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Want to get paid to do a job you love? Sailing on luxury yachts over the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsundays in Australia? This is the ultimate Australia gap year programme training you to qualify as a salty sea dog, and work on boats all over the world. After this 23 day internship you have exceptionally good chances of being paid up to $500 a week too!

Whitsundays Sailing Courses Learn to Earn!

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The ultimate gap year job…The Xtreme Gap sailing academy, is a fully accredited Yachting Australia training centre, and has been running for over 10 years, training crew to get yachting qualifications. Located in the stunning Whitsundays, the jewel in the crown of Australia’s east coast natural attractions.  This is your opportunity to enroll on the 23 day Australia gap year internship which will see you LEARN on a VESSEL in NSCV, (National Standards for Commercial Vessels). Once qualified and in a job you can earn up to $500 a week to spend your days and nights sailing in one of the worlds most beautiful marine parks, living on multi million pound yachts and getting paid for your efforts. The training is loads of fun as you learn whilst cruising in a marine park with crystal clear waters and incredible beaches. This is not an advanced course as training to be a skipper/master of a vessel does require ongoing experience and training. This is a fantastic way to start a career in the marine industry.


  • Watching the sun set over the Barrier Reef from the deck.
  • Earn $500 a week once qualified and employed.
  • One of the best backpacker jobs there is!
  • 23 nights of accommodation included.
  • Minimal living costs with all food and accommodation covered.
  • An amazing place to live while learning with a great social scene.
  • Sailing around Whitehaven beach.
  • Snorkelling with turtles, manta rays and thousands of tropical fish.
  • Once you are working the course pays for itself.




The course consists of four components. The course is for novices so don’t worry if you have no previous  experience  of sailing.

Starts each Monday, departing Abel Point Marina at 9:00am.

Week 1:

Training takes place on our NSCV (National Standards for Commercial Vessels) registered boat, where you will live aboard for five nights and six days, undergoing theory and practical application, while sailing around the Whitsunday Islands.
Includes: All meals on board, course notes, tuition, snorkelling instruction and equipment, marine and national park fees, training record log books and certificates.

Weeks 2 & 3:

Twelve nights on sailing tours, comprising of six, two day two night, Maxi Sailing tours around the Whitsundays as an extra crew member aboard our charter yachts. Trainees will be rostered on the yachts and get to work with professional crews, reinforcing the theory, plus learning other customer service aspects of working on charter yachts.


Six nights backpackers dorm/shared accommodation in Airlie Beach to be used for nights in between tours when not at sea.

The programme is specifically tailored and managed all the way through from Day 1 to Day 23.
With an additional two weeks of consolidation training specifically to practice the theory/skills learned from the first week, the programme is geared towards getting the  participants ready to work on the ultra high specification Maxi yacht favoured in the Whitsundays.

  • The first week is undertaken on a smaller yacht, learning the basics in a safe environment before moving to the Maxi yachts.
  • Weeks two and three take in all the other aspects of working on the Maxi, including managing guests, snorkelling watches, guided island walks, re-provisioning, turning vessels and refuelling.

On this programme you will receive two full crew uniforms, and six nights accommodation in Airlie Beach. This is a fully managed programme from day one, our team will manage the 23 day schedule for you:   rostering on the yachts, booking in accommodation and dealing with operational aspects for the participants.

Itinerary for the learn to earn course:

Day 1: Sunday, Check in and  pick up all of your course materials and at 4 PM you meet at the boat. You will be sleeping on board tonight ready to start your training course in the morning.

Day 2- 6: Your sale training crew course will run from day to all the way through to day six. This is a crash course detailing everything you need to know about being a competent crew person on board a boat. You learn about marine rope work and knots, your handling under power and sail. We include all of the essential boating information you need including rules and regulations, planning preparing the yacht for a safe trip handling sales, and safe operation of the yacht at sea. You will learn about avoiding and managing emergencies and general information on etiquette as well.

Day 7 Saturday: if you are booked on the advanced course you will do your speed boat licence today. Please note you will need to provide for your own meals today. If you are enrolled on the basic program, you get a day off to enjoy rarely beach. Head down to the lagoon and take a swim and kick back and relax in this awesome backpacker spot. Tonight you will be staying in a hostel.

Day 8 Sunday is taken off, you will need to provide for your own meals. At 4 PM it’s time to meet in the marina is tonight you will be staying on board.

Day 9 – 13: This week you will gain practical experience reinforcing the knowledge you learnt on your course the previous week. You will be crewing on boats so be expected to get your hands dirty and participate as a genuine crewmember. It can be hard sometimes dirty work, but it’s all about mucking in. This is your time to shine and show enthusiasm, because employment is not guaranteed at the end of the course, but usually those who show a lot of promise during this section the trip get selected first for a full-time crew position.

Day 14: Saturday. Can be spent at your leisure enjoying Airlie beach. You will need to provide your own meals today. Tonight you’ll be staying in the hostel.

Day 15 -16 Sunday- Monday: Yu will gain experience sailing on a large Maxi Yacht.

Day 17: Tuesday you will finish the maxi trip at 1 PM and head back to the hostel. You will need to provide your own meals today.

Day 18-19: Again you will go out on a maxi sailing vessel. Reinforcing what you have learnt over the previous weeks.

Day 20: at 1 PM on Friday the boat will dock and you have the rest of the afternoon off.

Day 21-22: Back out on the boats on Saturday for another sailing trip. This will be the final one prior to the course ending.

Day 23: Monday the boat docks at around 1 PM on day 23. Check out at the office, and sit down with them to discuss next steps on finding employment. You will need to provide your own meals on day 23.

Man, that cup of coffee will taste good in the morning as you watch the sunrise over the ocean…

All of the different courses start in Airlie Beach at Abel Point Marina. This is where you will receive a comprehensive orientation and safety briefing prior to heading out into the tropical waters for your training.

This certificate gives you the skills to command your own PRIVATE vessel. The International Crew Certificate and documents (IYT) requires a local payment of AUD$100, not included in the price.

Note: If you already have sailing certificates, we can adjust the programme for you.

Finding work after the course

We have 80 operational crew working on the fleet of 16 vessels who work with us in the Whitsundays. Approximately  20% of these crew positions are filled by graduates of this programme. Only 4 spaces are available on this course per month.

It is difficult to predict when crew will be moving onto another location or job or switching to other boats in the Whitsundays, but typically staff move on after 3 to 6 months.

This is very important: We DO NOT guarantee work, however, if you are diligent and punctual, attend work neat and tidy, get good results and reports from the Skippers and Crew you work with, the odds of employment improve.

You may have to wait a while for a vacancy as we cannot predict when crew will move on to create vacancies. You are welcome to seek work with other Whitsunday operators who will be looking for the same skills. We also monitor the number of applicants starting the program, and do at times block out spots if we think too many are starting.

During December the crew numbers leaving does tend to increase, creating more vacancies. It is important to note that we encourage the students who have finished the course, that they are welcome to seek work with other companies in Airlie Beach, and our operational managers do speak to the other companies regularly regarding staffing and employments.

What does the job include

The job typically includes most accommodation and food, and you can be paid up to $500 a week. Imagine spending your time cruising one of the worlds most beautiful locations and have no living expenses and getting paid!
Many gap year students end up working for a few months, saving up a boat load of cash and then travelling further.

Who joins?

The sailing course is open to anyone over the age of 18. It is perfect if you are seeking a career in marine tourism (read living on various cool yachts, sailing the around one of the world’s best marine parks in the eternal sunshine of Australia!). You do not need any prior experience if you want to join the full 23 day course.


During the course you will be spending five days a week on the boat you are training on in shared (two persons) accommodation. You will be staying with someone of the same sex, unless you are a couple of course!

During the weekends you will stay in a nice hostel in Airlie beach. A young and vibrant little town, with plenty going on for when you are not working.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes and no! Work on the commercial charter yachts can be pretty tough: provisioning the yacht, assisting guests, assisting with cleaning, working the decks, assisting the cook. However, if you are energetic and don’t mind getting involved, you will love it.
On the course all meals and linen are provided. All you need to bring is your swim gear, sun screen, clothing, a hat and sunglasses. As you will be spending the entire day on the water, you better also bring a t-shirt with long sleeves  so not to get sun burnt. When you are going in the Australian autumn or winter, you might need a jacket too.
If you wish to continue work in the industry your logbook is enough proof of education. You will need to continue getting this signed off as you work, this is proof of on-going training and/or experience also. The log book is a legal document.   An international certificate as such is not existent, you need to present your logbook.
This is not an advanced course as training to be a skipper/master of a vessel does require ongoing experience and training. This is a fantastic way to start a career in the marine industry.
By taking this course you are given priority for when jobs arise in the fleet. There are other shorter courses on offer providing similar qualifications. However, anyone who has done a sailing course on a small boat (say 25 to 45ft) would soon quickly realise that working on a Maxi is a whole new ball game. The rigging is different, the loads are different, you have coffee grinder winches, multiple winches working together and these yachts can really cause harm if people are not familiar, trained and experienced. This programme gives you experience on the big yachts and greatly increases your employment prospects.
Airlie Beach is really popular, and for good reasons too.
When you head out from Europe to do the Whitsundays as your first Australian adventure, the best place to fly into is Cairns or Brisbane. You can take the bus to Airlie Beach, around 600km from Cairns and 1,100km from Brisbane. Check out the Oz Experience bus pass and see some of Australia on your way…..When you are already in Sydney there are two options. The fastest is to fly from Sydney via Hamilton Island to Airlie Beach (around 120GBP one way). Airlie Beach has only got an airport for internal flights.    For your information Sydney to Airlie Beach is around 1,900km.
The Australian Working Holiday Visa subclass 417 costs around   £170, which is the equivalent of €215. Rates change constantly so use this only as an indication. Furthermore you need to have  around £2,000 in your bank account when you enter Australia with a Working Holiday Visa. You will apply for a visa before you go and will do this online at the website of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship of the Australian Government.
Yes, you can undertake the 23 day programme. If you do not have a Working Holiday Visa, you cannot apply for a job with us at the end of the course. Some guests have done this course because they saw it as a good way to spend three weeks.    
Unfortunately we  are not affiliated with the RYA, so we would not employ someone with any of the RYA qualifications, for example the RYA Day Skipper Qualification. So, in order to be able to obtain a job with us you have to do the course.

Duration Option Price  
23 (Days)Beginner OptionGBP 1999Book Now
23 (Days)Advanced OptionGBP 2299Book Now
Book 16 or more weeks up front to secure these deals.
Duration Option Price
23 (Days)Beginner OptionGBP 1999 GBP 1899 (Early Bird)
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Book today with a deposit and travel after 31 - Oct - 2020 to lock in the early bird price. "Hurry only limited early bird spots available !"

Terms: £200 GBP deposit required on booking. Full payment 12 weeks prior to trip start.


  • Sailing Course (the NSCV, National Standards for Commercial Vessels)
  • Safety briefing and induction period
  • 17 nights accommodation on the boats
  • 6 nights accommodation in an Airlie Beach backpackers
  • All meals whilst working on the boats
  • Bedding
  • Safety equipment
  • Course materials
  • Your own log book
  • Course completion certificate
  • Job interview on completion


  • All flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas (WHV needed to work after the course)
  • Transport to Airlie Beach
  • Post and pre-nights accommodation
  • Meals whilst staying at the backpackers hostel during 6 nights
  • $39 AUD fee per person for marine, national parks and admin fees
  • Working Holiday Visa


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