Hitchhiking boats

Apart from making your way round the Caribbean or Polynesia by offering a hand on board yachts which seems to be common and easy, the most common route is the Atlantic crossing from Europe to the Americas (mostly to the Caribbean or Brazil).

Getting started

Be assured that once you hit the marinas everything will be pretty obvious. You will meet other boat hitchhikers and they will share their information with you. Basically you'll be putting up notices offering your help, pacing the docks, approaching people cleaning their yachts, trying to make contact with sailors in the bar, etc. Try to talk to as many people as possible. After a while everyone will know you and will give you hints as to which boat is looking for someone.

If you prefer more high-tech methods, there are several on-line marine crew websites available that specialise in matching crew with boats:


Hitching cargo ships

There are stories floating around of people who always know someone else who managed to go for free on a freighter, but the only reliable stories really date back to the seventies. Cargo ship travelling is commercialised now virtually everywhere. For something like GBP50 per day you can rent a cabin on them.

Atlantic Crossing

East-West from Europe

When to go

Boats go with the trade winds that start to move from East to West across the Atlantic in autumn. So the season is from September to January-February. Top season is October, November. In the end of November each year there is a regatta called ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) leaving from Las Palmas. There will be more boats than at any other time in the marinas and it can be considered safer than leaving with a boat that is going unassisted. There will be more competition on finding a lift though, too.

Be aware that for the past three to five years the winds have started to go haywire a little bit, acting less predictably with more storms happening. This is most probably because of global climate change. The way most sailors comment on this is "the winds are going through a transitional phase to find a new rhythm".

Departure points

East-West from Africa

If you don’t want to pay the ferry in Algeciras it is possible to sail to Africa, although unless you are extraordinairily lucky, you’ll have to go via the Cape Verde islands which are a stopover for many trans-atlantic sailors. They are between 10 and 14 days from Gibraltar. From there you’ll have to catch a new boat to get to Senegal which is three days away. It is an experience in and of itself although maybe not the perfect swap for a one-and-a-half hour long ferry ride that’ll cost you €25 You also miss out on Morocco and the crossing of the Sahara Desert, which are highlights of any visit to Africa.

Departure points

Pacific Crossing

The Pacific being about 6 times larger than the Atlantic, this is a crossing that is never done without a stop over on at least one of the Polynesian Islands. The most likely end-point for most is Australia or New Zealand.

Boats begin to leave the west coast of Mexico for French Polynesia in March and continue to sail as late as June and July. The cyclone season, or off season, in the South Pacific begins in November. The initial crossing from Mexico to French Polynesia is roughly 2,500 miles and will take 3-4 weeks on an average sized sailing vessel that doesn't carry much fuel. Times very depending on the length of time a boat is stuck in the doldrums or inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ)

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, August 04, 2014. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.