For a while now I was harbouring the idea to cross the Atlantic not by plane but by any sort of oceangoing transport, in an attempt to travel slowly, reflect upon my time in South America and getting back to Europe.

Now, I don't really have a clue how to start looking for opportunities. I know from some people in the Canary Islands that going by sailing boat is an option. Their approach is to stay around the harbour area and ask around for arising opportunities. I found the following part of an answer on this site also (but it doesn't mention in detail where in South America I might find a boat):

Morten: "An other option to cross the Atlantic Ocean is by private sailing boats. But because of the sea (wind and currents) the season is from April to June. In the other months the sailing boats leave to Europe from the Caribbean Islands like Martinique. So you have to go there first."

I'm in Chile right now. I can reach Argentina, Peru, or southern Brazil. I don't have a fixed schedule when I need to get back to Europe. I also don't mind the destination country. I have no experience on sailing boats though I've been on other vessels before. I also have an ocean based profession if that's any help. I cannot afford to spend a lot of money, but a few hundred Euro would be OK.

My question is: what is the best way to look for opportunities? Where, in southern South America, am I most likely to find sailors going to Europe?

  • 2
    Did you consider going by cargo ship? Relating sailing, sailors often need a crew and it's not that easy to get people with availability. The problem there may be the skills. They may require you to have some experiece.
    – nsn
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 16:38
  • 1
    I think prevailing winds and currents make the southern route across the North Atlantic easier. Many people will therefore go south to Cape Verde and then sail westward. From Europe or the Mediterranean, the Canaries lie conveniently on this route, which is why people there see a lot of sailing boats. In the other direction, the Antilles are generally popular and people might go as far North as the US before the crossing. You will probably not find that many boats in South America, especially as far south as Argentina or Southern Brazil.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 18:38
  • @nsn Considered that though I thought I'd be more difficult due to insurance and company policy issues. Is it justified to ask a new question addressing cargo ships? I wouldn't like to expand this question as the answers address sailing boats.
    – Stockfisch
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 15:04
  • @Stockfisch For the case of freighter travel you can look at these two questions before asking a new one. How can I cross the Atlantic by ship from Europe to New York? and Where can I get information on freighter travel?. Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 16:56

4 Answers 4


Besides marinas there are several websites/forums you can search:

There are also “professional” websites that list ads like:

Some of the websites require that you pay a fee.

Anyway, as I commented before you may be required to have skills. Nevertheless make sure that the crew (and the captain) are also experienced at sea. Such crossings are very demanding physically and psychologically. You will be at sea for several days/weeks in a small space. It's important that you get along with these people and trust them on what they are doing. This is a real adventure, and your life can actually be at risk. There is no 911 or 112 to call. The only safety net on high sea is your team and you.

Make sure you are really prepared and think in all that is involved. It may seem a romantic idea to travel by sailing, and it's actually very nice, but most likely it will become something that you didn't expect at all. You will have almost no privacy, possible rough weather conditions, a lot of time with no land in sight, sea sickness, poor hygiene conditions.

Finding a crew is not allways easy. It's possible that you travel for free but it's also very common to share the food costs.

I don't think this will help you directly, but maybe it can give a few hints:

http://passageweather.com/ is a website with wind forecasts. From the charts you may be able to find the most likely routes and spots boats will take from where you are to prepare and cross the Atlantic. Note that this charts show only the current dominant wind. Streams and other very specific local conditions may not be specified here. Note that, although possible boats will always try to avoid sailing against the wind (close hauled). You make a lot more miles and it's very uncomfortable.

  • crewbay.com is another good place for lining up crew and boats
    – barrymac
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 13:52

First the general route to get to Europe over South America with sails:

You start at the East or North Coast, move over the West Indies, go north to the USA, move northeast with the Gulf Stream and if you get far enough to the north, you have wind from the west and you can cross the Atlantic.

Now you are in Chile and this is really the absolutely worst place to get to Europe. The options: The first Kap Hoorn and Magellan Strait. Both are in the Furious Fifties / Howling Sixties with constant head wind. While modern yachts are able to "beat" against the wind, it is extremely time consuming and physically very demanding. No one does it for this reason.

The same problem with the other route using the Panama canal. First you must again beat again the trades after passing Peru. The second owner of the ship needs to pay $1300 for the passage.

So the direct route is not available. The only thing possible is getting down to the south of Chile and using the route over the Pacific. It may sound strange, but in fact this route with constant use of the trades is easier and faster (!) than the direct attempt.

A final warning: Moving by sailing may sound romantic and adventurous. But as humans we only allow our beloved partner and very best friends (and even then with strict rules) constantly in our personal space. But in a limited space you are constantly violating the personal space of other people and this causes aggression. The only solution is strict submission under the command of the captain (It is not because seafarers have an authoritative streak, it is a necessity). For this reason many captains have no interest to allow strangers on their ship. If this is not accepted, the holiday turns very quickly into something very ugly.


Disclaimer: I have no real experience in crossing the atlantic, what follows is an educated guess. .

Looking at the map for ocean currents, I think that finding a sailing boat heading for Europe in southern-South America will be quite difficult.

Currents of the sea [source: wikimedia

As a sailor it would only make sense to follow the currents, which means that crossing from the south would require you to first cross to South Africa, then to go back to the Caribbean to finally cross the Atlantic again to Europe. (making an inverted S pattern) I would say your best bets would be on the Caribbean islands to find a hitchhike to Europe.

Another option would be to cross the pacific from Chile and sail through the Suez canal. I met people who did that, but it really takes time.


I can only agree with some of the others here. Sailing south of South America is a very demanding route. I've been in Antarctica with my own boat and are now heading back from Uruguay/Buenos Aires. I'm looking for crew and I get some proposals. Mostly from people with just that 'a bit romantic' touch: I have no experience and no money, but I work hard' Sailing from Uruguay will take about 60 days of open water. Shared cost of food and fuel will be not less than 1000 EUR in most cases if a non-stop route. Hitchhiking to US is possible on less. That option gives you a chance to see something else than blue water, if the driver (captain) is an ass you can just get out on the next stop. You sit in comfort with aircon a bit of the way. You do not have to save on water and can shower in a liter you buy at a roadside store together with some candy bar. You can bring a large bag of cloths and wash them every now and then. I do not need to use baby swipes and don't need to sleep in bed linen full of salt and eat fish more days than you have to.

All in all, use your thumb instead of the open water dream :)

If anyone still wants to sail to Europe my sturdy boat leaves Rio de la Plata in October/November. I need a crew of 1-3 persons. And yes, I'm an ass/captain. But compare to many others a bit more relaxed.

  • What size boat do you have? Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 17:01

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