FAQ’s: The whats/hows/whys/whatthef**ks?! of sailing across the Atlantic

When you tell people you are crossing the Atlantic Ocean on 12.8m (42ft) sailboat from the Canary Islands to the Panama Canal people naturally ask bewildered looking questions, use expletives, state their concerns and then wrap things up with a meager, “Wow – you are brave” and some type of best wishes for your continued existence.

For those family members, friends or curious onlookers who haven’t had the chance to ask me personally yet I complied my list of commonly questions, concerns and expletive filled proclamations I have received:

Please feel free to use the comments section for any questions I may have missed

You are doing WHAT? In a WHAT???

For the majority of people I have told my plan, it has taken saying, “Yes I am in fact sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in a sailboat, you didn’t mishear.” I am an active crew member helping to sail a boat across the Atlantic Ocean, not relaxing on the cruise ship Lollipop. I earned my bareboat charter captains license several years ago in the San Juan Islands but this is my first chance to really earn sea miles and my first blue water experience.

Here is the boat for some perspective, there will be two other people on board other than me. I met them on the internet.

Raison d'Etre Pictures1

Wow, so who are you going with? Two other people -WHAT?!? You are going with two male strangers you met on the internet?!?

The answer to this is well they started as strangers but after many sunday afternoon group video skype calls later and hundreds of emails exchanged they really aren’t strangers to me. Did we initially meet over the internet – well yes but as I have found a lot of really great things in my life over the internet apartments, jobs, shoes I love, cheap plane tickets, motorcycle, etc. it seems like the natural way to do things.

Both crew are engineers and have great senses of humor which has given me some degree of confidence. You can read about them and their spirt animals here. http://raisonatsea.wordpress.com/meet-the-crew/

I can also say after three days of hard work and some very enjoyable meals on the boat getting ready to go I know I made the right choice.

How long does the trip take?

Between 17-21 days from the Canary Islands to Barbados, 7 days further onto the Canal after spending some time luxuriating in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama.

Good God 17-21 days at sea?! I can’t even imagine just staying in my neighborhood for 20 days let along a boat!

Ok this is not so much a question but deserves a response nevertheless. We have a watch schedule of four hours on and then eight hours off which will keep all of us pretty busy. I have volunteered on the cooking side of things to make sure we have hot meals and fresh bread, if the going gets rough we have Master and Commander and Conan the Barbarian to keep us company.

What do you eat? Astronaut meals?

We have an intense provisioning spreadsheet, but you do find yourself wondering just how much sandwich meat and cheese do you need for three people and twenty days worth of sandwiches? After an experiment I determined about a 100g of meat and 100g of cheese per day. These are the questions of my life right now.

Now the big one – why the F**k would you be crazy enough to do this?

There are several reasons.

  1. I have a post-college long dream to sail across the world after consuming too many sailboat cruising memoirs under the bad influence of an ex-boyfriend. After the relationship ended the boyfriend disappeared but the desire to sail around the world just grew stronger year after year. Sailing across an ocean seems like a good way to test the dream before I fling myself into the deep end and buy a sailboat.
  1. Due to some bad planning I find myself to be an illegal alien in Spain. Leaving via the boat allows me to leave more lets say quietly than leaving by plane and hopefully avoid paying a large fine and/or having my passport stamped with an ugly red visa violator stamp.
  2. I have an uncomfortably intense hunger for adventure, I wrote about it here.

I think I have about covered the basis but I am sure I have missed something.