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.
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 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.
Make sure that you have good travel and liability insurance. I recommendTopSail 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.
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 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.
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.
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!
https://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Atlantic-Crossing-21-of-26.jpg9601280Suzannehttps://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ocean_layout3_blue.pngSuzanne2019-07-12 10:42:302019-07-12 14:21:22How to prepare, assess safety and minimize risk as crew? | Sailing across the Atlantic
I just arrived in Europe from the Caribbean from my fourth Atlantic crossing. Salty, dirty, way too tanned, a little tired but happy and accomplished.
Every day the last months has been a hell of an adventure. In the last 3 months, I’ve almost constantly been sailing. First on Zemi, a Carriacou sloop, the kind of boat I’m in love with and building. I criss-crossed the Caribbean on her, raced the Antigua Classics and West Indies Regatta, and helped to sail her down to Carriacou, Grenada, where she lives. And Alwyn, the master West Indies boat builder who’s making the model for ‘my’ sloop. About a 1000 miles added to the logbook with Zemi. Salty, simple, adventure style sailing.
The simple salty sailing life. Cooking a coconut lentil stew on the engine room of Zemi
About to set sail for the fourth Atlantic Crossing
Then, in Grenada, literally the same day I left Zemi, I hopped on a boat to sail to Europe. From Grenada, we sailed to Antigua to Bermuda to the Azores with final destination Falmouth in the UK. Another 4681 Nautical added to the log. As always, with sailing but especially with the last salty adventures, nothing went as planned. You just go with it. It is what it is. It’s called adventure.
Back on land
I’m feeling accomplished! And out of my comfort zone. I’m back on land. Now what? First of all, supergrateful to be alive and to have gained some more life profit in terms of memorable days. I love the sea life and it gives me superpowers. But a bit of land time is needed to catch up with sleep, family, friends, a shower, fix my camera, phone and computer, and to take oceanpreneurial things to the next level. It feels strange to be on land. It’s overwhelming. Land life is fast. The contrast is big. So many things to suddenly deal with. Here are a few remarkable situations that are usually normal but not when you have experienced the lack of it. I thought it would be interesting to share.
Oh men. I’ve slept 10 hours in a row for two nights now. 3 hours on 6 hours off. That’s how we did our watch system on the crossing. Easy to get used to. And definitely doable. And you don’t have to think about it. For weeks that’s it. If you have 6 hours off. We went through some rough weather, ripped some sails, and made lots of sail changes with the inconsistent weather. There’s usually some situation to be solved in those 6 hours. Not always. But we had to be prepared. Now on land, as opposed to at sea, I’ve slept and woke up naturally. The bed was still. I could lay in the middle. I can sit up after waking up without falling over. And there was silence. No water sounds around me anymore. And the clothes I took off before going to bed were still hanging and did not fell on the floor.
Fixing, repairing and celebrating repairs. “Oranje boven” sails stronger than ever. No boring day at sea!
(Can’t show a photo of my bed on board – disaster scene;))
Everything stands still. No need to: sleep in one corner of the bed; To hold my tea cup; To hold myself when walking; To put tape on the cupboards so they don’t open and the knifes will fly around the room; to brace myself when opening a cupboard; to do the dishes on an angle, with salt and 3 drops of water; to do anything on an angle. It’s magic. Walking more than 10 meters is quite a sensational experience too. And running! With shoes. Sea life is one big workout. You constantly use your muscles to balance. But movements that makes you sweat like a run are rare. So great to go for a run and sweat again!
Nothing is straight at sea
The amount of choices I suddenly ‘have’ to make. We arrived, tidied up the boat. Then what? What do we do now? We went into Falmouth for some shopping and exploring guided by our local captain. The fact that there are people everywhere is already a new experience in itself. Very kind people in Falmouth btw. We went to the pub. When in the UK you got to go to a pub. There are dozens of beers and ciders to choose from. The bartender asking many questions to determine which one I should pick. Sweet or sour? With bubble? From here or elsewhere? This price or that price? Decision fatigue instantly. Just give me a local whatever. Then we went out for dinner. Pages of options. Even for a vegan. The food choices we have these days are just insane. I went into a supermarket. Holy moly too many options imported from too many places. Nothing even talking about all the wrappers they put around it. Did you know that an average person makes about 2,800 choices in a day? A stroll through the supermarket and you’re already 100 decisions further.
Choice overwhelm. Now what?
On the ocean, it’s just what it is and we just are. Imagine you cut a number of decisions you make from 1,000 down to ten per day—like, shall I drink tea or coffee, read this book or that one, wear yesterdays socks again or the ones of the day before yesterday, wear yesterdays underwear inside out or take a bucket and do a wash, on an angle…? Sit on the front deck or in the cockpit? That’s it really. A lot of extra energy we have for being, enjoying, living and thinking! Thinking because there’s no internet on the ocean.
Deep Blue Thinking
A few miles before arrival it starts. We have a signal. Very dangerous. That last mile has the largest amount of hazards, as well as magical scenery. One of the most exciting parts of the ocean nomad life is arriving in a new country under sail! and what are we doing? Looking at our phones! I didn’t want to connect yet. But my phone was off airplane mode and did it itself. It connected to the internet! It turned crazy. A zillion notifications, emails, messages. I can’t deal with it yet. The contrast is too big. And everything can wait. I still haven’t found a good way to deal with it all. Most of the messages I receive are supercool and it’s what I’m doing it all for! People expressing how much book Ocean Nomad helped them to make the sailing dream happen. Photos from family and friends. Applications for the sailing adventure in Sicily September. All really great stuff. But between it all, there is so much noise and distraction. You know, the internet.
Instead, imagine looking up into the sky every night and seeing galaxies. It makes you feel small and on top of the world at the same time. It will make you rethink your place in the world. An ocean passage allows philosophising about life and your purpose in it. One of the main reasons I sailed the Atlantic again is to get fully disconnected. I have a monkey mind that does not stop thinking and creating ideas for positive change in the ocean. It’s easy to go off track if you don’t re-asses the situation now and then. Sailing the Atlantic is a major disconnection from society, long enough to rethink life and rewire yourself for the way forward. There is no WiFi. No media. No stress. No deadlines. No pressure. No external demands. Being offline means realising again what I value the most. It creates space in the mind. It makes me master the art of being present, which I believe is the most happiness generating skill to have. But it needs practice. On land, it takes willpower to resist the urge to connect. An ocean passage eliminates the temptation altogether. I hope I can keep the focus now back on land! I created a new rule. No social media before 13.00. Who joins me? The mornings are my mental superpower moments I want to use for creating, the few weeks per year I do have routine days;).
Focus is what I find on the ocean. Because I’m away from everything, long enough to disconnect from everything but nature and my shipmates. Most of us spend more time indoors than outdoors. It’s easy to forget the natural world we’re coming from and living in. On the ocean, you face the wind and water elements and find that connection to nature. Imagine a scene with no traffic, no news, no pollution, no civilisation. Just wind and water—plenty of that! A scene where you can gaze for hours to the millions of stars above you; enjoy the dozens of dolphins sliding through the water at the bow of the boat; admire the pink-orange-red sunrises and sunsets, without any airplane trails changing the fluffy and cauliflower-like cloud patterns. You’ll become very aware of the natural world around you. This inspires. And it’s eye-opening. You come to realise how disconnected from nature we are in our daily lives. In the middle of the Atlantic, far away from civilisation, I see plastic items floating by. Human-made things that don’t belong there. Witnessing that makes us think about the impact that we are making as people. And as individuals. On every ocean crossing but especially this fourth one, I have seen a ridiculous amount of plastic floating by. Mostly bits and pieces of broken down plastic… And jellyfish. Hundreds, if not thousands, Portuguese Man of War. We’ve also had two storms. Pretty adventurous! The seasons are not as they used to be. I first hand see what impact we are making and what’s going on with the ocean. It motivates bigtime to act to turn the tide of the ocean challenges. After my first Atlantic Circle I started Oceanpreneur, now after the fourth it’s time to go big. It’s essential! The timeline is getting critially short. Here are a few ideas on what you can do as (aspiring) sailor and ocean changemaker.
Almost every day we had dolphins at the bow
Common sighting. A half broken down plastic item. Wind, sun, and salt breaks plastic down. But it never dissapears.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — MARCEL PROUST
By being ‘out of the system’, away from depressive media headlines, advertisement on stuff we don’t need, social media feeds with ‘got talent’ videos and other people’s cool lives, noisy traffic, stinky air, is when we connect to our true self. It’s a break from the rollercoaster that’s about being busy, productive and convenient. It’s a reset. It’s time to just simply let your mind wander. When does that still happen? It’s a time to rediscover my values, to clear the head, enhance creativity and the most brilliant ideas come up! It’s experiences like seeing a bottle in the middle of nowhere that makes us pause and think. It’s a lot of thinking about life, and why I’m doing what I’m doing. With all the space created in the head, I feel accomplished and ready to take over the world! First project: the #PlasticFreeNomad campaign. Join in!
Arrived happy & salty crew Welcomed by Eleanor from SaltyJobs.Co
“The future is in the hands of those who explore . . . and from all the beauty they discover while crossing perpetually receding frontiers, they develop for nature and for humankind an infinite love.” — JACQUES YVES COUSTEAU
What really matters and what I miss on the long term adventures are family and friends. So the focus for now is spending time with them. I just surprised my parents. Dad called me and instead of picking up the phone I opened the door. That was cool. Another memorable day!
I’m taking a break from the adventures now. At least a week ;). It’s important to process the magic, the ideas, and to pave the path ahead. A bit of landlife is needed. I’m writing two more books, planning a crowdfunding for the blue Carriacou Sloop, and I’d like to put more blogs out to help you connect to the ocean, experience the magic and encourage and inform for ocean action.
I got to go know. I’m going to visit some locals farmers with mum. Curious to see and smell what’s again in season in Holland at this time of year. The smells! That’s another thing that keeps amazing me. After weeks of only pure ocean air (! Did you know that most oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean?), the new gold!, I noticed every single fragrance x 10. The smell of summer, and the smell of traffic. Land life. Let’s see how long I’ll last before jumping on the next boat.
Xxx from the land
“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul”
— Robert Wyland
Curious to read more? I wrote a book about the Atlantic Ocean adventures. A combination of stories and ‘How- to’ sail across the Atlantic as crew and make a difference too.
https://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Atlantic-Crossing-22-of-26.jpg9601280Suzannehttps://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ocean_layout3_blue.pngSuzanne2018-06-19 21:04:272019-05-20 14:07:51Back on land after sailing the Atlantic! What’s it like to arrive?
https://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Screenshot-2018-04-13-13.38.11.png394700Suzannehttps://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ocean_layout3_blue.pngSuzanne2018-04-13 17:51:322018-08-06 21:05:16HitchHikers take the Helm! - Sicily Sailing Adventure September
https://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Screenshot-2018-06-19-23.07.35.png248500Suzannehttps://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ocean_layout3_blue.pngSuzanne2018-03-17 20:00:402018-10-27 19:34:54Boat-sitting, Treasure Hunting and a Freedive into an ocean of plastic | Eps. 2 OCEAN NOMAD TV
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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!
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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.
We are now 16 days at sea. Six salty sailors and I are navigating our way from Spain to the Americas on a small sailing sloop.
The lack of wind brings opportunity. After weeks of staring at the big blue we’re going to feel its magic from a different perspective. We put a line out for safety – I step over the railing and jump.
I splash into the 4,000-metre-deep water of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles from the nearest shore. The feeling of refreshment and freedom is indescribable. With limited water and space, I have not showered or moved much these past weeks. I feel alive, small and on top of the world at the same time. The water is like tea: so warm. What is beneath me? I put on my mask and dive under. There is nothing to see except the butts of my fellow crew and the colour of deep ocean, blue with beams of light shining through.
Driven by my deep sense of curiosity I sail the ocean, freedive into the deep, kite surf the surface, and explore distant shores. My discoveries on, in and underneath the water have taught me about the challenges it is facing.
Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad
Image from Ocean Unite
I’ve sailed the seas in every continent except Antarctica. I have walked on remote beaches on islands hundreds of miles from mainland. I have put on my freedive mermaid fins and explored the bottom of the sea wherever I got the chance. I’ve explored below the surface in Tonga, in the middle of the South Pacific, in the Galapagos, the Mediterranean, South East Asia, East Africa, Australia, and the Caribbean. And everywhere I am confronted by the same man-made problem afflicting the ocean.
In the middle of the Atlantic, far away from civilization, I’ve seen it drifting. Plastic bags, bottles, straws. Once a fellow crew member thought he caught a fish, but it was a plastic bag. Every water sample that I have taken, every 200 miles, contained tiny pieces of plastic, invisible to the naked eye.
I have watched fish eating plastic pieces, mistaking them for food. I’ve been dancing with manta rays in a plastic soup, watching them funnel in wrappers instead of plankton, while I unwrap the bags from my fins.
Occasionally I don’t know where to resurface after a free-dive because above me I see nothing but trash. I’ve met local fishermen, from Tonga to Turkey to Tobago, telling me the catch of the day is less than 10 per cent of what it used to be. In two out of three days exploring the Mediterranean Sea last summer, I did not see a single fish.
Ocean Nomad Life, the good and the bad by @oceanpreneur Intro
As a sailor, I am intricately connected to nature. Life at sea provides a deep and lasting respect for nature because you are directly dependent on it. But the real truth is, we are all dependent on our ocean. The ocean is the heart of the planet. It produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe, regulates our climate and is home to magnificent wildlife and the biggest creatures on earth. It gives us food, jobs, life and joy. Without it, we cannot survive. It gives us everything and yet we are taking it out of balance, as if we were the last generation on earth.
I am responsible for this. And you are too. I have ‘thrown away’ dozens of things in my life. But now I have learned, there is no ‘away.’ Every piece of plastic ever made is still out there in some form. I have been ignorant. But not anymore. My ocean explorations have taught me about the magnitude of the challenges our ocean is facing and how urgently we need to fact them.
Awareness is key but action is mandatory. We are all responsible for depleting life in the ocean and together we have a responsibility to bring it back to life. We owe it to future generations. But what can we do?
Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad
Image from Ocean Unite
Adventure has brought me awareness. That’s where it starts. From experience comes awareness. From that, comes caring. From caring comes action and leadership. We can only do good if we know what the problem is in the first place. We are so used to doing things the way we do, that we don’t think about their effect. What impact are you having, right now? Calculate your carbon footprint. Calculate roughly how many toothbrushes, and shampoo bottles you have used in your life! Now think about how you can recycle, re-use, repair and make it circular.
Educate yourself. Ask questions. Be curious. Choose wisely. Our greatest and most exciting individual power is the power of choice. To a large extent we can choose what to eat, drink, wear, believe, say, do, create, and buy. Each choice comes with consequences, good or bad. Do your best with whatever choice you make to make it a good one for you and the ocean. Your choices help you plot new routes.
Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad
Image from Ocean Unite
Explore, learn and gain new perspectives. Set out on ocean adventures that may be for a greater purpose. Go for a sail, jump in the sea, walk the shore, learn how to dive. Adventure can spark new insights and give you a new set of eyes. It makes us more conscious as consumers. It resets us. It makes us stronger, more confident, resilient. Maybe it makes you a leader. Maybe an ocean leader. You can shape culture, disrupt business and stimulate change. Above all, by making it fun you’ll have the energy to keep going!
Governments and companies respond to the choices and activities of the public. By plotting your course for positive change you can shape what will be on the agenda tomorrow. We’re all in the same boat so we need your hands on deck! I must climb back on board again. The winds of change are picking up. Yes let’s rock this boat! But let’s rock this boat together as a global ocean family. – This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.
https://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Screenshot-2017-11-22-17.49.10.png287500Suzannehttps://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ocean_layout3_blue.pngSuzanne2018-01-25 05:29:172018-02-28 05:37:38From ocean adventurer to change-maker | from Virgin.com
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.
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.
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!
“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.”
“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!”
https://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/2015-08-05_17.34_KARIM_ILIYA_03918.jpg8531280Suzannehttps://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ocean_layout3_blue.pngSuzanne2017-11-27 22:03:142019-06-21 11:28:57Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean: What's it like?
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!
https://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/1-fTA3gbxqWYoTHSGV5hmk9Q-1.jpeg448800Suzannehttps://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ocean_layout3_blue.pngSuzanne2016-12-24 18:56:262019-05-13 14:29:50A typical day of hitch-sailing: fun + making a difference