Cruzar el Atlántico en velero, una experiencia para valientes
Destinations and routes
Cross the Atlantic on a sailboat - a unique experience for the bravest
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By Alvaro Casanova
4 September, 2019
The best time to cross the Atlantic by sailboat from Europe or Africa to the American continent is between the months of October to January. On those dates, hundreds of boats are preparing to carry out an adventure that will take them between 15 and 30 days, depending on the capabilities of the ship and the route they intend to make.

The reason why the Atlantic crossing season is celebrated with such a specific calendar is twofold. On the one hand, from mid-October to early January, trade winds blow westward, which favors this crossing. On the other hand, when autumn arrives many employers have already finished their summer work in the old continent and move to the warmer waters of the Carribean and Central and South America to take advantage of the summer season there. The fact that the crossings of the Atlantic from the Americas to Europe take place in April and May also has a similar explanation: boat owners escape from the Caribbean before hurricanes arrive and return to the Old Continent to start the summer season.

If you want to encourage yourself to live the adventure of an ocean navigation but you have questions about how are these kinds of trips, maybe in this article you can find some keys to unravel the doubts and embark on this incredible kind of journey.
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  • What do I need to be able to join an Atlantic crossing?
  • What are the commonly travelled stages of an Atlantic crossing?
  • What is life like onboard a ship in the middle of the Atlantic?
  • Where can I find different options for crossing the Atlantic on a sailboat?

What do I need to be able to join an Atlantic crossing?

Although it is not necessary that you have specific nautical capabilities to embark on an Atlantic crossing, it is very advisable or essential to have some experience in navigation. Keep in mind that you will be on board a ship for three weeks without any outside help and with the continuous challenge that requires facing the waters and weather conditions, so you should know how to manage yourself aboard a boat. In this sense, the skippers will also ask you to show an affable attitude and willingness to collaborate, since you will participate in the tasks of the ship during the trip, as one of the crew members. It is necessary that everyone pulls their weight so that the coexistence is pleasant.

Of course, what is essential is that you have an extra motivation to see new places and enjoy an experience that is most likely to be unrepeatable. In this sense, it may be helpful to speak languages ​​(English, at least), since the crews are made up of people from different countries and communication is a fundamental element on board.

Another common question is whether some kind of special documentation is needed to make the trip; the answer will depend on the specific country in the Caribbean where the landing takes place. Many Europeans skippers prefer to set Martinique as a place of destination because, as a French overseas territory, only a national ID is required. However, our recommendation is that you travel with your passport, since once you arrive in the Caribbean lands you may want to make a trip to other nearby tropical islands and territories.

What are the commonly travelled stages of an Atlantic crossing?

Not all vessels that make the Atlantic crossing follow a similar route. In fact, the starting point of the trip does not even have to occur on oceanic shores. Many skippers have the base port of their ship in other areas, such as the Mediterranean coast, so they usually sell seats for the crossing from the beginning of the journey. Depending on the capacity of the ship and taking into account its navigation plan, it is likely that they even offer seats for the crossing at different stages.

In any case, the most common among the skippers of Spain and other European countries is to first sail from the Iberian Peninsula to the Canary Islands. This initial stage is for the crew to begin to gain a comfort and understanding between themselves and with the skipper, something which is necessary considering how long the ocean crossing will be. Upon reaching the Canary archipelago, it is time to restock supplies and take a break on land before gearing up for the big stage ... or make a final pre-stage, continuing course to Cape Verde, a group of African islands that increasingly seduces more and more sailors, both for the beauty of the islands themselves and for having an ideal location to reduce the length of the final leg to the Caribbean.

Regarding the point of arrival, the Lesser Antilles are the preferred destination for the skippers who make the Atlantic crossing. Among them, Martinique, a French overseas territory, has long been established as the preferred starting point for crossing the Atlantic in the opposite direction, from the Carribean back to the European side of the Atlantic.

4K Drone Footage MARTINIQUE [DJI Phantom 4]

What is life like onboard a ship in the middle of the Atlantic?

Crossing the Atlantic in current times has undoubted advantages over the hardships that those pioneer navigators of the late fifteenth century went through. Nowadays the destination is defined and attempts are made to reach it in a comfortable time frame, sufficient provisions are supplied before leaving, and there is even the possibility of communicating occasionally with the mainland. Safety and hygiene on board have improved substantially over time.

Even so, there are still certain links in common with respect to what life could be on board in a crossing from several eras ago. The psychological aspect is the most important of the, although back then there was a fear of the unknown that today has practically dissipated, thanks to all the information we have at our disposal. Do not forget the fact that crossing the Atlantic by sailboat means giving up your routine, your land and your people for several weeks, and sharing, with unknown people, a small space that you cannot leave for several days.

The main thing is that nothing separates you emotionally from the unique experience you are going to live. A good relationship with the rest of the crew will be the basis of everything. From there, you can spend your free time to chat with your crew mates, read as you like, and absorb nautical knowledge from highly experienced skippers. Knowing how to value the moments of solitude is also a very important aspect to facing the challenge of the crossing, especially in the infancy of the voyage.

Where can I find different options for crossing the Atlantic on a sailboat?

Several months before the start of the Atlantic crossing season, many skippers announce their journeys in order to search for a crew for the trip. The ideal number of crew members is around five, enough to assure of safety on board (handling of the boat and guards, mainly), share expenses, and make living together on the high seas as good as possible. Naturally, this figure will depend on the size and characteristics of the boat.

The most seasoned sailors in the ocean waters usually have contacts in the ports and enough information to even think about going on an adventure alone. However, the best option for a less practiced sailor who wants to try this experience is to reserve a spot online on one of the sailboats and catamarans, with one of the veteran skippers making the crossing of the Atlantic. The best advice we can give you is to chat directly with the skippers to get a feel for each other, exchange ideas, and compare opinions; ask the team of experts from Sailwiz any questions you may have before launching into this amazing adventure. Fortunately for us, many of these experienced skippers have chosen to trust in us to host their cross Atlantic adventures, which you can find right here.
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    Alvaro Casanova
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