Is it safe to sail with strangers? Tips for all sailors, men and women.
Updated: May 3
We all agree that the excitement of sharing time on a boat with new people and strangers is exciting. However, if the first encounters on a boat between "good guys" are easily done, we regularly respond to crew and skippers who wonder about their personal safety when embarking with a stranger or when the take a stranger as crewmember. This is a legit concern and this article is here to help you avoid bad experiences.
Is sharing time on the water with stranger a safe way to sail?
Sharing time on the water with fellow sailors is a good, affordable, and pleasant way to meet people who are passionate about boating, but above all, you have to be aware of certain risks! How safe is it to sail with strangers?
If you have never sailed before and are afraid, we advise you to enroll in a local sailing school or to contact Sailing Associations to find the right place for you.
But if you are not afraid of meeting human beings, and you really want to sail, sharing time and adventures with others may be very good for you. You must choose your future boat and crew carefully and use a website or a service that you can trust.
Meeting with strangers and prepare for a safe sailing journey is possible and many people have done that for years.
Follow 11 basic steps to find the right crew or the right boat and to feel safe on board.
1. REPLY to NOTICES THAT ARE OF YOUR INTEREST
As a woman, you may receive unsolicited offers to sail. If you feel that you have received an inappropriate proposal, please let the website administrator know. Most of the time the strnager that contacted you will be excluded by the website adminitrator. Coboaters.com provide excellent customer supports for everyone. Easy to reach and communicate with. You can trust they will promptly act.
The best way to find the right captain who is looking for crew is to be proactive: don’t be shy, make the first move!
2. Carefully study the member's profile to safely sail with a stranger.
Each Coboaters user has a profile with a description of his maritime qualifications and skills. Each member is strongly encouraged to tell more about himself or herself in a section called "A few words about me". He must explain his goals and why he wants to increase his sailing network.
Detailed profile to increase your safety.
The purpose of this very detailed profile questionnaire is to give a good description of who the person is in real life but most importantly how the person is on a boat. When you read a profile, you should feel that you want to embark with this person. If not, move on to the next one. If a user has not filled out their profile, either follow through or tell them that you are interested in their notice but would like them to fill out their profile with more accuracy so all members can also see it. Profiles can be completed and/or edited at any time. It is easy.
3. Choose reassuring profiles
Prefer ID- Certified profiles with you start talking to strangers
On the internet, you can meet anyone. On Coboaters.com, we only display your first name and the initial letter of your last name, as a way of keeping your privacy. Members can have their ID checked, you will see a label next to the name to indicate that the ID was checked. Members who have their ID checked have sent us a copy of an official identity document (driver's license or passport) as well as a picture (without sunglasses or hat) in order for us to verify the information published on the site.
Please see our article: ‘how to get your ID checked on Coboaters”
Prefer profiles with positive reviews
Coboaters encourages members to post reviews. Most of the time crew and captains publish a review after a boating event. Your best bet is to select profiles with positive reviews. You should nicely ask people to post good reviews on your profile so it will help you find more opportunities!
4. Use the website internal messaging system to contact stangers.
Some users will ask to exchange phone numbers right away. It is safe to use the Coboaters messaging system because your personal information will remain confidential. If a member needs more information, tell him or her to check your Coboaters profile.
5. Call or chat online with your selected crew or boat owner.
Do not skip this step for any reason. After a first positive exchange via the site's messaging system, confirm your first good impression with a telephone conversation. It is even better if you can use Whatsapp, Facetime, Skype, or any other apps because you will be able to see the other person,
The first telephone conversation between the crew and the captain is very important because it allows you to test your future compatibility on board. You should feel comfortable right away. If you have nothing to say to each other over the phone, what will happen after two days on a boat? The Coboaters profile of this person will allow you to find the first topics of discussion: the sailing experience of each one, why you bought the boat, why you joined Coboaters, will you be alone on the boat or with other crew members..., what are the expenses to share on board, etc.
If the conversation goes well, and all the information received by phone is in line with the information given in the sailor profile, the notice, and the boat profile, then you can go to the next step!
6. The first meeting with a stranger crew or boat owner
The first meeting is important. Give preference to users who ask for a preliminary meeting, especially if you plan to spend a night on board. For example, you can meet for a coffee or a beer with your future co-skipper in a public place. If the first meeting takes place on the boat, bring a friend along. At the end of the meeting you must feel safe to sail with this stranger.
7. Keep the first trip short
Many boat owners offer day trips to better know each other, this is the right approach. Getting to know each other before embarking on a weekend or a cruise is highly recommended.
This meeting is the prerequisite for a longer sailing trip (cruise, voyage, transatlantic crossing...), it will be the opportunity to check some simple things, such as:
Is the boat clean? (a clean boat is often well maintained)?
Is your future cabin suitable in terms of comfort and privacy?
Is the bathroom up to your expectations?
Does the captain seem comfortable or does he seem worried?
If you are a beginner, and he/she agrees to take you on board, he/she should only give simple orders in a pleasant tone. Otherwise, run away!
8. Embark with other crew members
To avoid taking any risks and sail safe with strangers, you can look for boat owners who will allow you to board with your spouse or a friend.
You may also prefer to embark with boat owners that are a couple or have already an existing crew or team. If this is the case, do not hesitate to contact the other members of the group beforehand or to ask for the first meeting with all the participants.
9. Share your plan with your friends and relatives.
This recommendation is valid whatever your activity, your trip or the person you sail with. Always tell your friends and family what the plan is.
What information to share to sail with strangers?
Date of departure and arrival
Port of departure and destination
Name of the boat
Name of the skipper and crew
Contact information like phone numbers of other persons on board with you
Share GPS coordinate using boat tracking systems if you go for a long offshore trip.
10. If you do not feel safe, disembark.
You must feel comfortable on board right away. If the chemistry doesn't work, if you don't feel comfortable on the boat, get off as soon as possible.
To avoid being caught off guard, always have a plan B.
Use this short check list for your plan B:
Am I sailing somewhere where it will be easy to disembark?
How much will a hotel cost if I have to disembark?
Do I have the financial means to pay for the journey back home (plan or train ticket, rental car?
Do I have means to contact the authorities and my friends?
11. Always leave a review after your trip
Co-boating is not for everyone. You must be sociable, available, able to listen to others, be able to make concessions, have a sense of hospitality, and respect the basic principles of politeness and courtesy.
If you had a good time on board, say so by posting a positive review about your fellow boaters. If not, do the same with a negative review. Coboaters.com team will check the bad review and will contact the person. Members will be excluded for wrong behavior. We want to keep the Club as safe as possible!
12. What to do if you miss one of these steps? Is it still safe to sail with stangers?
The above steps are ideal but sometimes you cannot do them all. You then ask yourself the right question: Do I have to give up my dream of bringing this boat from The Bahamas to the Northeast because I could not meet with the captain before flying to the Bahamas?
Only YOU have the answer. The ability to accept risk is different for each individual. What is certain is that by skipping a step, you increase the risk. You will then have to accept the hazard and find solutions if needed.
To conclude, keep in mind that "When in doubt, there is no doubt, I do not embark".
The vast majority of captains are men boat owners. It is the case all over the world. Is the risk of a bad encounter higher? No, if the above tips are followed.
You should know that a dishonest person would be easily found if he/she used Coboaters for criminal purposes (It is easy to track the Internet. Police know how to investigate and find people: IP address, messages exchanged via the site, payment of the membership fee, telephone calls...).
We try our best to make coboaters safe and will be aware of any bad or inappropriate behavior. And as usual, contact us as soon as you see or feel something wrong.