Why is sailing an ocean such a magical adventure? Here are a few reasons why you should take the plunge to sail offshore, across an ocean, on a sailing boat! This post focuses on the Atlantic in specific.
And how I can help you make this dream real!
Why sail across the Atlantic Ocean?
If two-thirds of our world is ocean, why do we spend most our lives on land? There’s a whole watery world to be explored out there. Exploring by boat gives the ultimate feeling of freedom. You just go where the wind blows. It’s a sustainable and adventurous way to travel long distances. A sailboat can bring you to places where no one else goes, while being entirely surrounded by nature. You don’t have to imagine how Columbus felt when he saw land after weeks on the open water – you can experience it for yourself! Here are some reasons on why to get this Atlantic Ocean adventure started.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – H. Jackson Brown’s mother (Authors mother)
Life on land is pretty comfortable, isn’t it? For life on a boat that isn’t always the case.
It’s a big step out of the comfort zone without the luxuries you are familiar with on land. To take on the challenge of an Atlantic crossing guarantees an adventure. With only the power of nature, you can travel all the way to another continent. Isn’t that incredible in itself?! It’s how it was done back in the days before airplanes and cargo ships. Yes, you can prepare, plan and plot but you still have to hop on the boat and just do it. And there is no way back! Be prepared to be in an adventurous state of mind. It’s a new situation that you put yourself into, and it won’t all go as planned. There will be many situations to tackle that are beyond your current knowledge or experience. You’ll need to be inventive. You will become more self-reliant and expand your skills and abilities. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean is an expedition, though not the most challenging ocean passage out there. It’s an ‘easy’ one, and a fantastic starting point to motivate you to conquer more oceans.
Air travel pollutes the environment and is expensive. Cruise ships and cargo ships are even worse. Not only for the amount of fuel they burn, and the waste they create, but also for disturbing marine life with the noise they make. A sailing boat impacts the environment too. The amount of resources it takes to build and maintain a sailboat are often not as environmental friendly as one likes to think. But we can do our best to minimize impact and walk the extra mile to make it as ocean friendly as possible. A sailboat moves forward, powered by the wind. Electronics can be powered by the sun and by the wind. Travelling by sailboat is more simple, resourceful, and pure as opposed to many other ways of going across the ocean. Together we can find solutions to make it as sustainable as possible, something that connect us here on the member hub! But we have work to do!
The Atlantic sailing routes and weather patterns fall perfectly to escape European winter of the heat of the Caribbean summer. The trade winds pick up just in time to carry you away from Europe when the cold sets in. Every day at sea it gets a little warmer as you get closer to your final destination: the tropics! Then, as the Caribbean weather gets super-hot and hurricane season approaches, it’s a perfect time to head back to Europe to enjoy springtime flowers, greenery and fresh summer fruits.
Almost everywhere we go, at any time of day or night, we are connected. With the internet just one click away, and an overload of interesting stuff to check, it takes willpower to resist the urge to connect. An ocean passage eliminates the temptation altogether! You’re away from everything, long enough to disconnect from everything but nature and your shipmates. Being in nature allows you to just be. It’s a major disconnection from society, long enough to rethink life and rewire yourself for the way forward. There is no WiFi*. No media. No stress. No deadlines. No pressure. No people wanting something from you, except for the captain expecting you to take part in duties on board. That’s (in most cases) fun stuff. It may take a couple of days of restlessness to adjust to the peace of the sea. But the rewards are worth it. Being offline allows you to have the most beautiful and deep conversations without anyone being half-present because the phone is distracting you. Being offline means realising what you love the most. You will create space in your mind and in your life to ponder what truly matters. You will master the art of being present, which I believe is a skill that generates true happiness.
*If you really need the internet, it is possible at a price.
The ocean is the real destination of this trip. But let’s be honest, the Caribbean islands are pure paradise! Imagine arriving in the tropics after a long time at sea and having left winter. Imagine jumping into warm Caribbean waters ten seconds after you wake up. Life with coconuts, fresh tropical fruits, and ‘dancing barefoot in the sand opportunities everywhere’ is another dream becoming a reality. If you go the other way, to Europe, it’s another kind of paradise. Life will be cheaper (depending on where you go!), you’ll experience the beauty and scents of springtime flowers, a glass of wine on a terrace, and high-speed WiFi.
“At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.” – Robin Graham (Sailor & Writer)
As sailors, we are intricately connected to the ocean on a daily basis. Crossing an ocean provides a deep and lasting respect for nature. You’re dependent on it to make it safely to the other side. You will experience the power of the wind and the waves, and realise how precious our resources are, such as water, fresh air, power, and fresh vegetables. You will become aware that what might be considered normal ‘back home’, is not so normal on a boat.
The luxuries of living on land: sitting up straight in your bed in the morning, taking a shower lasting more than ten seconds, pouring a coffee of that doesn’t spill, flushing a toilet, a fresh apple in a fruit bowl, sleeping on a bed that doesn’t move, food that stays on the stove, power plugs, getting through your morning routine without four new bruises, doing dishes with warm water, walking more than ten metres, friends to talk to, WiFi, and so much more. All the things we take for granted on land become priceless when you have experienced life without them. For the rest of your life, you’ll be grateful having realised what it’s like not to have all these land luxuries.
Sailing makes you a conscious consumer and a more grateful person for every little luxury thing. With limited storage and cooling, food sharing, and adaptation, you have to think about every item you bring on board and why. After an ocean crossing, you will appreciate every drop of water, fresh fruit or vegetable and a good night of sleep even more. Back on land you appreciate and notice fresh food, flavours and senses of a place because you probably have eaten a lot of the same foods for weeks and finished the good stuff after a week or two, if you provisioned well (more about that later).
When searching for a ride, preparing the boat, and arriving on the other side, you will meet so many interesting people. Everyone has his or her story and reasons why they are or want to be on a sailboat. It’s a great community. I used to have an image in my head that sailing is only for rich people, that it’s about showing off boats and boat toys, and that as crew you’re just meant to scrub the deck. My image of this changed completely after I hung out in Las Palmas for a while. Sailors are free spirits and ocean-minded people. Most of them share the same dream to live a simple life on a sailboat, set off to explore the world, and live life on their own terms. You’ll meet those that have made this dream happen! And you’ll be one of them. You connect with fellow aspiring sailors that are on the same mission. Who knows who you may meet during these adventures and what opportunities may come from it?
Photo: We all met along the way (Canary Islands / Cabe Verde / Caribbean) when sailing across the Atlantic
Crossing an ocean is more about seamanship than sailing. The extent to which you will learn to sail depends a great deal on the captain, boat, weather and your attitude. If you want to learn how to sail, taking a course, and gaining coastal sailing experience, will teach you more about just sailing. The smaller the boat, the more you’ll understand how sailing works. Seamanship is the most interesting and challenging part of an ocean adventure. You may have the biggest bank account but once you’re at sea nothing can be googled or bought. And no person can be hired to fix something. You have to be inventive as situations arise and you’ll learn from experiences along the way. You’ll learn to work with your hands. You learn about the wind, the weather, geography, stars, navigation, sea life, boats, yourself, people, and much more. You’ll also be able to finish a couple of books, podcasts, movies and arrive a wiser man or woman. When else do you take the time to observe, read and learn? Socially, mentally and physically, you will grow.
Photo: Catch of the day
You’ll also learn a great deal about the ocean. It’s only since my first crossing that I learned how bad the situation in our ocean really is, and how dependent we are on it for our own survival. When you see what’s happening with your own eyes, talk face-to-face with people living on and for the ocean, and experience its value, it makes you eager to learn more. And it gives rise to an urge to do something. On this journey, you will also see fishing fleets, trash in harbours, in the ocean and on the beaches, endangered species on the menu, and damaged corals. These are just a few situations that make us pause for a moment. In reality though, that ‘moment’ is a constant. We are at the forefront of what’s happening. And we can do a lot to make a positive impact. These kind of epiphany moment have driven me a lot to set up this network. Im happy to learn I’m not alone.
“In nature’s economy the currency is not money. It is life.” – Vandana Shiva
Most of us spend more time indoors than outdoors. It’s easy to forget the natural world we’re coming from and living in. On the ocean, you face the wind and water elements and find that connection to nature. Imagine a scene with no traffic, no news, no pollution, no civilisation. Just wind and water – plenty of that! A scene where you can gaze for hours to the millions of stars above you; enjoy the dozens of dolphins sliding through the water at the bow of the boat; admire the pink-orange-red sunrises and sunsets, without any airplane trails changing the fluffy and cauliflower-like cloud patterns. You’ll become very aware of the natural world around you. This inspires. And it’s eye-opening. You come to realise how disconnected from nature we are in our daily lives. In the middle of nature, far away from civilisation, you will see a plastic bottle floating by. A human made thing that doesn’t belong there. Witnessing that makes you think about the impact that we are making as people. And as individuals. When I saw that bottle, I could not even guarantee it wasn’t mine! I have thrown ‘away’ dozens of bottles in my life. Now I have learned, there is no ‘away.’ You may have seen it on social media or in the news: plastic parades, straws in turtles, disappearing islands, whales washed ashore… Usually we’re far away. It’s hard to make it tangible. It doesn’t really affect us. Or so we think. But by being out there, you literally broaden your horizon. You will see for yourself what impact we are making and what’s going on with the ocean. The trashed and fishless waters you will see, will make you think, gain fresh perspectives, and may inspire you to act to turn the tide of the ocean challenges.
Photo: sunset somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic
“The future is in the hands of those who explore… and from all the beauty they discover while crossing perpetually receding frontiers, they develop for nature and for humankind an infinite love.”- Jacques Yves Cousteau (Ocean explorer & documenter)
Imagine looking up into the sky every night and seeing galaxies. It makes you feel small and on top of the world at the same time. It will make you rethink your place in the world. An ocean passage allows philosophising about life and your purpose in it. Did you know that an average person makes 2800 choices in a day? I heard that on the radio the other day. Whether it’s true or not I don’t know, but I believe we’re close to that. Oats or pancakes for breakfast? Green tea or mint tea? Red pants or blue pants? Check Facebook or Pinterest? Just stroll through the supermarket, and you’re already 100 decisions further. Isn’t that IN-SANE? Realise how much of our energy that takes. You will realise this in the provisioning part of the adventure. That’s an adventure in itself. By having to provision for weeks, you will look at food and waste from a different point of view.
Finally, on the ocean, you can just be. Imagine you cut a number of decisions you make from 1000 down to ten per day – like, shall I drink tea or coffee, read this book or that one, wearing shorts or long pants, sit on the front deck or in the cockpit? That’s it really. And it’s great! Imagine how much extra energy you have for being, enjoying, living and thinking!
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust (French Novelist)
On the ocean you rediscover your values, and what really matters. On land, we often want a constant stimulus. Or we don’t want it, but the stimuli are all around us. We keep ourselves busy. On a boat, you get trained for what the Caribbean will bring: slowed down island style living. By being ‘out of the system’, away from media headlines, advertisement on stuff we don’t need, social media feeds with cat videos and other people’s cool lives, noisy traffic, stinky air, is when you connect to your true self. You’ll take a break from the rollercoaster that’s all about being busy, productive and convenient. You’ll truly have the time to look at your life from a birds’ eye view. It’s a reset. You will have time to just simply let your mind wander. When does that still happen? It will clear your head, enhance your creativity and the most brilliant ideas will come up! With fresh perspectives, you’ll start to look at your life differently. It’s the experiences like seeing a plastic bag in the middle of nowhere that will make you pause and think. You will think a lot about your life, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing what you’re doing. And perhaps, having gained a fresh point of view, you might realise that it’s time to adjust the course in some areas of your life. With all the space created in your head, you’ll feel accomplished and ready to take over the world once you’ve arrived!
“Unless you are willing to experience new things, you’ll never realize your full potential.” – Wim Hof (The Iceman)
“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.”- Robert Wyland (Ocean Artist)
The ocean doesn’t only work for healing mentally; it keeps us sane physically! Day in day out, you can breathe the fresh ocean air. Imagine what energy, oxygen, and aliveness that brings to your well-being. When else will you have three weeks of pure fresh ocean air? Pure air is a luxury these days! You’ll also stock up with vitamin D from the sunshine (but be careful with too much sunshine!). Another ingredient for optimal health!
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” – Paulo Coelho (Writer)
It’s an experience you will remember the rest of your life. You’ll look back one day and say ‘Hell YEAH! I crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a sailboat!’
Why do YOU want to cross the Atlantic Ocean? What are you most looking forward to experiencing / learning / achieving?
Share in the comments!
Curious to learn more? How to go about sailing across the Atlantic? When to go? How to find a ride? How to prepare? What’s is like… Check out my book Ocean Nomad – The Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide, join the Ocean Nomads network for support, tips, and crewing opportunities (currently 4 member vessels recrewting for Atlantic Sailing) or to accelerate everything, come sailing with me winter 2022/2023 across the Atlantic and in the Caribbean.
This year we will go across the Atlantic with Ocean Nomads! I (Suzanne) found a dogsitter (Thanks mum) and I will be joining the Atlantic Ocean crossing and some of the Caribbean legs too :)! So looking forward to experience all of the above again. This time we a full boat of Ocean Nomads. A similar value and vibed crew team I have never come across in all these years of hitchhiking and crewing on boats. I’m super stoked to realize this, with you! Applications are rolling in fast. If you’re interested in joining, now is the time to apply. We walk the extra mile to re-crew-t an ocean nomads minded team, take safety measures highly, we offer a 10% discount to our members applying. Here you can learn more and apply.
I’m eager to personally support you accelerating your ocean nomads lifestyle. I’ll be there in Amsterdam on departure of the first leg Sailing Netherlands to Madeira (October 15 – 2 spots left!) and then jumping on board in Tenerife, sail across the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea (with you?).