The Atlantic Ocean… The world’s second-largest mass of water, separating the New World from the Old World. For centuries it was inspiring generations of people to overcome their fears in pursuit of exploration and new beginnings. Crossing the Atlantic was a symbol of courage and strong character. No wonder that even these days, when transportation has become a lot easier than before, the Atlantic is still a milestone to conquer and many travelers wonder, how is it, crossing the great ocean and where to begin?
The main question most people ask is: ‘How long does it take to sail the Atlantic Ocean?’
The simplified answer would be: it takes about 3 to 4 weeks to cross the Atlantic on a more or less regular sailboat.
Estimating the unpredictable
The epic journey of Christopher Columbus in 1492 took him about six weeks to accomplish. By the end of the 18th century, the time needed to cross the grand ocean lessened by two, summing up to three weeks in the water. These days, however, the fastest known transatlantic trip has taken 2 days 14 hours and 7 minutes for a powerboat with Tom Gentry on board. Amazing as it may sound, but not so many people can boast to own a super vehicle just yet. Most travelers end up choosing a sailboat for their transatlantic adventure. It is a rather classical option, but nevertheless, there a never two journeys that are the same.
However, there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to making an estimate.
1. Picking a route. Tradewinds
For instance, your overall timing would highly depend on which route across the Atlantic you would choose. Obviously, the are multiple ways to do it. The most efficient, however, is known to be following the tradewinds in one of the two directions, from east to west (the Southern Passage) and from west to east (the Northern Passage). These routes have been used by sailors for centuries. If you try to visualize their course on a map, you will see that they look like two arcs rather far from what would seem to be a shortcut. Nevertheless, these two ways are considered to be the fastest due to their efficiency and certain leniency. The central part of the Atlantic ocean, on the contrary, is a zone of either hurricanes or dead calm, which makes a journey through it not so simple.
Generally speaking, sailing the Atlantic is not an easy quest even if one takes the path of the tradewinds. It takes a lot of self-control and willpower to spend a couple of dozens of days in the open sea, one on one with the water and sky and the mighty power of nature. The sailor taking up such a journey should be experienced, prudent and totally in control of his actions.
2. Perfect timing. Avoiding hurricanes
Another important factor to consider is the hurricane season, starting in June and lasting up to November. Sailing at this time is far more dangerous and demanding than normally, and also requires a lot more time investment.
3. Detailed planning. Take your time
Even regarding all the uncertainties and unexpected factors that may arise when it comes to the transatlantic circuit, sailing it is not the most time-consuming part of the process. The planning stage can take years even for experienced sailors, as numerous factors have to be taken into account.
As for the first-timer willing to sail the Atlantic, it is essential to invest a lot of time into preparation.
- First of all, it is crucial to be aware of one’s own aim when it comes to a transatlantic crossing. What is the main target pursued by this journey? Is it going to be a rather short trip across the ocean, or it should be a longer, more complicated route? Depending on these decisions, is the rest of the plan.
- Secondly, a perfect boat should be picked. It is always, of course, a subjectively ideal option based on the person’s budget, goals, and expectations, as well as on what is available on the market during the given period. A lot of people wonder how big the sailboat for a transatlantic crossing should be. The truth is, the perfect length of a boat would be around 9´to 12 meters. This size of a boat is appropriate to withstand rough weather conditions and is also quite manageable when it comes to navigation and maneuvering. It will also help avoid certain difficulties along the way and, consequently, save time. It is also good to keep in mind that for less experienced sailors, a mono-hulled boat with a fixed keel and strong sails is advised.
- Thirdly, it is extremely important to carefully assess the amount of equipment needed on board. The boat should never be over-equipped, however, all the essentials have to be present. In order to reach the golden ratio, a lot of research should be done. Professional guidance in such questions is highly recommended.
- It is also great to always keep in mind that when sailing, no strict deadlines can be applied. It is definitely a must to have a plan including highlights of the trip carefully thought out, however, those should be ready to be given up if any unexpected situation occurs. Thus, one should be flexible and ready to adapt to possible changes.
- Another significant factor to consider is choosing the crew and taking care of its safety arrangements.
- As mentioned earlier, the choice of route would also be decisive when it comes to timing, together with the starting and ending points. For a more accurate estimate, an additional 20% is to be added to the expected route, due to the fact that boats hardly ever travel in a straight line.
- Generally speaking, the best way to travel from East to West would be starting from Portugal or the Canary Islands and heading South-East to the Caribbean, which would result in about three to four weeks in the open sea. When it comes to traveling from West to East, one would normally start the trip in Bermuda and land in Portugal, resulting in the same average of three to four weeks. It is worth mentioning, however, that the way heading East normally takes longer than going West.
- When all the tangible preparations are done, the last but not least is the spirit. It is important to focus on the speed, know your boat, the equipment, your crew and be confident about your powers to manage the trip. Staying calm and alert is what guides a sailor throughout the unpredictable Ocean. Taking advice from more experienced people along the way is also of high significance.
The Ocean Calls
No matter how much humankind has advanced, crossing the Atlantic Ocean still remains to be a challenge, an adventure, a test, an achievement.
Many people have done it, a lot more is yet to accomplish it. Amelia Earhart, being the first female pilot to fly over the Atlantic, the famous Titanic finding its end in the dark depths of the ocean, Ben Lecomte, overcoming the water element by swimming across the Atlantic… All these names and many more will forever excite the imagination of people from all around the planet.
The transatlantic circuit requires skill, stamina and a great deal of preparation, but all in all, what matters is the willingness to commit to the journey.