With only 600$ to my name, I needed to figure out a way to cross the Darien gap on the cheap or better yet for free. I reviewed all the Darien Gap options and decided that my best bet was to try and hitch a ride on a sailboat.
Although I knew I might have to wait a few weeks or even months until an opportunity arose, I remained confident in my plan. I stayed positive, networked as much as I could, and in just under a week I found a Captain willing to take me on.
If you too are looking to cross the Darien Gap by sailboat and don’t want to pay the 550$ boat trip cost, here’s what you need to know.
Can You Really Work In Exchange For Passage?
Since it takes at least 5 days to learn your way around a new boat and to be of any help, most boats aren’t willing to let you work in exchange for full passage. However, depending on the captain, there is a chance that you can haggle a discount. It never hurts to try.
Since most captains would rather hire deckhands on a month to month basis, it’s actually much easier trying to find a more permanent position. This is your best option. Check out this article to see what life is like as a deckhand on the 85 foot Yacht Independence.
How To Get The Job
The best way to begin finding a job is by researching and e-mailing all the 20 or so boats that offer service from Panama City to Cartagena and vice versa. Larger boats are more ideal as they are more often looking to find cooks, deckhands, and maids.
If you don’t already have a CV/Resume, you should make one and attach it to your e-mail. Although having previous boating experience does help, it is not the sole determining factor. If you need help making your own CV, you can connect with me on Facebook at The Runaway Guide.
In addition to e-mailing captains, another effective way to find a vacant position is by networking with hostels. Since many hostels in Panama City and Cartagena have arrangements with boats and know captains, they can let you know if any positions arise. Check out Hostel Mamallena and Luna’s Castle.
The next step is to simply be patient, keep networking, and have faith. For more information on working on boats around the world, check out How To Work On A Luxury Yacht.
Although working in exchange for passage is possible, it is less likely. Therefore your next best bet is to look for a short term job as a deckhand. While this can also be difficult and take time, if you present a professional CV, network well, and keep your head up, you are bound to land a job sooner or later.