A supply teacher who sails the high seas

3 minutes to read

Back in 2013 I made the stomach-churning decision to give up my job as Head of Philosophy, Ethics and Law in an outstanding school in Essex to earn £360 a month as a Flotilla Mate for a holiday company in Greece.

As a teacher, I had some great students, supportive colleagues and a healthy salary. But on the flip side, my workload was unnecessarily growing and I was constantly being taken away from the teaching I loved. Not to mention that I’d never felt suited to being stuck in the classroom. So, I took a deep breath and let my dreams set sail!

From the classroom to the sea

For eight months I was part of a yacht crew, spending my days making sure holidaymakers had a safe and enjoyable time on board. The whole experience served to feed my love of sailing and being on the sea. I always found it amazing how adults on holiday can become more difficult than a class full of year 9s, but my teaching experience benefitted me greatly and I loved this new and ever changing challenge. Sadly the weather in Greece and the pressure on a lead crew meant that the sails didn’t get hoisted anywhere near as much as we would have liked.


Back on home soil

When I returned to the UK I was still desperate to sail and missed living aboard a yacht. It wasn’t long before I found a job with a yacht delivery company. I use the term ‘job’ in the loosest sense; unless you are working as the skipper you are not paid! All that’s covered is your transport to and from the vessel, any additional accommodation and your food while on board.

I was faced with a dilemma: give up sailing for a full time job or try to survive working for nothing. Luckily, I found another option. As a fully qualified and experienced teacher, I had the luxury of being able to work with a supply agency. My availability could change on a weekly basis and I could still fund my adventures on the high seas!

Supply teaching & sailing

Ever since then, I’ve combined supply teaching with delivering yachts across Europe. I have sailed from Croatia, into Greece, been to Gibraltar more times in a year than I thought possible, enjoyed culinary delights from Spain, France and Italy all in a week, and almost sank off the coast of Portugal (not our fault!). This last incident led to quite a hairy 15 hours of sailing, on a boat filling with water, to reach the shore. We were determined not to ‘abandon ship’.

It is not the luxurious lifestyle many think of. These aren’t shiny gin palaces; they have sails and you are often working heeled over so you do get some nasty bruises. You may not see land, or even another boat for a week. You sometimes don’t shower for days and cooking at sea is a work-out in itself. You are under sail 24 hours a days so you really need to know the ropes, but might not get much sleep.


Despite this it is one of the most exhilarating and addictive things I have ever done. I can be sailing the open sea watching whales or jumping in to swim alongside dolphins one week and then back in the classroom the next, with no one begrudging my choices.

Working as a supply teacher has allowed me the freedom to travel and sail, funding a life at sea but giving me the security of a paid job when I need it. I also know that supply work will make it easier for me to step back into teaching full time when the day comes. For now I am not ready to give up the adventures!