Atlantic Crossing: Discover how safe it was

Crossing the Atlantic is not that dangerous. We can ensure our safety in many ways with the technology available today. We have already discussed the list of equipment and safety measures you should be aware of to cross the ocean. You can find the detailed information here.

Now we discuss crossing the Atlantic in particular, ways to cross, plan to cross, and everything you need to know while crossing the Atlantic. 

Crossing the Atlantic will take five to six weeks, depending on the route; you can cut that down to three weeks. Also, you can increase the speed when possible to reduce the duration.

When is the best time to go to the Atlantic:

While planning, you need to consider trade winds, which change direction based on the season. It can drastically increase your speed or hinder your progress if not planned properly. Between November and end of April is the best time to go to the Atlantic. It is warmer during winter, with temperatures of around 82 degrees Fahrenheit. 

As this is far from hurricane season, the chance of you getting into a storm is significantly less. In addition, trade winds will let you sail with ease during this time. The official hurricane season starts from mid of May, as stated by national weather services in the US.

Planning : 

You will always concentrate on the A to B and forget the cool things about crossing the Atlantic, like preparing the boat and pulling the crossing. However, the days you will spend on the journey and reaching the destination are powerful and magical.

Weather patterns in the Atlantic:

Weather in the Atlantic hugely depends on the Azores high or Bermuda high; the center of the high has no wind at all and around the edges more or less parallels the isobars in the clockwise direction. So to cross the Atlantic, you need to learn to navigate this Atlantic high.

Image Credit

Suppose you guys are coming from cape Verde to wherever you want to go. In that case, it’s pretty easy because you’re at the bottom of that high, which is very stable in winter. Still, summertime hurricanes and tropical storms will hit it, and that’s why you guys need to start moving. 

To get back to Europe, you must navigate the transition area, traditionally called the horse latitudes,

image credit

between the bottom and the top of that high. It was called the horse latitudes because back in the sailing ship days, if the ship would get calmed in there, the first thing they would do is throw their horses overboard because the horses drank water and the crew needed water, and if they sometimes waited weeks to find the wind up the horses were the first to go hence the horse latitudes.

The Route: 

Two main routes to cross the Atlantic from 

  1. From east to west 
  2. From west to east 

Sailors have been using this route since the days of Christopher Columbus.

From west to east:

It is called the northern passage. You need trade winds in favor to cross this, and if you are already in Bonaire, you are in the trade wind belt to go from Bonaire to azore. If you go straight, you must cross the Atlantic high’s center. If you’re on a motor yacht, you can go that way because you’re going through that calm area.

image credit

It’s also called the North Atlantic gyre, but you don’t want to do that on a sailing boat because you’re not going to be sailing very much. You guys won’t carry enough fuel to make it across there, so what you have to do is, if you are going to stop in Bermuda or not you going to sail north towards Bermuda you’re going to transition across this horse latitudes area try to get up to the top of the high and then turn east and go across to azore and from azore you can go to Portugal. 

image credit

It will take around 30 to 37 days.

From West to East:

It is known as the southern passage. To sail eastward, you first have to reach your port of departure, so it is best to start from the canary island, reach the canary island from Portugal, and from there, you should set sail to Cape Verde. From there, you can reach the Caribbean.

image credit

It will take around 37 to 42 days. But it depends on the wind and the boat you use; you need to use trade winds to your advantage. 

If you sail in the southern hemisphere, the wind will come from a southeasterly direction and push you towards the equator. On the other hand, if you sail in the northern hemisphere, it will come from a northeasterly direction and will push you along the equator. Thereby forms a reliable roadway for voyaging through the Atlantic, and your sailing journey hugely depends on how effectively you use these reliable and predictable trade winds. Of course, the currents also move in the same direction as the winds offering comfortable sailing.  

Kaidor, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Sailing alone is not dangerous; dangers are everywhere if you do not care enough, like driving home, even walking can sometimes cause heavy accidents. Sailing is not that dangerous. We can ensure our safety in many ways with the technology available today. We can forecast any weather change accurately prior to our journey. There are some deadly accidents too in sailing. What matters is that the possibility of a lethal accident is relatively low. Research data states there is a possibility of 1.19 deaths for 1 million sailors. These stats suggest it’s much safer to sail if we are careful enough. Also, in 12% of these sailing fatalities, alcohol is involved, and the most death rate occurs by falling off the boat and drowning more than storms or anything else, so our responsibility is the point here. 

How to sail safely:

  1. Sailing solo is not recommended for beginners. 
  2. Proper training and experience can make you a safe sailor, so taking some classes would be helpful.
  3. Check the weather often, like make sure it’s alright the night before and also just before you start. Weather will change frequently.
  4. Always wear a life jacket. As mentioned earlier, these people have the chance to be saved if they wear a life jacket.  
  5. Develop a survival mindset by running different scenarios in your mind.
  6. Watch out and be careful if the water is calm. There are many dangers in calm water.
  7. Don’t drink alcohol while sailing. 
  8. Before leaving the marina, study charts and check all the obstacles like bridges, shoals, and rocks you are about to meet.
  9. You need to have a timeline for your voyage and let those around you know when you are departing and arriving. Then, people can alarm for you if something goes terribly wrong and look for you if needed.

Boat size:

The ideal boat size to cross the Atlantic ranges from 35 to 42-foot. This size of the boat is for storage and can withstand some severe weather conditions if needed. If you take care of your boat, the boat, in turn, will take care of you. Wind power is free, but provision and preparation are not. 

Be aware of these points; the Atlantic crossing will be a much safer and epic journey.

Recent Posts