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What’s it like sailing the high seas

What’s it like sailing across the Atlantic Ocean?

Here’s a snapshot from one of my 3 Atlantic Ocean sailing experiences:

“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.

It’s 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 🙂

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

A few of my favourite moments

· 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!

· 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.

· Shooting stars, fluorescent plankton discos in the waves, the sound of breathing dolphins followed by the splash from a jump.

· Jumping into the middle of the ocean

· Being on watch, just me, a pod of dolphins, and the sunrise.

· Celebrating my birthday in the middle of the Atlantic. My fellow crew even arranged jumping dolphins on the horizon… And chocolate cake!

· The moment I set foot in Tobago, found a fresh coconut, and ate fresh vegetables!

· 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.

· The moment I woke up with the smell of pine trees, after days and days of only ocean breeze. Land Ahoy!

· Both times I crossed the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a spectacular passage, seeing where and how the different seas and continents come together.

· 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.

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.

Would you be up for an Atlantic ocean sailing trip?

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ocean Nomad | The Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide - How... by Suzanne van der Veeken

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Ocean friendly gift ideas for positive impact

Just a quick message before the festivities :
Gift FOR the ocean

Here’s a few happy ECO FRIENDLY GIFT IDEAS that can bring a positive impact to a loved one AND a healthier ocean

  1. Creativity

Make a natural straw, make a bracelet from ocean trash, paint a sign from driftwood, write a poem, bake a cake, make a video, draw something, give a message in a bottle.

  1. Experience

Take your cousin out sailing, sing a song, perform a dance, give a surf, yoga or freedive lesson.

  1. A skill

Teach the little one how to swim, help someone with their website, design a logo.

  1. Digital Creations

Give an Online course, E-Book, or service that can help someone thrive.

Give Ocean Nomad E-Book Gift Certificate

  1. Nothing. Just your presence

Nothing is worth more than time spent together. I’m going to meet a new family member and simply BE with my family <3

Last but not least…

  1. BOOK OCEAN NOMAD

CATCH A SAILBOAT RIDE & CONTRIBUTE TO A HEALTHIER OCEAN

“A huge value bomb that makes even the stiffest armchair traveler want to get up, catch a sailboat ride across the ocean. It does a great job in creating awareness of the grave state the oceans are in, and of the huge impact we can make.”

“The information in this book could be life and earth-saving! When you apply it, you can make a difference and a great contribution to not only saving the earth and oceans, but saving your health in the process.”

“The spark that will ignite your sense of adventure and provoke your compassion to creating a better world.”

Available as E-Book gift certificate and Print

 

 

And on: Amazon US Amazon UK Amazon Germany Amazon Spain

Betere Boeken (Holland & Belgium) Bol.com (Holland & Belgium)

 

Thank you for supporting the ocean conservation actions by buying book Ocean Nomad.

My Gift to YOU. A big THANK YOU! For sharing, caring and support to keep me going on the mission to connect more people to the ocean.

Wish you wonderful holidays!

Suzanne

For more gift ideas and ways to minimize impact as an eco-minded adventure traveller check my mega guide on What’s in my eco travelkit

10 Tips to travel the Caribbean local & budget style

The image you have in mind from the Caribbean gets beyond confirmed once arrived. From Tobago tucked away in the south east corner, to little Saba up north, the islands are blessed with tropical rainforests, stunning reef drops, waterfalls and adventure potential. It is as scenic above as below the surface. The Caribbean is a truly amazing part of our planet, full of character!  Scenic wise with all the happy coloured buildings, the tropical flowers and happy bird sounds. But the real characters are the people.

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Becoming a wilderness women: Off the grid eco camp in Dominica

I’m sitting in the shade of a palm tree. In the far distance, I can see the Atlantic, the ocean that brought me to here to Dominica. There are two hummingbirds making a love dance in the tree next to me. They keep falling out of the sky. A fascinating show! Apart from all sorts of bird sounds, I can hear the river. The river where I had my refreshing morning shower. I don’t hear any traffic, rooster, or soca music. I’m off. the. grid. And I love it! I’m zipping a lemongrass-turmeric-cinnamon tea.  Half an hour ago this tea fusion was still growing. I pulled it straight from the food forest.

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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!

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Travel packing for the planet: What’s in my eco friendly travel kit?

You want to travel light, compact and purposeful. But that’s not enough!

You want to support innovative social entrepreneurs, and have a positive influence on fellow travellers and locals to help create awareness of solutions out there to make this world a better place. You want to minimize your carbon footprint, your trash trail and the amount of chemicals polluting the environment and your body. You want the best for your health AND make a positive difference in the world that you call your playground. You want to collect memories and not things. You do need to pack something at some point.

But you’re busy. You don’t have the time to sort it all out. You left the packing part to last minute and now you realize it would be good to have done some research so you can travel with a positive impact

What impact do you actually make with the travel gear you take with you? How eco-friendly is your kit?

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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.

islandhopping-hitch-sailing-Greece - 3 of 35

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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Is it safe to travel to Turkey? A happy note from the sunny seaside

A happy message from the sunny seaside in Turkey. Because its people deserve it.

And for those curious what I am up to in Turkey.

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Travelling? 70 eco travel tips for a better planet

Are you amongst the fortunate few to be able to travel? Lucky you!
Now let’s make the most out of it! Not just for yourself but for the places and people that you’re visiting. Our travels can bring huge benefits to local communities. It can also destroy a destination. 

What impact do you make?

According to your facebook and Instagram accounts you have been travelling to the most beautiful paradises on the planet. You have eaten exotic delicacies, encountered magnificent wildlife, engaged with fascinating cultures, climbed to the top of the volcano and explored the funderwaterworld. You have memories of a lifetime.

I am one of these lucky bastards.

Lucky bastard exploring paradise

But you also have memories of trash on the beach, begging children, damaged corals, green ski slopes, porters like donkeys, people trying to sell a fruit for almost nothing, no fish today, chained monkeys, and sharks on the market. Just to name a few situations that make us feel bad, though are there daily.

The beach these days in the Gili Islands

You have experienced the preciousness of drinking water, fresh air, power, a roof, freedom, a toilet, feeling safe, internet, a bankcard, a clean beach, and a healthy body. Most normal ‘back home.’ Not for most us in the world.
You are aware of your lucky position in this world. And you really want to do something good. But WHAT can you do?
“I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.” E.B. White 
 If you are able to travel you have the skills or resources to make a positive impact. We can travel AND do good AND save money AND have fun. When we make conscious decisions, we can minimize our negative footprint and maximize the benefit for the place we visit and for the planet as a whole. Every decision and every action counts. Collectively our impact is major. With millions of extra travellers every year and a 1,5 million EXTRA people on the planet WEEKLY, it’s all becoming a bit crowded. Our planet and the destinations we’re visiting are reaching limits to cope with our demands. Climate change is happening and it’s probably worse than you think it is. It’s more important than ever to do your bit. It’s our responsibility to become part of the solution, not the problem

So what can you do?

Here are some easy eco travel tips and actions to make your travel a good one, for the planet and for you:

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