How to Survive a Transatlantic Crossing

9 August 2020 By Matt Brown

The boat’s due in the Caribbean in December and the Boss didn’t spring for Dockwise? Welcome to your first transatlantic crossing, an experience that even veteran sailors often describe as: “Hours of boredom punctuated by minutes of terror.” Here are some tips on how to make the crossing go smoothly and your time at sea fly by.

1. Clear Your Schedule

Crossing the Atlantic is an adventure and with it comes an element of uncertainty. Remember that the weather will vary substantially and delays while you’re at sea are inevitable. If you're planning to arrive at your destination on a certain day, you’ll be setting yourself up for a major let down even before you leave. Don’t commit to any dates on the other side until you know exactly when you’re going to arrive.

2.  Expect the Unexpected

Engine failure is the one thing you cannot afford while you’re in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but as they say, “S*!t happens,” and we’ve all had our fair share.

We found ourselves in the unfortunate situation of taking on dirty fuel while docked up in Las Palmas in the Canaries. Less than 12 hours after leaving port, the fuel filter pressure readings began their ascent towards “unacceptable levels” and the engineers were forced to change the filters on a twice-daily basis.

In less than 24 hours, our port generator failed and we went dead ship. The result, we had to run the yacht on one generator for the remainder of the 12-day passage.

Just remember that things will not always go according to plan, so be prepared to deal with unforeseen circumstances. Be sure to bring along a full set of spare parts and make sure that you have a contingency plan in place.

3.  Become a “Time Twiddler"

Anyone working as superyacht crew knows that spare time is a very precious commodity. When you’re crossing the Atlantic, however, time is to be found in abundance, which affords you the opportunity to challenge the “status quo."

Shifts are usually easygoing – in our case it was four hours on and eight off – and even when you are working, the workload is minimal at best. Use this time to your advantage.

For example, while on-shift with the Mate on the bridge, I began furthering my education by walking through the Yachtmaster Offshore syllabus and practicing tide and navigation calculations; this wouldn't have been possible had it been a typical passage with guests on board.

4.  Roll with the Big Seas

Rough seas are a given when crossing the Atlantic and many crew experience a phenomena called “bed levitation.” Because the crew cabins are typically situated forward towards the bow, sleeping can be a nearly impossibile, as in some cases you literally levitate above your bed as the yacht pitches up and down the waves. The best way to avoid this mid-air phenomenon is to head to the guest cabins and sleep there – any sympathetic captain should allow you to do this.

5.  Count Your Blessings

Only a small percentage of people in the world have crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a yacht – it’s one of the truly unique experiences reserved for a few lucky individuals. There are so many beautiful things you’ll encounter along the way and they are to be savored, appreciated and enjoyed.

Do you have any suggestions for fellow crew on how to make a smooth transatlantic crossing?


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