I often receive emails asking for advice on crossing oceans by sail or ship. Without a doubt it is an infinitely more interesting experience than flying, but it is not easy to arrange. Here, from my friend Rob, are some tips:
My experience of catching boats was varied… I caught ferries whenever possible, but sometimes had to hitch-hike on yachts, cargo ships, and pleasure boats.
This is a great challenge and a great adventure… requires luck, time and effort, but it feels worth it when you finally cast off those bow lines and set sail for a new land !
Advice from my own limited experience:
A lot of this is common sense, and I think just persevering and trying every idea you have is the main motto, but theÂ basic options are:
1. Hitch hike with yachts.
– There are some yachty websites which you can register with, but I never had any luck with these, but worth a try
– Worth meeting the manager of the yacht club where you hope to hitch from – and asking if they know of anyone about to set off (email in advance before you get there if possible)
– Look at notice boards and put a notice up about yourself
– Wander around the marinas chatting to people – offering to help in any way you can (scrubbing decks, etc)
-Worth considering the season… I always ended up trying to cross a sea in typhoon season when there were few yachts about – this makes it harder but I had no choice
2. Catch a local cargo ship
– local knowledge and local ports will help you here. Ask around.
– I caught a small cargo ship from Philippines to Indonesia for 50 USD
– The big cargo ships are usually very hard to get on to unless your dad owns the company… there is so much insurance and red tape, gone are the days when you can just buy the captain a drink and he will give you a ride… but you could…
3. Use a specialised travel agent to get you on board a freighter
– this is fairly straightforward – but can be quite expensive – about 100-200 USD per day, but if you are lucky you will have a comfortable cabin and good food. It worked out about twice the cost of a plane for me to go from Perth (Oz) to Singapore
– I would really recommend SGV Reisezentrum Weggis in Switzerland – very efficient and friendly – send them an email to enquire: email@example.com
4. Underlying all of these approaches is just doing good research – ideally before you get to the place you want to find a boat… also, try making contacts with everyone in town – and if possible get in the local newspaper, and on local TV (I had to do this in Papua New Guinea) in order to get the word out there. My eventual hitch from PNG to Cairns was through:
a friend (who I had met in Shanghai) introducing me to a shipping contact in Hong Kong who introduced me to another contact in Hong Kong who introduced me (by email) to his predecessor in Papua New Guinea, who invited me to play tennis with his friend, whose girlfriend introduced me to her teacher friend who invited me to speak in her school – and one of the kids in her class had an uncle who had a boat leaving for Australia later that week! So perseverance is the name of the game if you do not succeed at first!