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What’s it like sailing across the Atlantic Ocean?

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

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