Our ultimate guide on things to consider if you're planning to sail across the Atlantic

7. Go the long way round

Some people spend thousands on routeing software, and that’s fine. But you don’t need it and if you’re not used to using Grib files and don’t have polars for your boat, it’s of dubious value.

The most reliable passage plan is the simplest and often the quickest: run your latitude down to around 20°N, 30°W before turning right, following the age-old advice to ‘head south til the butter melts’.

Here are three reasons to favour this route:

  • You’ll pick up the tradewinds earlier. They often don’t kick in properly until halfway across on the rhumb line route.
  • You’ll get nicer conditions. Sometimes the direct route is upwind after the start or there’s an uneasy cross sea from a depression to the north
  • The extra distance is only between 200 and 300 miles
  • You’ll tick off 2-3 degrees of latitude a day, so it will get warmer quicker

8. Take it steady

Don’t go all-out at the beginning of a crossing. It takes around three days for a crew to get their sea legs and settle down into a routine. Be kind to your crew during this time- and also your boat. It will be fully provisioned, fuelled and watered and that’s tonnes of extra displacement. The increased loads on the gear and rigging are significant, so throttle back and don’t push too hard too early.

Relaxing on charter

9. Prepare for gear failure and carry spares

Be prepared for key equipment to fail, because sooner or later it will. If it’s gear you normally rely on, like an autopilot or watermaker, have a contingency or a workable plan to do without. Autopilot failure will start to put a small crew under strain by robbing everyone of rest time. For the same reason, it’s a good idea to make sure most or all of your crew are decent helmsmen downwind in following seas. If not, spend some time on passage tutoring them.

Similiarly, assume any piece of equipment that can go wrong will and plan your spares list carefully. Getting professionals to install equipment for you is not always good value – if you do it yourself you will have a better understanding of how to effect a repair.

Keep up to date on all the latest advice on planning a Transatlantic crossing and join our discussions at the Yachting World Facebook page.

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  • Roman Kogalin

    hahaha we can imagine.. funny.

  • Buy your fruit and vegetables from the farmers market, supermarket produce will have been chilled and will go off quicker
    I stored some cheeses below the waterline “to keep cool” and then had a nasty mess to clear up when it melted as the sea got warmer.

  • khizar_07

    A P&O Cruiser can do it in 7 days.
    10 days for a super yacht doing 10 knots.
    The Atlantic is a harsh environment. You will have to take engineers with you to ensure

    the thing does not break down.

  • CaptainDoomster

    In 1989 I crewed a 46 foot boat from Southampton to Antigua. We left Southampton in October (wrong end of the season). The Bay of Biscay was without doubt the worst stretch of the entire voyage – beating into four Force 10/ 11’s all the way down to Morocco with 30 – 40 foot sea.

    I went from never sailing a boat in my life to rounding Cap Finisterre alone at the night helm with big shipping in extreme gale force conditions….a true baptism of fire….and one of the finest most memorable moments of my life.

    Once in the Trade Winds the crossing was easy…..in fact I would almost call it boring….apart from seeing whales, dolphins, flying fish and the magical phosphorescent after 21 days the crew began talking about Hamburgers and Beer.

    I remember 500 miles off the coast of Africa we encountered two boats no bigger than 22 feet in size sailing together….so it is a myth when people say you cannot cross the Atlantic in small boats. In fact in the 60’s 25 – 30 foot was the norm and all those boats were basic….no water makers etc. Modern boats are cluttered with so much unnecessary crap.

    From my experience keep the boat simple, uncluttered and as the author stated maintain the momentum. Buggering around with complex sail arrangements in a squall or in the middle of the night is an annoyance.

  • Adam christ

    Thank you, happy sailing 🙂

  • This one here is a gold mine. Thanks for sharing this sailing
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    Every sailors and yacht owners guide before sailing. J