Boat-hitchhiking the Atlantic: How to catch a ride across the ocean?

>>> Update: Find an update on this post here + much more on boat-hitchhiking, sailing, ocean adventure travel and conservation on I’m migrating all my content to a new splashing site. <<<
No boat, no budget and no real sailing experience but a dream to make a big sailing trip!
Does that describe you? Join the club!

I am was on a mission to turn all these no’s into a yes. As Walt Disney says “what can be dreamt, can be done!” so let’s do this.
Every year between October – february more than 1.500 sailboats are making the Atlantic Ocean crossing from Europe to the Caribbean. Another estimated 1.000 boat sail from the Caribbean to Europe. Crew spots enough for every determined person to make this passage!
I hitch-sailed the Atlantic 3 times now. Let’s say I figured out some things ;). Here’s some lessons learned and tips, to help you go across that ocean!

I have arrived at the #Oberon My home for the next ? months! Suuuuuuuperexcited! Nice crew Huge boat! Ahoy! 

A photo posted by Suzanne Van Der Veeken (@oceanpreneur) on

Well, the above went different as planned…. read on!


Tips to help you find (the right!) sailboat to cross the Atlantic Ocean

1. Believe that It’s gonna happen and tell everyone it’s gonna happen. Then it WILL happen. The law of attraction! 2. Start the investigations and communications early. The more chances for succes! For the Europe to Caribbean crossing, I started digging into it in July, in August I was all set. Since I have received 10+ more serious and fun requests. 3. Read stories of people who made the crossing. It’s fun and it gives you a better idea what it’s like. Here you can find some blogs about my boathitchhiking adventures. A few more great stories and helpful blog posts:

islandhopping-hitch-sailing-Greece - 20 of 35

Sunsets at sea. Priceless!

4. Ask sailors if they have any tips, links or connections

Via via you must know some sea farers. I had some connections from back in days. Everyone is willing to help. It’s a great community. From their responses I realised that making the trip larger, with some island hopping prior and after, than ‘just a crossing’ is way more fun and will teach me way more about sailing. I extend the Atlantic Ocean crossing dream with some island hopping in the Canary Islands and Caribbean archipelagos. So think about WHY you want to do this.

5. Sign up for the big crew websites

Floatplan, Findacrew7KnotsCrewbayCrewfinders and Oceancrewlink are the most used crew websites. Oceancrewlink is an initiative from the ARC an has many ocean crossings on it (not only ARC). FindaCrew is quite popular for this passage too. I’ve had good and bad experiences through findacrew, and good experience through Crewbay and Oceancrewlink. Also check out facebook groups. There’s dozens of them where you can connect with sailors. Since there was no specific one to Atlantic Ocean crew matching Icreated a group to connect Atlantic Ocean boat and crew seekers. Whenever I read or hear about an Atlantic Ocean sail opportunity, I’ll put it in the group.

What to put in your crew profile when you have no sailing experience?

Sailing experience is desired but positive attitude and willingness to learn probably even more. So don’t worry about not having sailing experience. Put in your enthusiasm, your story and other skills (language, cooking, dive, kite, yoga, mechanic, fishing, medical, writing, photography, video, comedian, massage, electrician, dietist, heck if you’re good at fridge tetris you have a welcome skill) and you’ll come a long way! A skipper stumbled upon my travelblog and takes me on board because he liked my blog. Now I’m gonna be the reporter for this trip. A win win! As a girl who wants to cross the Atlantic you receive more crew invitations? While it may be ‘easier’ you still want to feel safe, secure and comfortable. There may be more opportunities but maybe less ‘matching’ ones. Tips for the women: Narrow down selection to a boat with a minimum of 4 crew, Skype and check references before accepting anything.

5. Be at the right place, right time

If the crew websites don’t work out, just go to a harbour. Part of the fun! But also part of the costs. You’ll find a hostel in the Canary Islands as from 15 euro’s/night. Or go couchsurfinghousesitting, or boatsitting. Las Palmas has many couchsurf hosts. Airbnb has some nice options, including boats in the harbour.

Hostel recommendation Las Palmas, close to the harbour: Alcaravaneras hostel. Another nice hostel is Utopia in Las Canteras.


In the smaller harbours you may be the only person looking for a boat

October/November/December/January is when most boats make the Atlantic crossing from East to West, from Europe to the Caribbean. November/December is peak. 2nd half of December not many boats are leaving because of Christmas and Newyear. January has more constant trade-winds. Also In January new boats come in looking for crew. There are only half as many hitch-sailors as in November and December. There are some big Atlantic crossing sailing events which could be very fun (but more difficult & expensive) to join. The ARC leaves mid november from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Hords of people were looking and many deceived to go to different island as it apparently was way to competitive to find a spot. So increase your chances by standing out! Make a nice advertisement of yourself with a colourful photo. Or go to a less busy harbour where there may be less boats but also less competition. Or just look for a ride to Cape Verde! In Cape Verde I met many boats looking for crew! There was no crew around. Ok, you may get ‘stuck’ if you don’t find any but it is an amazing place to be ‘stuck.’

The boathitchhiker advertisements in Las Palmas

The boat-hitchhiker advertisements in Las Palmas

Which harbours to go to? Gibraltar, Madeira, Portugal, Cadiz, Galicia, Morocco, and other Canary Islands like Tenerife (Los Cristianos), Fuerteventura, La Gomera or La PalmaLas Palmas (Gran Canaria).

Rallies: Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. Around this event a lot of gatherings are organised which gives the whole adventure and extra fun dimension, Lanzarote: Atlantic Odyssey. Great rally initiative themed ‘Our ocean – our Future.’ You can participate in events and seminars  prior to departure to learn about sailing and ocean conservation.

6. Bingo! You got a crew spot on a boat

But is it the right boat?

      • Experience of the captain? Licenses?
    • State of the boat?
    • Competent crew on board?
    • Insured boat?
    • Last but not least, the people! Like-minded crew on board? You’re gonna be stuck with them for a while so get to know each other a bit before hand!! Feel comfortable with them.
    • Say NO! If it doesn’t feel right! On the ocean there is no way to go.



In the end, it’s common sense, follow your instinct and one big adventure!

Don’t give up!

Grande update 1 (Dec ’14): I stepped off the boat just before crossing the Atlantic. Instinct. I joined the hitch-sailors community in Las Palmas and I love it! It’s an amazing group off adventure seekers out here. It’s more organized to find a boat here. Although it’s very competitive. We’re about 20 persons looking for a boat. Some changed course because it was too difficult. I think November/early December is a good time to be here, or January. Now it’s mid december and most boats left to be on the other side of the pond before Christmas. Or boats are docked and will leave after christmas/new year. I will keep updating this posts. Becoming in pro in finding boats:)
Grande update 2 (Jan ’15): I found a new boat. I coincidentally ran into a captain locally in the harbour  I was already in touch with this summer. He still had a spot free. I can join 🙂 Mid january we set sail!


Grande update 3 (April ’15): I found another boat back to Europe from the Caribbean (Antigua – Azores – Mallorca). April 20 we set sail.
Grande update 4 (2016): I’m writing an e-book, all about it! I have so much information to share.  ‘How to hitchsail the Atlantic Ocean’? I’m halfway with the writing, as well as the journey. Would you like to be updated as soon as it’s finished? Leave you email here!
Grande update 5 (March 2016): I launched a crowdfunding campaign for the book so I can really make it an awesome book! with a little video 🙂 Curious to learn more about the book? Then check it out! Crowdfunding has been succesfull.
Grande update 6: It’s not going to be just an e-book. I’m making a book of it.
Grande update 7: Season 2016 I’m going to look for a boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean again! :). Follow the adventure on facebook or instagram.
Grande update 8: Hello from the Caribbean! I hitch-sailed the Atlantic Ocean with the ARC this time. So I can add more info on that in the book! Now working superduber hard  to get the book finished a.s.a.p.
Grande update 9: The book is almost finished! ETA: June 2017! > Help me choose a book title! <
Grande update 10: The book is finished: Ocean Nomad
You can find it here and download a 50 page FREE sample.
the hitchhikers guide to the atlantic
the hitchhikers guide to the atlantic ocean
See you in the harbour!



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12 Comments on “Boat-hitchhiking the Atlantic: How to catch a ride across the ocean?

  1. Hi!

    With great enthusiasm i read even more about crossing the atlantic by means of hitchhiking! I can’t wait to experience it myself!

    Just wondering: above several harbours are mentioned to go to. Which are those in the Carribean if you want to head to Europe?

    Thanks a lot!


    • Hey Pol!
      Thanks! When will you go sailhitching :)? So as from April/May many boats leave the Caribbean before the Hurricane season. Route is Bahamas – Bermuda – Azores – Madeira – Wherever… I would look for big ports in these destinations. I know in the Azores, Horta is the place to be. For the other destinations I have’t looked into it yet. On the crewwebsites many boats are looking now for crew for the West-East crossing! Good luck! And let me know how it goes! Suzanne

      • There is one point to bear in Mind; a spot in a good boat to cross the Atlántic is only 2.000/3.000 € away.And it all changues from taking anything ,begging for a Spot,always without knowing if they will all leave you “abandoned” ashore, to be choosing a boat,a Company with
        The responsability to be equiped,and with all experience for it.
        Then you can be sure of your adventure in advance.So it is not so difficult to be one year working to get that money ,as also those who cross in a sailboat must face a lot of expenses to be doing that.
        It is a fair trade. I have been in a first crossing without paying,i have got my boat and cross alone,at may own expenses ,and now i work with a Company,nice safe Catamaran,who charter and offers a good deal,three weeks crossing and a week through Caribbean for 2.700€.

        And after being in all sides, i think this is the best option.!

        Good sailing!,

  2. Very good info. Lucky me I discovered your website by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve bookmarked it for later!

  3. Hi,

    I’m planning a trip to either Canada or New Zealand by hitching with sailing yachts. I’m currently trying to get a place on a yacht for the Atlantic crossing. Just had a guy reject me on the basis of me being a vegetarian. (Or not female : ) What’s your experience with this? Are you a vegetarian? Or have you met other travellers that have had a similar problem? -I’m hoping it won’t be an issue for me. Nice website BTW : )

    • Hey Michael!
      Thank you:). If the guy rejects you because you’re vegetarian you’re probably gonna disagree on many more things and it might not be the right boat for you anyway! Don’t worry about that. It’s not an issue. It’s a good thing! There’s many boats that are happy to take a vegetarian on board. Since i’m getting way more aware of what’s happening in our ocean and food production in general i’m in the process of becoming vegetarian. How’s the boat hunt going? Enjoy the journey!

  4. Hi!
    Great info and tips you got there!
    We’re a Swedish couple on our grand hitchhikeing tour from Berlin to South America.
    Since we’re a couple we’d prefer to do the Atlantic crossing together. Do you think it’ll be hard to find a crew that accepts two lovebirds?

    Melina &Linus

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  6. Hey! Thanks for this! I love finding your website! I am now in Greece, flying to Belgium and Amsterdam for NY and then eager to cross after this! All of your info and super delightful enthusiasm aaaand positive attitude are A) super helpful in regards to following my dreams and B) super awesome to just have such a sister reflecting and BEING such awesomeness in this world here!!! Thank you Suzanne! Much love and enjoy your sweet holydays darlin!!!

  7. Thank you very much for this assuring and informative post! 🙂

    My boyfriend and I want to cross the Atlantic Sea in october leaving from Tenerife. Did you meet any couples doing “hitchboating”? 🙂 How feasable is it, to do hitchboating as a couple?

    Enjoy your travels!

    Thanks a lot for your ideas! 🙂

    • Hi woder if you could help me wanted to track down owner or skipper of Cyclos 2. We are interested in buying the boat but not through brokers. Could you forward my contact email so we can touch base a discuss the boat in more detail. Sounds like you had a great time on her with your travels.

      Appreciate your help.

      Thanks Mark Frankham New Zealand Mobile Phone is 021 766 181

      • Hi Mark!
        I will send you an email with CC (previous) captain. He will know!
        It’s an A-MA-ZING boat to sail! IF you’re buying it and you ever need crew, don’t hesitate to contact me. Would LOVE to sail her again!
        Good luck!

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