This article will teach you to create a sailing resume that will help you land sailing opportunities that you’re interested in. I’ve used these techniques to get onto sailing trips that interest me and used those trips to build up my resume in turn. I’ve been on the other end of the crew selection process as well; evaluating sailing resumes to select the best crew for an ocean race or offshore delivery.
Always think of your sailing resume from the perspective of it’s reader: a skipper or owner who is trying to decide if they want to trust you with an expensive boat they are responsible for. Some of the things they want to know are:
- Will you be a liability?
- Do you get seasick? Do you know how to handle your seasickness?
- Do you have any medical conditions that might take you out?
- Will you be a problem?
- Skippers are always on the lookout for crew drug and alcohol problems
- Every skipper I’ve sailed with has horror stories about crew that were irresponsible and/or dangerous
- At what level will you contribute?
- Are you skilled enough to keep yourself and the boat safe?
- Will you be enjoyable?
- Will you be a pleasant addition to the crew or a pest?
- Will you contribute eagerly?
- Picky eaters often make difficult crew members
When you ask a skipper “what qualities do you want in new crew” most skippers can’t list qualities that they look for on the spot. If you then ask “what do you not want in new crew” they can dictate you an impassioned essay. It is at least as important for your resume to assuage the skippers concerns as it is to provide evidence of skill.
Your resume’s purpose is to answer these questions for the skipper quickly and provide evidence to support your answers. The following the best format I’ve found for doing so:
This is the toughest part of the resume to write because it has so many purposes. You want to address all of the skipper’s questions succinctly; it is very likely they’ll make their decision based solely on reading your introduction. Obviously this is a lot to address in a few sentences. You also want to come across personable and relatable so the skipper envisions you being a pleasant addition to the crew.
I’ll use my resume as an example and break the introduction down one bit at a time:
I am an experienced sailor looking for challenging offshore sailing opportunities to learn from and accumulate the sea service days to upgrade my coast guard license.
I like to start with either “experienced” or “enthusiastic”. You can find another adjective if you like but these are the gotos. One sentence in and the skipper knows why I’ve contacted them and has a pretty good idea whether I’ll be interested in and capable of filling their position.
I am a US Coast Guard licensed captain, an advanced sailing instructor at Narragansett Sailing School and an experienced offshore racing watch captain/navigator.
The first sentence is my strongest qualification for the kind of experience I am currently seeking; usually that’s the coast guard license. If the position I’m seeking is a race sometimes I’ll change the order of those statements.
I’m a hard working 38 year old drug free social drinker and an omnivore. I’m not the best chef but I have prepared meals in conditions that have other chefs hiding out topsides.
Taking this opportunity to assuage some of the skipper’s potential concerns about vices and compatibility. Seasickness, drugs, alcohol and dietary restrictions all ticked off.
Click here to contact me and let’s go sailing!
One click contact information; that’s key to not losing out on an opportunity once the skipper is interested. Keep reading for more information on how to accomplish this.
Often when you’re trying to line up a spot on a boat you have a chance to introduce yourself to the skipper before they read your resume. I suggest you treat this as an opportunity to customize your introduction for the boat, skipper and voyage you’re in the running for. Done races near their home port? Completed a passage aboard a similar boat? Experience transiting the body of water in question? Can you help the skipper check off a (safety, first aid, CPR, etc) requirement?
This tailored pre-introduction can really help you stand out to a potential skipper.
This is a must. If you’re sending out your resume as a PDF you should include your email address and phone number. If you’re posting online it’s a bit more tricky; if you don’t want spam use this Contact Me Form trick.
Citizenship and Visa Status?
If you know that your citizenship or visa status will generally be an asset or an impediment to your sailing on a trip you should probably include the relevant information on your resume. Especially if it will be an asset.
I’m not very well versed in this though. I expect if you’ve had to deal with Visas and Citizenship issues you know what information a potential skipper needs.
Pictures on sailing resumes is a bit of a controversial subject. Personally I include a picture on my sailing resume because I want the skipper to be better able to picture sailing with me having a great time; thus I always include a picture of me sailing having a great time. Moreover, the picture also adds a touch of polish to the resume.
That said a picture is not a requirement. If you’re not comfortable including a photo don’t include a photo.
Body: Supporting Evidence
We started our resume with a strong introduction (and if we’re lucky it was introduced by a strong pre-introduction) we’re already miles ahead of the competition. Most sailing resumes, especially those templated after workplace resumes, jump right into the supporting evidence and leave the skipper to piece together their qualifications and guess (often based on how they came across your resume) whether you’re the right crew for the job
Our job in the body of our sailing resume is to support the statements made in the introduction and provide additional details about our sailing experience. Fill in the details of the sketch you provided in the introduction. There are lots of ways to do this but I prefer to stick with these few tools
- Miles or Days Table by Role
- Notable Experiences
- Notable Race Results
- List Relevant Credentials and Courses
You can use any of these tools in any order you like. All else being equal I put the supporting evidence I’m most proud of first and descend from there. But if you’re angling for a position on a race you’ve placed in before start with thanks notable experience. If you’re angling for a spot where one of your credentials gives you an edge place that at the top.
I like the miles table because it gives skippers a way to get a sense of my experience at a quick glance. I also like that it breaks up the monotony of resume text with a picture.
I break my miles up by year and by “type”. I emphasize “Skipper”, “Ocean Miles and “Ocean Miles as Watch Leader+” because I have some to show and those are the types of sailing miles I’m trying to accumulate. Racing miles are on there because if I’m vying for a spot on a race crew it makes sense to have them broken out. I’ve accumulated a lot of those miles through offshore racing. Chose the types in your miles table based on the experience you have and the experiences you’re most interested in acquiring.
I show the last two years and then “Before 2017” to demonstrate that many of my miles are recent. I suggest you setup your table to demonstrate the recency of your experience as well.
On software: I used Google Sheets to build my miles table. And before I had this site I used Google Docs to build my resume. If you’re interested in the resume miles table template you can grab it here.
Credentials and Coursework
Simply list the credentials you have and courses you’ve completed that are relevant to sailing. Including:
- Instructor certifications
- Sailing (and related) Seminars
- Electrical, Mechanical and Systems courses/credentials
- Sailing courses
- First aid qualifications
Anything and everything that indicates you have skills to help out the boat and/or crew while out on the water should be included. If you think it gives you a leg up: include it. If you think it has a chance of checking a box for a skipper: include it.
Practically speaking, if a certification expires include the expiration date. It’s always good to include a link so the skipper can find out more about a certification. Use acronyms sparingly, often a skipper can figure out an acronym free certification even if they’re unwilling to follow your links.
Certifications are a great chance for medical professionals, mechanics, sailmakers, yard workers and many others who work with their hands to stand out. I’ve got a friend who is a paramedic and he used to work as a mechanic. He’s gotten every crew spot I’ve known him to submit a resume for.
Here you can provide details of your sailing experience that support your introduction and fill in details about your sailing capabilities.
I find a table too constraining for the experience section. I use a bulleted list which gives me more flexibility to emphasize important or relevant details of my experiences.
But while you’re emphasizing impressive details don’t neglect the basics. Provide the following information for every experience listed:
- Boat Type
- Distance and/or Region Sailed
- Origin and destination port suffice
- Your role(s) aboard
As for what else about each experience to emphasize you know best what makes your sailing experiences interesting and educational. Encounter heavy weather? Sail shorthanded? Receive a “battlefield promotion”? Have crucial gear failures? Note the unique challenges about the experience.
You can fill your resume with links if you have more information on your experiences elsewhere on the internet. Or a link to an article about the challenges of a race you participated in. Adding links with more information really substantiates your experience for anyone really trying to dig in.
If you’re primarily (only) looking for racing opportunities you can specialize the “Notable Experience” section for race results. You start out with the same required information and add on your place in the final standings along with your class information and the name/number of the boat you were on.
These usually come in table form because if you’re actively involved in racing there are lots of individual race results, regatta results and combined (“cup”, “bowl”, “series”, etc) results to record. Then you star* out anything else you want to add to the experiences.
I don’t have this section in my own resume. I don’t want to emphasize my racing experience because I’m more interested skippering the delivery than I am crewing the race. But we worked really hard to earn our 3rd place in the 2017 Newport to Bermuda race and I’m proud to include that result on my resume.
Order matters but there is no standard order you must follow for your sailing resume. You should start with the Introduction. Your contact information should be prominently at the top of your resume. Other than that it’s up to you to decide on the order.
I always put my best foot forward, I lead with my most convincing qualifications. My miles table is designed to give the reader a strong indication of what kind of experience I bring to the table at a glance.
I follow that up with my credentials because I believe my Coast Guard License is another convincing qualification. Before I had earned my Coast Guard License I followed my miles table with my Notable Experiences.
Within sections I also lead with my strongest qualifications. My Coast Guard License is at the top of my Certifications and Coursework. The Bermuda Races I’ve done have been great learning experiences: from finishing on the podium to all the heavy weather encountered during the race and on the return there was much to learn. I follow that with my Hanse deliveries which included sailing through two gales while shorthanded.
You get the idea.
Sailing Resume Length
Finally let’s talk length. Remember that the level at which you’re able to contribute, the only thing that the body of your sailing resume speaks to, is only 1 of the 4 questions the skipper is trying to answer about you as potential crew. Your introduction is really the only place that you can help them answer the other three questions so don’t hesitate to spend more ink on the introduction. An important corollary is that if your supporting evidence doesn’t express the level at which you’ll contribute using the remainder of the first page you’re probably not going to get the spot.
My sailing resume might be the shortest article on SavvySalt. I get more experiences to add every year but they make prior notable experience obsolete: offshore passages supersede the hops down the coast earlier in my career. Recent races acting as navigator are much more indicative of skill than the races I did when I was working my way through rail meat and grinder. (I do also keep it brief by including a lot of links where the reader can find out more.)
If you keep your resume to one page you’re in a good place. You can go as long as two pages if you’ve got a lot of non-overlapping experience and you’re looking for a variety of opportunities. Or you can use the second page to make yourself more personable or interesting to the reader.
If you have a two page resume and you are sending it to someone for a specific opportunity you might take the time to cull it down to one page leaving in only the most relevant information to that opportunity. I’ve done this to great effect during my sailing career and professional career
I always appreciate feedback here on SavvySalt. I’m especially interested in your feedback on sailing resumes. Have a great sailing resume whose techniques you’d like to show off? Post in the comments or send me a message! If you work through this article and improve your resume I’d love to see a before and after. Reviewing resumes and have something that you’re always looking for? Please share!
Just want me to look over your resume? Send me a link and I’d be happy to.
Reach out. I love to hear from you guys!
Hi, This is a great article. Thank you! I’ve shared it with a few sailing groups.
I’m putting together my first resume. I have a sailing log, but didn’t log my miles. I’ve done coastal racing and cruising, and one coastal delivery. I haven’t done any ocean crossings. What are the criteria for logging miles? I’ve heard people say that a sail or race needs to be a certain length, to qualify (over 5 miles, for example).
Do you know where I can find the rules/criteria for this, so I can go back through my log and tally my miles?
The criteria for logging miles depends on the purpose of that log. For US Coast Guard licensing purposes you can’t count any days that you spent less than 4 hours underway.
But for your resume just add up all your miles. There is no sailing resume authority so just be honest and try to present the numbers in a way that reflects your sailing experience. That’s where came up with my miles table; create your own and have breakdowns that make sense for your experience and goals.