August 10, 2016 by James Kell

How To Build Your Sea Miles


Whether you’re starting from scratch or have some experience on dinghies and keelboats, if you want to reach Yachtmaster level or above you are going to need sea miles.  Not just sea miles, but quality, logged sea miles.  Here are some tips on how to gain the right kind of sea miles.  You want miles that bring you diverse experiences, offering you the opportunity to learn in different boats with different people and under different conditions. 

  • How to build "quality" sea miles
  • Mileage-building through a Sailing School
  • Do-it-yourself, low cost Mileage-building

How To Build Quality Sea Miles

By definition sea miles discuss quantity.  Depending on which organisation you choose, a coastal yachtmaster typically requires 800 miles, with an offshore yachtmaster needing over 2,500 miles (with some more stipulations on days-as-captain, night hours etc).  What doesn’t get mentioned as often is the quality of those miles.  Night passages, big wind, light wind days, racing tides, the odd storm, a big crossing or two.  New boats or old boats, your main objective should be to ensure that your sea miles are real sailing sea miles.  When it comes to your Yachtmaster preparation week you will show your logbook to your instructor then examiner and be asked about these miles.  Crossing the Atlantic as a deckhand on a 150’ superyacht is seen as “junk miles” by many an examiner, inferior to even a five day passage in tidal waters with two friends on a leaky thirty year old 36’ sloop.  The latter has you making decisions and feeling the impact of those decisions.  That’s what examiners are after.

So how does one find plenty of good quality sea miles?  There are two main methods: pre-arranged courses through sailing schools or do-it-yourself adventure through friends and crew websites.  Let’s discuss each in turn.


1. Mileage-building through a Sailing School

Many sailing schools around the world offer mileage builders either as an adjunct to their course offering or as a core part of it, in what some describe as a “zero to hero” training program.  These come at a hefty fee but mean with most offerings the student sails at all times with professionals paid to teach them the art and science of sailing.  The biggest downside to these courses aside from their price could simply be their names: “zero to hero” implies an “end” whereas obtaining the miles sufficient to sit a Yachtmaster exam is in many ways reaching the beginning. Plug alert, Sailing Virgins is running a mileage-building sail from Martinique to Grenada during November 2017, providing around 650 miles for the full trip *plus* gaining participants their relevant ASA or NauticEd qualifications.  Click here to be taken to a the trip page for this adventure.

2. Do-it-yourself, low-cost Mileage-building

Whether buying a boat or the more familiar approach of “OPB” (other people’s boats), do-it-yourselfers follow a long sailing tradition of people learning through doing.  This method involves far less certainty than paying a school for miles but can be more rewarding, is usually more adventurous and can also be a lot cheaper (although not always!).  Crew seeking websites such as,,,, and provide a market where boat owners can find the crews that they require for long journeys.  Walking the docks in certain ports at certain times of year can be very effective as oftentimes people lose crew at the last minute and you might just find yourself with a spot on their boat.  Try Palma de Mallorca between September and November.  Or Faial, Azores (in particular the legendary Peter Cafe Sport there) between March and May among others.  Some people find themselves learning to sail with a several decades, several-hundred-thousand mile old salt whilst others will see themselves unexpectedly scrubbing the dinghy of a trust fund divorcee who has burned through fifteen crews in the past year.  It’s all part of the journey people!  Others will take the plunge and buy their own boat with little or no experience, learning as they go.  Two young Australians did just that and have become Youtube stars in the process (here is a link to their site).  The key to this do-it-yourself approach, whether crewing on other people’s boats or buying your own is to augment it with at least a little professional training.

Get Paid To Sail: Free e-Book


In summary building miles is a necessary part of your journey to becoming a captain.  If you are time-constrained, choosing a sailing school may be the most effective way to go about things.  If you are budget constrained, choosing the less predictable, often-cheaper approach of being a crew may suit you.  Mixing both approaches up will also enrich your experience.  A rich experience is what it’s all about!

Sailing Virgins runs sailing courses in the Caribbean.  To find out more click on our COURSES tab above.  We also offer a free e-book for people wishing to find out how they can turn sailing into a profession.  Click the button above or here if you would like to download it.


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