HitchSailing: spontaneous crewing on a strangers’ sailboat.
Whether you have sailing experience or not, whether you contribute money or not, whether you found the boat in advance online or locally in the harbour. Some call it boathitchiking, hitching, couchsailing, sailhitching. I like to call it hitch-sailing. Sailing is not only for the rich and famous. Sailing can be done on a budget and without having a boat. For this sailing trip in South East Asia I chipped in 10$/us day. The captain was happy to have an extra hand on board and to share the fun with fellow adventure seekers. A win/win! What’s it like to boathitchhike? Here’s a typical day on a hitch-sailing adventure I did from Langkawi Malaysia to Phuket Thailand.
The morning routine
I hear monkeys, birds, splashes and rolling waves. Where am I? I have no idea. The rocking of the boat helps me sleep like a baby. Or it’s the pure air. Or the absence of a phone signal. With such high quality sleep I only need a few hours and I have a lot of exploring to do today in the Malaysian waters, so I rise and shine with the sunrise. Welcome on board of this boathitchhike trip, sailing from Malaysia to Thailand!
http://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/1-fTA3gbxqWYoTHSGV5hmk9Q-1.jpeg448800Suzannehttp://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ocean_layout3_blue.pngSuzanne2016-12-24 18:56:262017-07-08 15:50:13A typical day of hitch-sailing: fun + making a difference
SV Eau Too – October 17, 2016. I’m 8 days at sea now.
I open my eyes and see the reflection of water moving on the ceiling. I sit up (which is a luxury on board!) and look outside. All I see is water. That’s a change of scenery from the starboard stern cabin. I always saw land when I woke up. We have made about a 1000 miles from France now. Is it a new day? I check the time and it’s 17.00. I feel like I’ve just experienced a few days since I was on watch from 21.00 – 00.00, 3.00- 6.00 and 10.00 – 14.00, and there were so many happenings and incidents. All on a few square meters of the island called a sailing boat. With all the naps and watch-keeping shifts, rhythm on a boat is nothing like on land. It may sound tough but it takes a few days and then you’re used to it.
Rewinding 11 hours….
6AM. I text my Tarifa friends with a photo of the chart plotter. 3G is working well. We’re 17 miles away from Gibraltar. With an average speed of 6 knots we’ll be passing the Strait in a few hours. My watch is finished so I crash to sleep. I’m on again at 10.00.
I hear a familiar sound. The sound of the easterly levante wind zoofing around. I hop out of bed, climb into the cockpit and catch the sunrise when I look over to portside(live shakey insta video update). Looking starboard side, I see the rock of Gibraltar. I scan the horizon and there’s dozens of tankers around, most of them ‘not under command,’ and many leisure fishing boats. It’s Sunday and there’s a full moon. Full moon means more fish closer to the surface. It’s awesome to see Gibraltar from a different perspective. Usually I drive past it on the other side when I go to Tarifa to kitesurf and see my friends there.
I just came off watch 2 hours earlier but I’m too excited to go back to bed. We’re sailing into another continent today AND along Tarifa, which I’ve made basecamp over the last years. I already called my friends to get out there and wave from the land.
We planned to be around here at exactly this time. And we are. Good navigation plan, skip! At 9.19 the tide changes and we want to go with it, since tides can be strong here. With the full moon the tidal differences and current will be strong. Our COG (Course Over Ground) is 5 (degrees). We’re super lucky with the weather. The forecast gives a mild levante. Last time I passed through it , it was everything but mild. Apparently the whole summer has been hardcore levante, since my kitesurf friends could hardly kite due to the strong winds.
‘All ships, All ships…’
Someone on the radio broadcasts about a boat with an estimated 9 refugees floating around, if we can all look out for them. The weather is calm today, which is not that common for this zone. We, westerners making our sailing dreams happen, are not the only ones crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s also those that don’t even have a passport risking their lives to be alive. They make the same passage, the other way around, with a different boat, crew and destination. There surely is no ‘guide’ for that crossing! This is a daily event here in the Strait and it breaks my heart. No numbers on refugees exist and only Neptune knows how many get taken by the current…
Looking out over the Strait of Gibraltar and Morocco, photo taken in Tarifa, Spain
9.30 AM The wind speed meter is slowly going up. We’re having around 9 knots of wind now. With only the headsail up, a little bit of wind and current, we slowly glide towards Tarifa, running a speed of 3.5 knots. I’m on the helm now and zigzagging mainly between leisure Sunday fishing boats. On our port side one tanker after the other is passing by, navigating through the TSS (‘Traffic Separation Scheme’). Hundreds of them pass through each day. On the AIS (Automatic Identification System) we can see where they are going: Nicaragua, Mexico, Recife, Gran Canaria, Rotterdam. Our global sea transport system is fascinating, yet such a polluted element of our society. Not just the fuel but the noise does a lot of damage. Sounds reaches much further underwater than via air. It kills the whales. And here’s more reasons to Go local.
11.30AM We have 12 knots of North East wind and the compass is pointing 83 degrees now. We slowly sail into the strait. From my obsessive kitesurf wind checking and analyzing back in the days, I know that around noon the levante wind usually picks up. I already see the kite surfers playing around at Balneario surf spot next to Las Paloma’s Island, the most southern point of continental Europe. Like last time I crossed the ‘Strait of Gib’ from the other direction, I get on the phone with my friend Vince, who’s walking the dog and waving. We locate a yellow buoy in front of us, indicating a hazard, and we have to pass it south. 16 knots of wind now.
We locate a yellow buoy in front of us indicating a hazard and we have to pass it south. 16 knots of wind now.
Looking out for Vince!
13.20. With a speed of 7.6 COG we are sailing across the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a bit quieter with the tankers now. It was super timing to do this passage on a Sunday! There seems to be less boats than usual. Great, because we have to somehow cross one of the busiest Traffic Separation Schemes in the world. The wind picks up and with 20-25 knots we cross the TSS to ‘the other side.’ It’s like we’re going through boiling water. Here is where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. There’s no straight line separating the seas. With a different salinity, different layers mingle and create a wild water lane across the strait. Little Moroccan fishing boats show up. I can’t believe the danger they put themselves in with all these tankers passing by on both sides. Tarifa gets smaller and smaller as the mosque of Tangier becomes bigger on the horizon. With a separation of only 14 km, we have gone from Europe to Africa, sailing the Strait of Gibraltar.
Tankers, little fishing boats and the Mediterranean mixing with the Atlantic in the Strait of Gibraltar
Sams Pirate socks
Ozzie Carly has prepared a Moroccan style cous cous salad to bring in the Moroccan vibes.
14.00 I hand over the helm to the next watch. I take the best seat of the boat, in the corner at the stern. This restless soul finally gets to sit down. I clip my toenails and enjoy the view of Morocco. Sam is putting her pirate socks on the guardrail to dry. George is talking Arabic on the phone. Carly is on ‘mother watch’, preparing foods. Bart is somewhere and Kirstin is asleep. Then I’m off for a snooze. Snooze number 3? 4? of today. I have no idea anymore.
Captain Steve briefs on the journey so far and the next passage to the Canary Islands.
At 17.00 I wake up. I look outside and all I see is water. We sailed the Strait of Gibraltar and are in the Atlantic Ocean!
I’m off to the cockpit to check out the Moroccan Coast. We have the Atlantic swell now meaning big long waves and a relatively non-rocky dinner outside. We have dinner and dolphins are stealing the show. We already got spoiled with dolphins on the bow but the show we get now is unbelievable. I have never seen so many dolphins together. There’s hundreds of them, jumping, playing and swimming to our boat! Seriously this has been such an exciting, lively and eventful day! It tastes for more. And there’s so much more to come; it’s just the beginning. Thank you Eau Too for having me part of your crew! I have to close the laptop now because at 21.00 I’m on watch again and I need to take a rest. The exciting day isn’t over yet!
What a day, what a day!!!
21.00 We have calm seas, the full moon in the sky and with Sam I chat about this memorable day on sailing the Strait of Gibraltar.
In 7 days we sailed from Fréjus, France to Morocco. Now in the Atlantic! To be continued…
Later THAT day <3
About this Atlantic ocean hitch-sailing adventure
October 9 I hopped on boat ‘Eau Too.’ An 57 foot Black Sea Yacht built in 2007 and refitted by the current owner over the last years. ‘Eau Too’ sets sail for a circumnavigation. We’re seven people on board and have six nationalities present: Lebanon, Poland, France, Australia, UK, and me from Holland. How cool is that? Surely we’re going to have lots of stories to exchange during the ride. I’m joining for the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps longer. Or perhaps another passage or island exploration later at some point. Let’s see. We have an ocean to conquer first! And then I have to finish a book on exactly this.
With Eau Too we join the ARC+. The ARC is a sailors’ bucketlist thing and I’m a lucky bastard to join the spectacle. Together with 74 other sail boats we leave the harbour of Las Palmas for the Atlantic ocean, via Cape Verde. We made it to Las Palmas and are now preparing for the big trip. The first passage has been Frejus (France) to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary islands (Spain). We’ve made 1522 miles in 12 days.
Sailing across the Strait of Gibraltar was a day from this passage I will never forget. In a good way!
Ahoy! xxx Suz
Thoughtful Travel Take-Aways:
Learn more on the refugee situation in the Strait of Gibraltar:
Looking to go sailing in Greece? Great choice! Here’s how to explore the Greek Island under sail, adventure-style! Everyday I see sailboats passing by. I just have to be on one. Not looking at one and not only writing about one. I’m getting too comfortable in Turkey. The ocean is calling. The time is right for another sailing adventure! Only I don’t have a boat, and I don’t have the funds or desire to book an organized sailing charter. Let’s hitch a sailboat ride across the Greek Island archipelago!
How to tackle a hitch-sail island-hopping adventure across Greece?
Here’s how I do it.
1. What are the personal possibilities & requirements
This basically comes down to flexibility in time and money. When actually being on a boat you need to adapt to whatever situation you put yourself into. Firstly you are entering someone else’s home and secondly the sailing itself never goes as planned. It’s weather dependent. And captains change their mind accordingly. So thinking about scenarios in advance makes it easy to peacefully change course and comply with captains’ calls. How much time do I have? What obligations do I have? How much money can and will I contribute to this adventure? Where do I need to be when? My requirements for this boat hitchhike adventure:
Destination: West. I don’t care which island. I’m curious to all of them. I have to go to the Ionion Sea since I organize The InsPirates sail adventure there.
Minimum 2 other crew. I want to reduce the risk of being stuck with a maniac and I like to meet people.
Relaxed sailing. I prefer not to make 150 miles a day since I want to keep releasing the mermaid in me, as well as work on my oceanpreneurial projects. Not ideal when continuously sailing since Greece can be rough sailing.
Timeframe: 1 month.
2. The islands of Greece – Map check
I look at the map for a VERY long time. Where am I? Where do I need to go? How far is it? Which islands are in between? Which ports are near me? I figure I better leave this week if I want to be in West Greece in one month. Greece is roughly 3,000 islands and islets, of which only 227 of which are inhabited! I also realize I actually need to dedicate a whole year, if not a lifetime of sailing in Greece if I want to explore the Greek islands. Wow, there are so many places to be explored! Another time. I got to go to Lefkada for The insPirates kick-off. It’s about 700 miles from Bodrum to the Ionian Sea. Let’s take an average boat speed of 6 knots, that’s already 5 days of non-stop sailing to go the Lekada. No boat will go straight from Turkey to Lefkada. And it’s unlikely that it will be smooth seas and sailing all the time. I need to be flexible with time. Check distances on sailing in Greece with this handy tool
3. Check the regional weather patterns for sailing in Greece
What’s the weather like in summer in Greece? How’s the wind? So what would sailors do? Central and East Greece have the Meltemi wind in summer, a strong North Eastern wind. Awesome for kitesurfing. Less relaxed for sailing. It usually blows for a few days followed by a few days of calmness. Crossing between island depends on weather windows. Most boats choose to shelter from the wind and swell from the Meltemi. Sailling in Greece close the islands can be a tricky thing as well with quick local weather changes. I’m quite far south and I have got to go quite far north. This is not ideal. I already realize a month is ambitious.
Resources to check the wind and weather in Greece:
Poseidon – For Greek nation wide sailing forecasts
Windguru – For local weather forecast aimed at kite- and windsurfers
Windy.com – A visual view of the current winds and wind forecast. Zoom in on Greece
The captains I got to know in Turkey were happy to take me on their next trip to Greece. Bodrum is the place of the Gulets. I’ve been on those a few weeks and it’s the most pampered sailing there is. BUT with a lot of broom broom. Locally there were gulets happy to take me. In most cases when on a boat for multiple days you will be on a crewlist. Since it is a border crossing, getting on and off the crewlist is a bit more complex. I can join a Gulet but would have to go back to Turkey again. Connections don’t really give a lead this time.
The real, best and most fun way is to just go to a marina, walk around, make a chat, hang in the sailors bar and see what comes out of is. I check the Bodrum marina. Most of the boats I talk to either come from Greece or are planning to go there after high season. That’s after August. Turkey really is the place to be right now for sailing crystal clear waters and having the bay for yourself. In high season! I also go to a few smaller harbours in the Bodrum Peninsula, like Gümüşlük, Datcha and Selimiye. I post little notes on strategic locations like bakeries, end of pontoons and the local supermarket. No leads this time.
On Findacrew I connect with a Turkish dude and his friend that will sail east Greece and West Turkey. Costs: No daily charge. Only sharing food costs. It’s a holiday kind of cruising.
On Crewbay I connect with a Turkish couple going to Istanbul and then westwards. They sound really nice and trustworthy and are happy to pick me up in Bodrum. Costs. No daily charge. Sharing food, fuel and harbour costs.
On Crewbay I connect with an arty pirate big schooner ship. They need 8 crew. Costs: 150 USD /week + sharing costs for harbour, fuel and food.
On FindAcrew.com I get in touch with a Schooner from 1935 planning to do some severe sailing across the Cyclades. I have a call with the wife of the owner/captain. She explains it’s their holiday and would like some extra hands on deck. While the captain can do loads on his own, some deckhand help would be helpful sailing this beauty of a beast. They can pick me up somewhere in the Cyclades (this is central Greece). The end destination is the Peloponnese. Costs: Getting to/from the boat own expenses. Being on board, food and fuel is covered by the owner.
5. Assessment & decision making time
The above is just a snapshot of the boats! There’s so many options out there. What an adventure dilemma’s eh? Coastal/island hitch sailing is not as much as a risky business as crossing an ocean. Still, I listen to my instinct and I would be stupid not to take the opportunity to sail with a 80 year old Schooner. The other options raise a few question marks with me in regards to crew composition, sailing plan, money and timing. The Schooner is a classic and it’s going to be free of costs. Besides the owner there will be two Brazilian girls on board. Cool! The only downside is that the Schooner is in the Cyclades already. And I’m in the Dodecanese, +/-150 miles more east. The idea was to hitch-sail ALL across Greece. Well, then let’s try to find a boat from the Dodecanese to the Cyclades. I would have to be in the Cyclades in three days if I want to hop on the Schooner. Looking at the chart and weather forecast that is extremely ambitious. I take a ferry, which appears to be a like cruise ship. I hate it. I don’t like to take airplanes and ferries. They are noisy, pollutive, crowded and not an adventurous means of travel. But it’s worth the comprise….
Sailing the Schooner! Wowie, wow, wow! No regrets of this decision! She is a beauty of a beast! [justified_image_grid preset=4 ids=”810,808,807,802,803,805,804,806,801,800,799,798,797,811,792,793,794,795,796,791,783,790,789,788,787,782,784,785,786,809,781,780,779,778″]
Lessons learned and take-aways:
If you want to hitch-sail and only that, you can not be on a schedule and have too much work or appointments going on. You have to adapt. I prioritize the book writing and working on the insPirates event. Perhaps one day I get less ambitious, have raised the adventure fund, and I will be sailing and documenting about the ocean adventures, just that. If you just want to go sailing in Greece and don’t have much time, you’re better off finding a charter.
Turkey and Greece have the Meltemi wind in summer. This is strong wind from the North East. You have to wait weather windows. Flexibility is a must.
When assessing the options and figuring out if a boat is a good match, always talk to the captain. Not (only) other crew, relatives or passengers. The captain is the decision maker and one that knows the boat best so you want to know about him/her (capabilities and preferences), and, the boat, his/her plan. I write A LOT about how to figure out if a boat is safe and a captain is reliable in my upcoming book Ocean Nomad.
Environmental awareness and awareness about the importance of eliminating of plastic and it’s impact is very low in Greece. Especially on the islands. Every drink get’s a straw, if not two, including the frappees. It’s really helps to be prepared with a reusable bottle, reusable bag, reusable cup, reusable straw and saying NO to plastic (Zero waste travel ideas and more resources on my travelblog – migrating this content soon to this website). Not only to minimize your personal negative impact but to help create awareness amongst the general public. I’ve had dozens of chats to the locals and it does rings bells. Here’s more on what you can do to travel with a positive impact.
A Schooner is the most beautiful boat to sail on. If you ever get the chance, do it!
Don’t assume that other captains and crew know everything about the weather, islands, achorages, route etc. Many of them just want to sail and look up things on the way. Own research and input can be welcome and helpful.
Don’t book tickets, houses or trips ahead if you don’t ‘need’ to. You might end of boat-sitting on a ridiculous beautiful yacht.
Need a ferry to go to one of the islands in Greece? The internet is a wild wild west when you search for “Greek island hopping” or “ferry schedules in Greece.” The ferry system got privatized and the amount of ferry operators seems endless. Bluestarferries is a big one. Greekferries.gr can get you somewhere. As well as Rome2Rio.com, which was quite accurate when I checked transports options in Greece.
How about flights to go from one to another island? Flightconnections.com is a good resource to find out which connections exist. I don’t like to take airplanes and ferries. They are noisy, pollutive, crowded and not an adventurous means of travel. So let’s look for a boat powered by wind! More on finding out logistics on my travelblog (migrating the content soon to theOceanpreneur.com)
Greeka.com is a good resource for general Greek travelinfo.
FAQ. Which Greek Island do I love most? My hitch-sailing adventure has brought me to +40 islands in Greece. I visited most of the islands in the Dodekanese, the Ionian Sea and a few in the Cyclades. Every island is unique on it’s own, has something special and deserves dedicate exploration time!
Nice extra from updating my crewprofiles in july: I got approached by a boat if I would like to join the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers + (ARC) with them. The ARC is when more than 100 boats together sail out for the ocean. This must be spectacular! I’ve started the feasibility, happiness and risk assessment on that one and I’m hopping on board next week in Nice for a test sail! Would you like to go on a hitch-sail adventure? I add more and more resources to this website to help you go on this kind of adventure! Questions about hitch-sailing in Greece? Leave a comment. If you would like personalized help on boathitchhiking, contact me via Clarity. And a few last words of inspiration…
Do you like this post on sailing in Greece? Pin it!
http://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/HitchSail.jpg7171280Suzannehttp://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ocean_layout3_blue.pngSuzanne2016-10-07 18:03:182017-07-08 16:00:46Sailing in Greece: island-hopping the adventurous way
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! The complete hitchhikers guide to the Atlantic (Ocean Nomad) will be launched this summer. To get you started: here’s a few waypoints that already help you tackle an Atlantic Ocean Crossing – as Crew.