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The Holiday Sailing Packing List – Practical and Ocean Conscious Tips

Summer sailing season is on and you’re going on a sailing trip!

Good for you! Your life will never be the same ;). Especially if you have never been on a sailing trip before it can be difficult to figure out what to pack for a sailing trip. Preparation is key to make sure you, as well as the ocean, will have a good experience!

Here are some sailing packing tips to have you well prepared for your first sailing trip!

A practical and ocean conscious holiday sailing packing list

A few general sailing packing tips and considerations

  • Pack for the destination you’re going to and the adventures you’re planning to have. The list presented here focuses on the warm charter island hopping / coastal kind of sailing trip.
  • Bring little. Chances are you’ll end up wearing the same things anyway. Storage space is worth gold on board. You won’t have much. If you can live without it, leave it at home. Especially on a summer sailing holiday, you need very little. Most days are spent in bikini and boardshorts.
  • Check what’s provided on board so you don’t have to bring it: towels, sheets, 12-volt USB charger, dishing washing sponge etc. If it’s a rental boat there will be very few things on board.

First, I will present the sailing packing list for easy reference which you can use as a checklist. After the list, I provide some commentary on different items to help you figure out whether they may be necessary for you or not, plus some more happy ocean sailing packing tips to be a real ocean, conscious warrior.

The Sailing Holiday Packing Check List

Luggage

Clothes

  • 1 wind jacket
  • 1 sweater
  • 2 tee shirts
  • 1 long-sleeved shirt (against the sun)
  • 2 tank tops
  • 2 fast drying shorts/board short
  • 7 underwear
  • 1 long pants
  • Clothes to sleep in
  • Some decent clothes for on shore
  • Swimwear! x3
  • A lycra for sun protection
  • For girls: a sports bra/top for the adventure activities
  • A sarong and/or coverup

Shoes

Sun protection

Entertainment

Toiletries and sleeping

Health kit

  • Seasickness pills/wristband
  • Personal medicine/glasses/contact lenses

Paperwork & money

  • Valid Passport (and visa if necessary)
  • Cash
  • Debit card
  • Credit card

Food, Drinks, Cleaning

Can be handy & cool

  • A Headlamp
  • Your country flag
  • Hammock
  • A notebook and pen
  • A sewing kit
  • A pocket knife
  • A little music speaker

Notes on the Sailing Packing List

The considerations on a few of the items listed above.

Luggage

Duffel bag Unless it’s a huge catamaran, a boat does not have storage room for a hard suitcase. A waterproof duffel bag is ideal; you can fold it into a small size. A 50- to 70-liter duffel bag is a good size. The smaller, the smarter you will pack. For years I have been travelling with this 70L AquaPac Duffel bag. Simple, light, and strong.

Day pack A 20- to 25-liter waterproof day backpack is nice for day hikes and shopping. It’s also helpful in dinghy rides from the boat to shore to keep things dry, or for swimming to the boat if there’s no dinghy around;). I use the 20l Aquapac backpack.

Storage bags/ Shopping Bags Chances are you will only have one small cupboard or drawer to store your stuff. It’s helpful to have different coloured (non-crispy/noisy) bags to be able to easily find what you need. There are also easy to DIY from an old t-shirt. You can also use these bags for shopping.

Clothes

Summer sailing holidays are predominantly spent in bikinis and board shorts. Bring a few of those. Stretchy, fast drying and breathable fabrics are comfortable. We can look like hippies on board but bring something presentable to wear for on shore out of respect to the local communities. A long sleeve shirt is nice as protection from the sun. Usually, it’s hot in the sleeping cabins. Bring boxer shorts and a shirt or top for sleeping. Don’t forget a cap (to protect your face from the sun).

A sarong and/or coverup easy to pop on when coming out of the water and protect from the sun.

Shoes

Shoes don’t have to be sailing-specific shoes. On every island you touch shore, you will find places to explore and hills to climb on all sorts of soils. Good multi-purpose trail/running shoes allow for island exploration. I use my multi-purpose trail running shoes for sailing, walking, running, dancing, and everything. They do the job just fine. Just keep in mind that your shoes are very likely to get wet and salty. On deck, you have to be careful with black soles. They can leave marks on the deck.

Some captains have a barefoot policy. Nice for leisure sailing, it keeps the boat clean, and if you’re a passenger you’ll be fine. I prefer wearing shoes because I go around boats like a monkey and have stupidly sprained my ankles a few times too often.

Flip the flop with your Flip Flops

Sun protection

Cap A cap is a must. A hat leash is Neptune’s greatest invention. This is a clipper between your cap and t-shirt, which, in my case, has prevented my cap from going into the sea for about 283 times.

Sunglasses Polarised sunglasses are favourable at sea to view deeper, sharper and clearer. You can better see the dolphins swimming underwater at the bow. A neck cord prevents your sunglasses from going overboard.

Bandana A multi-purpose headband/scarf/bandana thingy to protect your head to keep the hair out of your face in the wind.

Sunscreen Bring a good ocean friendly sunscreen.

Entertainment

SUPS, Hammocks, snorkeling gear, floating devices can all greatly add to the experience! Bring it if you have it or check the second-hand marketplace. Locally this stuff is expensive and/or imported low ocean-friendly shipped from China. Lots of this toys are out there already and often only used for one summer sailing holiday. See what you can re-use. If you want to bring surf or kite gear, check if there is space for that on board.

Film & photography – Memories are certainly best captured with your mind, at the moment—but capturing the adventure with a camera can also create nice memories to look back on later and to excite others about the ocean! Smartphones do the job these days. Protect the gear well. Electronics are not made for life on the sea. You only need one wave and hatch not properly closed to have your phone or camera ruined. Also, on boats it easily becomes humid and salty, so you better protect it. Buying a new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade. The second-hand marketplace has affordable water-proof cases.

Music brings happiness. Bring your Phone with some sweet playlists downloaded,  cable to connect the music machine to the speakers. Also, bring earphones or headphones, so you don’t disturb the other crew if there are in chill or siesta modus.

Charging Usually charging phones and tablets is not a problem. You need a 12V USB charger for that. These are popular on board so it can be helpful to bring your own. Don’t forget the charging cable. Label them so it doesn’t get mixed up with other cables. Charter boats usually only have 12Volt charging possibilities.

Universal adapter Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas have different power outlets. Bring a universal adapter if you change continents so you can plug in everywhere on land. It’s not easy to find these things in harbour towns.

Toiletries

Towels and bed linen are usually present. Not always, check this or bring a towel and pillow cover/sheet and/or sleeping bag. I use my sarong for drying and sleeping situations.

Earplugs Good earplugs can help to dampen the noises on the boat. Be sure to only wear them when appropriate.

Soap and shampoo Whatever shampoo, soap or shampoo product you bring on board, remember that it all drains straight out to the sea. Choose biodegradable. A simple soap/shampoo bar or multifunctional soap is a responsible solution. You can also wash your clothes with that. Learn about the shampoo challenges and plastic free soap & shampoo solutions.

environmental friendly plastic free shampoo

Washing unit A sponge or washing glove is handy to give yourself a quick wash. Baby wipes are often recommended and can surely be useful for you, but not for the environment. Opt for biodegradable ones.

Tooth care Bring a (bamboo) toothbrush, paste or powder, and toothpicks (in many places in the Mediterranean and Caribbean they are individually wrapped in plastic). Btw, Rinsing with seawater is a really good mouthwash.

Hair ties and clips Bring something to tie up your hair. Otherwise, your hair will be all over the place and it can be dangerous with making sailing maneuvers.

Health Kit

For casual coastal sailing holidays, you do not need to worry about seasickness. If crew or passengers feel bad, the next port or anchorage is close. If the plan is to make larger distances then you may want to bring something for seasickness. Seasickness remedies are available in pill, plaster, and wristband form. Scopolamine is the ingredient that many find to work best, but comes with some side effects so be aware of the dosage. You can read and learn more about preparing and dealing with seasickness in book Ocean Nomad.

Food / Drinks / Cleaning

If you rent a boat as a group, it comes with the very basics. Together you’d have to source things like dishwashing liquid, a sponge, toilet paper (never to be thrown in a toilet on board), shampoo. Coordinate with fellow holidaymakers who brings what. A huge difference can be made by arriving prepared for a minimal waste shopping experience. In the Mediterranean and Caribbean, popular sailing holiday places, the corner shops in most cases do not have plastic-free regulations in place (yet). Instead of taking things as they come, help to shape as they go, and show up with some reusables. Think about a bag, water filtration solutions, food produce bags, a reusable straw, a reusable cup (especially if you like a Greek frappé on the go).

By taking some (ocean-friendly) dishwashing liquid, a sponge and/or cleaning cloth from home, this will prevent you for having one to buy new locally which generally comes with lots of plastic wrapping and non-ocean-friendly ingredients. Most dish washing liquid brand contain harmful ingredients for the ocean (phosphate, Chlorine, Artificial fragrance). Bring ocean-friendly dishwashing liquid.

On the average summer sailing trip, food and the food costs are shared as a group. Everyone can have a say in what’s being provisioned. Try not to be too complicated for your fellow crew, so if you have particular tastes you really can’t do without for a week, bring some goods of your own / buy it yourself.

If you’re obsessed with tea or herbs/spices (like me), consider bringing some of that. This way you don’t have to buy the triple plastic wrapped tea bags or herb pots. Also, if you are gluten intolerant, vegetarian or vegan, prepare or bring something from the food department if you think this might be an issue. I personally travel with a mix of seeds. It gives me superpowers. For short-term holidays I wouldn’t bother.

For all the rest, shop local! Part of the fun and you can make a big difference by shopping local. Here you can read more about ocean conscious food provisioning.

Paperwork & money

Passport Obvious but easy to forget. Some countries require 90 to 180 days’ validity on arrival. Check if your passport is still valid long enough. I’ve met numerous people who had to fly home to renew and could cancel their adventure!

Money Bring cash in the local currency and an extra credit card. ATMs could be far, often don’t work, are empty, or swallow your card. It’s good to have a back-up.

Can be handy & cool

Head torch A head torch is handy for reading, coming back from the shore at night,  getting up in the night without waking anyone up. It’s great to have a head torch with a red ‘night watch’ option—bright white lights affect your sleep rhythm, and blinds you and fellow crew.

Your country flag (small–max 30cm x 20cm). Bear in mind official flag regulations.

What NOT to bring

  • Too much!
  • A hard suitcase. There is no storage space for that.
  • Too many (warm) clothes. You’ll end up wearing the same things anyway. No winter clothes needed for Mediterranean summer sailing and  Caribbean sailing.
  • Too many shoes. You’ll be mostly barefoot on the boat (some captains demand wearing shoes).
  • Too many creams and oily cosmetic products.
  • Expensive jewelry with emotional attachment. Very easy to lose!
  • Hairdryers and electric razors (most boats only have 12-volt charging possibilities)
  • Your surfboard, mountain bike and sea scooter (without asking captain in advance).
  • A return ticket ;-). Make sailing a lifestyle.

HOW to pack Budget & ocean-friendly?

Being well-equipped and prepared allows you to create positive change in many ways. We can do more than simply packing light, compactly and purposefully for our own sake. Our greatest and most exciting individual power: the power of choice! To a large degree, we can choose what to eat, drink, wear, believe, say, do, create, and buy. Each choice comes with its consequences, good or bad. Do your best to make whatever choice you make a good one for you and the ocean! Not sure what the best choice is? Ask questions, research, explore, and find out! How can you pack smart, on a budget while minimising your carbon footprint, your trash trail, and the number of chemicals polluting the environment and your body? What can you choose to be the best for your health, your wallet, and for the world that you call your playground? Here is some food for thought on actions you can take to make the packing challenge more affordable and better for the environment

Offshore sailing packing list

Packing for a long-term Ocean Nomads sailing adventure? Then check out the offshore sailing packing list I created for crossing oceans and longer journeys. You can find the extensive sailing packing list and considerations in book Ocean Nomad. This offshore sailing packing list includes information about lifejackets, personal safety and sailing gear, gloves, pocket knives, visas, vaccinations, onward travel proof, and more tips on how to make a difference for a healthier ocean. Or download the simple and quick offshore sailing packing list checklist (free).

Wish you a splashtastic sailing experience! Let me know in the comments what you have found to be super useful on your trip and what you wish you had taken.
Ahoy!
Xx Suzanne

As always, opinions are my own. No organisation or brand is paying me to write this or mention them. What drives me is saving the ocean. Sometimes links contain affiliate links. If you’re looking to purchase something, huge thanks if you purchase it via this website (but try to find it locally first! ). At no extra cost to you, orders and bookings through this website give me a tiny piece of the pie that help me keep investigating, exploring and creating content about on ocean action and solutions! The information presented here is not a substitute for specific training or experience. When going into the outdoors it is your responsibility to have the proper knowledge, experience, and equipment to travel safely. Here are more ways to support ocean awareness and action. Splashthanks!

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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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Vanishing Sail Film Screening at the Bequia Easter Regatta with SPECIAL Announcement! 

Soon I’ll sail down from Antigua to Bequia for the Easter Regatta. I’ll be hosting Vanishing Sail Film Screening at the Bequia Easter Regatta with SPECIAL Announcement!

More info about the screening

Winner of 7 international awards – On the tiny island of Carriacou in the West Indies, the last wooden sailboat builder dreams of saving a great tradition passed down the generations from Scottish settlers that sailed there centuries ago.

The film follows Alywn Enoe’s journey of determination and resilience over three years, from hauling trees with his sons, to a final traditional launching ceremony. Stories of the old Caribbean – trading by sail and smuggling contraband interweave a tribute to the independent spirit of a small island community.

“An outstandingly beautiful and timeless film that deserves the widest possible audience.” Julian Parker, OBE, Maritime Foundation.

To order DVD and/or HOST a SCREENING for your COMMUNITY or YACHT CLUB visit: store.vanishingsail.com

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

What’s it like sailing across the Atlantic

What’s it like? Here’s a snapshot from one of my 4 Atlantic Ocean sailing experiences:

“Someone is pinching me. ‘Suzanne Suzanne’ Watch time! Wow, I come out of a deep sleep. It takes me some moments to realise where I am and what’s happening. I’m going from left to right in my bed. It’s night, and I hear water sounds. Right, I’m in the middle of the Atlantic, and at 3 AM I’m next on watch. I have 15 minutes to get ready. And I have not finished sleeping. I’m exploring the bed with my hands to find where the head-torch has ended up this snoozing session. I perform acrobatic skills to get over Kerstin who is crashed between me and the bed exit. Oh yeah! I manage not to put my feet in her face this time. I step on the floor and get thrown against the wall by the rocking of the boat. Shit, I hope I didn’t wake up Sam and Steve who are attempting sleep in the next cabin.

I put the red light on of my torch and make a bathroom stop. With one foot in one corner, and the other one in the opposite, and while leaning against the wall, I smash three drops of water in my face to wake up. I wipe my face with the towel that is in use now for a week and has been more on the floor than on the hook. I can’t be bothered. All right, one step closer to being ready for watch. Before I went for my snooze, I had put my wet weather gear ready on the hook so I wouldn’t wake my fellow crewmember up. The hook is empty; the floor is full. I get down on my knees and try to collect my gear. I explore the floor for my pants, sweater, jacket, socks, hat and life jacket. I think I have all the items. Next challenge: put it all on without waking up others and getting too many new bruises. With my oversized foul weather gear, three-kilo life jacket on my shoulders, and torch on my forehead I feel ready to go to the moon. The previous watch boiled water in the kettle. I make some tea. 15 minutes and six new bruises later, I arrive in the cockpit.

‘Wind is around 15 knots. There is one boat at three o’clock. Clear skies. Many shooting stars. That’s it.’ The previous watch briefed and they’re off to bed. I make another tea because the one I made fell over.

This is the start of the watch.

The Atlantic Ocean sailing experience is not only sunshine, dolphins next to the bow and happy days. If you sail across (as crew), you should be ready to adapt and work. Sailing across the Atlantic is not a holiday. There is always work to do, especially while preparing, and as a crew member you share the responsibility to keep the boat going safely.

That said, within the challenge, there will be days that come close to perfection! Sunrises, sunsets, pods of dolphins around the boat, gazing far into the galaxies, having deep conversations, and getting closer to yourself and nature for an extended period of time. It’s a ticket to paradise with the adventure of a lifetime. It’s an experience you will never forget, and a great story to tell your grandkids. Here’s a video impression 🙂

 

My favourite experiences while crossing the Atlantic

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

  1. The moment we set sail out of Las Palmas. New friends were making noise and waving goodbye. After weeks of dreaming, searching, preparing, it’s finally happening!
  2. The moment we saw lights when we were approaching Cape Verde after six days on the open sea. It was the first time I ever sailed into a country.
  3. Shooting stars, fluorescent plankton discos in the waves, the sound of breathing dolphins followed by the splash from a jump.
  4. Jumping into the middle of the ocean
    Being on watch, just me, a pod of dolphins, and the sunrise.
  5. Celebrating my birthday in the middle of the Atlantic. My fellow crew even arranged jumping dolphins on the horizon… And chocolate cake!
  6. The moment I set foot in Tobago, found a fresh coconut, and ate fresh vegetables!
  7. The moments behind the wheel with 18 knots of wind, no autopilot, all sails up, feeling the boat and just steering course by that bright star I picked from the sky.
  8. The moment I woke up with the smell of pine trees, after days and days of only ocean breeze. Land Ahoy!
  9. Both times I crossed the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a spectacular passage, seeing where and how the different seas and continents come together.
  10. The moment I woke up on land and realised that I had disembarked “The Bounty,” just before sailing out for the Atlantic. What a life-saver.

Would you be up for an Atlantic Ocean Sailing Experience?

Read the full stories about what’s it like to sail across the Atlantic and how (and how not!) you can sail across the Atlantic too, as crew in “OCEAN NOMAD: the Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide – Catch a Ride & Make a Difference to a Healthier Ocean.” I wrote the book I wish was out there when I wanted to get into sailing a few years ago but had no idea where to start. Enjoy and ahoy!

Atlantic Ocean Sailing Experience


Yachting World

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

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

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

Paulina from Paulina on the Road

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

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How to minimise your waste footprint when sailing the ocean? Part 1.

The discussion comes up on every boat setting sail for the ocean. How are we going to deal with waste?  Is it better to throw glass and tin in the ocean or dump it on a little island? What is actually recyclable? How to dispose waste on the other side? Are there recycling facilities in the Caribbean?

I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean 4 times now. I learned a lot on how and how not to do things. I especially saw and learned about the importance and decline of the ocean. Here’s what I learned in the waste department. Surely the intentions of the sailors and yachtsmen are to take the best care of the environment. We all love the ocean. And we like to keep it healthy so we can keep exploring this beauty forever. We also love visiting the islands and waste management facilities may be non-existent.

So how to deal with waste when sailing across the ocean?

Part 1: minimize the provisioning footprint 

ON SHORE

We have to be mindful to what we bring on shore on the islands. The Caribbean islands do not have big enough landfalls. Waste is often dumped near the road or burned. Waste in landfalls is often burned as well. So is it better to just throw things like cans, and glass in the ocean? How can we as sailors best tackle this waste management issue on boats?

Here are some ideas to minimize your footprint as a sailor while still on shore:

  • Number 1. Do you very best buying without as little packaging as possible. Be mindful on what you bring on board in the first place. It can really add up. As a crewmember, before you even hop on board minimize, minimize, minimize.
  • Opt for landing at a destination with recycling facilities in place. It’s worth making your first landing on one of these islands for safe disposing garbage.
  • In Spain, Cape Verde, and the Caribbean a plastic bag is still practically mandatory at the supermarket. Always bring your own bags.
  • Choose consciously what you buy:
    • Buy in bulk to have less packaging in the first place. You can store smaller amounts in reusable containers.
    • Paper towels. This is often used lots on board. In many situations, a good old reusable cloth can do the job. If you do use paper, get one that is biodegradable and does not have ink on it (ink is a kind of plastic!). White paper towel is bleached and should not go overboard. Recycled toilet paper and kitchen roll sounds great but is often treated with a lot of chemicals.
    • Cleaning Products. Use biodegradable washing liquid for your own and the health of the oceans. It all drains straight to the ocean. You find this in organic stores (which you can find on Happy Cow). Baking Soda and Vinegar + water remains a good cleaning product, for the boat interior as well as your hair.
    • Use natural biodegradable soaps and shampoos.
    • In Spain, go to the market for your provisioning (not supermarket). At least in Las Palmas, at the market they will pick the greenest fruits and veggies for you which will last the longest. They come and bring it in carton boxes to the boat. It’s the cheapest way, you support the local entrepreneur and not plastic bags. Avoid buying as much as you can from the supermarket. It’s wrapped in so many wrappers and at checkout, they put everything in bags again, even if you friendly ask not to do that. Especially when they deliver goods. Many boats leave from Spain where they still very accustomed to wrap things in multiple packaging.
    • Don’t buy items that contain lots of wrappers: candy, biscuits and tea (in Spain and Cabo Verde many brands even wrap every individual tea bags). Make your own. If you happen to do buy wrapped stuff, get rid off as much packaging as you can if your departure destination has facilities in place.
    • Go to the market with your own reusable bags. If you have foods delivered, see if the marketmen can take back the cardboard and boxes. You don’t want to take those anyway since they are a source of unwanted bacteria, cockroaches.
    • Choose products with recycled packaging or packaging that you can reuse yourself.
    • Use reusable containers to store goods.
    • Reuse items as much as you can– bags, containers, boxes, etc.
    • Get cloth napkins instead of paper.
    • Get wooden pegs, instead of plastic ones.
    • If you don’t have a water filter on board and bottled water is needed, buy the 20Liter bottles + a pump. Water bottles are one of the biggest ocean polluters and not desired in the Caribbean, or anywhere. Read 10 water filter solutions you can use as crew.
    • Please don’t buy balloons for the ocean birthday or halfway party. The wind and sun will have them snap and it’ll get mixed into the plastic soup.

 

We live in a world where convenience and profit still dominate the scene. Walk the extra block. What’s more important? Convenience or continuing a healthy ocean for future generations?

With conscious provisioning, you can reduce your negative impact big time.

What about when you’re out there? Read part 2: What to do with the waste that you are creating? What can go overboard?

Read more about provisioning, long lasting healthy foods to buy and how to deal with waste on the ocean and on the other side in Ocean Nomad – The Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide.

Have you sailed across the Atlantic? Then I’d love to hear from you! I’m now updating the big Atlantic Sailing survey. Your experience will help the next passage makers for a safe and conscious passage. Check it out here.

With a healthy ocean, everyone wins!

“I can sense the enthusiasm coming out at me from the pages and feel that her book is an inspiration and fantastic guide on hitch sailing and ocean preservation. It should be on every yacht out there at sea.”- Steve Green Yacht Master Instructor and Ocean Master

“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” –  Captain Edwin Butter of OceanConservation


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

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

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

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

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

Warning: Long post! Find more plastic-free travel solutions in my lastest #PLASTICFREENOMAD campaign. Disclaimer: No brand is paying me to mention them! Recommendations are based on my own investigation and testing. 
Read more