What Does a Sailor Do?

A sailor is someone who travels on and operates marine vessels for pleasure or as a profession. Although sailors can work as part of a crew, many sail alone. The duties of a sailor on a given voyage are determined in part the type of vessel and the number of other crew members on board. Major shipping companies and governments employ large numbers of sailors to work on various ships and vessels, whereas small fishing companies typically employ only a few sailors to operate small marine craft.

A recreational sailor usually does not require any formal training, and many sailors learn to row small boats before progressing to motorized boats and yachts. Many countries require sailors who operate boats larger than a certain size to obtain licenses, though some countries do not require these sailors to pass any kind of examination. Competitive races are held for highly skilled sailors, some of which require them to travel long distances across major oceans. Many sailors spend months at sea and sail for recreational purposes rather than for competitive or business reasons.

Professional sailors are hired fishing companies to work on fishing boats and trawlers. The boat is captained an experienced sailor, while other sailors work as deckhands and perform various tasks such as casting nets to catch fish or dropping cages to catch crabs and other sea creatures. Small fishing boats can operate with a crew of two or three sailors, but large fishing trawlers have dozens of sailors on board, including engineers who must ensure the engines remain operational throughout the voyage.

Sailors are hired the military to work on Navy frigates. Captains of military vessels in most countries are required to have a college diploma as well as several years of military service. Other sailors work as chefs, janitors, and deckhands, while navigators, machinists, and engineers keep the boat moving. Large numbers of crew members are assigned to heavy weaponry on military vessels, and some boats carry airplanes and pilots who have no role in operating or navigating the ship.

Sailors are hired commercial shipping companies to work on frigates and tankers that transport goods between countries. Major tankers are frequently equipped with cranes, which must be operated specially trained crew members. Because the crew members of a commercial ship are tasked with moving cargo between destinations, the crew of a commercial ship is typically much smaller than the crew of a military vessel. The crew, unlike navy sailors or fishermen, is not required to perform special tasks while at sea.