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How to Find a Sailboat Ride? | Boat-hitchhiking Tips

You want to travel simple, sustainable and the adventurous way so you’ve decided to catch a sailboat ride! Awesome plan. Your life will never be the same 😉 Sailing is not only for the rich and famous. Sailing can be done on a budget and without having a boat. I’ve boathitchhiked +/- 27.000 Nautical Miles in all sorts of boats and seas and learned a few things how and how not to do this. Here are some tips in the ride-finding journey.

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How and where can you find a ride on a sailboat? Where to look on the internet? In which harbours can you find a ride? But first, what is this way of travel and how does sailboat hitchhiking work?

What is boat-hitchhiking? Sailboat hitchhiking is spontaneous amateur crewing on someone else’s sailing boat. It’s an alternative way of travel. It can be just for day, a few days, for a passage, or for sharing the lifestyle and chores on board. Some call it boathitchhiking, couchsailing, boathitching, or simply crewing! 

What means being crew?

Crew is basically everyone on the boat except for the captain. Crew can be short-term but also be on board for years, living and/or working on board. As crew, you help to operate the boat.

Captains often want crew to make a trip more relaxed, fun, safe, and sometimes more affordable. Then, there are people out there, like you and I, aspiring to get a taste of the sailing life but don’t have a boat. Of course, you can book a sailing holiday. But to really get a taste of what it’s like to live on a sailing boat, sailboat hitchhiking is an alternative generally more adventurous and free-spirited way of travel.

How to start?

Be aware of the situation and what an adventure like this is all about. Have your ‘why’ clear so you can search accordingly. Do want to learn how to sail? Throw yourself in a dinghy. Do you want to experience the lifestyle? Then this blogpost will help you get started. Though there are common routes, sailboat hitchhiking isn’t simply going from A to B, like hitchhiking with a car or taking a ferry. Sailboats deal with seasons, routes, weather, breakage, and all sorts of variables. You can’t ‘just’ find a boat going from Spain to Mexico in August. It’s not a common route, and August is in the midst of hurricane season. You have to be flexible with time and destination if you’re looking to catch a sailboat ride. You have to adjust your travel plans to the boat; you can’t have boats adapt to your travel plans. You’re entering someone’s home and you have to adapt, share your value and team up to make it a good experience for all.

So, on the dock, do you just put your thumb out, hold a sign saying a destination and wait for a sailing boat to pass by? If it were that easy, I wouldn’t have written a whole book about it. It is not a straightforward endeavour. The most common questions I receive is ‘how to find a boat.’ Here are some suggestions! Enjoy and let me know what has worked for you.

Where and how to find a sailboat ride?

The most common three methods to find a boat are through connection via internet platforms, personal contact at the harbour, or referrals from your network. There is no fixed “best” approach. It depends on what kind of experience you want. It depends on luck. And it depends on your efforts. In general, to increase the chances of finding a boat, throw out as many lines as possible to give yourself a better chance of catching something. Try different approaches. 

Pro and cons

ProsCons
Your Network• Crew with personal references is preferred over complete strangers• Smaller chance of finding a boat via reference if you’re a newbie in the sailing world
The Internet• You can connect with captains all over the world

• You can search far in advance

• You can carefully craft your first introduction, profile, and questions

• Hard to find out if you will get along

• Difficult to assess if experience and boat state is as claimed

• Scamming ground

• Crew websites ask for a contribution

Harbours• Quicker to find a boat last-minute.

• Easier to ‘feel’ if it’s a possible match

• Easier to identify state of the boat

• Fun!

• Last-minute gives you less time to do proper investigation

• You find few boats that have the same plan as you

• Cost and time intense

Your network

Boats usually look for crew in their network first. If they can’t find the skills or availability from people they know, they look further on the internet or in the harbour. You might already know some seafarers, or maybe some of your friends have sailors in their network. Spread the word about your mission but above all your value. Use the power of social media connections. Ask your friends if they have any tips, links or connections. They may or may not, but they will keep you in mind if they hear or read about any possibilities. Jump on board the Ocean Nomads fleet and tap into the network of those who have gone before you and are already out there.

Crew websites

Today’s technology allows us to find out about crew positions and connect with captains all over the world. The internet has connected us more than ever. There are crew websites, sailing forums, and social media communities that can be helpful in your boat search.

Read blogs of sailors, captains, crew, and explore crew websites. It gives you a better idea of what boat hitchhiking is all about, who’s looking for crew, what kind of boats are out there, and what they are searching for.

Navigational Hazard! These platforms are set up with the right intentions. Though be aware that there are people out there misusing the platforms for other purposes than finding crew to help sail the boat. The internet is also a place for scams. You must be wary how, where, and with whom you connect and exchange personal details. Be especially cautious when:

  • No profile photo of the captain is present
  • Little information is given
  • Only female crew is considered
  • Your questions are not being answered

Let’s explore the platform possibilities of the world wide web.

Crew Websites

Some entrepreneurs have set up a website with the specific purpose to facilitate the matching of boats with potential crew and vice versa. There are numerous crew websites out there. They all have search engines and selection criteria to find a match, in both ways.

What is the best crew website? There is no ‘best’ crew website. Each one has their unique edge and differs in other aspects. Choose your favourite(s) and sign up! 

FindACrew

Crewbay

SailOPO

CrewSeekers

OceanCrewLink

SailingNetworks

Yotspot

7Knots

Floatplan

Crew websites in other languages

Netherlands: omtezeilen.nl

Germany: handgegenkoje.de

France: bourseauxequipiers.fr and vogavecmoi.com

Spain: genteparanavegar.com

Apps

SailConnect

Ocean Nomads (Soon online!)

Forums

It’s also worth checking out discussion forums that often have threads on crew finding and how to find a sailboat ride.

Sailor forums

Popular English-speaking sailing forums:

Cruisersforum.com

Cruiserlog.com

SailingAnarchy.com

sailnet.com

Traveller forums

Couchsurfing.org is a travel community platform focused on hosting and staying at a place for free (or just sign up to find locals and like-minded travellers and go for a hike or coffee). The website can be helpful before and after being on a boat.

Couchsurfing also has discussion groups on destinations and travel styles, including sailing and crewing.

It’s also worth checking out sailing forums in your language.

Facebook

Search on Facebook for crew related sailing groups. Dozens of them exist, and new ones keep popping up.

Atlantic Ocean Crew

Caribbean Sailing Crew

Pacific Sailing Crew

Mediterranean Sailing Crew

Cruising Opportunities Facebook Group

Sailboat HitchHikers & Crew Connection

Ocean Nomads

Which one to sign up for? Each captain has a different favourite crew platform. To increase chances of success as a boat seeker, you can choose to become a member of different platforms. This does mean extra efforts in engagement and profile updating from your side.

Do: Research credibility and trustworthiness of ‘crew wanted’ advertisements to make sure you’re not dealing with scams. 

Don’t: Buy a plane ticket after one or two message exchanges on the internet. Find out to the best you can if the boat you found is a good match.

All these websites can be overwhelming. I’ve reached out to the crew websites’ management and reviewed noteworthy ones. An extensive review of crew websites and why or why not join and pay for them, and more about assessing safety and competency can be found in book Ocean Nomad

Harbours

You can meet captains and find boats by going dock walking. While you may have less potential boats around as opposed to the internet, walking the dock is a quicker way to analyze if there are suitable possibilities. Strolling around the harbours, or paddling around in bays and anchorages to find a crew spot, is definitely part of the fun. Here you’ll meet like-minded water-lusted people with a shared love for the ocean, with the same dreams, mindset and nomadic lifestyles.

Be curious and brave and wander around the dock to see what’s happening. Start a chat, make a friend and offer your help. The sailing lifestyle can be a lonely one, and most sailors are eager to have a chat and meet a new face. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and will be invited for a coffee.

Back in the days, before the internet, dock walking was basically the only way how boats found crew and how crew found a sailboat ride. Still, captains may look for crew at the last moment because previous arrangements did not work out. Or they realise after the passage to for example the Canary Islands that an extra crew member may be handy. Many captains are also aware that they can pick up crew on the dock. Make friends and success will follow. 

How to find out about harbours and anchorages?

Paper Charts

Google Maps

www.noonsite.com

Navigation apps like Navionics

Anchorage apps like Navily

Be aware! Boat hitchhiking is not an adventure to be taken lightly. Finding a boat is one thing, finding the right boat, crew and captain match is what makes all the difference. There are some things to be mindful of. On a boat you live, work, eat, leisure together. It’s like camping in the wild with a bunch of strangers. Inform yourself, research and prepare. It’s part of the fun!

How to approach captains? How to stand out? What to put in your crew profile if you don’t have experience? What are captains looking for? How to figure out if a boat is safe and a captain is competent? What to watch out for as a solo female traveler? What are tips and tricks are there on how to find a sailboat ride? Read all about it and more in book Ocean Nomad. This august on discount! Do you have many questions? If you like my personal opinion or advice we can meet for a virtual coconut or you can ask me anything on one the ocean nomads trips.

I’m also working on a cheaper condensed version of the book focusing on the global boat hitchhiking topic. I hope to have it finished for you soon! Put yourself on the email list if you like to be notified when it’s ready.



At the end, it’s the people who make the experience, and the purpose behind all it that make it worthwhile. So take your time finding the right ride. Enjoy the journey. And come and say hi in the Ocean Nomads tribe. Would you like to meet like-minded people who have gone before you, have similar aspirations and missions? Join us this September in Croatia to kickstart your journey. Lot’s of experienced sailors are joining to learn from, exchange stories with and team up with!

Ocean Nomads is a global community of impact-driven world sailors, ecopirates, and sustainability projects with the mission to safeguard the ocean. Our home. Our playground.

We have a few spots left on our upcoming flotilla 31/8 – 7/9 In Croatia: Learn more 

“I learned so much when I joined the ocean nomads trip! I hitch-sailed from Italy to Fiji after that!” – Pim Steps (Ocean Nomads Crew Sicily 2018)

“In my opinion, Ocean Nomads sailing adventure are: 1. A reward for the senses by discovering incredibly beautiful places and breathtaking sceneries. 2. An unbeatable way to get introduced into the nice world of sailing, 3. An open window to learn watching our world and the people from another more conscious perspective, inspire others with ideas and proposals to define or redefine life projects and use inner energy for more noble purposes. Our oceans need strong committed people to advocate for our natural resources and leave them intact for the generations to come.” – Jose Maria Perez (Ocean Nomad Crew Sicily 2018)

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Adventure & Impact Sailing Opportunities for August and September | 2019

Here are the latest sailing opportunities I have (co) – created to connect you to the sea, yourself, and to others like you.

We’re all on similar journeys, dreaming and doing about ocean adventures and to make a positive impact around us. We have brilliant ideas, projects, dream, actions, and desires for experiences, learning, connection, and to be part of something. We’re looking to connect with others honouring simple and sustainable lifestyles. But alone we can only do so much! 

With Ocean Nomads, I aim to connect more of you to nature and each other. With trips and soon also a community app. For now, the following trips have been planned to help you accelerate your adventures and journeys and connections. I hope to welcome you on board!

Eco Day Sail in Amsterdam & Ijsselmeer with Sailmate | August 2019

Anna and I met over the internet, and then sailed together for a week in Sicily last year. We connected well, and have been eager to do more, team up, make impact and have fun. Anna is a German living and loving the Netherlands. And I’m a Dutchy living and loving anywhere but in the Netherlands. So it’s about time to sail in Holland, isn’t it? Together we want to reach & connect more people with the same interest.

We’ll organize numerous eco-minded daytrips that you can join as an individual or with a group (max 4). It are full day sails including lunch and much more. A unique, nature-minded and adventurous way to experience Amsterdam.
What? Exclusive Eco Day Sail Experience in Amsterdam
When? August 24 and 25. Enquire for other dates.
Where? Amsterdam

Connecting to your Self & the Ocean of Possibilities through Yoga & Sailing | September 7 – 14

For being able to take responsibility for the outside world, to fight for what you believe in we need to take care of the self. Being centered in your inner source of strength and having your reason for being on this planet clear supports your mission in the outside world. One boat, a bunch of ocean lovers and 7 days of exploration of your inner world.

Nicole and I studied, travelled, worked and lived together. And our mentor always said we should put our strengths together and make things happen. Here we are! This September we rent a boat in Croatia and invite a few souls looking to connect to nature, but above all, the inner self. Nicole is a highly qualified yoga instructor, coach, and super empathic well-being accelerator. She’ll run the program aimed to make you feel your best self. I’ll run the boat.

What? Connecting to your innerself. Yoga, Meditation, Sailing & Adventure

When? September 7 – 14 2019

Where? Croatia

Learn more and jump on board

 

Meet your Adventure & Impact-driven Tribe & Accelerate the dreams and impact | Ocean Nomads Croatia Flotilla  August 31 – September 7

With this event, we aim to connect ocean adventurers and change-makers for maximum fun and impact, at sea! With multiple sailing boats, we’ll facilitate the connection between a beautiful mix of purpose-driven salty souls and between you and nature. As a group we can explore the edges of the ideal. We’ll share ideas, skills, knowledge, support, connections, and above all: fun ocean adventure time!

What? Connecting Dreamers & Doers at Sea. Adventure, Fun, Sustainability & Networking.
When? August 31 – September 7 2019
Where? Croatia

Learn more and jump on board

 

You can also hire me as captain or crew or to organize you personalized epic ocean adventure.

 

Not able to join now? Or not sure yet? Learn more on OceanNomads.co, Check out some testimonials, Subscribe to the Ocean Nomads newsletter to be updated about the next spontaneous sailing trips, meet-ups, crew opportunities and the next steps of this movement. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to prepare, assess safety and minimize risk as crew? | Sailing across the Atlantic

How to prepare, assess safety and minimize risk as crew before sailing an ocean?

Even in this era of satellite phones, safety and rescue technology, and communication systems, the nearest help can still be hundreds of miles away when sailing across an ocean. What can happen on an ocean crossing? A lot! You can get sick, fall overboard, hit something, lose the rig, have a fire, get water in the boat, rip the sails, break a leg, or in the worst-case scenario, sink. Airplanes crash. Cars crash. So do boats. To be blunt, shit happens. The Atlantic has no reefs or rocks in the middle, so the risk factor of hitting something is extremely low. Still, you could hit another boat, a whale or a floating container. These are rare scenarios, but it could happen. You need to rely on yourself. That’s why it’s so important that the boat is as safe and as prepared as it can be. And so are you as Atlantic sailing crew! To be ready to expect the unexpected, careful investigation and preparation is essential. 

How can you minimise risk and negative consequences as a crew member? What to be alert for as ocean sailing crew? What to consider for safety sailing gear for crew? What can you do as crew to prepare?

Here is an offshore sailing safety checklist for crew

Check the state of the boat

Your life depends on the condition of the boat. Check (or have someone to check) the hull, rig, sails, pumps, engine, and sails. Have new installations been tested? Are there spares and kit for repairs? Is there enough carrying capacity for fuel and water and back up water? 

Check safety equipment on board

Make sure that the boat you hop on has the essential and preferably recommended (serviced) sailing safety gear and measures, like communication technology (VHF, Satellite phone), radar, radar reflector, foghorn, a liferaft, man over board equipment flares, fire fighting equipment, EPIRB, a manual bildgepump, a bucket, extra lines, a storm sail, storm anchor, spares, spares, and spares. (Find explanations and checklists in Ocean Nomad).

Check and prepare personal sailing safety gear

What to bear in mind in terms of sailing safety gear for crew? Be sure that you as crew have a life jacket and safety line. An ocean- worthy life jacket is different from the one they have for you on the ferry or below your airplane seat. Captains often provide these but certainly not always. Be sure there is one for you on board. The most comfortable one will be one that is your own. Consider investing in one yourself. You will wear it for dozens of hours during the ocean crossing. They come in all sorts and sizes. Life jackets are graded by flotation capacity. A 150N (N stands for Newton and refers to how buoyant they are) jacket is the minimum recommended standard for offshore sailing. Life jackets should at least have a light, reflector and spray hood. Also, harnesses should be on board, so you will able to clip yourself. Life jackets carry gas cylinders to inflate them (check if they are serviced). If you are planning to fly with a life jacket, contact the airline in advance to receive approval to carry one.

Reduce risk especially if you’re planning to join sailing regattas and races and get yourself a pair of gloves. Fingers don’t like to be caught in winches. 

A pocket knife/ yacht knife can be a useful item in the safety sailing gear kit for rigging, fixing, cutting, measuring, chopping. Boats have tools too; it’s not a must. But who knows, it may save your life in an emergency! If you pack a knife, pack one with a blade that can cut a rope. 

Be water proof. You can have all sorts of weather: from freezing cold and wet to tropical heat. Most likely you will have some chilly days and squalls. The northern route requires more warm clothes than the southern route, and wet weather gear is a must. The answer: bring layers! You’ll thank yourself for having a good waterproof jacket and for having a dry set of clothes. It would be more comfortable to have foul weather sailors’ jacket and pants, but you don’t need advanced sailing gear just for the crossing. 

Find an offshore sailing gear checklist in book Ocean Nomad. Here I wrote a blog with a summer sailing packing list from which you could take away some tips too.


Assess competence on board

To a large extent, the state of the boat is also a reflection of the captain’s personality and capabilities. Do your research on the background of the boat, captain and fellow crew. The people you share the adventure with either make or break the experience. Realise that anyone can buy a boat without experience or license. It is vital that you get along with the people on board, trust in the captain’s abilities, and feel safe. Learn as much as you can about the captain, crew and boat to figure out the state of preparation. Meet up beforehand, fix things together and go for a sail. This will give you an insight into the captain’s personality, values, competencies and problem-solving skills. And it works vice versa of course. Make sure you get a sailing crew safety briefing. Find the checklists in book Ocean Nomad.

Be insured

  1. Be sure that the ship has proper insurance and that you are not financially liable in the event of major damage or even worse, a sunken boat. 
  2. Make sure that you have good travel and liability insurance. I recommend TopSail for sailing crew insurance. For medical travel insurance for nomads SafetyWing can be a good solution. It works with many nationalities and can be obtained on the way. It also covers offshore sailing!

 

Have a backup plan

Sailboats deal with seasons, routes, weather, breakage, and all sorts of variables. By thinking about scenarios in advance makes it easy to peacefully change course and comply with Captains’ calls. Should the trip not go as planned, have a backup plan, including an emergency budget to sustain yourself or to book a flight, should the trip not go as planned. 

Check the drinking water situation

Calculate if there’s enough water on board, and if a backup system is in place (such as a water maker, or two tanks, with one closed). Think about:

    • The number of crew, length of the passage, capacity of the water tank, estimated days of sailing + extra emergency days. Each person needs at least three liters of water for drinking only.
    • Make sure there’s a backup plan for contaminated tank water. If there’s only one water tank, you need to have backup water, just in case the tank gets contaminated or salty.
    • Bring a filter water bottle for yourself so you can filter water at all times.

Develop seamanship skills

Know the bearings. Learn about the passage, seasons, distance, destinations, weather, costs, and tasks involved

Map of Atlantic Crossing Sailing Routes. Originally published in Ocean Nomad – The Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide

Learn the basics of how to use the radio. Note that only those with a VHF certificate or with the assistance of a certificate holder you are allowed to use the radio. It’s not a toy. If there’s one thing you learn about radio, learn how and when to do a Mayday call. 

Learn the essential knowledge regarding the Rules with other vessels. NauticEd has a free course on navigation rules.

Learn how to read the weather, on charts as well as from changing weather patterns when looking around. This can literally be a lifesaver! Being up-to-date on the weather is the most sensible prevention measure you can take to reduce risk. Study the weather patterns on your planned route, and learn how to read grib files, simplified low data weather data charts. Learn about weather patterns and reading

Learn about sea survival, maintenance of safety gear, life rafts, storm sailing, firefighting, search and rescue procedures, seasickness, and communication at sea. If you have the budget for a course, consider obtaining the STCW10 certificate. This is a basic safety certificate where you learn about personal safety and survival, firefighting, first aid/CPR, and personal safety and social responsibility.

Be prepared for first aid

Have someone (or a good book) on board with first aid knowledge.

Make sure there is a well-equipped medical kit on board, including prescription drugs and pain relief.

If no one on board has specific First Aid knowledge, is there a specialist contact you can call with the satellite phone in the event of an emergency?

Prepare for seasickness

Most people, including captains and professional crew, get seasick, some more severely than others. It’s quite normal, especially during the first few days of an ocean passage. How to prepare for seasickness?

  • Have seasickness medicine, ginger candy, biscuits and mineral electrolyte solution as part of your kit. Test seasickness medicine before to see how your body reacts. 
  • The day before:
    • Eat super healthy and light.
    • Be well hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Don’t drink alcohol, coffee or black tea. That dehydrates.
  • A few hours before sailing out:
    • Take seasickness medication.
    • Have your clothes, head torch, sunscreen, water bottle, sickness bag, and all you need for watch and sleeping, ready to grab. You’ll be okay doing watch, and you’ll be fine lying on your back in bed with your eyes closed. It’s just the areas between bed and cockpit that are the challenging zones to navigate when you’re seasick.
  • Have some crackers ready to nibble on.

I usually get seasick first day at sea. But I know how to deal with it and remain a competent crew. I prefer seasickness over the side effects of seasickness medication. It makes me a more useful crew member. More on dealing with seasickness at sea in book Ocean Nomad.

Take care of your health and comfort

We can only be our best if we feel our best. As crew you are on board to help everything run smoothly, so better stay healthy onboard. Be and stay fit, so you can deal with any situation that crops up. Besides seasickness, a few of the biggest health risks on board are sunburn, dehydration, food poisoning, insect bites, wounds, contaminated water, and just general well-being. How can you personally prepare to stay on top of your health on an ocean crossing?

  • Be well rested before the crossing. 
  • Rest well when you are not on watch. Is your boat bed rocking-proof? Do you have a lee cloth? If not, make one. You won’t be the first being thrown out of bed.
  • Do you have a specific diet, allergy or medical condition? Prepare for that yourself and inform fellow crew in advance.
  • Any tooth problems? Have it checked before you go! There’s no dentist on the ocean.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle and have it with you to remind yourself to drink enough.
  • Also, include a filter water bottle as part of your kit, so you have clean drinking water at all times and can drink straight from the tank in case the boat doesn’t have a water filtration system (yet!).
  • Start fit and stay fit. See the health kit in Ocean Nomad for more suggestions on what to bring. Also, provisioning makes a huge difference to how you will feel for the weeks at sea.
  • Wear a cap, sunglasses, and mineral-based sunscreen.

About the set sail for the fourth Atlantic Crossing

Be able to communicate

Is there a satellite phone on board? Or another device to send/receive data at sea for weather info and/or emergencies? The most important is that there is a way to check the weather. 

  • Make sure the communication equipment onboard has been tested.
  • Save emergency numbers in the satellite phone and write them down and put them in a visible spot.

Have a Personal GPS. A personal tracking device is a cost-effective possibility that allows text communication, location tracking, and emergency alerts in the unlikely event that you get lost at sea, or anywhere. This may be welcome to have if you’re doing solo watches or plan to explore foreign lands on your own after the sailing adventure. Above all, don’t fall overboard. Ever. I only got one this year and wished I got it from my very first offshore passage. Since last Atlantic crossing with 50 knots of wind and solo watches, I’m not compromising on this safety device. After a serious investigation of personals locator beacons I got myself a Garmin Inreach Mini. Still affordable, as small and light as it can get and with 2-way communication possibilities. 

Know the boat

Learn how the boat works as soon as possible. Walk all the lines. Observe, learn and memorise. Learn how the different systems on board work. Know where all safety equipment is located (Grab bag, flares, life jackets, fire extinguishers, life raft, MOB gear, first aid kit). If something happens to the skipper and/or other capable crew, someone’s got to be able to take over.

Don’t forget to tell mum

Make sure someone knows where you are. Give the home base contact details, such as the satellite phone number, captain’s number, and details of crew members and their family. 

Show your family/friends how to use marinetraffic.com. If the boat you are on has an AIS transponder, you are traceable in the VHF radio zone. Tell them that the boat can disappear from the radar when you’re out of the radio zone (+/– 50 miles from coast). You don’t want them to call Search & Rescue because your boat has disappeared from the map! Mums have done this before and it can turn out to be a costly call.

Nearly all boats making an ocean crossing will have satellite phone and/or SSB radio on board. Both systems can send and receive text and email when you’re out of the coastal radio zone. They are expensive to use, so don’t expect to be able to call home except in an emergency. Family and friends can often send messages to the phone for free though, so that’s cool! 

Some boats may have a tracking device that sends out a GPS signal every hour or so your family and friends can trace you. The Garmin Inreach I have also does that.

Fair winds!

Things will happen. It’s all part of the adventure. Hop on board with an ‘it can be done’ attitude, be inventive, alert and well-prepared, and you can tackle whatever situation comes up.

All you really need is water, food, a compass, and a (paper) chart of the Atlantic. The rest is a bonus, safety measure, or an extra headache. Equipment can make the ride more comfortable and safe but also more complicated. Every addition costs maintenance and money. Every boat has its problems. Boat works are ongoing. Stuff breaks and has to be repaired all the time, so don’t freak out. This is perfectly normal. And you actually learn most on boats where things break. It just makes it extra important to figure out if the captain and crew are well prepared, competent and positively vibed. If something is nagging inside of you, don’t do it. Follow your instinct. Opportunities come along all the time. 

There will always be a risk. But what’s life without it?

There is a lot more to say about this. That’s why I wrote a book 🙂 Learn more about finding and assessing rides across the Atlantic in Ocean Nomad: the Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide – Catch a Sailboat Ride & Contribute to a healthier ocean. Grab your copy to be well prepared and sure about your ride! 

Download the E-Book here

Or grab a print edition in a bookstore near you, at Bol.com or Amazon.

Do you have more questions? Write in the comments, contact me for a virtual coconut or join me and a bunch of other Ocean Nomads (of which several sailing across the Atlantic) on our next sailing and sustainability adventure sail in Croatia.

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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.

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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Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean: What’s it like?

What’s it like sailing across the Atlantic

What’s it like? Here’s a snapshot from one of my 4 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.

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 lifetime. 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 sail across the Atlantic too, as crew in “OCEAN NOMAD: the Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide – Catch a Ride & Make a Difference to a Healthier Ocean.” I wrote the book I wish was out there when I wanted to get into sailing a few years ago but had no idea where to start. Enjoy and ahoy!

Atlantic Ocean Sailing Experience


Yachting World

“A highly organized and helpful book with routes, ports, websites, and even some of the bars you should hang-out or go duckwalking to find your ride. Clear thinking and attention to details make Ocean Nomad useful to any captain or crew for an ocean passage. Her passion for conservation and sustainability offers insight into a ‘vagabond’ lifestyle that is also socially responsible.”

Edwin Butter Captain & Boat Owner S/V Grace for Ocean Conservation

“It is part of my ship’s articles: I want every crew member to read it before they step on board! Not just because it is packed with tips for both captain and crew, but also because it gives a clear insight in the minds of hitch sailors. This is more than a ‘if-you-can-dream-it-you-can-do-it/-if-you-just-put-your-mind-to-it-it-will-happen”

Paulina from Paulina on the Road

“I loved reading about the boat hitch hiking adventures and how Suzanne does sensitization work about our oceans. So much that she inspired me to try the boat hitchhiking thing as well. From the first moment I read her writing, I knew that I wanted to do the same! I just loved reading with how much passion she realizes her dream step by step. When we were full of doubts if it was the right thing to do, I returned to what she wrote and re-convinced myself that it was all for the best. And it worked out! We sailed from Canary Islands to Cape Verde. There we spent one month looking for a boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean. We finally found one and went from Cape Verde to Barbados. Suzanne has been a major source of inspiration and information!”


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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