crossing the atlantic by motor yacht

Crossing The Atlantic By Motor Yacht? Everything You Need To Know

A yacht can travel both the Pacific and Atlantic seas. A sailing boat or a motor yacht may span the Pacific and Atlantic seas. It’s preferable to have a tank large enough to store the amount of fuel you’ll be burning.

Not all yachts, however, are capable of undertaking these journeys. If you intend to sail across any of these seas, be sure you have an ocean-going boat as well as the necessary equipment and abilities.

Some yachts will not have enough fuel to make the journey and will be transported aboard specially constructed freighters.

In this essay, I’ll go over some of the key facts concerning yachts that you should be aware of before embarking on your journey.

How Long Does it Take to Sail Across the Atlantic?

Sailing across the Atlantic takes roughly 3-4 weeks, but if you’re lucky, use shortcuts, and have a speedy sailboat, you can accomplish it in two weeks. It might take up to a month if you don’t get enough wind for a week or longer. It’s critical to know the shortcuts, optimize speed, and have cross-Atlantic sailing expertise.

How Far Can a Yacht Travel?

In an 8-hour day, a powered boat of 35 feet in length can go over 200 miles at a speed of 25 knots. They can cover about 300 miles in a day at 35 knots. You can go thousands of kilometers if you have adequate gasoline or fill-ups.

Can a Yacht Cross the Atlantic Ocean?

A typical powered boat would require a tank with a capacity of roughly 5000 gallons of petrol and a fuel efficiency of 2.5 nautical miles per gallon to traverse the Atlantic.

This is based on a gasoline consumption rate of 4 gallons per hour at a cruising speed of 10 knots. Of course, this is at cruising speed. They can’t keep going at top speed for an extended amount of time (which would burn through the fuel faster).

The voyage (about 3,000 miles) would take 300 hours or 12.5 days at 10 knots.

Every year, sailing boats cross the Atlantic since the only fuel they use is to power generators that power aboard equipment.

When the weather isn’t cooperating, some fuel may be utilized to power the boat.A fast boat traveling at 25 knots takes roughly 4–5 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean. In a sailing yacht, though, it would take longer (which also depends on the winds).

We have a lot more information on which boat types are capable of crossing oceans. If you’re thinking of taking a boat journey across the oceans, this is a must-read.

Read more: Boat Fuel Tank Vent Open or Close (What to do?)

How Large Does A Boat Need To Be In Order To Cross The Atlantic Ocean?

To cross the Atlantic, you’ll need a boat that’s at least 30 feet long, whether you’re sailing or motoring. For safety and comfort, your boat should be at least 40 feet long. Although the experience of sailing or motoring across the Atlantic is vastly different, both require a boat of this size. If you plan on having a crew on board, you may need a boat that is much larger. Why do you need a 30 or 40 foot boat when you can cross the Atlantic with a lot smaller boat? The simple answer is that attempting to cross in anything smaller may be extremely risky and inconvenient. Here are a few reasons why you should get a boat at least this size:


You don’t want to be stranded in a tiny boat as the waves start to rise. In the Atlantic, boats significantly larger than 30 or 40 feet are often sunk due to bad weather.

If you go any smaller, you run the danger of being sunk in a storm. Make the mistake of assuming you can organize your vacation around the possibility of bad weather.

Storms may appear out of nowhere in the unpredictable Atlantic Ocean, and any vessel could be caught off guard, regardless of the season. Although not every 30 or 40-foot yacht is seaworthy enough to cross the North Atlantic, this size is a minimum need for ocean navigation.

Supply Storage

Even if you want to conduct as much open-ocean fishing as possible while crossing the Atlantic, you’ll need to have supplies. You should have enough food and drink for everyone in your crew to last the whole voyage.

Keep in mind that crossings can take longer than expected, so make sure you have adequate supplies to account for delays. You’ll need to reserve gasoline if you’re crossing in a motorboat or if you have a backup motor for your sailboat.

You may need a larger boat if you need to store a lot of provisions for your voyage. Too much weight can cause your boat to sink in the water, making even a seaworthy boat much less seaworthy. A boat that is too low in the water might be swamped by waves more quickly.

Before you load up your boat and set out on the water, be sure you know how much it can securely handle.

Comfort Of The Crew

Until you’ve spent a few weeks out on the open sea aboard a 30 or 40-foot boat, it may appear to be rather large. If you want to enjoy your passage, you’ll need a boat large enough for everyone on board to have their own space and stretch their legs at regular intervals throughout the journey. Even with a one- or two-person crew, 30 to 40 feet is required to achieve this aim.

Crossing The Atlantic In A Motorboat

You might be surprised to learn how much gasoline it takes to cross the Atlantic in a powerboat. Simply storing all of that fuel aboard your yacht can take up a lot of space.

Fuel should not be utilized for longer than 90 days in most cases. This should be enough time for you to cross the Atlantic, but it could not be. You may preserve fuel for up to six months or even two years if you use a fuel stabilizer or don’t mix it before use.

Fuel storage will require a large portion of your entire storage space. For the same journey, you could require a larger motorboat than a sailboat.

The advantage of crossing in a motorboat is that, while it may require more storage and gasoline, utilizing it instead of the wind for movement may make your route much more predictable. A speedboat can move in nearly any situation except particularly severe and inclement weather, but a sailboat must wait for the wind to be right to make headway. As a result, you won’t need as many resources to prepare in case you don’t arrive at your location on time.

Enjoy Your Crossing

It’s difficult to imagine a more thrilling experience than sailing the Atlantic Ocean on your own boat. You will most likely have a very pleasurable vacation whether what kind of boat you choose, as long as you choose a boat of at least 30 or 40 feet and plan wisely.

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What kind of boats cross the Atlantic Ocean? 7 Options explained

You’re looking for a way to go across the Atlantic without flying. What options are out there? Here are 7 options explained. I sailed five of them across the Atlantic.

Sail across the Atlantic on a small vessel

Sailing an ocean on a Small sailing vessel

Many privately owned sailing vessels cross the Atlantic to spend a sunny sailing season either in the Mediterranean or Caribbean or as part of their around-the-world voyage. It is a big deal for them and attracts all sorts of seamen and women: young ‘pirate’ dudes who have escaped the rat race, adventure couples, retirees, families, groups of friends, and single older sailors.

The largest share of the captains is between 50 – 65 years old. It’s the group that has the time and money resources to sail. All sorts of nationalities make the crossing, with the French and Swedish seeming to dominate the fleet.

By crewing on a small sailing yacht, you’ll be involved with every aspect of seamanship and sailing. You will learn a lot for sure. Many boats choose to stop in Cape Verde or the Azores, and often don’t have tight schedules.

Sailing across the antlantic ocean

Boats come in all sorts of shapes and materials. Hulls are made from steel, wood, aluminium, and today mostly of fibreglass. 90% of the boats crossing the ocean is bigger than 36ft, with most of them measuring around 44ft. (14m).

A smaller yacht could also be perfectly ocean-worthy. I’ve seen boats of 26 ft. crossing the pond. Some adventure people row across the Atlantic. In 2017 someone even Stand Up Paddled (SUP) across the Atlantic. Being on any boat is a luxury compared to that.

Six people (out of 100) I interviewed in my book crossed the Atlantic on a boat smaller than 36ft. and all of them would like to do it again. This year we also have Nadiem, Ocean Nomads member who’ll sail across in his little sailboat.

Both monohulls and catamarans cross the Atlantic. Catamarans are generally faster, more spacious, and rock less. On the flip side: they can flip!  If  they do, it’s a major challenge to come up again. Don’t worry, this is extremely unlikely. Having seen hundreds of boats planning, preparing and making the crossing, I estimate that roughly 70% of the boats that cross are monohulls.

With Ocean Nomads we sometimes have small liveaboard sailing vessels looking for crew in the network to sail across, or members recommend a vessel from their networks.

In our brand new Ocean Nomads Crew Course , I share all the tips and tricks for finding and securing a safe sailing vessel with which to sail as crew. Eco & Adventure style. Proper preperation makes all the difference for a happy, safe and meaningful voyage.

Sail with me & Ocean Nomads in Greece in 2024! Level up your sailing skills and make ocean people connections accelerating your sailing journey. 4 vessels, 11 days, 30 nomads! Learn More. 

Sail across the Atlantic on Superyacht

Many larger yachts cross the Atlantic as a ‘delivery’, where a boat needs to be taken from point A to B. Boats have to be moved across the ocean for a new charter season, for the private owner who will hop on board again on the other side, or because someone bought it on the other continent.

Usually, paid and professional crew do these types of deliveries. As an amateur crew member, you can be a cheap extra set of hands.

A yacht is a ‘superyacht’ when it is over 24 metres (79ft.). These are  big yachts. They often have generators running every day to keep fridges and freezers going. They load up thousands of litres of fuel and water, and are less dependent on the wind.

As such, there is less risk and generally more comfort. These trips often run on a tight schedule, so there won’t be much flexibility for stops along the way (like in Cape Verde or the Azores). In most cases, there will also be more people on board (five-eight people compared to three-five on smaller vessels).

Crossing on a big boat like this is faster, less adventurous, and more comfortable. The crew are often younger, and some live and work permanently on the boat. Many of them have crossed the Atlantic Ocean numerous times and are therefore less excited about it than the average ‘yachtie’.

Timelines are tight and there’s often not time for island exploration. Usually, you are expected to work hard. Also, it’s not unusual that superyachts don’t even use the sails to prevent damaging, and have the sails tip /top for when the owner comes on board.

A Transatlantic on a Charter yacht

If you would rather not have the pre-crossing adventure or spend too much time searching for a boat, and/or if money is not an issue, you can book a charter ocean passage. Charter trips are organised on all sorts of boats: small, big, monohulls, catamaran, and racing boats.

Numerous racing yachts cross the ocean reaching boat speeds up to 35 knots! In addition to professional crew, spots are sold and you can sign up for a wet and speedy adventure guaranteed.

A charter trip costs between €2,000 and €10,000. An organized trip like this could be advantageous if you’re on a tight schedule. It’s more likely to leave on the planned date.

At the same time, the time schedule could be a disadvantage. What if the weather window is not ideal to leave? In many cases, though not always, everything is taken care of such as provisioning and cooking, so you wouldn’t have to figure out much yourself.

Charter organisations need to comply with a lot of safety requirements and check ups to legally carry out the voyage. This assures some safety but still you need to do your homework if it’s a safe ride.

Another consideration of booking this type of passage is that you won’t know your shipmates. When you search the adventurous way, you have the opportunity to meet the other sailors before you commit to joining the crew. On a chartered passage you’re stuck with whoever else has booked the trip, even if you don’t like them.

With Ocean Nomads we work together with SV Twister and have the following Atlantic Crossings planned .

Sailing the Atlantic on a Tall ship

Every year, numerous tall ships sail across the Atlantic, like the Stad Amsterdam or Oosterschelde, and this year also SV Twister :) .  Sailing across on a large traditional boat is spectacular. Many young people work on the tall ships. You could either try that or buy yourself a passage.

I wrote the above in my book, a friend of SV Twister reached out to me. Long story short, last  year 2022/2023 I, with Ocean Nomads, organizing a trip across the Atlantic, Caribbean sea, and back across the Atlantic , and I now experience this way of sailing across also. You can join this trip in 2025 .

Sailing the Atlantic on a Tall ship

Update! We’re back from the Atlantic. And we made a film about it:) Here is a the film about Sailing the Atlantic with Ocean Nomads. My 5th Atlantic crossing.

Travel the Ocean with a Sail Boat Ferry

There are no sailing ferries (yet), although boats are being built for this purpose. At the time of writing, Voyagevert is conducting feasibility studies to construct the fastest and largest sailing catamaran for a ferry service as a sustainable alternative to flight for transatlantic travel. Also Fair ferry is looking into it.

A transatlantic on a cruise ships

Another kind of ferry are the cruise ships. More and more cruise ships cross the Atlantic to do the season on the other side. They need relocation and spots on board are sold as ‘repositioning cruises.’ It’s often cheaper than airfare and your house rent combined. One option that is cool, is ‘ Nomadcruise ,’ an Atlantic crossing for entrepreneurs and digital nomads.

These floating cities are not an environmentally friendly way to cross. It takes around eight days and a lot of noise to cross with a cruise ship. Data on emissions is remarkably difficult to find. Some sources state that an average cruise ship at sea emits more, and less filtered, smoke than one million cars combined each day.

In a one-week trip, a large cruise ship generates ten backyard swimming pools of blackwater (raw sewage) and 40 more swimming pools of greywater (water from sinks, baths, showers, laundry, and galleys). It also generates large volumes of oily bilge water, sewage sludge, garbage, and noise.

Sail Across the Atlantic on a Cargo ship

More cargo ships cross the Atlantic than sailboats. This is a non-sailing ship option that can take you across. Cargo ships usually rent out a few cabins to passengers. This costs a few thousand euros. Travelling with a cargo vessel can be a good alternative if you want to cross the ocean, don’t like sailing, and do not want to fly. Prepare to be surrounded by engine noise. Crossing on a cargo would take one to two weeks. Depending on the weather, cargo and size, cargo vessels run between 15-25 knots . 

There are also  sailing  cargo Atlantic crossing possibilities out there. ‘ Tres Hombres ‘ is a 32 metres Schooner transporting traditional goods like rum and chocolate between the Caribbean and Europe. Timbercoast is a 1920 built 43.5m Schooner that transports goods like coffee and gin. Both ships welcome crew on board helping out with this sustainable way of transporting goods.

My ocean sailing preference

“What kind of boat are you joining?” This was the first question most people asked me when I told them I was going to cross the Atlantic Ocean by sail. At the time, I knew nothing about boats, and thought “Does it matter? I just want to make the passage!” Having sailed across on five completely different boats across the Atlantic, I know now that the type of boat determines large part of the experience.Not just because of the boat, but because of the tasks and people involved with that type of boat.

My preference is to crew on a smaller monohull sailboat of 40-44ft – basic but adventurous and on these boats, I’ve met the coolest captains. Monohulls are more fun to sail. It’s easier to ‘feel’ the boat as opposed to a catamaran. It’s kind of like a scooter versus a quadbike.

Smaller boats generally allow for more exploring and socialising time around the harbour- since there’s usually less work to be done. This is the adventurous way of travelling by sailboat where you go with the weather and with others as excited about the adventure as you. I sailed as crew on these kind of sailboat for years ( Here is a video summary of my story ).

At the end, it’s the people who make the trip! In my survey amongst 100 Atlantic ocean Crew & Captains who have done it, almost everyone answered to the question: “what would you do different, if you’d go again?” “I’d take more time to find the right vessel, with like minded and value sharing people.

Finding a boat is the easy part, finding the right and safe vessel aligned with your vibes and values, is the main challenge. With Ocean Nomads we now created a toolkit to help you dip your toes into the ocean nomads lifestyle , happy, safe, and meaningful.

How to find a sail boat ride across the Atlantic?

Here’s what I and ocean nomads have created for you to help you get out there, happy, safe, and meaningful.

It’s that time of the year again when many head south and west to follow the sun, catch the tradewinds, and realize ocean dreams.

Travelling an ocean on someone else’s sailing boat, or taking a stranger on board is not a straightforward endeavour. To be ready to expect the unexpected, careful investigation and preparation is essential. Four Ocean Crossings and 30.000 Miles of boat hitchhiking on dozens of vessels, as well as organizing crew for +10 different trips now, I figured out a few things, and keep learning:).

Here are the latest waypoints to help you on an ocean adventure, fun & impact:


  • We’ve created resources and mini-courses on Sailing across the Atlantic, Offshore crew packing lists, Ocean crew preparing tips. Provisioning with minimum waste, Veggie recipes, Zero waste nomad life, and ocean education information. But the real value is the network you can tap into, find answers, connections, and support to make the ocean adventure dreams real.


  • Because of that we can create way real value and attract real dedicated members only who are serious about making dreams real. 

NEW in 2024! The Sailboat Travel Crew Prep course.

I help you transition from being new to sailboat travel to a confident crew member securing a position safe, soon and sustainable. All my sailing lifestyle crew tips condensed into one pack. 

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Ps. If any of the above has helped you, I’d love to hear so! Make a comment, leave a review on @oceanpreneur or, fill out the big Atlantic Ocean Crew survey

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  • On which boat have you crossed or would you be most exciting to cross the Atlantic?

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The best appropriate boat is about 30 to 40 feet long. In case you using a smaller boat, there is a possibility that it may not withstand harsh weather conditions and ocean currents.

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How To Cross the Atlantic, Routes and Timelines

best motorboat to cross atlantic

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Before the time of ocean liners and airplanes, crossing the Atlantic used to be a great adventure that took a long time to complete. Nowadays, it’s very different; it’s still a great adventure, but the time it takes to complete has changed.

Here’s how long it takes to cross the Atlantic on various types of boats.

Catamaran2700The Canaries to the Caribbean2-3 Weeks9-10 Knots10.5 – 11.5 MPH
Trimaran2700 The Canaries to the Caribbean 2-3 Weeks9-11 Knots10.5 – 12.7 MPH
Monohull2700 The Canaries to the Caribbean 3-4 Weeks6-8 Knots7-9 MPH
Ocean liner (Queen Mary II)3150New York and Southampton, England 6-8 Days30 Knots35 MPH
(For reference)
Ocean Liner1830New York and Southampton, England (3150 NM)17 Days
Ocean Liner1880New York and Southampton, England (3150 NM)9 Days22 Knots25 MPH
Airplane2010London – New York8 Hours478 Knots550 MPH

Looking at this table we can clearly see that the time it takes to cross the Atlantic has decreased exponentially. Some big developments were of course the steam engine that allowed for bigger and much faster ships to travel the Atlantic while also bringing a lot more cargo.

If we look at the Sailboats in this list, we can see that the more hulls you have the faster it goes (if you want to know more about how that works, check out this article)

There is not a significant difference in time to complete between the catamarans and the trimarans in the short run, but in a circumnavigation of the world, the difference can be huge.

A monohull on the other hand is slower, this is mainly due to the amount of drag this type of hull has.

This table compares different types of boats under the same conditions and adds an airplane as a point of reference.

Transatlantic Crossing in Record Time

Here are the records for the fastest crossings of the Atlantic in a Sailboat.

5d 14h 21min 25s Comanche Monohull201621.44 knots (39.71 km/h)
3d 15h 25min 48sBanque Populaire V Trimaran200932.94 knots (61.00 km/h)
4d 11h 10m 23sSodebo UltimTrimaran201728.35 knots (52.50 km/h)

The 2880 Nautical miles(5330 Km) long route starts at Ambrose Light in New York and finishes on an imaginary line between Lizard Point and Ushant of the coast of England

As you might have noticed, there aren’t any numbers for catamarans since the  classes are divided between monohulls and multihulls.  Since trimarans (three hulls) are faster than catamarans (two hulls), there is no real point in racing a cat.

What you also may have noticed are the ridiculously high speeds these boats are doing. Bear in mind that these are racing boats optimized for speed and made to smash world records.

There’s a big difference between the 28 knots a racing trimaran will make and the 9 knots a cruising catamaran will.

What Type of Sailboat Do You Need To Cross The Atlantic?

Crossing the Atlantic can be done in almost any sailboat or ship. As a matter of fact, it has already been done in small rowboats and open catamarans, so everything is possible.

If your question is what boat should I use to get a somewhat comfortable and safe trip, well, then we have something to talk about.

Choosing between a monohull or a multihull has more to do with personal preferences. Some people really like the stable platform of a catamaran, and others dont think it’s a real way of sailing and wants to be heeling over to its side to fully get that true sailing experience.

For me? Catamaran every day, speed, and comfort, but I’m also not a purist sailor in any way. I’m an adventurist, and the boat is merely a way to experience adventures.

The size I would say matters, bigger usually means it’s safer and can handle bigger waves, although it might be harder to handle on your own I something happens to you or your crew mid-sea.

Most people seem to cross the Atlantic with a boat in the 35 -45 ft spectrum, which fulfills both requirements!

If you are interested in digging deeper into what sized boat you should get, check out my article on Best Sized Catamaran for Ocean Sailin g

Other aspects you might consider are the  size in terms of space onboard , how many people are you doing the passage with, the more people, the easier operating the boat will be. This assumes you have a well-trained crew that you know well.

And what are you going to do once you get there, is it the end of your trip or is the beginning. If you’re doing everything just to cross the ocean and then get someone else to bring it back, that’s one thing. But if its the start of a long adventure, the requirements are different. You are going to want more space for scuba gear, and other toys.

I do think the most important aspect is that you have a seaworthy boat that it’s capable of withstanding weeks on end with sailing in many times rough conditions.

This means that your equipment spent has to be the most expensive and handy, but it needs to be in good condition, and you need to be able to handle your great in every weather.

What Gear Do You Need to Cross the Atlantic?

Not including your average stuff when sailing, such as life vests, etc. There are some great that you might not be on your everyday say m still that could be of high importance during such a formidable sail as this.

  • Emergency food
  • Satellite coms
  • Storm drogue (want to know what it is and how it works,  read  this)
  • Spare parts(tiller, sails, etc.)
  • Entertainment

Different Routes to Cross the Atlantic

Westward route: europe to the caribbean.

According to Jimmy Cornell, a well-known sailor and circumnavigator that has made his own research on the subject, Las Palmas is one of the biggest ports of departure for sailboats crossing the Atlantic.

Around 75’% of the sailboats that arrive in Las Palmas on the Canary Islands will depart for an Ocean crossing.

Getting to The Canary Islands, you should not be in a hurry; there are many very beautiful places en route. No matter where you are coming from this is a good stop well worth a visit.

Coming from the north of Europe, you have France, Spain, and Portugal. Entering from the Mediterranean, you have Italy, Croatia, Greece, and so many other interesting places that you shouldn’t miss unless you’re on a very tight schedule.

Once you reach Las Palmas, you can either go straight towards the Caribbean island of Barbados, or you can do a stop along the way at Cap Verde.

Planing a Stop on Cape Verde

A stop at cap Verde makes sense in many ways; for one, it makes the transatlantic trip more manageable by dividing it into two sections.

The second reason is that it gives you the possibility to stock up on fuel and water that you might have used more than you thought. Since Cap Verde is well developed when it comes to receiving boats doing this type of passage, there is no technical expertise on the island.

From Cap Verde, you can also take a direct flight to Portugal and onwards if the need arises.

Even though you might not plan to stop here, the recommendation is to at least  plan your sailing, so you pass close to the islands,  so if something happens, you can head to Mindelo port and fix it.

Another good reason why you would go close is that the further south you go, the  better chance you will have of catching those sweet tradewinds  that will take you safely and enjoyably to the warm waters of the Caribbean.

Westbound Route On a Catamaran

Sailing west is the preferred option for any sailor and especially if you are on a boat that doesn’t sail perfectly upwind, such as a catamaran.

Sailin g west and using the tradewinds is perfect on a catamaran, the sail will be faster and more comfortable than a monohull of the same size.

Looking at the 2019 ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), a 55ft french catamaran outclassed the 65 ft professionally sailed monohull with a 10-hour lead. All this while doing yoga on board, something that I can promise was not happening on the monohull.

The stable platform of a catamaran with the wind on your stern makes sailing west on a transatlantic passage perfect for Catamaran.

Eastbound Route: The Caribbean to Europe

Coming back to Europe, I would argue that the same principles are still valid: to stop at or pass by islands close enough to have the option of going into port if need, and using the tradewinds to your advantage.

Considering this, most people leave the Caribbean from Tortola, Britsh virgin islands, or St Marteen. These make great starting points for the eastward journey since they are the last point where there is plenty of fuel, spare parts, and food for the long and sometimes arduous trip back to Europe.

Though it is not necessary, many sailors make a halt at Bermuda; this is a good start to fix anything broken or wait for the right weather before your head on to the next part of your trip.

The Azores, the same goes here, you can skip it, but staying close to it adds safety and comfort if needed, and I would also stop by just to enjoy the islands. It’s a beautiful place and good for a few days of low-intensity cruising.

If you still have some energy left after the trip from Bermuda, one option is to head for a place called Horta. The place is well remembered for its hospitality towards sailors heading towards Europe.

Once you have refueled on diesel and energy, it is time to head for northern Europe. This is usually done by sailing north until the 45th latitude and then heading east.

When is The Best Time to Cross The Atlantic

Choosing a route has a lot to do with your intended purpose of the trip, are you going for a speed record, then going more north might be an option, and accepting the risk might be ok for you and your crew.

If you are going west but more interested in doing it safely and are able to spend a little more time out at sea, then the southern routes mentioned above with a departure date around November and December.

Going west on your way to the Caribbean, you’ll notice the days are getting warmer and longer; this is because going west, you also travel south towards the equator where the days and nights are equally as long be it summer or winter.

This weather window is to avoid the hurricane season in the Caribbean that ends in late November, these are the main risk and must be considered in your plan.

What Is The Best Route For an Atlantic Crossing

Taking into consideration the information above with trade winds, the possibility of breakdowns, and the collective knowledge of the area.

The best route for a westbound Atlantic crossing is from Las Palmas (on the Island of Gran Canarias) to Barbados Via Cap Verde. The best route going east is from St Marteen to the Azores Via Bermuda.

This is, of course, based on the assumptions we have discussed above, and it might not apply to your skillset or aim of the crossing.

Can You Cross the Atlantic Single Handed?

You can definitely cross the Atlantic on your own (short-handed). As a matter of fact, many do every year. Of course, this demands more of the sailor since there is nobody to ask for advice or to help while underway.

Neither is there anyone that will help you with handling sails or maintenance while underway; because of this, it is more dangerous and more difficult to solo sailor sail short-handed as it is also called.

The usual way is to either bring a crew of your own, recruit a crew from the port of exit, or find one online via

Is Transatlantic Passages Dangerous?

Sailing in big oceans is never a hundred percent safe. This is why it is an adventure if it was absolutely safe, where would the attractiveness and the excitement lie?

Looking at the data, there aren’t many accidents happening, and of those, there are even fewer that are deadly or leave the crew injured for life.

There are also ways to make it safer; we have discussed boat size and crew skills; other route selection factors are vital. It might not be the quickest to cross the Atlantic, but the southern route seems to be a safer bet.

Prepare yourself, your crew, and the boat, and the chances for accidents will still be there, but they will be small and manageable.

How Lonely Is Crossing The Atlantic?

Spending two to three weeks in the middle of the ocean can definitely be lonely, but it can also be the absolute opposite. If you’re sailing with a crew, you will share the same small space with everyone else, always bumping your elbow. If the weather is rough, you may all be a little tired, which also adds to the group dynamics.

But even if you would get sick and tired of your crew, there are ways to call back home. You might have a Satellite phone, which is expensive by the minute but a lovely way to hear the voice of a loved one back at land. Much better than a text message through Email.

Sending emails has been a pretty straightforward process since the SSB radio started to be utilized.  This type of radio is very simplistic and has good reception up to thousands of miles .

The nice thing with this radio is that it allows for data traffic, which means not only are you able to receive weather updates, but you can also contact your family through Email.

Can You Get Rescued If Something Goes Wrong?

Yes, there might not be a coast guard or anything nearby, and you might be way out to sea, but there is help to get. Since every ship is listening to some set of frequencies, usually, the first step is to call for a Mayday on that channel.

If you’re not getting anyone’s attention, then they might still see you on the AIS, Automatic Identification System, which makes anyone around you know where you are.

Many times the crossing is done together with a lot of other vessels; this gives comfort as they might also be able to help in case of emergency.

If all this fails, you probably also will have your EPIRB,  Emergency  Position Indicating Radio  Beacon , which is a gadget that can be activated through certain triggers such as water, tilt angle, or manually activated.

Once activated, it sends an emergency signal at different frequencies and relays the information back to shore for someone to come help you.

Owner of A minimalist that has lived in a caravan in Sweden, 35ft Monohull in the Bahamas, and right now in his self-built Van. He just started the next adventure, to circumnavigate the world on a Catamaran!

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What Size Yacht To Cross The Atlantic? (Here’s What You Need to Know)

best motorboat to cross atlantic

Crossing the Atlantic in a yacht is an ambitious but rewarding endeavor.

Whether youre a recreational sailor or a seasoned professional, the size of the yacht you choose will make a world of difference on the journey.

Before you set sail, you need to consider a number of factors, such as the number of people on board, the size and type of crew, the length of the voyage, fuel and crew requirements, route of crossing, weather conditions, and emergency services available.

In this article, well cover all these topics and more to help you find the right size yacht for your Atlantic crossing.

Table of Contents

Short Answer

The size of yacht needed to safely and comfortably cross the Atlantic Ocean will depend on factors such as the number of people on board, the type of voyage, and the experience of the captain and crew.

Generally, the vessel should be a minimum of 36 feet in length and have enough stowage capacity to carry enough supplies and provisions for the voyage.

The yacht should also be outfitted with the necessary navigation, communication, and safety equipment to make the voyage.

Lastly, it should be well-maintained to ensure reliable performance throughout the voyage.

What To Consider When Choosing A Yacht Size

When deciding what size yacht to choose for an Atlantic crossing, there are several key factors to consider.

The number of people on board, the size and type of the crew, and the length of the voyage will all factor into the size of yacht you need.

A larger yacht will provide more space and comfort, but will also require more fuel and crew to manage.

It’s also important to consider the route of the crossing, the type of weather that is expected, and the type of emergency services available along the way.

The size of yacht should also be determined by the purpose of the crossing and the preferences of the crew.

For instance, if the purpose of the voyage is primarily recreational and the crew is smaller, then a smaller yacht may be more suitable.

On the other hand, if the purpose is more commercial and the crew is larger, then a larger yacht may be the better choice.

The type of vessel is also important.

Sailboats, motorboats, and catamarans all have different requirements for size, fuel efficiency, and crew.

For instance, sailboats require larger masts and rigging, which can limit the size of the vessel.

Motorboats, on the other hand, can be larger and can travel faster, although they also require more fuel.

Catamarans are typically the largest vessels, but they also require the most crew and are the most difficult to maneuver in rough seas.

Finally, the length of the voyage is an important factor.

A longer voyage requires more fuel, supplies, and crew, so a larger yacht may be necessary.

Additionally, a longer voyage may require more sophisticated navigational and safety equipment, so it’s important to consider the type of emergency services available along the route.

In conclusion, choosing the right size yacht for an Atlantic crossing requires careful consideration of several factors.

The number of people on board, the size and type of the crew, the length of the voyage, the route, the type of weather, and the type of emergency services available all need to be taken into account.

Ultimately, the decision should be based on the purpose of the voyage and the preferences of the crew.

Number Of People On Board

best motorboat to cross atlantic

When deciding on the size of yacht to choose for an Atlantic crossing, the number of people who will be on board should be the first factor taken into consideration.

The size of the yacht should be able to comfortably accommodate the number of passengers and crew members, with enough space for sleeping, eating, and lounging.

Any extra space that may be needed for storage should also be taken into account.

It is important to note that larger yachts will require more fuel and crew to manage, and may be more expensive to maintain.

Therefore, it is important to make sure that the size of the yacht matches the needs of the voyage and the crew.

Size And Type Of Crew

When selecting the size of your yacht for an Atlantic crossing, it’s important to consider the size and type of the crew.

If there will be a large number of people on board, a larger yacht is likely required to provide enough room and comfort.

On the other hand, a smaller yacht may be more suitable for a smaller crew.

Additionally, the size and type of crew will determine the type of personnel needed to manage the yacht.

For example, it may be necessary to hire a captain and crew if youre crossing a large body of water.

If the crew consists of experienced sailors, a smaller yacht may be sufficient as they will be able to handle all of the boats operations.

Its important to consider the number of people on board, experience level, and the amount of space available when selecting the size of yacht for an Atlantic crossing.

Length Of Voyage

best motorboat to cross atlantic

When deciding what size yacht to choose for an Atlantic crossing, one of the most important factors to consider is the length of the voyage.

A longer voyage will require a larger yacht to provide more space and comfort for the crew and passengers.

On a longer voyage, there may be more people on board, providing a need for additional sleeping and eating areas, as well as more room for recreational activities.

Additionally, a larger yacht will be able to carry more supplies, such as food, fuel, and spare parts, making it more self-sufficient and able to handle any unforeseen events.

It is important to consider the route of the crossing, as some areas may be more prone to rough weather or dangerous conditions, and a larger yacht may be better equipped to handle these conditions.

A larger yacht may also require more fuel, as well as a larger crew, to manage the vessel.

Ultimately, the size of yacht will depend on the purpose of the crossing and the preferences of the crew.

Fuel And Crew Requirements

When deciding on the size of yacht to take for an Atlantic crossing, it’s important to factor in the fuel and crew requirements.

A larger yacht will require more fuel and crew to manage, especially if the voyage is longer.

The crew size and type should also be taken into account when deciding on the size of yacht.

A larger yacht will require more crew to manage the vessel, and the crew should be experienced and knowledgeable in seafaring and navigation.

It may also be necessary to hire extra crew members for certain tasks such as cooking, engineering, and maintenance.

Additionally, the yacht should be equipped with the necessary safety equipment such as life rafts and flares, as well as navigational equipment such as depth sounders and GPS.

All of these factors should be considered when deciding on the size of yacht for an Atlantic crossing.

Route Of Crossing

best motorboat to cross atlantic

When deciding on the size of yacht for an Atlantic crossing, it is important to consider the route of the crossing.

For example, a longer voyage from the United States to Europe will require a larger yacht than a shorter one from the Caribbean to the United States.

A larger yacht will provide more space and comfort, as well as more fuel and crew to manage.

Additionally, the route of the crossing should be considered for emergency services that may be available along the way.

For example, if the voyage will be close to land, there may be medical facilities and emergency services that could be reached in the event of an emergency.

However, if the voyage will be far away from land, it is important to consider the type of emergency services that would be available if needed.

Weather Conditions

When deciding what size yacht to choose for an Atlantic crossing, it is essential to consider the weather conditions that may be encountered during the voyage.

A larger yacht is more likely to be able to handle a variety of weather conditions, such as high winds, heavy rain and strong waves.

The size of the yacht should also be considered when it comes to the type of weather expected.

A larger yacht is more suitable for long-distance voyages, as it is more capable of handling the prolonged and potentially extreme weather conditions.

It is important to note, however, that larger yachts may require additional fuel and crew to manage in order to safely navigate the seas.

When preparing for an Atlantic crossing, it is important to research the expected weather conditions for the route.

Knowing the weather conditions that may be expected on the route can help to determine the size of the yacht that is suitable for the voyage.

For example, if the route is expected to experience strong winds, it is best to choose a larger yacht that is capable of handling the windy conditions.

Additionally, if the route passes through areas with higher than average waves, a larger yacht is much more suitable for the voyage.

It is also important to consider the type of emergency services available along the route.

In the event of an emergency, such as a medical emergency or a vessel in distress, a larger yacht is more likely to be able to access the necessary help.

Additionally, a larger yacht will be able to carry more supplies, such as food, water, and other equipment, which can be essential in an emergency situation.

Overall, the size of the yacht for an Atlantic crossing should be based on the number of people on board, the size and type of the crew, the length of the voyage, the route of the crossing, the type of weather that is expected, and the type of emergency services available along the way.

With the right amount of research and planning, the perfect size yacht can be chosen for a successful and safe Atlantic crossing.

Emergency Services Available

best motorboat to cross atlantic

When planning a transatlantic crossing, it is important to consider the type of emergency services available along the route.

On a smaller vessel, you may not be able to access all of the necessary services, so it is important to choose a vessel with enough room to accommodate the necessary crew and equipment, as well as enough fuel to reach the destination in the event of an emergency.

When considering the size of the yacht, the type of emergency services available should be carefully assessed.

For example, if you are crossing during hurricane season, it is important to choose a vessel that can withstand the high winds and potentially heavy waves.

If you are crossing in an area where search and rescue services are available, it is important to have a vessel large enough to be spotted quickly.

It is also important to consider the type of emergency services available at ports of call along the route.

If you are traveling to a remote area, it is important to have a vessel with enough room to accommodate the necessary crew and equipment to make port in the event of an emergency.

If you are traveling to a port with a significant presence of medical and emergency personnel, it is important to have a vessel large enough to accommodate the necessary personnel.

Overall, the size of the yacht for a transatlantic crossing should be based on the purpose of the voyage, the number of people on board, the size and type of crew, the length of the voyage, the route of the crossing, the type of weather that is expected, and the type of emergency services available along the way.

By taking all of these factors into consideration, you can ensure that you have the best possible vessel for your crossing.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the size of yacht for an Atlantic crossing is an important decision that requires careful planning.

The size of the yacht should be determined by the number of people on board, the size and type of the crew, the length of the voyage, the route of the crossing, the weather conditions, and the availability of emergency services.

Ultimately, the size of the yacht should be based on the purpose of the crossing and the preferences of the crew.

With the right information and careful consideration, you can make an informed decision on the right size yacht to choose for your Atlantic crossing.

James Frami

At the age of 15, he and four other friends from his neighborhood constructed their first boat. He has been sailing for almost 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge that he wants to share with others.

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Best Yachts for Transatlantic Crossing: Our Selection and Advice for 2023

best motorboat to cross atlantic

Sailing across the Atlantic is more than just an item on a bucket list for sailors. It’s how you get your boat to new horizons, whether to cruise the Caribbean islands or explore the waters around Europe. It’s a big undertaking and requires serious planning and a solid sailing vessel. You can cross the Atlantic by yourself, with a rally of like-minded racers and cruisers, or as part of a highly competitive race. But no matter how you go, the choice of a good sailing yacht lies at the foundation of a safe and enjoyable crossing.

What does a boat need for a transatlantic crossing?

best motorboat to cross atlantic

If you choose to do your transatlantic crossing with a rally or race, you’ll have to meet a stringent list of required equipment and safety checks. That’s easier because you have the lists right in front of you, and a team of inspectors to check your work. Preparing for a crossing with just one boat, the captain has to take all the responsibility and know what to check.

Sailing across the Atlantic is a serious undertaking, and you will sail out of range of shore-based rescue and into rapidly changing and possibly severe weather systems. You will have several thousand miles of nonstop sailing and may be at sea for several weeks.

What you must have

Any boat sailing across the Atlantic needs solid construction and a sound rig, a reliable auxiliary engine, and enough stores for food and water for the crew. That’s a bare minimum. Every boat needs to be checked from stem to stern to make sure systems are reliable, many older boats can certainly make this trip, and not every new boat is suitable.

Some tiny boats have crossed the Atlantic, so minimum size isn’t a requirement. What successful boats have in common is a solid hull and rig, with reliable sails and systems.

Most transatlantic yachts have a lot more

You can cross the oceans with a lightly equipped boat with few conveniences or extra safety gear, but most do not. A few things to look for on your boat include:

  • An EPIRB satellite rescue beacon .
  • Long range communication devices, such as satellite phones and single sideband radios.
  • Certified life raft with space for all crew on board.
  • Storm sails
  • Storm safety gear such as drogues or sea anchors.
  • Access to up-to-date weather forecasts and reports.

Do not head offshore without these

The list of required equipment for races and rallies is exhaustive, and many of the requirements are exacting and expensive. No one is enforcing compliance when you sail on your own. But there are a few things you should not head offshore without.

  • A reliable auxiliary engine. If the wind dies and you need to dodge bad weather, this can be a lifesaver.
  • Access to good, current weather information.
  • Reliable sails. Have all sails inspected by a sailmaker for wear and damage before setting out.
  • A life raft. If you run into serious problems and lose your boat, this is your last hope for rescue.
  • Spare parts and tools for common repairs.

Read also: 10 Sailing Myths And Bad Advice You Shouldn’t Listen To

What experience do you need to do a transatlantic?

best motorboat to cross atlantic

A transatlantic crossing is a major sailing milestone for experienced sailors. The north Atlantic is no place for new sailors and beginners, unless they’re with competent and experienced crew or a qualified captain.

If you’re thinking of a transatlantic crossing on your own, you’ll need experience with multi-day, nonstop passages. Sailing offshore is twenty-four hours a day and nonstop, there’s no place to park. Experience with night sailing, standing watches, navigation, provisioning, and basic engine and system troubleshooting are all a must.

Read also: Five Easy Beginners-Friendly Sailing Trips And Destinations

Chartering a yacht – a great option for less experienced sailors.

Charter fleets make seasonal moves from Europe to the Caribbean are an excellent way to get offshore sailing experience. Charter companies provide a captain and first mate, but you can reserve a spot and fill the roles of a full crew member, standing watch and sailing far offshore.

Many boats are also available for charter in cruising rallies, races, and deliveries. You’ll need to hire a captain with the needed offshore experience, but you may come away with enough experience to skipper your own yacht the next time.

The best yachts for a transatlantic crossing

best motorboat to cross atlantic

There are many yachts which are suitable for a transatlantic passage. Some will be less expensive, some will be more comfortable, faster, or better suited to you, your experience, and your budget.

NEEL 51: Fast and easy to sail trimaran

The NEEL 51 is a fast, comfortable trimaran suited to a smaller crew. It’s spacious, but easy to handle while putting up double digit speeds and 200+ mile days. Trimarans can be a little more sea-kindly in waves and chop than catamarans, and don’t heel hard like monohulls. A protected helm station gives great protection offshore and good visibility, and there space on board for plenty of crew and guests.

The racing version of the NEEL 51 is built with lighter materials, and features a larger rig to project more sail area for more speed, while still affording the same luxury and comfort at anchor.

More info about our Neel 51 available for charter

Outremer 5X: High-speed catamaran sailing

The Outremer 5X offers top tier performance and comfort in a single passage. Sustaining double digit speeds with east, the Outremer 5X is one of the fastest cruising catamarans on the market. Outremer is known for both performance and quality, and your transatlantic trip will be fast and safe.

With four different helm stations, she’s a sailing boat foremost. It’s designed for a small crew, even when tearing up the ocean on a fast passage. With options for three or four cabins and a cockpit that can fit a dozen people, she’ll be as comfortable when you arrive as she is fast on passage.

Hallberg-Rassy 57: Sturdy monohull with elegance and speed

Hallberg-Rassy builds tough cruising yachts, and the 57 is no exception. While monohulls don’t put up the blistering speeds you’ll find in multihulls, the Hallberg-Rassy 57 is no slouch and can log 200 mile days. Most offshore sailing and cruising is done in monohulls, and blue water sailors love their stability and seakindliness across all conditions.

The Hallberg-Rassy 57 has generous accommodations, and loads of capacity for gear supplies. The deck layout is clear, and lines and controls are laid out for easy use with a small crew. With a performance design by German Frers, the 57 sails well on all points of sail.

There are many choices for the best boat for you for a transatlantic crossing. No matter which boat you choose for your transatlantic and how you go – on your own, or on a charter – preparation is key. Your boat needs to be equipped with a full range of safety gear, and checked from top to bottom so you know your sails, hull, and engines will get you where you’re going.

Read also: The Caribbean To Mediterranean Sailing Routes: How To Cross The Atlantic Eastward


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Best boat for crossing the Atlantic

Alison Wood

  • Alison Wood
  • May 12, 2023

What is the best boat for crossing the Atlantic? Ali Wood asks the owners of two catamarans and two monohulls sailing the North Atlantic to the Caribbean

Boats leaving port for an Atlantic crossing

The start of the ARC+ rally from Las Palmas in Gran Canaria in November. Credit: James Mitchell/WCC

For many boat owners, the ‘ideal boat’ is determined by the local cruising area.

Should you go further afield you might invest in more kit, or upgrade the batteries or sail wardrobe , for example, but you wouldn’t buy a new boat altogether.

But what about the bluewater dream; the ocean crossing and the months, or years that follow, anchoring in turquoise waters, climbing volcanoes and riding mopeds in search of engine parts?

Your boat is your home, classroom and office.

A decent day’s sailing is no longer the priority.

This ‘dream’ requires a different kind of boat altogether, one that can get you across an ocean safely, but be comfortable enough to live on.

You might need to buy a boat for this very purpose and sell it afterwards. Perhaps you’ll need to rent out your home and sell your possessions.

If you’re resourceful you don’t necessarily have to be rich.

“A bluewater adventure is typically a four to five year project,” says Jeremy Wyatt of the World Cruising Club, organisers of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers ( ARC ).

“You don’t want to use the 35ft yacht you sail around the Solent in, but nor do you want to pay marina fees in Northern Europe for a 45ft catamaran. It’s becoming more common for people to buy a bigger boat for the ARC and then sell it afterwards.”

The average size boat taking part in the ARC today is 48ft, and in the past three years, the share of multihulls has increased from 15% to 26%.

Buy sensibly: Best boat for crossing the Atlantic

Jeremy advises against buying a brand new boat for an ocean crossing. You can spend the same amount again fitting it out, and you’ll be unlikely to get the money back when you sell it.

Let the first owner splash out on the kit and you can reap the benefits (albeit with a few inevitable repairs).

With this in mind, we visited sailors in Gran Canaria and Grenada to find out why they chose the boats they did – from two cruising catamarans built 34 years apart to a Bavaria that needed work, and a high-spec Hallberg-Rassy .

Bernie Kelleher

From: virginia beach, usa. sailing: circe , a 48ft hallberg-rassy.

A man standing on a boat leaving a port

Circe is a Hallberg-Rassy 48 MkI, with a cutter rig. Credit: James Mitchell/WCC

This is my first sailing boat, other than a little catamaran I sailed around the bay in, and a few small fishing boats.

You could say we bought our last boat first! That said, I’ve sailed a lot.

I grew up in Panama, sailing a 72ft schooner with the Sea Scouts, and we’ve chartered in the Caribbean.

I’ve also done the Salty Dawg Rally from Norfolk, Virginia, to Antigua three times, and from Panama to Mexico.

A man and a woman standing on a pontoon

Bernie and Julie Kelleher. Credit: James Mitchell/WCC

My wife, Julie and I like the idea of safety in numbers, which is why we chose to do the ARC for our first transatlantic.

When we did the ARC Baltic, the staff made everything so simple, including going into Russia which, of course, we couldn’t do now, and we’ve kept in touch with the group we sailed with.

As for the boat, we decided on a Hallberg-Rassy for the safety aspect – we felt there was enough proof of them being seaworthy.

Though we were looking for a 46ft model, this 48 popped up at the same time in Germany. She’s a 2005 model.

The owner had bought her new and sailed her around the world once, and then the rest of the time just in the summer.

Very workable Hallberg-Rassy galley

Very workable Hallberg-Rassy galley

We bought the boat in 2017 and sailed to Ellös on the island of Orust in Sweden, which is where they’re made; there are several boatyards in the area who are experts on the model.

We got some work done – I was living in Abu Dhabi at the time – and returned to Europe every summer, except during the Covid-19 lockdown, to sail.

We did the ARC Baltic in 2019 and loved it, which is why we wanted to go with the ARC for the transatlantic.

Cruising around Europe, we met a lot of rain and wind, so were glad we chose the hard top.

Not all models have this, but it’s amazing the difference it makes. In bad weather, if you sit on deck, it’s howling, but as soon as you go under the cover it all quietens down. It’s truly amazing.

Kayaks on the deck of a boat

Plenty room on the decks for kayaks

Everything on deck can be controlled from the cockpit area, and the additional bimini – which we had made – encloses the whole aft deck.

You can sit and have dinner in there. It’s very nice!

I wanted a heavier anchor , so I bought a 45kg Ultra, which has never dragged once, and we added some davits for a dinghy and two 370W solar panels .

I have a bank of 10 house batteries, which is plenty, and the solar panels keep us charged.

Circe is a cutter rig, so we have the main, a genoa and a stay sail, and a Code 0. If we’re sailing downwind then we’ll go for wing-on-wing – Code 0 and genoa.

he roomy interior of the Hallberg-Rassy 48. There is also plenty of storage

he roomy interior of the Hallberg-Rassy 48. There is also plenty of storage

The boat is so well kitted out that my daughter, an environmental consultant, moved on board for the summer and managed to work.

If she had a meeting we’d get up early and sail into a port.

Our two Orange SIM cards for Spain and Portugal worked beautifully, and mobile reception was fine.

There’s loads of storage on this boat. We’ve got heating and air-conditioning, a microwave, a Vitamix, a toaster maker; we’ve got it all and are looking forward to doing the voyage!

Kasper Vagle

From: bergen, norway. sailing: lomvi , a bavaria 38.

A boat with a white hull and sails sailing past some buildings in a port

Lomvi sets off from Las Palmas. The Bavaria 38 was built in 2003. Credit: James Mitchell/WCC

My partner Line is a veterinarian. Our doctor, Ingrid, doesn’t arrive until we stop at Cape Verde, so if we get sick before then, it’s rough treatment!

Line and I are sailing with our three-year-old son Hjalmar and friend Nikolas. Hjalmar was just six months old when we bought our Bavaria 38, Lomvi .

She was built in 2003 and named after a North Atlantic seabird, a ‘guillemot’ in English.

We live on board, which has given us plenty of time to practise sailing over the long summer holidays – though we weren’t that experienced at first, and tore the genoa in strong winds in the fjords.

Lomvi is our first boat, but I crewed on the ARC Europe in 2013.

A woman clipped on the hull of a boat

Relaxation time for Line – but she’s still clipped on. Credit: Kasper Vagle

The experience stayed with me, and later when Line and I drove a tiny car to Mongolia, we got the idea to sail across the Atlantic.

That was three years ago. I was doing my PhD in economics, and this trip was the carrot that kept me going.

We left Norway the day after the defence of my doctorate.

Lomvi was the biggest, nicest boat we could afford on our budget. Actually, she was right at the top of our budget, but she was also the only boat available, and we had just a week to move out of our flat!

I was on paternity leave, so we just did it. I’ve been surprised by how well she sails and how safe the boat feels.

There’s a huge community of Bavaria owners and Facebook forums where you can ask anything… which is just as well as we had to basically make an ocean sailing boat out of one kitted out for weekend cruising.

Safety netting around a boat

With a young son on board, Kasper put up safety netting around the boat

Safety is a priority. We put netting up around the boat and bought an engine fire suppression system.

We can’t afford to employ anyone, so we’ve done a lot of YouTubing and trying out things for the first time.

We upgraded the batteries to lithium and the charger, and I welded the frame for the solar panels .

I’d never done welding before, but my father-in-law had the tools and I learnt from watching videos. It’s not cracked yet!

I’ve been really pleased with the solar panels. Between those and the 400Ah of lithium batteries , we’ve never had to worry about electricity.

That said, we don’t have a fridge or use a lot of power – we need the power for the autopilot. I have no technical background.

I’ve spent four years in an office so DIY is a completely new universe.

A crew of a boat sitting on the back of a yacht

Lomvi ’s crew for the ARC+ Credit: World Cruising Club

I bought a 10-year-old Spectra watermaker . Bought new, they’re super expensive, so I was keen to refurbish an old one.

That’s really been a challenge trying to make it work! I completely disassembled and then reassembled it.

I spent hours in correspondence with Spectra technical support (who were great by the way).

There are so many things you have to read up on, but slowly I’m starting to understand them – how to fix leaking toilets and things like that.

I haven’t enjoyed it all – I’ve cried in frustration during the process. DIY has its ups and downs but when you fix something it’s worth it, and if it breaks at sea I’ll have a better understanding.

I was so happy when we made our first litre of water!

With the solar panels, we can sail for four to five days without running the engine to charge the batteries, even if it’s completely overcast.

I’m glad I made the frame at the back. Some of the other people on the ARC have mounted their solar panels on the sprayhood or deck and they’re having trouble with the shadow from the sails.

They’re not getting the charge they hoped for. We have the original mainsail from 2003 and are also carrying a gennaker and storm jib .

Our friends and family pitched in to buy us the gennaker as a PhD finishing present.

A solar array on a boat on a DIY welded frame

Lomvi ’s solar array on a DIY welded frame

It wasn’t on our must-have list, but I’m so happy now we have it.

We sail with it a lot, and it makes light wind sailing super enjoyable, allowing us to sail higher.

Hjalmar has adapted so well. He climbs all over the boat but has learnt to hold on to things.

He doesn’t like being on deck in bad weather, but is very happy down below in rough seas.

We said to ourselves, if he doesn’t like sailing, it will be a deal-breaker, but fortunately he does!

It’s been going surprisingly well, although I must download some new films for him on the tablet as he’s watched Winnie the Pooh a hundred times! It’s been nice being together as a family.

Before now, we’d been busy with work, sending him to kindergarten, and spending only a few hours in the afternoon when you’re tired and trying to get tea ready.

This way we have a lot more time together now.

We’ve been nicer parents, nicer to be around. It’s been very good for us all.

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Chet Chauhan

From: london/holland sailing: navisana , a nautitech 46 open.

A aerial view of a couple on their catamaran yacht

Navisana and her crew. They are planning to sail around the world. Credit: Chet Chauhan

I got into sailing over 20 years ago. I raced a lot in the Solent, got my Yachtmaster , and did a few charter holidays in the Med and Caribbean.

In 2000, I started planning my first extended cruising trip… and did it 10 years later.

This will be my second trip, and this time my partner, Jessy, and I are planning to take a three- to five-year sabbatical to hopefully sail the world.

When I prepared for my first round-the-world trip I was working in Silicon Valley, San Francisco.

I owned an old Beneteau First 38. It didn’t have any of the cruising gear on it; just two small batteries; the house bank was 55Ah.

Three people standing on a yacht

Jessy, Chet and crew Dan arrive in St Lucia. Credit: World Cruising Club

It was during the financial crisis and I couldn’t sell her, so instead I spent two years turning her into a cruising boat.

I added a wind vane , fuel tank, SSB radio , new house bank, solar, a windlass , and much more.

With my girlfriend at the time, we sailed down to Mexico, spent six months there and made our way to Australia.

It took around 14 months. It was a great trip; the best time of my life, but still I felt that the boat wasn’t a proper cruising boat.

She sailed really well – I have always owned performance boats – but I was thinking, next time I’m going to buy the right boat in the beginning.

When I started planning for this trip I had my heart set on the 45ft range of older cruising boats – Hallberg-Rassys, Oysters – but then I started thinking about the tropics and how for that kind of sailing, a catamaran is the right boat.

Chet and Jessy are now crossing the Pacific. Credit: Chet

Chet and Jessy are now crossing the Pacific. Credit: Chet Chauhan

In the South Pacific, and when you’re at anchor, it’s hard to find completely calm anchorages; they’re always a bit rolly, but with a catamaran it stays flat and you can go right inshore.

Even Skip Novak, who owns only monohulls, insists that catamarans are best for a tropical circumnavigation.

It took me 23 days to cross the Pacific, and we were heeled all the time – eating and sleeping at an angle. It’s not a big issue for me, but Jessy is a relatively new sailor.

I’m dragging her on this trip, with a free ‘opt-out any time’ card, so I need to make sure it’s comfortable!

I’ve chartered a lot of catamarans and there are two camps – you’ve got the Lagoons, Leopards and Fountaine-Pajots, which are optimised for interior space, but don’t sail easily in light airs.

You need 15 knots to really get them going. They’ll be fine in the ARC, with the tradewinds behind, but in Asia and the Med, you’ll have the engine running a lot.

Then there are the Outremers – daggerboard boats with narrower hulls.

They’re higher performance, but on an ocean crossing most owners have to slow the boat down to make it comfortable in the waves.

They’re weight sensitive – which prevents you from taking all the cruising gear you want – and more expensive, so for a circumnavigation that wasn’t right for us.

In between these camps you have Nautitech and Seawind catamarans, which don’t have daggerboards.

They don’t point as well as the Outremers, but they do have a lot of space, perform well and are a great compromise.

We can do all our night and day watches from the nav station inside the boat, which is one of the things I love about Nautitechs.

You can turn the seat to face forward to give full 360° visibility and you are totally protected from the elements.

A couple standing on the bow of their catamaran

Find out more about Chet’s kit list and adventures at

The downside is that it’s harder to see the stars at night, so we have to drag ourselves outside and put on lifejackets and tethers for that.

I don’t like sitting on a pedestal. I like a boat where you feel you’re sailing, and you can feel the pressure on the rudder when steering, which is another reason we went with Nautitech, and their two aft helms that are directly connected to the rudders .

My first three boats were 20 years old, and my fourth six years old, so a brand new boat was a departure for me!

I’d have preferred to have been the second owner because the first one has to deal with all the build issues, but I couldn’t find a second-hand Nautitech 46 Open.

This is hull number 165 and we’ve had no major build issues after a year. I’ve had to add a lot of equipment.

A new catamaran like this would be great for weekend sailing, but it’s different if you want to go round the world in it.

We’ve added 2,000W of solar power, and changed the batteries and setup to lithium.

We also added a 100l/hour watermaker, downwind sails and upgraded the anchor.

After sailing from Europe and crossing the Atlantic with the ARC we are now getting ready to cross the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia.

We are very happy with our decision to get a new Nautitech catamaran.

Jon Walmsley

From: essex, uk sailing: ciel bleu , a fountaine pajot maldives 32.

A boat in an anchorage

Ciel Bleu and her crew. The catamaran was the oldest taking part in the 2022 ARC. Credit: Travis Ranger/WCC

At 32ft, Ciel Bleu is the smallest boat in the ARC+ fleet, and also the oldest catamaran; she was built in 1988.

Funnily enough, the biggest catamaran, Elsie 1 , is also a Fontaine Pajot, a brand new Samana 59.

I used to work in IT and my partner, Dawn, worked in a school.

When I retired I got to the point in my life when I had the freedom to go cruising. I suggested to Dawn we cross the Atlantic.

She wasn’t keen, but agreed to join us for short hops from our home in Paglesham, Essex, to the Canaries.

When a crewmember dropped out, she decided to stay on for the whole trip, together with my friend, Shaun and nephew, Stephen.

A table on a catamaran

Jon loves the living space you get with catamarans. Credit: Ali Wood

Other transatlantic sailors we met en-route to the Canaries were dismissive of us doing the ARC+.

They made us feel we’d turned up for a cycle race with training wheels on, but I’m so glad we’re doing this with other boats.

We’ve made so many friends in the fleet. It’s a really good community, and we’ve got a lot out of it. I’ve had to spend a lot of money to kit her out – around £15,000 to £20,000.

The watermaker alone cost £5,000, but it would be the same with any other ocean-going boat.

The cost of rally fees on top are pretty small in comparison.

Back home we sail on the East Coast, where I’m a member of the Roach Sailing Association.

It’s a very small club; a group of very hands-on people.

My father owned a boat and I’ve been fiddling with them all my life.

An outboard engine on a boat

There is a huge weight saving in having just one outboard

I previously owned a Wharram Tiki 28 catamaran but we wanted more space for our adventure. I narrowed the search down to two options: a Farrier-designed folding trimaran (a boat I’d still love to own), or a Fountaine Pajot Maldives 32.

We settled for the latter, which we found in Langstone Sailing Club by Hayling Island.

She’d been fully refurbished to a standard that surpassed the original build.

At 32ft long, Ciel Bleu falls in the 10m category when berthing in a marina, and is 17ft 6in wide.

There aren’t many small cruising catamarans around like her because the market swiftly moved upwards when they grew in popularity. Fountaine Pajot stopped making the Maldives 32 in 1991.

With a single 9.9hp outboard Ciel Bleu is a really light boat – just 3 tonnes; the lightest by far on the rally.

Four people holding a banner by a boat

The crew of Ciel Bleu. Credit: World Cruising Club

Twin diesels on a catamaran this size would increase the displacement considerably, adding weight where you don’t want it and compromising the sailing performance.

Ciel Bleu is tiller-steered, and for long passages we use a tillerpilot. Hand-steering downwind on a cat you swerve all over the place, so you realise what a good job it does.

The problem, though, is in a rain shower or heavy spray, water travels past the ram and upsets the electronics.

The first sign is the display steaming up so I had to buy a cover and make a waterproof sleeve, which did the job.

Many sailors (including myself) would favour a traditional blue water cruiser over a lightweight catamaran for ocean passages because of its seaworthiness in bad conditions.

If a traditional heavy displacement blue water cruiser could be seen as a half-full glass bottle bobbing in the water, then Ciel Bleu is more akin to an empty egg box floating upon it.

The biggest worry is a capsize. This can happen when the boat accelerates down a wave too fast and trips over itself at the bottom.

To mitigate this, I’ve got a 4ft drogue to stream behind the boat on a bridle and 150ft of warp.

One good thing about Ciel Bleu is that she’s lined with foam and has watertight compartments in each bow and large foam blocks in her sterns which, coupled with unballasted keels, renders her buoyant even if full of water or upside down.

Even if we had to take to the liferaft, you’d stay with the boat and provisions.

Although she has a lot of space inside, the light displacement and lack of a deep bilge means there’s not a lot of space for fuel and water on long passages.

I had to add additional tanks last winter. I’ve always loved multihulls.

I like the space, the trampoline, and having room for a dinghy on the back, plus you can play Scrabble every night and drink full cups of tea, not ones that are two thirds full.

Once you start catamaran sailing it’s hard to go back!

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Crossing the Atlantic on a Yacht in Comfort

Experienced cruisers often discover Kadey-Krogen Yachts because they begin to search for yachts capable of crossing the Atlantic. If one searches the listings for Transatlantic boats for sale or contacts a broker with a very specific request to hear about yachts that can cross the Atlantic, they’re bound to discover plenty of superyachts, and some custom trawlers, and, of course, a selection of our models that are built to take on long bluewater cruising legs such as one takes on for an ocean crossinig.

Those who are more serious about open-ocean crossings begin to think about the best time to cross the Atlantic west to east and also consider provisioning, crew, a timetable, potential destinations, and all the factors, large and small, that enter into this exciting equation.

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Lessons Learned in more than two years of cruising in Northern Europe

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Sail Across the Atlantic – Everything You Need to Know

Whether you’re a serious sailor, sailing enthusiast or even a family with a shared love of the ocean, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean is an unforgettable offshore adventure.

Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean is a dream that has captivated the hearts and minds of adventurers, explorers, and sailors for centuries. The vast expanse of water stretching between the continents of Europe and the Americas offers a unique and exhilarating challenge that beckons those with a spirit of adventure.

How Long Does It Take To Sail Across the Atlantic

Embarking on a transatlantic voyage is a dance with time itself. The duration of the journey hinges on several factors, especially the route you choose to take.

The northern passage typically takes between 15 to 30 days, depending on the specific route taken and prevailing conditions, while the southern passage route usually takes around 20 to 40 days to complete, depending on factors such as wind strength and sailing speed.

Transatlantic Routes

The Atlantic Ocean offers several routes, each with its own unique character and challenges. 

Sailing West to East with the North Atlantic Route

The North Atlantic route is known for its challenging conditions, including strong winds, rough seas, and rapidly changing weather. Sailors must be prepared to handle adverse conditions and make strategic decisions to ensure the safety of the crew and the vessel.

The voyage typically begins on the east coast of the United States or Canada and follows a northeasterly course toward Europe from Bermuda. 

One of the most popular routes is from Bermuda to Portugal and covers just over 2,706 nautical miles and takes 20 to 25 days to complete. Another popular route is Bermuda to the United Kingdom via the Azores covering 3,129 nautical miles and taking 25 to 31 days to complete. 

The best time to complete this route is from 1 July to 30 September. 

Sailing East to West with the Southern Passage

The southern passage route from Europe to the Caribbean is guided by steady trade winds and a gentler rhythm of the ocean. It offers a more predictable and comfortable sailing experience, as sailors can harness the consistent trade winds that blow from east to west across the Atlantic. This route is popular among sailors seeking a smoother and more leisurely crossing. 

The voyage typically begins in Europe , often from ports in Portugal or Spain, and heads southwest toward the Caribbean. While the southern passage is generally more favourable in terms of weather and sea conditions, sailors must still remain vigilant and prepared for changes in wind strength and direction.

best motorboat to cross atlantic

The most popular routes east to west are from Portugal to Barbados which covers 4,100 nautical miles and takes 21 to 31 days to complete, and from Gran Canaria to Saint Lucia which covers 2,700 nautical miles and takes 20 to 25 days to complete. 

The best time to complete this route is from 30 November to 28 February. 

Weather on an Atlantic Crossing

The weather during a sailing trip across the Atlantic is influenced by a complex interplay of factors. Prevailing wind patterns, such as the Trade Winds and the Westerlies, shape the direction and speed of the vessel’s journey. 

Ocean currents, like the Gulf Stream, can accelerate or impede progress, affecting navigation decisions. Atmospheric pressure systems, such as high atmospheric pressure and low-pressure areas, dictate wind strength and weather conditions. 

Seasonal variations and geographical features, like the Azores High and the Intertropical Convergence Zone, introduce variability in wind and rain patterns. Additionally, the Atlantic’s vast size and varied geography contribute to regional differences in climate, with the potential for sudden weather changes and the formation of storms.

Weather information and forecasts play a critical role in helping skippers make informed decisions to navigate challenging conditions and avoid potential dangers.

The Right Sailboat to Sail Across the Atlantic

Selecting the appropriate vessel for a transatlantic voyage is a decision that shapes the entire experience. 

Monohulls: Monohull sailboats are known for their stability in rough seas and their ability to handle a variety of weather conditions. However, it’s essential to choose a well-built, ocean-worthy vessel designed for long-distance cruising. The right one can provide a level of comfort and convenience that can be especially appealing for those seeking a more leisurely transatlantic crossing.

best motorboat to cross atlantic

Multihulls: Crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a multihull sailboat, which includes catamarans and trimarans, is becoming increasingly popular due to their unique advantages and capabilities. Multihulls have multiple hulls, which offer benefits in terms of stability, speed, and comfort, as well as much mroe deck space. 

Tall Ship: Steeped in history and romance, tall ships evoke the nostalgia of a bygone era. Their majestic masts and billowing sails harken back to the golden age of exploration and offer a unique and authentic seafaring experience. However, despite their size, crossing the ocean with a tall ship has its challenges and demands a skilled crew familiar with traditional sailing techniques.

Unconventional Boats: Many unconventional boats have crossed the Atlantic. British adventurer Roz Savage completed two solo Atlantic Ocean crossings in a rowboat. While others have tried but not yet succeeded in unconventional vessels like Andrew Bedwell who tried to cross in a 3.5 metre vessel. 

Technology Onboard

When undertaking an Atlantic crossing, a boat should be equipped with essential technology for safety and navigation. This includes GPS, electronic charts, radar, AIS, communication tools like VHF radio and satellite phone, emergency equipment such as EPIRB and life rafts, navigation and weather software, power generation sources like solar panels and wind generators, and backup systems for redundancy. 

Having backup tools, spare parts, and navigational charts ensures preparedness for emergency repairs. Proper familiarity with and maintenance of these technologies are crucial for a successful and secure voyage.

Is Bigger Better?

Ultimately, the “right” boat size for crossing the Atlantic depends on your personal preferences, the type of vessel you’re comfortable with, your sailing experience, and your intended voyage. Smaller boats, including monohulls and multihulls, have successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean, often with solo sailors or small crews. 

It’s essential to match the boat’s size with your skill level, comfort, and the goals you have for your voyage. Proper planning, preparation, and understanding your boat’s capabilities are key to a safe and enjoyable transatlantic crossing.

Who Can Sail Across the Atlantic

The allure of transatlantic sailing transcends skill levels, beckoning both seasoned sailors and those new to the world of seafaring.

best motorboat to cross atlantic

Skill Level

Novices can sail in guided group expeditions. Many sailing schools and organisations offer transatlantic training programs designed to prepare novice sailors for the challenges of open-ocean voyages. These programs cover topics such as navigation, seamanship, weather forecasting, and emergency procedures, ensuring that participants are well-equipped to handle the demands of a transatlantic crossing.

To start gaining more knowledge consider a course like your RYA Day Skipper. 

Solo and Groups

Experienced sailors can opt for solo endeavours, navigating the challenges of the open water alone. Solo transatlantic crossings require a high level of skill, self-sufficiency, and mental resilience. Solo sailors must be prepared to handle all aspects of the voyage, from navigation and sail trim to maintenance and emergency repairs. It is not an easy task but a rewarding one. 

Group transatlantic voyages offer the opportunity to share the challenges and triumphs of the journey with like-minded individuals. Crew members can provide support, share knowledge, and contribute their unique skills to the overall success of the voyage.

When Is The Best Time To Sail Across The Atlantic?

Navigating the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean demands strategic timing to ensure a safe and rewarding transatlantic crossing. Sailors must carefully consider multiple factors when determining the best time to embark on this epic journey. 

Avoid Hurricane Season

To mitigate risks, it’s crucial to avoid the peak of the hurricane season, which spans from early June to late November, by planning departures before or after this period. 

Trade Winds

The trade wind seasons play a pivotal role. Departing between November and January is ideal for east-to-west crossings (Europe to the Americas), taking advantage of strong easterly winds, while west-to-east voyages (Americas to Europe) are best undertaken from April to June. 

Transitional Seasons

The transitional seasons of spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) offer milder conditions, reducing the likelihood of encountering severe weather. Additionally, the Northern Hemisphere summer (June to August) may provide calmer conditions near specific regions like the Azores and Bermuda due to seasonal temperature gradients. 

Monitoring and Flexibility

Even with careful planning, weather conditions can vary. Modern technology, including advanced weather forecasting and satellite communication, allows sailors to monitor changing weather patterns closely. This flexibility enables them to adjust departure dates to align with the most favourable conditions.

What To Expect When You Sail Across The Atlantic

Embarking on a transatlantic voyage is a transformative experience that unveils a variety of emotions and encounters.

guests sailing across the atlantic

Isolation and Self-Discovery

The vastness of the open ocean fosters introspection, offering moments of solitude and self-contemplation. Sailing farther from land, the ocean becomes a place for self-discovery. Away from distractions, sailors connect with their thoughts, gaining profound insights and a deeper understanding of themselves.

Adapting to Dynamic Conditions

Navigating the Atlantic demands adaptability, as calm waters can swiftly turn tempestuous. Sailors encounter a range of weather patterns, from tranquillity to storms. Success hinges on quick decision-making, adjusting sails, altering course, and ensuring safety in rapidly changing wind and wave conditions.

Marine Life and Celestial Wonders

The Atlantic unveils captivating marine life and celestial spectacles. Sailors witness dolphins, whales, and seabirds in their natural habitat. Nights offer starry skies and bioluminescent wonders, like meteor showers, illuminating the transatlantic journey with awe-inspiring beauty.


The challenges and triumphs of crossing an ocean create a deep bond among crew members. Everyone is on the same journey, facing the same conditions, and working together towards a common goal.

Preparing for Sailing Across The Atlantic

Preparing for a transatlantic crossing demands meticulous planning and a comprehensive understanding of the necessities.

Route and Preparation

Craft a detailed route plan, communication strategies, and contingency plans for a successful transatlantic journey. Thorough preparation is key, covering route selection, departure dates, emergency procedures, and communication protocols. 

Consider wind patterns, currents, and potential hazards during route planning. Prepare provisions like food, water, and supplies. Develop contingency plans for adverse weather, medical emergencies, and navigation challenges.

Apparel for All Conditions

Pack layered clothing, foul-weather gear, and safety equipment to adapt to changing weather. Proper clothing ensures comfort and safety. Layering helps regulate temperature, and specialised gear like waterproof jackets, pants, and boots protects against the elements. Safety items like life jackets and harnesses are crucial on deck. Include hats, gloves, and sunglasses for sun protection.

Essential Gear and Tools

Equip with navigation tools, communication devices, safety gear, and spare parts. Success relies on proper gear. Navigation tools (GPS, charts, compasses) aid in plotting courses. Communication devices (satellite phones, radios) keep sailors connected. Safety gear like life rafts, EPIRBs, and flares are vital in emergencies. Carrying spare parts and tools prevents breakdowns.

Stock up on non-perishable food, fresh water, and cooking facilities. Consider food diversity and nutritional balance. Fresh water should be rationed, and watermakers or desalination systems help generate freshwater. Cooking facilities enable meal preparation, accounting for dietary preferences and nutritional needs.

Navigating Legally

Secure necessary permits and documentation for international waters. Crossing boundaries requires permits, visas, and paperwork for foreign ports. Research entry requirements and apply for permits early. Maintain organised vessel documentation for customs and immigration inspections.

Risks of Sailing Across the Atlantic

While Atlantic crossings offer an unparalleled sense of accomplishment, ocean sailing carries some inherent risks.

Weather Challenges

The Atlantic’s unpredictable weather presents dangers from storms to hurricane-force winds. Vigilant weather monitoring and advanced prediction tools help sailors adapt routes and sail plans. A defined storm plan, including course adjustments and reducing sail, is vital for safety in the face of approaching storms.

Health Considerations

Seasickness, fatigue, and medical emergencies require self-sufficiency at sea. Coping with seasickness involves staying hydrated and using medications. Combatting fatigue demands a well-structured watch schedule for adequate rest. Basic first-aid training and well-equipped medical kits are crucial for addressing health issues in remote settings.

Equipment Reliability

Vessel malfunctions demand resourcefulness and preparation. Mechanical, electronic, and communication systems can fail due to the ocean’s rigours. Pre-departure checks and onboard tools aid in identifying and addressing potential issues. Crew members should possess repair skills and improvisational abilities to tackle unexpected breakdowns and ensure vessel safety.

The ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers)

Participating in organized events like the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) is one way to cross the ocean. The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) is a renowned annual sailing event organised by the World Cruising Club and a favourite in the yachting world. It brings together sailors worldwide and provides an opportunity for sailors to cross the Atlantic Ocean in the company of a group, enhancing safety and camaraderie. 

ARC yachts sailing

There are three different ARC events, which present three different ways to cross the Atlantic. 

The original and most well-known event is the ARC. It typically takes place in November and involves a west-to-east crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands to Rodney Bay in Saint Lucia, in the Caribbean. 

The ARC covers a distance of approximately 2,700 nautical miles and is open to a wide range of sailing vessels, from small cruisers to larger yachts. It offers a combination of bluewater sailing, challenges, and social activities, making it a popular choice for sailors seeking both adventure and community.

ARC Europe is a variation of the ARC that offers a more flexible route for sailors who prefer a northern European departure. It typically starts from a European port (such as Portsmouth, UK) and finishes in the same location as the main ARC event, Rodney Bay in Saint Lucia. ARC Europe provides participants with the opportunity to experience a mix of coastal and offshore sailing as they make their way south to the Caribbean.

The ARC+ is designed for sailors who want to extend their voyage and explore more destinations before reaching the Caribbean. The ARC+ event offers two routes: one starting from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, as in the main ARC event, and another starting from Mindelo in Cape Verde. Both routes converge in Saint Lucia, giving participants a chance to experience different cultures and sailing challenges along the way.

Each of these ARC events emphasises safety, camaraderie, and adventure. The World Cruising Club provides extensive support, including safety seminars, social events, weather routing, and radio nets to ensure participants have a smooth and enjoyable crossing. 

Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean is a remarkable journey that demands a blend of skill, preparation, and a spirit of adventure. While it may seem like a daunting experience, it’s not just for seasoned sailors. With the right boat, people, equipment and preparation it is an accessible, life-changing adventure that almost anyone can enjoy. 

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How to sail across the Atlantic and back

Elaine Bunting

  • Elaine Bunting
  • March 8, 2021

Confined to quarters during the pandemic, many sailors are itching to slip their lines and sail for the sun. Elaine Bunting explains exactly how to break free and sail across the Atlantic and back

A yacht sailing over the horizon

If your dream is sailing off into the sunset, making it a reality could be easier than you think

Just as the island of Hiddensee drew across the wake of the boat, Malin Andersson took up her camera and shot a video, writes Elaine Bunting .

When she looks at it now, a late summer scene from the Baltic coast of Germany, she remembers it as the instant she knew for certain she was right to think of leaving work to go cruising.

Malin and her partner Kaj Maass, both from Sweden and aged in their late twenties, met as students and formed a plan to take a year off before starting a family.

After years of scrimping, they bought a Bavaria 38 and renamed her Cross Ocean .

With the last tiny island of a summer cruise behind them, they began to prepare to sail across the Atlantic and back, and a year of adventure.

‘From then, we have never had a moment of regret about setting off,’ she says.

Each year, hundreds of yachtsmen of all ages sail across the Atlantic.

Some have only a few months of freedom, others plan to cruise indefinitely.

Their ambitions shape diverse choices in terms of boat design and preparations.

Here, we look at some of the biggest considerations if that is your goal, too.

What’s the right boat to sail across the Atlantic?

A good place to start might be with the question: can I sail across the Atlantic and back in the yacht I have now?

In most cases, the answer is yes.

Almost any well-prepared yacht of 30ft and upwards can tackle the downwind crossing, and indeed there is no reason why an even smaller boat can’t do it successfully.

People have crossed in Folkboats; the legendary American sailor Webb Chiles sailed across the Pacific in a converted 24ft dayboat, and some masochistic adventurers have crossed oceans in micro yachts not even long enough for them to stretch out in.

Two sailors I have repeatedly met over the years are Swedes Pekka and Barbro Karlsson.

They first crossed the Atlantic in 1986 in their 32ft Arvid Lauren-designed double-ender, Corona AQ .

A woman and two men sitting on the deck of their yacht

Pekka and Barbo Karisson have sailed their 32ft double ender across the Atlantic multiple times over 30 years. Credit: World Cruising Club

Over the last 30 years, they have made multiple crossings back and forth, observing boats getting ever larger, even of the same LOA as theirs.

By comparison, theirs is dwarfed in every dimension, including beam and freeboard, yet it has everything this experienced couple need for living on board for six or more months every year.

So, really, it is a matter of cost, preference and expectation.

The big question is whether your current yacht is the best tool for the job given your budget.

Is it large enough for the crew you intend for longer passages, for the provisions, fuel and water?

A 35-footer might take 25-28 days to sail across the Atlantic from the Canaries to the West Indies.

Obviously, the longer and faster your boat is, the more stowage and water tankage you will have for less time at sea.

You might also ask yourself which parts of the adventure are the most valuable to you.

You will need a solid yacht to sail across the Atlantic

A solid yacht set up for bluewater cruising is a good option and can be sold once you return home. Credit: Tor Johnson

If you don’t intend to do the more arduous return home to Europe, maybe you don’t need a bigger, more expensive, more complex long-legged bluewater cruiser; you could consider shipping back – more on that option later.

If you intend to live on board for longer, then perhaps you will want more space, including for guests, greater comforts and faster passage times.

In that case, one solution might be to buy for the duration of the project a second-hand bluewater cruiser already well kitted out with the right gear, then sell her right afterwards.

‘I think that makes total sense,’ says Sue Grant, managing director of Berthon International, the well-known brokers specialising in bluewater cruisers.

‘The best thing you can do for a North Atlantic circuit is to buy from the guy who had the dream, had the money and didn’t go. A refit will always cost you more than you think.’

For a two- to three-season transocean cruise, Grant advocates stretching up to your next level, especially to a yacht that doesn’t need a big refit and brands with a strong residual value.

‘If you buy a high-quality Hallberg-Rassy or an Oyster then sell it you’d lose 10% of value but have three years for it.’

Buy a boat you will enjoy

While in the Azores in 2012 I met Stuart and Anne Letton, who were sailing their Island Packet 45, Time Bandit , back to the UK.

Their boat was brimming with sensible ideas for living aboard and I have kept in touch with them over the years as they are a wonderful source of thoughtful advice.

Since then they have sold the Island Packet , bought an Outremer 51 catamaran, sailed across the Atlantic again, and are presently in Indonesia having sailed across the Pacific.

In total, they have now logged a very impressive 60,000 miles.

A couple on the trampoline of their catamaran

Catamarans are increasingly popular thanks to their speed and space. Credit: Stuart & Anne Letton

‘Before we went cruising, I spent a lot of time looking at what would be the best, safest mode of transport. I wanted a proven, tough, sturdy, bombproof ocean cruiser, hence Time Bandit [the Island Packet], the “Beige Battleship”,’ says Stuart.

‘Having spent my sailing career racing performance dinghies and keel boats, this was something of a departure for me. It was safe. And a bit boring. However, the reality is you all end up in the same place, give or take a few days. With reflection, though, I’d say, buy a boat that will make you happy, one that reflects your sailing style and capabilities. We opted for slow but safe and used the safe features a handful of days in 10 years. Those were years we could have been enjoying more rewarding sailing.

‘Buy what you will enjoy, can afford and are able to keep running. Do the maths on running costs, rig, insurance and repairs, and work that into the budget.’

Asked about their ideas of the ideal size for a couple, the Lettons comment: ‘Generally I’d say bigger is better, but the costs are exponential. Personally, for two up, I think around 40-45ft feet is a good size: big enough to be safe and comfortable, small enough to manage.’

Tips on how to sail across the Atlantic from Stuart & Anne Letton

The couple own the Outremer 51, Time Bandit and have completed four Atlantic crossings and sailed 60,000 miles

Stuart and Anne Letton

Stuart and Anne Letton.

‘Being very well set up for dead downwind sailing is important, especially well thought-out preventers, fore and aft on the spinnaker pole and main boom.

‘An asymmetric or spinnaker will keep you moving in lighter air.

‘Save on gas with a Thermal Cookpot and get as much free power from water and sun as you can.

‘Trade in your trusty CQR or Bruce anchor for a spade or similar “new technology” anchor .

Is a bigger boat better for crossing the Atlantic?

Like the Lettons, I think 40-45ft is something of a sweet spot, offering the volume and tankage required for longer cruising, yet still manageable by a small crew.

Bigger has its advantages, even up to 55ft (above that the loads become too large to handle manually and maintenance is a massive chore for a family crew, requiring significant time and budget).

The waterline length and extra speed will be your friend, most of the time.

Speed is your ally in evading bad weather, and if you are sailing to a schedule.

A yacht anchored in a bay with a palm tree

The Witt family sailed around the world as part of the World Cruising Club World ARC

Karsten Witt and his wife, Sheila, circumnavigated in the World ARC in their X-55 Gunvør XL , and he says: ‘It was hardest work for the smaller or slower boats. They are at sea longer, therefore experience more and sometimes harder weather, arrive later in port, get more tired and have less time to make repairs and bank downtime.

‘I would always go for a modern boat that’s faster,’ he adds.

‘If you had a heavy 40ft cruiser you would miss weather windows. Other boats spend days battling headwinds because they were doing 6-7 knots upwind and they couldn’t point. We averaged 200 miles a day every day, so in five days were a long way away and in completely different weather.’

But you certainly don’t need a large or expensive yacht, just a well-prepared one.

Starting with the basics: safety gear, fire and gas installations, good sails with deep reefs, in date and inspected rig, winches and all machinery serviced, and power and battery systems upgraded if necessary, plus full inspection of keel fastenings and rudder, skeg and bearings.

After that, you really need to know how everything on board works, how you’d repair or service it and, if you can’t, how you would manage without.

A crew on a yacht about to sail across the Atlantic on the ARC

Karsten and Sheila Witt and family enjoyed the extra pace and comfort of their X-55. Credit: World Cruising Club

Only after considering that is it worth adding complexity.

Multiple power generation systems, including hydro-generator and solar panels, watermakers, diesel generators and WiFi networks.

Mark Matthews is marine surveyor who ran Professional Yacht Deliveries for 12 years, a company that moves around 200 yachts and averages 350,000 miles a year.

When he made his own Atlantic crossing, it was in a 42ft production yacht.

‘We kept the original sail plan and sails and did not have a generator or other means of charging the batteries apart from the engine. We took bottled water to supplement the on-board tankage. We only invested in a secondhand satellite phone, jerrycans for additional fuel, fishing tackle, wind scoops for the West Indies and provisions for the crossing. We crossed from the Canaries to the West Indies in 17 days,’ he explains.

But if you are looking at a boat for the way back to Europe or outside the downwind routes of the tropics, maybe you should look at more conservative, heavier displacement types, he suggests.

A yacht for a one-way voyage?

The downwind Tradewinds crossing can really be tackled in any well-prepared boat large enough for your crew, so one way to look at an Atlantic circuit is to weigh up first how you feel about the way back home, and factor that into the cost equation.

A growing number of sailors spend the winter season in the sun, or several consecutive seasons between periods of work, then ship their boat back.

This on-off cruising lifestyle could be compatible with some remote working, so while extremely expensive in itself, shipping represents a trade-off that could be worth considering.

A yacht being craned onto a transporter ship

You may find a smaller boat adequate, especially if you are shipping it home. Credit: Neville Hockley

Minus requirements dictated by the longer, more windward crossing back home, perhaps you could go in a ‘one-way/downwind-only/island-hopping’ boat option.

That could be a much smaller boat, a lighter, simpler or more performance-orientated yacht.

A one-way voyage involves relatively short times at sea, possibly three weeks at most, and you might be able to manage without spending a fortune on equipment.

This year, Peters & May will be loading from Antigua, St Lucia and Martinique and have ships going into the Med, Southampton and other North Sea or Baltic ports.

Michael Wood, general manager of Peters & May, quotes typical prices of US$10,200 for a 32-footer and US$21,600 for a 41-footer.

Unlike a delivery service, shipping saves on the wear and tear from an Atlantic crossing, so is also something to weigh up.

Ready to go?

Typically, getting ready to go off for an Atlantic circuit or more needs a two- to three-year runway.

I have met people who have done it much quicker – I recently met an American family who only decided to go cruising last June and were in the Canary Islands with a brand new catamaran in November – but it is stressful, and you risk sailing away with a long list of warranty work needed, and jobs lists incomplete.

It might take most of a year to choose, trial and select the right boat, then you could spend the next year sailing from your home port, preparing, fitting new gear, testing and sea trialling everything and upping your knowledge level.

Kaj Maass and Malin Andersson, an engineer and a pre-school teacher respectively, bought their Bavaria 38 Cross Ocean in 2016 for €80,000 and lived on board for a summer and winter to increase their savings.

Provision on yacht ahead of the crew left to cross the Atlantic

You’ll need space to store enough food for the crew – though choice in foreign ports may be limited. Credit: Kaj Maass & Malin Andersson

‘You don’t have to set off for several years right away, you could make the adventure in smaller parts,’ says Kaj.

‘We met several sailors who sailed for a couple of months, left the boat, flew back home, and continued later on. We adjusted upgrades, the time frame for the adventure, and saved during our day-to-day lives before setting off.’

Do make sure everything you fit for your cruise is well-tested and problems ironed out before you set out to sail across the Atlantic.

If you buy a new boat, expect lots of snagging.

Sorry to say it, but yards tend to put switches, filters and so on in silly places, and because yachts have relatively low volume sales, information about fitting or installation problems can take a while to circle back and be corrected.

Some cruisers decide to replace their engine for peace of mind before leaving to cross the Atlantic

Kaj and Malin replaced their engine for peace of mind. Credit: Kaj Maass & Malin Andersson

If you leave before inevitable glitches are corrected, you could spend days arguing with the boatbuilder or manufacturer about who is responsible and how they are going to get spare parts to you.

This quickly rubs the nap off a dream cruising life.

A year of home-range cruising will also allow you to gain all the knowledge and training you need, which should include essential maintenance know-how and medical and sea survival training (people tend to rave about the latter, interestingly).

It will also allow you time to prepare a manual about your boat, with info and serial numbers and specs of everything on board, which will pay you back handsomely if you need advice or spares.

Tips on how to sail across the Atlantic from Kaj Maass & Malin Andersson

The couple own the Bavaria 38, Cross Ocean and have sailed from Sweden to the Caribbean and back via the Azores

A woman raised a flag on a yacht at the end of crossing the Atlantic

Malin hoists a courtesy flag as their Bavaria 38 makes landfall in St Lucia. Credit: Kaj Maass & Malin Andersson

‘You do not need that much. Less equipment equals fewer breakages.

‘We would never go without a windvane and we are definitely pleased with having a centre cockpit boat, which keeps you safe and dry in the centre of the boat, though the master cabin is worthless at sea.’

Go with the kids

There has been a big upswing in families taking a year or 18 months out from normal lives, to return later.

This seems to coincide with that point in an established, stable career where a sabbatical is possible, there is enough money to buy a boat for a special project, parents are healthy and the kids are not yet in the run up to major exams.

Most often, the sailing families I meet have children aged between five and 12.

A family on the deck of their yacht before they left to cross the Atlantic

Crossing an ocean with a family is entirely feasible. The Paterson family took part in the 2018 ARC on their Moody 471. Credit: World Cruising Club/James Mitchell

The obvious rewards for children spending every day with their mum and dad have to be weighed against the considerable extra work and commitment, though I have yet to meet a parent who regretted it.

In 2019, Russell and Kate Hall sailed across the Atlantic in their Hallberg-Rassy 46 with their boys, Hugo, 8, and Felix, 6.

‘Somebody said to us that living with kids on a boat for a year is like living on land with them for four years,’ Kate laughs.

‘It can be quite draining but it’s also part of the reason why we are doing this, so it’s the yin and yang.

School lessons kept the children from getting too bored during the crossing

Additional crew can help with sailing and school when you sail across the Atlantic. Credit: Erin Carey

‘There are jobs that require both of us and you have to rely on the children to keep themselves safe at times. They sleep really well on board and they go to bed at sunset and wake at sunrise, then they’re full of beans. You might not have had much sleep. It takes a while to adjust.’

The Halls concentrated on the basics of English and maths, and then tailored history or geography or science projects around places they were visiting.

This seems to work for most families.

Schools will usually provide a curriculum plan for time out, and there are a lot of distance learning and ‘school in a box’ courses for homeschooling children, such as Calvert and Oak Meadow.

‘My advice would be to be easy on yourself,’ advises Kate Hall.

Two children with a half way sign to mark the half way point of an ocean crossing

Celebrating milestones can help bolster a young crew’s morale when you sail across the Atlantic. Credit: Erin Carey

‘We started with five hours’ schooling a day and then reduced that to two-and-a-half. Chill and relax; it all works out. There are always things to learn.’

If you are planning to sail across the Atlantic with kids, look at taking on extra hands to help with the sailing.

Also consider joining the ARC rally where in port you share a pontoon with all the other family boats so there are lots of other kids of different ages for yours to socialise with, as well as an organised daily kids club.

The friendships made between adults and children also often shape later cruising plans.

Seasons and routes to sail across the Atlantic

If you are planning on sailing across the Atlantic, don’t leave it too late to set off across Biscay – late August or September is pushing your luck from a weather point of view.

Ideally, make the most of the summer cruising opportunities travelling south through France, Spain and Portugal – these could be among the best parts of the trip.

Annually, the ARC rally leaves the Canary Islands in November, the ARC+ heading for Mindelo in Cape Verde first, and the ARC direct to St Lucia.

This is so that crews can be in the Caribbean for Christmas.

A yacht set up with a preventer on the sail

White sails can make a solid downwind sail plan if well set up with preventers and guys

It is early in the season for Tradewinds, though, and you may have to be prepared for a trough, a front, or calms – or all three – on the way across unless you wait until January.

Whether you cross early or not, my own personal preference would be to go via Cape Verde.

It’s a fascinating archipelago and culture, a place to re-provision or make repairs, and it breaks up the crossing.

It lengthens the time away and overall distance, as Mindelo is 800 miles south- west of the Canaries, but the leg south into ‘butter melting’ latitudes will then put you into almost guaranteed Trades, even in November.

From the Caribbean, you can then sail up to Florida via the Bahamas, or the US East Coast, or return to Europe via the Azores.

Routes for sailing across the Atlantic

The routes to sail across the Atlantic and back. Credit: Maxine Heath

For the return to Europe, most cruisers generally strike out from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands or St Maarten, both good for provisioning, spares, chandlery and repairs, or head up to Bermuda and wait for a springboard forecast for Horta.

From here, crews will again wait to pick their timing to head across to Spain or Portugal or up to the UK.

According to Jimmy Cornell, author of World Cruising Routes , as early as March and as late as mid-May there are reasonable chances of favourable south-easterly and south-westerly winds on leaving the Eastern Caribbean.

The advice he offers is to track north-easterly towards the Azores and stay south of 30°N until 40°W.

For cruisers a southerly route is generally the preferable passage to choose, staying south of the Gulf Stream in lighter winds and taking on extra fuel and motoring if conditions deem necessary.

How much will it cost to sail across the Atlantic and back?

Cruising costs will depend on how you wish to live while cruising.

If you want to spend time in marinas, eat out regularly, hire cars, take tours and fly home occasionally, obviously that will be different to a more self-contained life on board at anchor.

As a guide, we asked Swedish couple Kaj and Malin to add up their costs to prepare for their trip and during the 14-month sabbatical.

A yacht at anchor in an anchorage

Costs will be much lower where you can stay at anchor rather than berth in a marine. Credit: Kaj Maass/Malin Andersson

‘The budget for our trip was €80,000 to buy the boat, and €30,000 of upgrades,’ Kaj says.

The upgrades included a new engine, new standing rigging, a Hydrovane and satellite communications.

They dropped the rudder and the keel and reinforced the area around it.

Of the total budget, around €10,000 was spent on safety equipment.

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Their cruising costs were around €2,500 a month for the two of them, averaging out the most expensive parts of the journey from Sweden to the Canary Islands, when harbour fees were costing around €40 a night.

This would cover some eating out ashore and car rental for tours.

Over the longer term, a good rule of thumb is to allow 20% of the cost of your boat for running repairs to cover antifouling, sail replacement, servicing and, if you are leaving your boat to return home, you’ll need to factor in haul-out, storage and hurricane tie-downs.

If you plan to buy a boat, sail it back and sell it right after your trip, however, you may be able sidestep some ongoing costs.

Cutting the cord

Maybe you don’t have to wait until retirement to go cruising.

There is a strong argument for taking a career break (or breaks) and working for longer if necessary as it spreads the cost and reduces the risk of the big adventure never happening.

Two yachts with white sails sailing

Additional offwind sails, like a furling Code 0, can keep the boat moving in light airs for more enjoyable sailing and to save fuel. Credit World Cruising Club

Around half of the people I meet on transatlantic rallies are taking sabbaticals and intending to return to the same post, or have quit a job.

Both options have become quite acceptable, and in some professions and countries sabbaticals are actively encouraged as a retention incentive.

‘Tell the world you are leaving,’ advises Kaj Maass.

‘Make sure you create some pressure on yourself to realise your dream. Involve your employer early on in the planning process. A modern employer will understand and respect your decision to explore the world and live out your dreams, maybe they even see a long-term benefit from the knowledge and experience you will gain from it and you can [negotiate] a leave of absence.’

A satellite phone on the deck of yacht

Satellite comms add a level of safety and keeping in touch but can be costly. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Those running a business may bring in a trusted general manager or step up a family member while they are away.

Keeping tabs on business while away is possible (though it can be expensive in satellite data) but it’s not something that generally works well on a day-to-day basis.

You do need to be able to cut the ties to enjoy cruising, not least because the cruising life comes with its own workload, from maintenance to laundry.

A man carrying out maintenance on his yacht

Long-distance cruising comes with its own workload and maintenance. Credit: Kaj Maass/Malin Andersson

‘Trying to mix work and pleasure compromises both,’ says Stuart Letton.

Before setting out, the Lettons brought their son in to run their web-based business supplying global brands with customisable marketing material.

‘While our business was under new management, it was still a struggle for me to let go. I can remember sitting in WiFi cafés from Spain to the Galapagos trying to blend cruising with work and, while it helped my conscience, I doubt the effort did much for work or cruising.

‘That’s not to say it isn’t possible. With good WiFi and satellite connections you really can work pretty much anywhere . But if you don’t need to, I’d cut the ties, burn the bridges and go. If you need to work, fine, just get your management team in place, communication systems properly set up and resourced, and go.’

Two yachts anchored in St Lucia

It helps to set a deadline so you can realise your dream and sail across the Atlantic. Credit: Kaj Maass/Malin Andersson

However you plan to break free, what really helps is a deadline: a date that you are going set off, with a scene you can visualise to keep you motivated as you work through the preparations and demands of shore life.

Most preparations are really just logistics, and you’re probably already pretty good at that.

The bigger obstacle is often mustering the courage to leave.

I often hear cruisers describe hassles – one described cruising as the act of sailing from one place where you couldn’t get something fixed to another where you hoped you would – yet when I ask for their best advice it usually boils down to a simple prescription: just go.

Kaj Maass said exactly that when I asked him that question.

‘Just do it. Life is too short not to live out your dreams.’

To rally or not?

This is entirely a personal choice.

Advantages of the ARC , which is the best organised and biggest, are great seminars, preparation information and tools.

It’s also an ideal way to meet lots of fascinating, like-minded people, and is agreed to be good value despite costs.

It also gives you a departure date to hold yourself too.

The ARC fleet leaving the Canary Islands

For a first taste of ocean sailing, it can be reassuring and fun to join a rally to sail across the Atlantic, like the ARC. Credit: James Mitchell/World Cruising Club

Plus is has good parties and entertainment on tap to keep crew happy.

The cons would be its early crossing date for the Tradewinds season, large fleet size (though check out ARC+, which is smaller) or if you just want to be low-key and go it alone.

The Viking Explorers rally is one alternative, but not many others still run.

If you do your own thing, you will still find a wonderful cruising community anywhere cruisers other, and there is fantastic support across the world for independent voyaging through the Ocean Cruising Club.

Preparations for sailing across the Atlantic  – the basics

While in no way a comprehensive list of preparations, here are some jumping off points to think about when planning your voyage:

  • Learn how to service and maintain your engine and key machinery, have a good set of tools on board. Video repair tips and techniques when you have technicians on board to refer to later.
  • Have your yacht lifted, antifouled , stern gear serviced, and anodes replaced. Consider fitting a rope cutter . Also check steering systems and replace rudder bearings.
  • Create a boat manual with all your procedures, equipment and the location of safety and medical equipment for crew to access.
  • Fit an autopilot capable of handling your yacht in an ocean swell, fully laden downwind in 30 knots of breeze. Have a back-up if shorthanded, or two separate systems for redundancy.
  • Have power systems checked and replace or upgrade batteries if necessary . If you upgrade batteries, consider if additional charging is necessary .
  • Get first-class safety equipment for all crew on board.
  • Have all sails serviced by a sail loft and consider double stitching all panels. With slab reefing mainsails, get a deep third reef.
  • Set up a good boom preventer for downwind sailing on both tacks. That can be just lines and blocks but set up so you can gybe and switch preventers without leaving the cockpit.
  • Check all running rigging and ensure you have adequate spare halyards set up before you depart. Think about chafe prevention.
  • Choose your crew carefully. Make sure you are all comfortable sailing together and that roles are established well before you leave.

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How to cross the Atlantic from the Caribbean to Europe: Everything you need to know

  • Elaine Bunting
  • April 9, 2019

Preparations for the voyage from the Caribbean to Europe need to begin before you leave home, but what should you consider?


Photo: Tor Johnson

By early summer the peak Caribbean season is coming to a close, ushered out by a fusillade of big regattas. Then, with summer returning to the northern latitudes, crews begin the return leg of their migration back home.

While most people focus on crossing the Atlantic from Europe to the Caribbean , the voyage back to Europe or the US east coast is equally important – in some ways more so. The road home can be more testing, but it is also varied, and planning for it should ideally shape your preparations from the time you plan to leave home for a season in the sun. What should you weigh up in your crew and boat preparations and which route and strategy is best?

You could, of course, always take the easy way out – remember that old saw that nothing goes to windward quite like a 747! You could get your boat sailed home by a delivery crew, or shipped back to the Mediterranean or northern Europe.

These options, once the preserve of big motorboat owners and superyachts, are gaining popularity with mainstream cruisers, especially the time-pressed – in fact, a couple of owners I interviewed at the Caribbean 600 this year had their yachts shipped out from Europe and had booked them back by ship later in the season.

Nevertheless, each year, around 1,000 yachts arrive in Horta en route to Europe (the total was 1,232 in 2015, to be exact). Yachts mainly stop here in May and June and around half have come direct from a Caribbean island, while a majority of others arrive via the staging post of Bermuda. According to a survey by Jimmy Cornell: ‘every year approximately 1,200 boats cross the Atlantic from the Cape Verdes, Canaries and Madeira along the north- east tradewinds route.’


A return voyage from the Caribbean to northern latitudes can be testing for boats and crew. Photo: Tor Johnson

The route back is a well-travelled one, but it is a very different proposition to the way out. The days will be lengthening as a crew sails north-east, yet the temperatures are falling and the weather can be very varied and occasionally testing.

Dan Bower, who wrote our Bluewater Sailing Series and made his umpteenth west-east transatlantic passage in May 2018, returning from the Caribbean on his Skye 51 Skyelark , says: “We consider the passage to be heavy weather and prepare accordingly.”

But it is also one of the most interesting voyages, and the almost mandatory stop in the Azores means you’ll visit some of the most unspoilt, hospitable and interesting islands anywhere in the world. Plus there is the undoubted satisfaction of knowing that you are closing the circle of your Atlantic circuit by your own efforts and skills.

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“We look at the west-east transatlantic as very different from the ARC or indeed any of the other ocean trips we do because it can be largely upwind and has potential for heavy weather,” says Dan Bower.

“It is guaranteed that the first week is full on, close-hauled in the tradewinds, and life at 20-30° in a big ocean swell puts more demands on the boat and crew. Then depending on the position of the Azores High, after the lull in the middle, the second half of the journey can be lively downwind or back to beating.”


Make regular checks on sails and rigging, looking particularly for chafe damage. Photo: Tor Johnson

Given this, you’ll need to think from the outset about your upwind and stronger wind sails, and your yacht preparations for the route across to Europe. So when you consider the outlay for an expensive downwind sail inventory, for example new spinnaker or Parasailor, don’t forget the good condition mainsail with perhaps a fourth reef and the strong staysail that will be just as invaluable on the way back.

Preparing your boat for everything from flat calms to gales is paramount, and after a lazy season in the Caribbean everything needs to be checked over. Skip Novak’s Storm Sailing Series features a run through some of the essential deck checks.

Dan Bower also emphasises these basic checks. “A good inspection and rig check before departure is a must, and we rig for heavy weather with our smaller headsail on the furler and have the staysail ready to go.

“We also consider taking some extra fuel on board to give options around the high. Because of the water that will be shipped going into a big swell, all items on deck need to be well lashed down, and thought given to any water entry points. We seal our chain hawse pipe and block off dorade vents. Thought also needs to be given to what items you will need to be easily accessible first, so that you’re not trying to fight to the back of a windward locker as you’re landing off a wave, or needing to access the forepeak for a spare rope.”


Careful and comprehensive rig checks are essential for an Atlantic crossing in either direction. Photo: Richard Langdon

Fuel and spares

As well as taking extra fuel in jerrycans or flexible tanks, don’t forget to pre-empt fuel supply problems by stocking lots of engine fuel filters and lots of Racor water separator filters. On most crossings you rarely use the engine, but if it’s a light wind year its great to have the ability to push through a wind hole and get into the wind on the other side, more fuel gives you more options. Also, consider buying a portable transfer pump as juggling with funnels and pouring diesel at sea is a messy, troublesome job.

To get the most from your fuel tankage, keep to your minimum cruising revs. Boat manufacturers should be able to give you a fuel consumption curve for your engine so you can calculate your range based on engine hours and how much fuel is in your tank.

Duncan Sweet runs Mid-Atlantic Yacht Services in Horta, providing a great service, but one that gets very busy in late April and May. He advises skippers to be prepared to do oil and filter changes themselves. “I get people coming in here to ask us to do it and I have to say: ‘No, sorry, we don’t have time’,” he says.

Sweet also strongly advises that you carry key spares you might need, and replace any you may have used after your Atlantic crossing on the way out, such as pump or autopilot parts. Getting spares out to the Azores can be difficult and takes time.


Carry spare fuel in case you have to motor more than you expect, and find out from your boat manufacturer your vessel’s most economical engine cruising revs

“The average time people spend here is four to five days. If you have to wait for spares that will be six to ten days, depending on the supplier at the other end, it will delay you, and the cost of transport [air freight], for, say, a pump can be €60-80 per leg for the two legs.”

A good rigging check before leaving is essential. Your standing and running rig will now have covered thousands of salty, sunny miles and the return transatlantic crossing will see you spend long days on one tack so expect chafe to occur on sheets and halyards. A professional rigging check can be well worth the cost, but if you do it yourself make sure you work from stem to stern checking every item.

Jerry Henwood, aka Jerry the Rigger, who does most of the rig checks for the ARC rally advises: “Check your standing rigging wire where it enters the swage. Is it nice and smooth? The most common place for standing rigging to break is just inside the swage and as it’s inside you can’t always see it, but you can feel it.

“Look at the mast, boom and spreaders. Check all areas where anything joins, exits or is just attached. It should all be smooth with no cracks. All fastenings must be tight and secure. And check all split pins and key rings and make sure these are taped up so that anything passing over them (ropes, clothing, sails, etc.) does not catch on them and pull them open.”

Here’s more from Jerry’s hit list:

  • Check for any missing or damaged key rings on standing rigging, especially guardwires.
  • Check for any loose nuts on pelican hooks on the guardwires.
  • Check there are no cracks on the tang on the boom where the vang joins.
  • Check struts on the radar brackets aren’t wearing away or coming loose.
  • Check VHF aerials at the masthead aren’t loose.
  • Re-mouse all your shackles so they don’t come undone.

Choosing the best route

Should you sail to the Azores (generally Horta) or go the longer route via Bermuda?

There are pros and cons to each. Weather systems spinning off the US East Coast bring lows and frontal systems that can extend well south, and at some point a yacht making the west-to-east crossing will be overtaken by at least one front, possibly more. So the aim is to catch and ride favourable winds for as far as possible, and most boats head for the Azores to make a stop there and then pick their timing to head across to Spain or Portugal or up to the UK.


Photo: Isbjorn Sailing

Tortola in the British Virgin Islands or St Maarten are the most popular starting points – they are well positioned and good for provisioning, spares, chandlery and repairs. But many crews make an intermediate stop in Bermuda and this is a particularly good option if the wind patterns change three to four days out from the Caribbean. In Bermuda, crews can take a break, re-provision, enjoy the island, and wait for a good weather springboard for the next leg.

According to Jimmy Cornell, author of World Cruising Routes, as early as March and as late as mid-May there are reasonable chances of favourable south-easterly and south-westerly winds on leaving the Eastern Caribbean. The advice he offers is to track north-easterly towards the Azores and stay south of 30°N until 40°W.

For decades, the late Herb Hilgenberg provided free weather services to eastbound yachtsmen, and when I interviewed him a few years ago he also advised an even more cautious route:

“I advocate the southerly route to the Azores,” he said, “and recommend that boats head east and stay south of 35°N until I see that nothing significant is developing. “You can stay at 32-33°N until a few days out from the Azores and then head north. I would not go north of the area north of 35°N or west of 45°W until June.”

Low pressure systems tend to lie further south earlier in the season and if you head north you would typically end up north of the Azores in headwinds. As summer approaches the lows tend to move further north and the Azores High expands so that you get lighter winds as you make your way towards the Azores.

For cruisers a southerly route is generally preferable, staying south of the Gulf Stream in lighter winds and taking on extra fuel and motoring if necessary.


Weather forecasts

Whether or not you’ve considered paying for tailored forecasting and routeing information on the way out to the Caribbean, it’s a good investment on the way back. In effect, you’re gaining an extra crewmember, someone with proper connectivity to put the hours into obtaining weather data including real time information from satellites and weather buoys, to work out your best options.

Weather experts can provide a service as and when you need it – what forecaster Simon Rowell calls ‘leaving note for the milkman’ – or on a daily basis. A good forecaster will ask you to check in anyway and will be keeping an eye out for anything untoward heading your way. They will help you decide how to shape your route, and even adapt your sailing to, say, slow down if necessary and track south out of stronger winds.

Rowell estimates his costs for providing this service to an average 40-footer doing Atlantic crossing at around £500, while Stephanie Ball at MeteoGib charges around £70 for daily 24hr SMS-type forecasts to a satphone or tracker. You can sign up to more comprehensive information and grib files, or request forecasts every two or three days.

Some reputable forecasters include:

  • Rowell Yachting Services
  • Chris Tibbs, Sailing Weather
  • Chris Parker, Marine Weather Center Services


Hearty, warming meals will be required as the temperature drops. Photo: Isbjorn Sailing

Crew for the voyage

You might not have quite the number of takers for a voyage to Europe as you had on the way to the Caribbean and, as skipper, you need to think about crew who have the appetite for what might be more of challenge.

As Dan Bower puts it: “There is an increased chance of seasickness and even for those not afflicted there is less desire to do much in the way of domestic duties. “Crew agility and fitness becomes more important as deck work and moving around the boat can be a challenge, at least initially.”

On Skyelark , they make life easier by pre-cooking most of the main meals and keeping lunches and breakfasts simple, though “we carry some other celebration meals for when conditions merit; a Sunday roast is great for morale,” he says.


Hearty and warming meals are needed just at a time when you will be sailing at an angle for perhaps days, so anything that makes it easier is worth investing in. A pressure cooker will come back into its own for probably the first time since you left colder waters.

Round the world sailors Anne and Stuart Letton, who have sailed two-handed back across the Atlantic several times, recommend Mr D’s Thermal Cooker, a slow cooker you can put all the ingredients in during the morning, bring to a simmer and then leave to cook slowly throughout the day to be ready in the evening.

You also need to unpack all those mid-layers and boots that got stowed away when you reached the Tropics. By day the temperatures might be warm enough for T-shirts and shorts, but at night it can get quite cold. This also makes watchkeeping more tiring, so you may want to consider changing your previous rota.

Rolling watches or double watches can help the time go by quicker, and give you as skipper more confidence and rest, though it might mean you need more crew for this route.


The weather will be cooling on a west-east Atlantic crossing… but there might still be a chance for a mid-ocean swim. Photo: Tor Johnson

But the way across to Europe is one of the best ocean voyages, argues Dan Bower. “With all of the above in mind, this remains one of my favourite trips. You have powerful upwind sailing, the days are getting longer, the weather and skies becoming more interesting and the sea and bird life are plentiful.

“The lighter winds midway give a chance for the boat and crew to be scrubbed clean, and perhaps you get a chance to have a mid-ocean swim and a midway celebration, before (hopefully) a downwind ride to the Azores, where the sense of accomplishment and the warm welcome is remembered by every sailor who ever visits.”


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