Top 10 tips for Sailing Across the Atlantic as Crew

Travelling an Atlantic Crossing on someone else’s sailing boat is not a straightforward endeavour and 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. I’ve met too many people that thought to ‘just’ hop on a boat do an Atlantic Crossing. Unsurprisingly many of them did not succeed in having a pleasant experience. On the Atlantic ocean, you live, work, eat, leisure together for weeks. Non-stop. It’s like camping in the wild with a bunch of strangers. Only you can’t walk away… Inform yourself, research and prepare. It’s part of the fun! 

Four times I have now sailed as crew across the Atlantic. Another time I left a boat before setting sail. So many lessons learned. Here are a few.

My ten tips for crew looking to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.

atlantic crossing

  1. Have your WHY clear

Do you want to gain sailing experience? Learn as much as you can? Go from A to B? Just be away from all of it? Or simply chillax on anchor in pretty bays? Search accordingly.

  1. Be Confident or Start small

    Be confident you’re ready for an ocean passage.  You owe it to yourself, captain, and fellow crew. If you’re not sure about the full Atlantic Crossing, start with a trip near shore or a short passage to figure out if an ocean passage is for you.

  2. Know the bearings

To be ready to expect the unexpected, careful investigation and preparation is essential. Learn about the passage, seasons, distance, destinations, weather, costs, and tasks involved. This will help you find a ride at the right time and place. 

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

  1. Be flexible with time, place and money

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.

  1. Be 100% happy and confident on with whom you’re jumping on board

Research the boat, captain, and crew carefully. The people you share the adventure with either make or break the experience. Realise that anyone can buy a boat without experience or license. Exchange loads of messages, ask questions, and talk to each other on the phone, preferably with video. Meet-up, fix things together and go for a test sail. Don’t let your eagerness to make a trip override your instinct and judgment. Be 100% sure. Find a safety and happiness assessment checklist and questions list in Ocean Nomad.

  1. Always talk to the captain

    When assessing the options and figuring out if a boat is a good match, talk to the captain. Not (only) the owner, another crewmember, relative, manager or passenger. The captain is the decision maker and the one that knows the boat best so you want to know about him/her and his/her plan.

  2. Be clear on intentions, expectations, and agreements.

Know what the captain is expecting from you. What are you expecting from the captain and the Atlantic crossing? It makes it easier for you to prepare, anticipate, and avoid misunderstandings. Talk about budget and agree in advance about which costs are shared.

  1. Pack light and thoughtful

You don’t need much at sea. As a general rule, if you can live without it, leave it at home. Storage space is worth gold on board. If you have already committed to a boat (and are sure about it!) before leaving your home base, ask what’s already on board, so you don’t have to bring it. Less is more; less is more; less is more! Find an ocean packing checklist and considerations in Ocean Nomad.

  1. Provision carefully

Captains usually have their hands full preparing the boat, so it’s likely that as crew you will be part of the provisioning team. A well-fed crew is a happy crew, so properly organise, plan and execute provisions for the boat. Your health and happiness for the next few weeks depends on it. A big part of your contribution (or destruction!) to a healthy ocean starts with the packing and provisioning preparation. I dedicated a full chapter to this in Ocean Nomad.

The veggies provisioned for the Atlantic Crossing. Shop Local.

  1. Make it meaningful

As users of the ocean, it’s our responsibility to become part of the solution, not the problem. When we plan, prepare and make conscious decisions, we can minimise our negative footprint and maximise the benefits for the place we visit and for the planet as a whole. Find out what you can do as crew to contribute to a healthier ocean.

Taking microplastic water samples on the Atlantic Crossing

  1. Bonus tip! Don’t book a return ticket 😉

An Atlantic Crossing  goes hardly as planned. Avoid stressing the captain because you have a plane to catch. Above all, chances are you’ll be hooked and you want to keep going. 

At the end it’s common sense, follow your instinct and one big adventure! But being well informed and prepared is key for a happy, safe, and meaningful experience. That’s why I wrote Ocean Nomad, to connect more of you to the ocean, happy, safe and meaningfully! Enjoy & 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.” – YachtingWorld

This content has originally been published in YachtingWorld.

 

Download a copy or print version of Ocean Nomad here  The Complete Atlantic Crew Guide: Catch a Sailboat Ride & Contribute to a Healthier Ocean.

 All proceeds of Ocean Nomad go into ocean conservation projects.

Have you sailed across the Atlantic? I’d love to hear about your experience! Take part in the big Atlantic Ocean Crew & Captain Survey.

Have you read Ocean Nomad? I would LOVE to hear how the book has helped you to make the dream happen and if it has left you with any questions, let me know so I can incorporate answers for the next edition! Thanks for leaving a review on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, or Bol.com

Do you have specific questions for me? Or would you like me to help you decide if it’s a good match or not?
Have a Virtual Coconut with me. Or become a VIPatreon and I’ll support you to the best I can.

 

The Big Sailing Across the Atlantic Ocean Crew & Captain Survey

Hello Atlantic Ocean Sailors!

Thank you for taking your time to check this out! If you have sailed across the Atlantic as crew (or attempted) or captain, I’d love to hear from you!

I’m updating book Ocean Nomad: The Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide – How to Catch a Ride & Contribute to a Healthier Ocean.

Therefore I’m expanding my research to get a better idea about the current state and recent experiences on crewing, crew finding, the weather, and the environment. More data will help to make the next passagemakers to make their dream happen: informed, safe, and meaningful!

Would you like to help and answer a few questions? Thanks!

You can check the survey below. Or click this link.

If there are questions you rather not answer or don’t remember, no worries, skip it. If you don’t remember certain details, skip the question. Your answers will stay fully anonymous, unless you indicate otherwise.

THANK YOU for your contribution!

As a thank you for the efforts, you’ll go in the bucket for the chance to win book Ocean Nomad!
Amongst the respondent I’ll give away:
– 5 x Ocean Nomad E-Book
– 1 x Colour Print Copy

Ahoy! Suzanne

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Back on land after sailing the Atlantic! What’s it like to arrive?

Salty Months

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.

 

Left: Alwyn Enoe Master Boat Builden. Right: Alexis Andrews – Producer of Vanishing Sail

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.

Sleep

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;))

Movement

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

Choices

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

The Internet

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

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

Purpose

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.

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

Suzanne

Since I’m back on land, over the next weeks I’ll put some more stories and videos out about the ocean nomad life, sailing the Caribbean and Atlantic, and ocean conservation. What would you like to read / see / learn more about? Let me know in the comments! Or send me a message.

Learn more:

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul”

— Robert Wyland

Related products:
Book Ocean Nomad

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Boat-sitting, Treasure Hunting and a Freedive into an ocean of plastic | Eps. 2 OCEAN NOMAD TV

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

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

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

1. OceanCrewLink

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

2. Findacrew.net

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

3. Crewbay

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

4. SailOPO

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

5. Crewseekers

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

6. 7Knots

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

7. Yotspot

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

 

What else to bear mind?

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

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

Make it happen!

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

 

 


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

 

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

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From ocean adventurer to change-maker | from Virgin.com

This post was originally posted on Virgin.com

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

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

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.

Learn more about how to become an ocean adventurer and change-maker from Oceanpreneur – Suzanne van der Veeken

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

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

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

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

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. 

This post is part of a series produced by Virgin Unite in partnership with Ocean Unite, an initiative to unite and activate powerful voices for ocean-conservation action.

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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!”