Yes, it is possible, and people do it, more often than you imagine. It is not as easy as getting a ride on the road, where you just have to stick your thumb out, but it is doable.
Sometimes it’s necessary to research this sort of thing in great depth so that you can find the opportunities and then you might be waiting for days and maybe weeks. But it’s worth it. And who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and find a boat much easier than expected, but every experience is unique, and every story is amazing regardless of the effort put into getting on a boat.
Hitchhiking a boat means finding a boat that needs extra help with general tasks, keeping watch, and sometimes only for the sake of company. It is a win-win situation for the captain and the hitchhiker. The captain gets help on board and company, while the hitchhiker gets a ride and the experience of learning how to sail a boat. Especially when it is a trip of a few weeks or more.
The most common rides are on yachts sailing around the Caribbean or Polynesia. Sometimes travelers can experience sailing exclusive routes to these paradise islands just by giving a hand on board. Besides these routes, another common one is the Atlantic crossing from Europe or Africa to the Americas (mostly to Brazil or the Caribbean).
Unlike the road where cars are passing all the time, boats are not sailing that frequently. Sometimes they are scheduled to sail off after a couple of months. Travelers should have flexible traveling plans, and they should adapt to the boat’s time if they want to get on it.
Also, sometimes only their help onboard is required while everything else is provided, and sometimes they are asked to contribute $10 or $15 daily for food. But even so, if one crosses the Atlantic, it would be still cheaper to pay the food on the boat than to pay the plane ticket. And what an adventure.
Most boats sail from Europe and Africa to the Americas in fall, that means September to January or February. They are most frequent in October and November. The most common departure points are The marina on Gran Canaria, in Las Palmas, on the Canary Islands. This is an especially practical spot in November during the regatta ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) when there is likely to be lots of boats that might need assistance.
Other locations for hitchhiking a boat to the Americas are Brest in Brittany and Antibes in the south of France. Gibraltar and Malaga in the south of Spain; Casamance and Dakar in Senegal, and Agadir and Essaouira in Morocco. But boats from Morrocco usually leave only to the Canary Islands where you should probably search for another boat that crosses the Atlantic. However, Las Palmas is the most frequent place for boats sailing to the Caribbean and Brazil.
And if you are wondering how to get a ride on a boat across the Pacific, well, there isn’t much information about people who have done it. But, that doesn’t mean that it is impossible.
If you have enough time and patience, you might find such a ride. At least to some Polynesian island, but there also might be a ride to New Zealand or Australia. Although that might take up to ten weeks. But adventure junkies like us shouldn’t be worried about things like that!
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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