Our ultimate guide on things to consider if you're planning to sail across the Atlantic
13. Be smart with your provisioning
Involve the crew in the shopping list and the shopping, then they will have less reason to complain later. Cabbages last ages and are great in salad. Bananas go ripe all at once and you’ll soon be sick of them. For fruit supplies stick to apples, oranges and pears which all have a longer shelf life. Have a butcher vacuum-seal meat to help preserve it or get a machine and do it yourself before freezing. Take no cardboard packaging on board to avoid importing cockroach eggs.
Don’t be afraid to wear lifejackets and use lifelines and always use them at night and in bad weather. If in doubt, play it safe. Drum into crew never to leave the cockpit to go forward when no one else is awake. And think about safety below decks too; for example, the risk to crews wearing shorts while handling pans of boiling water. Discourage crew from peeing over the side: there are no recorded cases of men falling overboard while using the heads.
It’s difficult to have too much, even in a sailing boat. If going further than the Caribbean, carry some jerrycans – fuel is often a taxi-ride away from the shore.
And lastly….don’t fix your arrival date in the diary
In some seasons an Atlantic crossing is quick. In others it’s slow. The weather varies quite a bit, especially early in November and early December, when the tradewinds can be elusive. So if you are fixated on a certain arrival day, you’ll be set up for disappointment before you even leave.
A sailing passage is not a liner service, so kick back, enjoy the experience, bring a few books and maybe go on a digital detox to enjoy time out from the deadlines that shape daily life on shore.
Keep your plans open. Remember that the crossing is the adventure, not the arrival in the Caribbean.
And whatever you do, don’t let your crew book flights immediately after your estimated ETA – nothing sours the atmosphere on board more than a single stressed person who is on a deadline and champing to be on land.
Heading the other way? Leaving the Caribbean for cooler climates? Check out our 16 top tips on crossing back to Europe here
Take a read of our November 2014 issue featuring a 6-page report on planning your trip:
PLUS: Caribbean expert Chris Doyle shares his favourite places to sail in the Windward Islands:
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This article was first published October 7th, 2007. Updated March 24th, 2015.