Ha-Ha unique! The next person was a delight, but had concerns about privacy. Seeing as how she’d be sleeping in the salon, sorry, no privacy at all!

I was feeling a little nervous about the candidates. The last person on my list was challenging because she was in Mexico, didn’t have a SIM card or Wi-Fi access, and demanded to know why we were conducting interviews in June for an October trip. She made it seem like an inconvenience, and a privilege for us to sail with her.

I realized the second time I spoke with Karen that she was the only person who made me laugh. I had a good feeling that she would get along with us, and I gave Myron my recommendation. We invited Karen to sail with us. Our trip down was fantastic. Not only was Karen a perfect crewmate, she’s become sailing family. Karen and her partner Jim did the bash back at the end of the season and joined Myron and Marina for the Ha-Ha in 2023. Aboard Mykonos, I have bashed from San Diego to San Francisco, Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta and separately, Cabo to Barra Navidad. We will travel from Barra to Mazatlán at the end of February. Pro Tip: Ask questions. The interview goes both ways.

When I first learned to sail, I was creeped out if a captain asked if I wanted to “see his engine.” (I wasn’t sure if it was code for wanting some hanky panky.) Knowing what I know now, if someone doesn’t want to show me the engine, I get nervous. An owner with integrity takes pride in boat maintenance. You really do get a sense of things by seeing the engine.

“Are you OK with three-hour shifts starting after dinner?” (Looks like a “Yes!”)
© 2024 Yosh Han

The above article appears in April’s Sightings. Head to Latitude 38/April issue to read more short stories from the magazine, such as “The Proudfoots’ Project, Part 2” (Part 1 here) and more.

You can support Latitude 38’s commitment to West Coast sailors and sailing news when you click here.

1 Comment

  1. Mark Jordan 2 months ago

    Great article, and a very good set of interview questions!

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