Boat-hitchhiking the Atlantic: How to catch a ride across the ocean?
A photo posted by Suzanne Van Der Veeken (@oceanpreneur) 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:
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, Findacrew, 7Knots, Crewbay, Crewfinders 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 couchsurfing, housesitting, or boatsitting. Las Palmas has many couchsurf hosts. Airbnb has some nice options, including boats in the harbour.
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.’
Which harbours to go to? Gibraltar, Madeira, Portugal, Cadiz, Galicia, Morocco, and other Canary Islands like Tenerife (Los Cristianos), Fuerteventura, La Gomera or La Palma, Las 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?
- Does the boat have al the necessary equipment? Liferaft, lifejackets, harnesses? Satellite phone? EPIRB? Spare equipment? The ARC has a comprehensive list of what safety equipment should be on board.
- 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.
- Let me help you find your boat or assessing if it’s the right boat