Crossing an Ocean | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Crossing an Ocean

I'll always remember the sense of accomplishment Sheryl and I felt as we came in to Horta in the Azores after crossing our first ocean. Wow! We were tired and ready for a real night's sleep. It had been an 18-day double-handed crossing with sleep in 3-4 hour stretches and included our biggest storm to date. Boy were we thrilled to have sailed across the Atlantic!
arriving-atlantic-crossing-azoresThat was way back in 1990 in our first year of cruising/living aboard. We've since spent hundreds of days at sea out of sight of land including 6 more Atlantic crossings but the thrill of that first one is still a life memory.

The Proper Yacht - Room for Crew

On that first ocean crossing we were aboard Two-step, a Sparkman & Stephens design, we built ourselves from a bare hull and deck. This 37-footer was a small boat inside and a wet boat with low freeboard, but we sailed her 68,000 miles and three times across the Atlantic before moving up to our next boat. (The second picture is our third boat, Distant Shores II, a Southerly 49, sailing downwind wing-and-wing. Much nicer!)
atlantic-crossing-wavesBut perhaps one of Two-Step's biggest shortcomings was that she was a bit too small for bringing along additional crew. Doing watches 3 to 4 hours-on-/3 to 4 hours-off gets tiring. Nowadays we prefer doing passages with additional crew. Even one more crew means you can reduce the watch schedule, 4 people total and it makes a much more pleasant passage where everyone gets much better sleep.

Our new boat, Distant Shores III, a Southerly 480, is being built from the ground up with the plan to accommodate extra crew on passages. Distant Shores II could only handle 4 people on offshore passages in comfort. Distant Shores 3 is designed to have 6 aboard (Sheryl & I plus 4 additional crew) and we are planning safe comfortable sea berths for all. Here is an interior plan… For Offshore we will have a maximum of 6 people total aboard including us, and crew can choose the best berths for the conditions and preferences.


What's it Like at Sea?

It's not all storms and excitement on the ocean, although we certainly expect some exciting squalls on this passage. The transatlantic trade wind crossing to the Caribbean from Europe is likely to be all downwind. We have had a few calm days on 3 of our 4 east-to-west crossings on this route, but mainly the trades blow 15-20 knots or more from the east. We set the sails and roll along downwind, sometimes not even adjusting the sails for days on end. Typically there are squalls that pass regularly bringing rain and winds gusting up to 30 or so.

Here is a video from our recent Atlantic crossing in 2015 as we are completing our crossing the Atlantic to St Lucia. Everyone is very excited!

Offshore Ocean Overnight

If you've never done an overnight passage on a sailboat the thought of crossing an ocean and spending perhaps 18 days out of sight of land might well be daunting. In that case we would recommend a shorter passage first - one or two nights just to see if you like it.

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Do You Want to Cross an Ocean?

This isn't a dream for everyone! It's a big adventure and requires a big commitment in time. But if you dream of crossing an ocean then the trade-winds crossing of the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean is certainly one of those dream passages. Setting off in cooler fall weather from the Canary Islands, we head south for a few days. Tradition says "sail south until the butter melts" but with modern weather routing software we can make a better plan than that! On our last crossing we stopped at the Cabo Verde Islands, and we plan to do this again on our next crossing too. The islands are dramatic and friendly and it's a nice way to get 850 miles under your belt, then take a few days rest before jumping off for the big transatlantic crossing.

Join us Aboard Distant Shores III

We have always enjoyed bringing people along with us through our television shows to share the ocean life. Now with Distant Shores III we have planned the boat so we can bring along 4 additional crew and share the lifestyle directly. We have planned some passages in our Sail Away Weeks schedule. The big one is crossing the Atlantic (via the Cabo Verde Islands). We have planned 25 days this for adventure with probably 16-18 days at sea. That gives us a week or so in the Canary Islands, Cabo Verde Islands and Antigua when we arrive to celebrate!

For a smaller sampler of offshore sailing we are doing a passage from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands. We plan a stop in Morocco either at Rabat or Agadir. Either stop means there will be a leg of a few hundred miles (2-3 days) at sea on passage before we arrive in the Canary Islands at Lanzarote.

View Schedule - Legs - Availability - Click Here

If you'd like to join us for a "virtual" ocean crossing then why to check out our recent videos on the Atlantic crossing…

Join us aboard Distant Shores for the adventure of a lifetime crossing the Atlantic

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