Before the voyage – preparing for the Atlantic crossing

by Jakob Horvat, January 31st 2017, Arrecife/Lanzarote
Soon I’ll start a great adventure. Hitchhiking over the Atlantic Ocean on a sailing boat has transformed from a crazy idea into a mission and step by step shaped into reality. After I found the boat I got a ride offered from Las Palmas to Lanzarote. So I spent the past two weeks in the dry dock of Marina Lanzarote, helped with maintaining a catamaran and lived on it. I learned about boats and sailing and prepared mentally for the odyssey.

Some things can’t be planned. Some things just happen.

This last weekend on the Canary Islands, these last days before I finally cross that little ocean between me and America, I am alone – for the first time on this journey, except the three days without food in the forest of Tenerife. No friends closeby, no people I know better than superficially. I prefer the english way of describing it: I am being by myself. On a boat. In the dry dock. That provides me with a setting to run and work out in the morning, to watch sunsets at the lighthouse and go to salsa classes, listen to music loudly in the lonesome shipyard, to dance on the deck, to write, to have long phone calls with family and friends and go to the cinema late at night (I overestimated my Spanish skills, didn’t understand shit and fell asleep). But first and foremost I am trying to get used to the feeling that I’ll soon be on open water for more than two weeks.

The “Parana II” on its way from the water into the dry dock. Four weeks of maintenance ahead, I took part in two of them.

Maintaining a boat for board and lodging

Timon left on Saturday back home to Switzerland for a couple of days. He owns the catamaran I’ve lived on for two weeks and I helped him maintaining it for board and lodging. I patched up small damages on the deck and helped with other repair work.
Timon has big dreams and he is just about to take his steps necessary to make them become a reality. He wants to charter out his catamaran with him as a captain and his girlfriend as a crew, offering theme-turns including Yoga, scuba diving and kiteboarding. He took a loan from the bank and bought the boat in May 2016. „My dream is big enough that I want to try it. I don’t have much to lose. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll sell the boat again and search for a job in Switzerland“, Timon says. But he believes in his vision: „What makes me confident is the feedback from the few guests I already had. Sometimes approval from the outside is important to make sure the whole thing is not just working out in your head, but also in reality.“

I’ve met Timon in the port of Las Palmas while searching for a boat to America. „I don’t go to America, but if you want to gain some sailing experience you are welcome to join me to Lanzarote in a couple of days“, Timon said after two minutes of chatting. Some opportunities only come once and I appreciated Timons openness. And I wouldn’t reject this kind of offer unless I have a really good reason for it.

It took us 23 hours to sail from Gran Canaria to Lanzarote

That night the sea was so rough that I sometimes lost contact with my bed when the fifty foot catamaran jumped over the waves. Seasickness came back and also some uncomfortable memories of the seven days sea voyage from Portugal to Tenerife. But feeling dizzy is so much better with a captain who cares. Thank you, Timon! As soon as I got over it, I was the one steering the boat, learning about wind directions, sail adjustments and navigation. With every lesson I learned about sailing, with every step I took towards my goal of traveling to America by boat, I turned the fear of this big unknown more into confidence.

It will take us between two and three weeks to America

What was a crazy idea in the beginning has shaped into my reality step by step. I already met Lothar, the captain who takes me across the Atlantic, in Las Palmas. He is an Austrian sailor from Salzburg with great experience. His job is to teach people how to sail. That’s a jackpot, I guess. On February 1st we’ll meet up in the south of Tenerife together with the other four crew members. One day later we’ll set sail towards the Caribbean – St. Lucia most probably, depending on the winds.

Read here how we found a boat across the Atlantic.

So what about the costs?

Paying money for a ride is probably not the first thing one thinks about when talking about hitchhiking, indeed. That’s a bit different when hitchhiking a yacht. Boats are expensive, very expensive as I have learned recently while helping to maintain one. So hitchhikers are usually asked to share the costs. Very lucky ones might go for free, although they might want to make sure that all safety interests are met. It happens that some sail across the Atlantic without having any clue about sailing. Cheap prices are between ten and twenty Euro a day for the board kitty, hence for boat expenses, gasoline and food supplies. That varies with the sailing experience one can contribute and with the quality of the boat. I’m paying sixty Euro a day. That’s not the cheapest, but I had good reasons to take the offer anyway. Sailing with a well experienced captain and a good boat is not only a reasonable investment into safety, it also gives me the chance to learn as much as possible about sailing. Secondly, the competition in Las Palmas was high and I preferred to join Timon to Lanzarote rather than hanging out in the port for some more days to continue the search. And last, but not least, I have a good deal here: I can stay on the boat for as long as I want and continue sailing in the Caribbean without any extra payments.

One of six AIDA cruise ships I’ve seen leaving the port of Arrecife. They are playing Enya’s “Sail Away”. Every. Single. Time.

Ready for Bingo on a cruise ship?

What was the hotspot for adventurers and sea gipsies in the port of Las Palmas, is the el dorado for cruise ship tourists in Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote. That is two different worlds. The marina here is a mile of restaurants, cafés and boutiques that are rarely frequented most of the time. It has an artificial vibe and a ghost-town-touch. But when a cruise ship moors in the port, hundreds of tourists eat, drink, buy and make the shop owners happy. One of them is Peter from Germany. He is in his mid fifties, has self-tanning glasses and wears sandals with white tennis socks. 1800 Euro he paid off-season for the 16 days cruise around the Azores and Canary Islands, the flight is included. Peter loves cruises, he has done several: „It’s perfect for us to get to know new places. If we like one, we come back.“ But this one, a 4-star-ship from German reeder AIDA, doesn’t make him too happy. He was annoyed by too much fog to see whales the other day and to take pictures from sights. And furthermore: „The service and the entertainment on board is much better on the 5-star-ships of American companies“, he states. „There you could have more choices than attending a Merengue-course, watch some funny shows or play Bingo.“

What a contrast!

Soon I can play some Bullshit-Bingo on the boat with words like „the weather forecast doesn’t look too good“, „the waves are getting bigger“ or „I have to throw up“ and the last thing I long for is having four in a row. That’s how the nervous and anxious part of my little inner voice is trying to attract attention. The adventurous and most alive one laughs out loud and can’t wait to get started. It shouts „hell yeah“ whenever I give it the chance to and anticipates the most exciting goal I’ve ever achieved. I’ve decided to focus on the latter.

Find Timon’s sailing company DeluxSailing on facebook.

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