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Atlantic Sailing: seven crew websites to find a boat (or Crew)

Seven websites to find a boat to sail across the Atlantic – as crew, or to find crew!

Christopher Columbus needed to convince the Queen of Spain to sail across the Atlantic. Nowadays, we have the internet: one of the three methods to find a boat. Here are 7 sailing crew websites that help you get started to find a boat for an Atlantic Sailing Adventure!

1. OceanCrewLink

Ocean Crew Link works as an introduction service to potential crew and boats looking to do any offshore passage: a boat sailing between two places at a particular time. On average, 10 to 15 new ocean sailing opportunities are posted to the site each week. Around 100+ active sailing opportunities are up at one time, and almost 10,000 users receive the weekly mailing with new opportunities.
Investment: The subscription fee is US$10 for three months access.

2. Findacrew.net

The platform offers a wide selection of crew opportunities around the world. Right now (February 2018), you can find around 900 boats to jump on. Creating an extensive crew profile will allow you to search opportunities, express interest “waves” to boat owners and to receive messages from premium users. Also, as a premium user you can of everything said above plus directly message crew candidates and boat owners. Find a Crew has a full-time support team, providing service, and monitoring any dodgy activity. All profiles and profile updates are manually approved.
Investment: You can upgrade to premium membership at any time for a period of 30, 60, 90 or 365 days. 30-day premium membership costs €49 /month and 365 premium costs €277/year.

3. Crewbay

Crewbay is an online crewing platform designed to connect newbie, amateur, and professional yacht crew with captains and boat owners from all over the world, and vice versa. The platform has more than 150 boats registered every month. Crewbay just redesigned their website. You can still access for free, yet it provides extras for paid members.
Investment: Premium (£7/month) enables unlimited check-ins which put you top, allows unlimited messages, contact numbers, and URLs (FB page, website, etc.), a more prominent advert with more content, unlimited photos and more!

4. SailOPO

Sail OPO (Sail Offshore Passage Opportunities) is a crew network that seeks, gathers, and creates quality offshore passage opportunities for its members. Details of passage opportunities will be e-mailed to potential crew candidates as they come up, and OPO staff approves them. SailOPO is predominantly USA based, and also occasionally organizes rallies, for example from USA mainland to Bermuda. Investment: US$199 for an initial yearly membership while renewal comes at a discounted rate of US$135.

5. Crewseekers

Crewseekers is a global introductory service bringing captains and crew together. Both amateur and professional sailing opportunities from all around the world are available on the platform. The website includes crew positions with private boats, delivery companies, sail training organizations, charter companies, sailing charities, and races. You must become a member to be able to contact captains.
Investment: Become a member for six months (£75), 12 months (£99), or 18 months (£135).

6. 7Knots

A basic website where you can see opportunities without registration. Once registered you can access contact details. There is a ‘crewlist’ and ‘crew wanted’ section where you can read advertisements and reach out. You can search ‘Atlantic’ and see all ads posted that included the Atlantic. It takes a minute to register. Once done, you can freely contact captains.

7. Yotspot

Yotspot is a large yachting hub that mostly focuses on paid sailing opportunities. Captains, as well as Crew agencies, are allowed to post to the website. With a database of over 6,000 courses, Yotspot also serves as an information portal on training and certifications in sailing.
Investment: As a crew, you can create a free account and contact opportunities of interest. It is quite a time investment to build a completed profile.

 

What else to bear mind?

I have squished the basic info of these seven crew websites to get you started. There is no ‘best’ crew website. Each one has their unique edge and differs in other aspects. Choose your favourite(s) and sign up! Find a complete list (including crew websites in other languages and countries, facebook groups and other forums), the full sailing crew website reviews, comparison, and explanation of the above websites, and more tips, tricks, words of caution, and places online and offline to find a boat to sail across the Atlantic in book Ocean Nomad: the Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide (Download a free sample). You can unlock access to sailing crew opportunities from my network and adventure hunt skills by becoming a Very Important Pirate.

Above all, be aware that finding a boat is one thing but finding the RIGHT boat requires careful research, investigation and preparation and is what makes all the difference for a happy, safe and meaningful sailboat ride across the Atlantic. Super Important! ALWAYS do your research to assess if the boat, captain, and crew are safe, reliable and a happy match. I created a mega extensive Safety & Happiness checklist that can help you figure this out in Ocean Nomad. Don’t let your eagerness to set sail overrule your investigative spirit, gut feeling and judgment.

Make it happen!

Ahoy salty sailors and adventure travellers!
Helpful post? Pin it and save for later!sailing across the Atlantic

 

 


As always, opinions are my own. No crew websites sponsors me to write any of the above. This blog is based on my own findings and research.

 

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Atlantic Ocean Boathitchhikers in Las Palmas Marina Canary Islands | Ocean Nomad TV Eps. 1

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Las Palmas Atlantic Sailing Guide

Las Palmas, a city on the northern side of Gran Canaria, is the capital of the Canary Islands. This is where Columbus left Europe to discover what is now the Americas! ‘Muelle Deportivo de Las Palmas’ is the most popular harbour and a central hub to stop, shop, and prepare for sailing out to the Atlantic. Over the years I spent about a total of five months in Las Palmas, hopping on (&off) boats, provisioning and exploring. I discovered some useful info for those setting sail for the Atlantic whether you’re already on a boat or not.

A sense of place

Las Palmas is the capital of the Canary Islands (Spain). It’s a city that really has it all. Las Palmas has an ideal mix of island and natural living with all the luxuries and cultural ambiance of a city. Las Palmas is lively, active, and outdoorsy. The locals are superfriendly, proud and happy to live here and they all call it paradise. There is quite a cultural mixture here of European winter escapers, as well as ethnicities from all over the world.  The cultural agenda does not seem to have a day off. Every day there is something fun organized somewhere. From live music on the street, to food events, and sports activities, competitions, rallies and races.
Though the Spanish food is amazing, Las Palmas has plenty of diversity in food and restaurants available, with many vegan options too. With endless summer climate, it’s nice to spend the winter months here. With the culinary greatness, it’s no wonder everyone is so active all the time. You got to gain and then lose those pounds. If you just go for a stroll around you’d see people playing beach volleyball, Stand Up Paddle surfing, surfing, playing paddle tennis on the beach, doing yoga on the beach, running the beach or boulevard, mountainbiking, sailing, climbing, diving, walking, inline skating, and long boarding. The opportunities are endless

The city is kind of divided into two parts: The old town in the east, called Vaqueta, and Las Canteras area in the west. The bit in between is residency, the marina and harbour, some shops in Triana. There’s quite a lot of noisy traffic around the marina but with the different beaches around the corner, you’re back in the fresh air zone in no time.

Inland Gran Canaria is a must. Almost 50% of the island is a Biosphere Reserve. Nature is just stunning. Las Palmas is a nice basecamp to explore the rest of Gran Canaria Adventure paradise. With stunning nature, the steepest elevation in the world, lots of greenery, hiking, biking and climbing trails, water and outdoor sports all around the island. 236 kilometers of coastlines, sea current that bring life close to shore for under water fun. Add the perfect climate to that and it’s an all year round playground!

The Sailor Community

It’s the perfect place to meet water-loving people with a shared love for the ocean, with the same dreams, mindset and nomadic lifestyle. You can meet all kinds of adventurers determined not to wait for retirement to make their sailing dreams happen. Some are sailing around the Canary Islands; some are just chilling in this harbour enjoying la vida Española or making a difference for a healthy ocean. Some are preparing for the Atlantic Ocean passage.

The cost of living

Las Palmas is fairly cheap. You can manage on a budget. Hostels in the Canary Islands go from €15/night. For food, plan for another €10-€20/day. If you eat where the locals eat, you can have a beer or tapa for just €1!

Searching for a boat to sail across

Lots of people show up every year looking to catch a sailboat ride across the Atlantic. Captains can decide last minute they want crew, for extra fun, safety, funds, or sleep. Or crew that’s already on board leaves for whatever reason. If you want all your questions answered on this topic, spend the $ of one hostel night on book Ocean Nomad and it’ll save you weeks of searching and figuring out stuff.

The first episode of Ocean Nomad TV is about the sailboat hitchhikers in Las Palmas. You can watch it here:

 

Is Las Palmas the best place to find a boat to sail across the Atlantic?

There is no best spot. Las Palmas may be the epic center of where most boats sail out for the Atlantic. Many boats come here to prepare, find the boat parts and provisioning they need, and the marina is big and fairly cheap. That said, Las Palmas is also the place that attracts many people looking for a ride. Elsewhere there may be fewer boats that possibly need crew, but also less aspiring crew.

When to be in Las Palmas?

Between November and May boats sail across. Many boats leave in November so they can have the full Caribbean season on the other side. From mid-December until after New Years it’s quiet. As from January many boats set sail again. Winds are generally good in January – March. Until around April boats set sail for the Atlantic.

The ARC and ARC+ sailing rallies depart from Las Palmas in November every year. The harbour can be pretty hectic during the weeks prior to these events. This year there are about 50-80 people looking for a boat during the ARC.

Where to meet the sailors?

Meet sailors around the marina at the reception, the Sailors Bay bar, the laundry machine, or just walking or rowing, SUPping, chatting around the harbour and bay. Make friends! Don’t just as ‘for a ride.’ Captains duck dive away when they see another ‘one of those hitchhikers’ coming. They’re busy preparing. Time it right.

Las Palmas also has a vibrant digital nomad community which is nice to mingle into if you’re an (aspiring) online entrepreneur.

Where to print your crew advertisement?

InkCrea (+/- 6 minute walk from the marina). Open from 9.00 to 17.00 (it does not close for siesta). It’s 0.08 cents for a black and white print.

Ways to find a boat

Make friends and stay determined. Perhaps the person you talk to doesn’t have a crewing opportunity. But maybe his new neighbour sailing in does. Throw out many lines and eventually, you’ll catch one. Also, keep checking online on the different platforms (find some suggestions here)

A few words of encouragement

Know that opportunity for a crew spot can arrive anytime! Don’t give up, Stay determined. Believe, Make friends, throw out many lines, online and offline. Wear a smile. And enjoy the journey! It’s all part of the fun!  I’ve waved many boats goodbye that took on Crew, either found online or here in the harbour. Some aspiring crew looks for a boat for two months. Some find one in a day. Captains find the right crew in a day but sometimes that also take weeks or months. Also realize it’s not just about finding a boat, it’s about finding the right boat. It’s a long ride and you must feel great about the captain, crew and boat. And vice versa of course! But trust me, the adventure is worthwhile. Good luck! Make it happen!

After four Atlantic Crossings I have wayyy more tips to share! I’ve put them all in book Ocean Nomad (available as E-book and in Print). 400 pages to help you on a happy, safe and meaningful ocean crossing. 

What to do in Las Palmas?

Clichee but it’s about the journey, not the destination. Make it fun!

In Las Palmas

  • Go for a surf, hike, SUP, sail, volleyball session.
  • Head for the old town every Thursday evening for la Ruta de Pinchos. For €2 you can get a beer, a tapa and great Spanish ambiance in la calle (the street). A great place to meet the locals but also sailors in social mode, a great time to make friends! Bring your own plate or re-use the one they give you. It’s horrendous the amount of trash that’s generated on these evenings.
  • Every Friday, and sometimes on Saturday, there’s live music on the streets in Las Canteras.
  • Visit the church in the old town where Columbus made a prayer before he sailed out. For a small fee, you can climb the stairs to the top for a beautiful view.

Elsewhere on the island

It’s fun to take the bus and explore the mountains for a day, or weekend. Gran Canaria is an island with one of the highest elevations in the world. Almost 50% of the island is a Biosphere reserve. With lots of greenery, hiking, biking and climbing trails outdoor fun is guaranteed. Put your sport shoes on and go on an adventure. This can also be an excellent crew bonding activity before sailing out.

Where to stay in Las Palmas?

If you’re not staying on a boat (yet), where to stay? Las Palmas marina is a 30-minute walk from the old city centre, and a 20-minute walk from the popular boulevard, Las Canteras beach (Great surf spot too!). For your own convenience, don’t stay too far from the harbour. I prefer staying in Las Canteras. It’s super nice to jump straight into the sea after waking up, to go for a beach run or surf session. An extra euro is worth the seaview accommodation! Or stay closer to the marina. It’ll save you lots of time walking.

Free Accommodation

  • The beach next to the marina 😉
  • Couchsurfing
  • Atlas in La Isleta
  • Try to find a place to stay in the marina. Perhaps you can sleep on someone’s boat in exchange for lending a hand. It’ll give you lots of interaction opportunities with other sailors.

Budget Accommodation

+ 5 minute walk to the harbour: La Fabrica (love the vibe here) and Alcaravaneras hostel (has private rooms).

Another nice hostel is Utopia and Big Fish in Las Canteras but it’s a +/- 20-minute walk to the marina from there.

Book your hostels in advance. On the spot they charge more and they are often booked out in high season (November- January).

Entrepreneur Accommodation

If you’re an online entrepreneur or freelancer you can also stay at the digital nomad co-living accommodations around town and take advantage of the internet facilities. The Roof is very close to the marina (My book Ocean Nomad – the Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide – is in the library here :). Restation is another option where you can use the wifi and printing facilities.

Mid-range Accommodation

Apartamentos Vacaciales Las Palmas Urban Center.Self-contained apartments close to the marina

Hotel the Fataga – Next to Mercado Central. This is where the ARC crew usually stays in the month of November.

You can check out my page on recommended travel resources for budget friendly /free accommodation platforms

How to get around in Las Palmas?

Rent a Bike

My preferred way: by bicycle! Las Palmas has cycle lanes throughout the city. Spanish style. Sometimes they just end. Also, it’s cool to cycle uphill or take a mountain bike with the car or bus inland. Take bikes in at night. They get stolen. It happened to me.

There’s a free public bike service where you can grab a bike for 30 minutes: ByBike. You must register and pick up a card. Or rent a bicycle (+/- 30 euro/ week or  €75 / month)! Cheapest bike rental in Las Palmas: Bike Station.

Walk

It’s all walkable. Note that from Las Canteras to the marina is about a 20-30 minute walk and from the Old town (Vegueta) to the marina 30-40 minutes walk. There’s a bus stop close to the marina, or my preferred option: by bike.

The beach and boulevard in Las Canteras is a nice half an hour stroll. There’s a walking (& bicycle lane) all the way to the south of the island which has some nice seaviews. It’s also nice to walk up the hills to get a nice view of Las Palmas.

The bus

One ride costs 1,40 euro and brings you to the other side of town. You can hold the bus at the different busstops along the street. From ‘Estacion de Guagguas Bus station’ Buses leave to elsewhere on the island. There is one big busstation at Parque Santa Catalina (between the port and Las Canteras) and one in Triana, just before the old town.

The bus from the Airport to Las Palmas is a few euro’s and leaves every 20 minutes.

Taxi’s

Taxi’s are and you’ll see them everywhere (white cars). They have a starting rate of 1euro-something and then add cents per distance. A ride from Las Canteras to the old town is around 8-10 euro. A taxi ride from the Airport to town is 30 euro.

Provisioning tips Las Palmas

With provisioning you can make a HUGE difference for a healthier ocean. Read more on conscious provisioning for an offshore passage. The Spanish supermarkets are the worse when it comes to plastic packaging! Try to avoid them as much as you can.

The central market (Mercado Central) is a great place to source your food. You can have your fruits and veggies delivered to the boat from here with reduced packaging. The places around the Mercado Central also provide budget friendly provisions. The old town has another market (Mercado Vequeta). On Sundays, there is a farmer’s market at San Lorenza.

The Indian Supermarket at the end of Las Canteras is a great place to find all sorts of spices, seeds, nuts, and teas at reasonable prices.

The Pharmacia on Plaza Santa Catalina in Las Palmas gives over-the-counter antibiotics to ships.

Carrefour sells unbleached toilet paper you can throw overboard (Learn what else you can and can’t throw over board)

Local foods
One of the few places in Europe where you can buy tropical fruit grown locally! Mango’s, papayas, banana, kaki fruit, walnuts Yum yum! Also try local wines, aloe vera products, mojo rojo and verde (local sauce) made in the Canary islands.

Organic food shops: La Zanahoria and Spar natural Also sells ocean-friendly detergents, shampoo and toiletries and all sorts of sprouting seeds so you can have fresh veggies anywhere at sea.

 

Read more about finding a boat to sail across the Atlantic Ocean and Ocean passage provisioning tips on planning, food choices and storage in Ocean Nomad.

Ahoy!

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The Atlantic Ocean sailing experience: what is it like?

The Atlantic Ocean sailing experience

How is it like? Here’s a snapshot from one of my 3 Atlantic Ocean sailing experience:

“Someone is pinching me. ‘Suzanne Suzanne’ Watch time! Wow, I come out of a deep sleep. It takes me some moments to realise where I am and what’s happening. I’m going from left to right in my bed. It’s night, and I hear water sounds. Right, I’m in the middle of the Atlantic, and at 3 AM I’m next on watch. I have 15 minutes to get ready. And I have not finished sleeping. I’m exploring the bed with my hands to find where the head-torch has ended up this snoozing session. I perform acrobatic skills to get over Kerstin who is crashed between me and the bed exit. Oh yeah! I manage not to put my feet in her face this time. I step on the floor and get thrown against the wall by the rocking of the boat. Shit, I hope I didn’t wake up Sam and Steve who are attempting sleep in the next cabin.

I put the red light on of my torch and make a bathroom stop. With one foot in one corner, and the other one in the opposite, and while leaning against the wall, I smash three drops of water in my face to wake up. I wipe my face with the towel that is in use now for a week and has been more on the floor than on the hook. I can’t be bothered. All right, one step closer to being ready for watch. Before I went for my snooze, I had put my wet weather gear ready on the hook so I wouldn’t wake my fellow crewmember up. The hook is empty; the floor is full. I get down on my knees and try to collect my gear. I explore the floor for my pants, sweater, jacket, socks, hat and life jacket. I think I have all the items. Next challenge: put it all on without waking up others and getting too many new bruises. With my oversized foul weather gear, three-kilo life jacket on my shoulders, and torch on my forehead I feel ready to go to the moon. The previous watch boiled water in the kettle. I make some tea. 15 minutes and six new bruises later, I arrive in the cockpit.

‘Wind is around 15 knots. There is one boat at three o’clock. Clear skies. Many shooting stars. That’s it.’ The previous watch briefed and they’re off to bed. I make another tea because the one I made fell over.

This is the start of the watch.

The Atlantic Ocean sailing experience is not only sunshine, dolphins next to the bow and happy days. If you sail across (as crew), you should be ready to adapt and work. Sailing across the Atlantic is not a holiday. There is always work to do, especially while preparing, and as a crew member you share the responsibility to keep the boat going safely.

That said, within the challenge, there will be days that come close to perfection! Sunrises, sunsets, pods of dolphins around the boat, gazing far into the galaxies, having deep conversations, and getting closer to yourself and nature for an extended period of time. It’s a ticket to paradise with the adventure of a life time. It’s an experience you will never forget, and a great story to tell your grandkids. Here’s a video impression 🙂

 

My favourite experiences while crossing the Atlantic

It’s hard to pick a favourite moment out of all the memorable experiences I have had on the Atlantic crossings.

  1. The moment we set sail out of Las Palmas. New friends were making noise and waving goodbye. After weeks of dreaming, searching, preparing, it’s finally happening!
  2. The moment we saw lights when we were approaching Cape Verde after six days on the open sea. It was the first time I ever sailed into a country.
  3. Shooting stars, fluorescent plankton discos in the waves, the sound of breathing dolphins followed by the splash from a jump.
  4. Jumping into the middle of the ocean
    Being on watch, just me, a pod of dolphins, and the sunrise.
  5. Celebrating my birthday in the middle of the Atlantic. My fellow crew even arranged jumping dolphins on the horizon… And chocolate cake!
  6. The moment I set foot in Tobago, found a fresh coconut, and ate fresh vegetables!
  7. The moments behind the wheel with 18 knots of wind, no autopilot, all sails up, feeling the boat and just steering course by that bright star I picked from the sky.
  8. The moment I woke up with the smell of pine trees, after days and days of only ocean breeze. Land Ahoy!
  9. Both times I crossed the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a spectacular passage, seeing where and how the different seas and continents come together.
  10. The moment I woke up on land and realised that I had disembarked “The Bounty,” just before sailing out for the Atlantic. What a life-saver.

Would you be up for an Atlantic Ocean Sailing Experience?

Read the full stories about what’s it like to sail across the Atlantic and how (and how not!) you can do so too, as crew in “OCEAN NOMAD: the Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide – Catch a Ride & Make a Difference to a Healthier Ocean.”

Atlantic Ocean Sailing Experience


 

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A typical day of hitch-sailing: fun + making a difference

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!

Read more

Sailing across the Strait of Gibraltar – into the Atlantic Ocean

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.

Navigating Strait of Gibraltar

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.

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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.

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‘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…
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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. 
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11.30 AM 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.
Vincy & Tibu waving to Eau Too from Tarifa. Photo: Insta.Vincy on Instagram

We locate a yellow buoy in front of us indicating a hazard and we have to pass it south. 16 knots of wind now.

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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.
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Tankers, little fishing boats and the Mediterranean mixing with the Atlantic in the Strait of Gibraltar

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Sams Pirate socks

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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.
Briefing Strait of Gibraltar

Captain Steve briefs on the journey so far and the next passage to the Canary Islands.

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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!
The Eau Too Crew

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!

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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.
 Happy to be on board Eau Too
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:

Resources to learn more about noise pollution here: OceanConservation Research, Environment360, and Animal Welfare Institute

Learn more on Global Shipping situation: 3 steps to Greener Shipping and Growth to Globalisation.
Looking to go on a hitch-sailing ocean adventure like this?  Check out: Ocean Nomad – Catch a Sailboat Ride & Contribute to a Healthier Ocean

“This ambitious guide book is the spark that will ignite your sense of adventure and provoke your compassion to creating a better world.” Monique Mills(Captain & Ocean Citizen)

 

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Sailing in Greece: island-hopping the adventurous way

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.

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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 Photo taken at Underwater Archeology museum

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:

4. Throw out some lines to go

Not fishing lines. There’s no fish left in this part of the Mediterranean. I throw out some imaginative lines to catch a ride. 3 tactics: Asking captain connections I made in Turkey, walking the docks in Bodrum Harbour, and online.
sailing in Turkey

What do I catch?

A. Connections

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.

B. Dockwalking

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.

C. Online

Let’s try online. I update my profiles on the crewwebsites: FindAcrew.com, crewbay.com, oceancrewlink.com and floatplan.com
I get in touch with some potential boats:
  • 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.
  • [embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DPg8REzxww[/embedyt]
  • 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… Sailing-in-greece-inspiration

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Catching a Sailboat Ride in South East Asia

On to plan B: find a sailing boat in South East Asia with whom I can explore, dream, discover the Asian seas. And learn, more about boats, coastal sailing, and the sea.

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