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V1Rotate 11-09-2007 04:48 PM

Are we crazy?

My wife and I are planning on taking leave of absences from our jobs, renting out our house, buying a bigger sailboat, crossing the Atlantic, and living onboard in the Med and Baltic seas for a year or two. We can't think of a reason NOT to do it!

We have never sailed out of sight form land though. Aside from bareboat chartering in the BVI and Med, we have limited ocean experience. I have been sailing all my life, but mostly smaller boats. I do work as an airline pilot, and therefore consider myself to have good knowledge of navigation and weather, [but not sea states.]

We were hoping the great "brain trust" of our fellow forum members can set us in the right direction regarding making preparations for this trip. I have already begun self-studying but seek suggestions from my fellow cruisers. Relevent book and website recommendations are greatly appreciated.

Boat: We seek something safe for the crossing, less than $200, 000 USD, yet comfortable to live on and easy to maintain in Europe. Leaning towards a 5 year old 40 to 47 foot Beneteau or Jeanneau. We on having the boat equipped with a life raft, a SSB radio with internet capability, generator, watermaker, GPS, hand held GPS, Marine VHF, and an aircraft VHF. Extra cans of diesel fuel too.

Route: I like the idea of short open ocean passage offered by a St. Johns, Canada to the UK route. But the ocean weather conditions I have occasionally observed from the cockpit of my jet make me nervous. As does the risk of collision with a large ship on this busy route. Otherwise I suppose we could go Bermuda – Azores – Gibraltar, but this nearly doubles our open ocean time.

Once there, we plan on spending lots if time in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, UK, and Sweden, etc. Winters will probably be spent in Turkey, Israel, Egypt or Morocco. We need a change of scene from the USA, a large dose of European culture and way of life are in order!

Anyway, thanks to all in advance for your suggestions. We hope to set sail with 12-18 months. [And we may be seeking 2 more experienced hands to go with us.]

Ken 11-09-2007 08:45 PM

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

But do study and learn what cruising is all about before you cut the dock lines. Even consider an ocean passage crewing on another persons yacht.

Try Jimmy Cornell's "Cruising routes" for a few ideas on where and when to sail. Noonsite on the web will give you updates to the book and a lot more info on where and when..

Pilots understand the weather for the next few hours... as provided by a dispatcher. Sailing requires weather forecasting for weeks in advance. It's a big difference. There are no alternates in the middle of the ocean.

I have no idea why you would want an aircraft VHF, but If you are concerned about big ships (and you should be) learn about AIS and add a receiver to your list.

HF radio is not a reasonable way to connect to the internet.... it is however good for email. read up on the pactor modems and Winlink. A bit of study will get you a general class ham license.

Be careful a year or two may turn into eight.

Good Luck!


Originally Posted by V1Rotate (Post 14806)
Are we crazy?

Auzzee 11-09-2007 09:09 PM

My attitude to ocean sailing is probably not as well considered as it should be. My first ocean voyage came after only reasonably limited coastal/harbour sailing, and was predicated on one simple thought; The weather is the same, but the water is deeper and there is less to hit. I am not suggesting this 'in the deep end' thought is wise but, as a thinking man with a very responsible 3D passage making job, you will find the transition quite easy to make.

I imagine the difference between one sailing extreme and the other is similar to flying. One is doing circuits and short intercity hops, the other is SanFran to Honolulu, to Tokyo. There is more to know about a variety of external factors, and the aircraft must be up to the job and be well prepared for extended flight.

The bottom line is that the only way to gather to gather experience. It is best to first be a purser, then a flight engineer, then a co-pilot...but if someone flings you the controls...have a go!

Best wishes


MMNETSEA 11-09-2007 11:31 PM

Victor One,

Go for it ! The Med, although having many interesting places, has become less attractive in terms of cost and actually finding a parking spot - Turkey still reasonable, the marina developers haven't completely taken over. A bareboat charter in the Med may illustrate the issue.

Good Luck and welcome to the forum.


haffiman37 11-10-2007 09:18 AM

Not quite sure how 'crazy' You want to be, but I would have chosen the northern route.

Perhaps even a stop in Iceland and even Shetland. Then jump over to Noway, Bergen should fit. Coast down to Stavanger/Kristiansand/Arendal and cross over to Sweden. Down past Gotheburg and into the Baltic sea.

Note that navigating on the Swedish/Norwegian coast might be quite a challenge. Millions of islands, plenty of rock to hit, but with good charts -no problems.

Take the Kiel canal to get to UK/France.

Do not pass the bay of Biscay later than August.

The downside -it might be a bit chilly up Northand I would suggest decent sailinwear!!!

Windspeed of 20 knots are common and due to temp and air-density it feels more like 30+ in Caribean!

Happy sailing!

GoneTroppo 11-10-2007 01:10 PM

If you want to do it for only a year or two, well then I would have to say you are crazy! Who would want to give up cruising to go back to w*^k, aarrrhhh.

Hope you at least manage a few years.



SeaVenture 11-10-2007 04:06 PM

Like you, I've been sailing small boats all my life. My first out-of-sight-of-land passage was across the Sea of Cortez, which is famous for its sudden summer storms. The weather behaved itself the first two days and then came slamming up during the third night's passage as we headed south. (But we got to practice heaving-to and so learned more about what Sea Venture can do.) I was much more concerned that I'd be able to navigate without landmarks than my Navy-pilot husband was. But, you know, it was really great fun! As David said, out there, you don't have to worry about the rocks and shoals, which loom large in your calculations near land. And it was great fun ending up just where we were supposed to be.

Michael's feeling when we bought the big boat was that it would be like going from flying a jet to flying a cargo plane, both of which he's done. And he figured that nothing we did with her would require quite the precision of all those carrier landings...

In case you're interested, there's a fun (though highly irreverent and not nearly as polite as this one) forum of mostly Brits at

I enjoy reading it as many of them are in the Med or on their way to/from the Med, and I like to hear how others are coping. They all seem to be living on retirements--or something--that provide far more than we'll have, as their cavalier statements about mooring/docking fees in Med marinas make me shudder, which Richard seems to be confirming. There don't seem to be very many anchorages available, certainly few for long-term use, and my husband and I will be on an anchor-out budget. So, we may never leave the Pacific--or maybe we'll slip around and visit Lighthouse in SA before making our way to the Caribbean.

If you're crazy, then so are all of us on this board. Ain't it grand!


Flywest 11-10-2007 04:48 PM

Take a sattelite phone.

Also a bottle of sea sick pills - inshore sailors sometimes can have a bad habit of getting crook when out of sight of land for long.

If you get lost and happen to sail downunder stop in at my Island and say G'day!

In fact - forget the sailboat - buy an island - you get all the advantages of being surrounded by ocean but not the sea sickness!


imagine2frolic 11-10-2007 05:18 PM

Mark Twain, and Ken said it best.......GO FOR IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

redbopeep 11-10-2007 09:49 PM


I agree with all the rest--follow your dreams and go for it if this has been a dream for a while. Even if its a whim--what fun is life if you can't be flexible and follow those whims.

Its a lifelong dream for my husband and I to be cruising by this point in our lives (mid-40's). We're "behind" schedule so to speak (although we don't have a schedule anymore--go with the flow-->/biggrin.gif is our motto now)...we started a few years "late" because we got caught up in other things for a few years and had to find a way to gracefully extract ourselves while keeping the things we care about ongoing...we started the "extraction process in the fall of 2005, fixed up and sold the house (7/06), stored the family stuff, reorganized our work into a smaller part of life, bought the boat we wanted to cruise on, and then moved across the country (9/06) to fix it up for living aboard and cruising. We're working full time right now on fixing up the cruising boat; we spend our weekend hours sailing on a smaller boat and brushing up or learning new skills (HAM license, learning about diesel engine repair, etc). Every once in a while, we also do work in our respective fields to keep the money flowing. The cruising boat should be re-launched next spring (08) after 18 months of rebuild. Having "cast off" the old life, even though we're still technically on land we feel like we're already living our dream every time we go out sailing on the smaller boat. We've a studio apartment but spend most time on the little boat. We can't technically live aboard the small boat because our port has strict rules about only 10% of all boats can be live-aboard...We're on a waiting list to live aboard that boat, probably about the time its approved, we'll be leaving San Diego>/rolleyes.gif

I digress... but digressing even further....


Are you currently an airline pilot in the USA or a previous pilot? The reason I ask is that most pilots with major carriers are completely unwilling to give up seniority and to stop working in the few short years that one can fly (until age 55, right?). Also, do you have a means for keeping your qualifications or do you just not care? My husband was a Navy pilot and never considered flying as an airline pilot after leaving the Navy--one reason was because of the lack of flexibility in the prime years of life and our desire to cruise. My brother-in-law is an airline pilot and he would love to cruise with us but also is worried about getting back into a job once he's away from it for a year or two. How are you facing this? I'd go for it, hubby would go for it, but most pilots in the USA would not.

Best of luck to you!>/tongue.gif

V1Rotate 11-13-2007 04:15 AM

Thanks Haffimann, and everyone else, for your input.

Ya know Haffimann, your suggested route was actually my first instinct.

I like the thought of never being more than 600nm from land. In fact, a rough Google Earth search seems to indicate to longest passage would be about 700nm from Fox Harbor, Labrador to Greenland's southern tip. The route would continue NE along past all Greenland's fjords until a 300nm hop Keflavik could be made. Then east along Iceland's southern shore before the 300nkm jump to the Faroe Islands. Then a 200nm hop to the Shetland Islands of Scotland, and another 200nm to Norway.

My impromptu observations made after spending the summer flying the North Atlantic Tracks [great circle routes from Canada to Europe, usually located between 40 to 65 degrees north latitude,] I noticed a lot of icebergs between Greenland and Canada. Not to mention lots of sea ice extending from a few miles to maybe 100 miles form those respective shores. And the sea west of Scotland/Ireland seems to get very rough at times. As do the seas east of Canada. And Iceland always seems to be windy....with Keflavik's wx forcast always calling for daily winds E @ 30 G 45 kts. Yikes! Can a fiberglass boat really handle this abuse?

Also, I have been following since last spring the North Atlantic weather on the US Navy's public website: I know information can be a dangerous thing :-) but I highly recommend this site. It showed some unsettling forcasts regarding high seas states and gale force winds....mainly on the north side of low pressure systems within a few 100nm of the center. And the lows seems to traipse effortlessly and quickly across the North Atlantic every few days. Also, it was surprising to see how often the wind blows from the east at the higher latitudes in least half the time, maybe more.

On a related note, there were a few weeks around July/Aug 07 when Greenland was in the clear from 34000 feet. Looked like high pressure wx and calm seas. It was a breath-taking sight from the plane. Awe-inspiring beauty! Moutains over 10000' plunging into the sea. Glaciers everywhere with numerous blue melt pools. There are also really deep fjords with some being clear and other being choked with ice. Not to mentions lots of rocks on the SW tip. Some of the harbors looked like they might be blocked with ice until August. A pretty sight indeed but looked like a real challenge for a sailboat. Or any boat!

Although I prefer colder weather to heat and humdity, another big hazard is hypothermia due to all the cold water on this route.

Also, between New York City and NW Europe.............there appear to be inumerable hazards from rocks and shoals along the respective coast lines. To say nothing of the tidal rise and currents.

I was planning on taking an aircraft VHF on a North Atlantic route for use in an emergency. There are hundreds of planes crossing this area each day, and in theory, the range on an aircraft VHF can be near 200 nautical miles.

Wondering if the hazards of this route outweigh the benefits. Possibly. Probably! But therein lies the art of sailing. And flying.

Still seriously considering this route! Mainly for it's beauty. Probably a late July departure from Labrador.

Ordered all of Jimmy Cornell's cruising books/guides!


[QUOTE=name='haffiman37' date='Nov 10 2007, 03:18 AM' post='14823']

Not quite sure how 'crazy' You want to be, but I would have chosen the northern route.

Perhaps even a stop in Iceland and even Shetland. Then jump over to Noway, Bergen should fit. Coast down to Stavanger/Kristiansand/Arendal and cross over to Sweden. Down past Gotheburg and into the Baltic sea.


Nausikaa 11-13-2007 05:21 AM


Originally Posted by haffiman37 (Post 14823)
............ I would have chosen the northern route.

Perhaps even a stop in Iceland and even Shetland. Then jump over to Noway, Bergen should fit. Coast down to Stavanger/Kristiansand/Arendal and cross over to Sweden. Down past Gotheburg and into the Baltic sea.

Note that navigating on the Swedish/Norwegian coast might be quite a challenge. Millions of islands, plenty of rock to hit, but with good charts -no problems.

Take the Kiel canal to get to UK/France.

Do not pass the bay of Biscay later than August.

The downside -it might be a bit chilly up Northand I would suggest decent sailinwear!!!

Windspeed of 20 knots are common and due to temp and air-density it feels more like 30+ in Caribean!

Much of the area haffiman37 suggested you sail in is, in fact, "my" sailing ground. Let me therefore offer my thoughts on his suggestion:

The route from St. Johns to Iceland and Shetland is, as you know, almost the great circle route. It is the shortest but it is also the route on which you can expect the worst weather but at lest you should not have too many headwinds on this route. I have spent quite a long time on the North Atlantic as a ship's officer and my experience tells me that I would only recommend that route to the experienced with a solid boat. I clearly remember the last storm I experienced in that area when on patrol duties in the Norwegian Sea. We had 17 metre waves and that was not an estimation but the height recorded by a wave recording buoy. That was in July! Arround the East coast of Canada and the Atlantic Isles you will find strong tidal streams too.

Having said that, when you reach the Norwegian coast then you will be in for a thrill! It is absolutely stunning but if going as far as Bergen then make the extra effort and see the Hardangar and Sogne Fjords too. South of Stavanger, until you reach Kristiansand, there are but few sheltered harbours but, on the other hand, it is not a long way. Beware though as abnormally high waves can be encounted in this area. The Admiralty and Scandinavian charts contain a warning about this. Believe it but don't be intimidated by it. Hundreds of yachts sail this area every year.

Once you have rounded The Skaw (Denmarks most northerly tip) you will find the weather generally gets better with less rain and wind. Also, as you now are entering a landlocked sea area, the fetch is greatly reduced. The Baltic is a beautiful cruising ground (see also the WIKI) with many seeworthy towns and fishing villages, stacks of history and fine, well maintained harbours and marinas. In the archipelagos there are literally thousands of secure anchorages too. Berthing is cheaper than the Med. although food prices are probably a bit higher. There are any number of boatyards and chandlers too.

I would not say that the Norwegian and Swedish coasts are a bit of a challange as they are well marked and, unlike sandbanks which shift, the dangers are also well known and consistent although very hard!

As was stated, this area can get a bit on the chilly side so a good heater is essential except perhaps in summer time. Also, the Baltic ranges from brackish in the south to almost fresk in the north. A fouled bottom will be "un-fouled" if you go far enough north or pass into, for example, the Swedish lakes.

Exiting the Baltic is easy via the Kiel Canal but once you have left the locks at Brunsbuttel astern you will experience the full effect of the tides again. Be careful when leaving the river Elbe. The current is strong and you do not want to go further than to Cuxhaven with an strong onshore wind. Wait until the wine is at least abeam the ebb or with it rather than pounding into the very nasty seas for which the German Bight is renowned.

There are a lot of vessels ploughing the North Sea routes and the area is also littered with oil and gas installations. It is not a hassle but one should take care. Until you reach the tideless Med. you will encounter some fairly strong tides, particularly in the English Channel and on the French Atlantic coast. Look out for areas of tiderips marked on the charts and, without knowledge of when they occur, avoid those areas.

Don't let my words put you off the trip. You will have many fine experiences on such a voyage but it is better to be forewarned of the hazzards so that they can be avoided and you can concentrate on having a great time.

Aye // Stephen

Boatman 11-14-2007 12:49 PM

[QUOTE=name='V1Rotate' date='Nov 9 2007, 04:48 PM' post='14806']

Are we crazy

Go, just do it.

Not wanting to change your mind but............ I am not sure your choice of boat will be the best for what you are planning, that is not to say it won't work I have done many long ocean passages in exactly what you are considering and I currently own something similar. However I am in the process of changing to something a bit more solid.

If you would like to read more of the debates (sometimes heated) about various boats try the forums on More comment on the subject I won't make.

When you are considereing repairs etc in europe you can pretty much find everything just at a cost. You have to shop around like everywhere. But if you are buying new kit for the boat consider getting worldwide brands maybe a bit more cost wise upfront but long term cheaper and less agro.

JeanneP 11-14-2007 02:25 PM

Aircraft VHF. It has been my understanding that VHF range is dependent upon how high above sea level the antenna is, because VHF is line-of-sight. Does aircraft VHF put out more power, or does it rely upon its distance above the horizon for its greater range? Have you ever heard VHF transmissions from sailboats?

If you're in trouble, it would seem than an EPIRB and an SSB would be better. An EPIRB signal doesn't rely upon an aircraft flying within a couple hundred miles to get your distress signal. SSB the same, with more chance of talking with someone who is knowledgeable about ocean travel to be of help when it's not a rescue situation.

A fiberglass boat can handle worse weather than a great many humans on that boat can. Read about the Fastnet 1978 storm. Read "Rescue in the Pacific" by Tony Farrington. Friends of ours were in this storm, popularly known as the "Queen's Birthday Storm". Of the five boats whose crew were rescued, all fiberglass, four boats made it to land without crew aboard. Two were towed into harbor (one six months after the storm). The other two (one of which had been dismasted in the storm) were looted by the islanders where the boats ran up on the reef or beach and then left to be carried back out to sea in storms and apparently sunk. The fifth boat was deliberately sunk at the demand of its owners by the rescuing ship. Another boat was lost with all hands and no knowledge of what went wrong in their case. Many other boats in the area of these boats and also suffering this horrendous storm made it through without assistance.

With your level of experience, I wouldn't recommend the northern route. Friends of ours went up to St. Pierre and Miquelon from their home port in Massachusetts one summer which they considered a challenging trip. They were avid sailors with a dozen or more years of blue water sailing and veterans of about 10 Bermuda races (perhaps more). The Bermuda races back then did not allow electronic navigation - sextant, RDF were the only tools allowed (I simply assume that GPS is now permitted).

I think you will find that high winds and storms are more frequent and more severe in the higher latitudes, so 600 nm up there probably throw more challenges at a sailor than several thousand sea miles in the lower lats. I think you should have more experience before trying the north Atlantic. After three days offshore, what's another ten days more?


Aquaria 11-14-2007 05:13 PM

Hi V1Rotate

taking the northern route is indeed the hard way to start ocean sailing. Some of the "disadvantages" are told, like icebergs, cold water and generally colder air temperatures and maybe fog in some areas?

Even 300 nm away from land is enough to get the full impact of a frontal system passing through with winds picking up from the southwest, increasing, followed by a roughening seastate and in the passing cold front the wind veering to the northwest, becoming very strong in ghusts, the waves building up from the northwest too (overlaying the old sea from the southwest - what a mess -) and then finally the winds decreasing again when the frontal system moves on to the east, leaving you with again light winds but with the old nasty swell, making sailing impossible. And maybe the next frontal system is already leaving Newfoundland to meet you two days later...

Or you go this far north, that the system passes you in the south, but then you will face easterly winds and it could be even colder.

Perfect conditions for a sturdy pilothouse-cutter, though.

We had been sailing for about 15 years on the Baltic Sea and the (rougher) North Sea before, but for our first real ocean crossing we were really happy of having the advantage to be able to start in Europe and to do an easy ocean crossing first (via Canaries to the Caribbean) before we had to go back east over the North Atlantic from the US-Virgins via the Azores to Ireland. We were in those times so glad that we did not have to sail one mile further north. And even that was rough enough: Always high seas, a wet deck and winds at 20 to 25kn for more than 15 days. But its was not cold - that helped alot to arrange with the otherwise rough circumstances.

I must say that we did all that on a boat of 32ft, and 5 tonnes of weight.

Conclusion: We like it better to sail a couple hundred miles more than having to deal with way rougher weather- and seaconditions.

And if still favouring the northern route: it's a big relief to the crew if there are 4 or more on board so that everyone gets a good amount of time to recover inbetween the watches.

Ancious to read how you found the northern route, if you decidid this way.



SY Aquaria

V1Rotate 11-14-2007 10:43 PM

Agreed, an EPIRB and SSB radio are a "must have" on an ocean crossing. A satphone [and an extra hand held GPS] would be good to have as well.

Regarding taking an aircraft VHF. I would use it as an emergency back up. [And to talk to my friends when I get bored.] At my airline, all our planes are equipped with dual HF radios, and dual satellite phones, and 3 VHF radios. We also have navigation capability of GPS and Inertial Navigation Systems, along with VHF and NDB systems as well. And if all else fails, you can always follow someone else....or their contrails!

As for air traffic over the north Atlantic, the highest volume of east bound flights will pass overhead between 0000 to 0600 GMT. Westbound flight traffic volume will be highest between 1000 to 1800 GMT. But there will be traffic at all times of day........ So should you get in trouble, and your SSB fails, and you can't reach anyone on marine VHF, and your sat phone falls overboard, then the aircraft VHF would be a good option to call for help.

An aircraft VHF is indeed line of sight. With jets crossing the atlantic at altitudes of 32000 to 40000 feet above sea level, the line of sight is about 200 nm. You would be able to hear the planes better than they could hear you however. This is because the systems used on commercial and military airraft have high wattage output. Using a hand held aircraft VHF would probably only transmit clearly for 100nm due to it's lower output. You could find a used general aviation VHF [24 volt DC required] which would have better output. All aircraft crossing the ocean monitor "guard" frequency 121.5 which is supposed to be used for emergency or urgent calls. Another frequency monitored is "air to air" 123.45. This is used for general flight information purposes, [not a party line.] If we want to talk with our buddies, we use our company frequency.....which I won't divulge.

And no, I have never heard a boat on an aircraft VHF frequency.

I know of one our retired pilots, Hugo Vahlen, who set a Guiness Book of World Records for crossing the Atlantic in the world's smallest sailboat, [5 feet and 6 inches long..........St John's, Canada to Portsmouth, England.] He took along an aircraft VHF which he did in fact use to communicate with overhead aircraft. Good thing too, as his SSB failed one day out of port.

And for anyone interested, he wrote a book about it called "The Incredible Voyage of 'Father's Day.'" A very good read.

aronm 11-15-2007 05:24 PM

Yes. It is true. I agree with Steave. 1-2 years not enough...

My name is Aron Meder. I am sailing around the World alone with a 19ft sailing boat (CARINA)

My website:

First port was: Koper, Slovenia (2006.szept.24)

Now I am in Fiji... I will be here 6month:)

Good Luck,


Cruiseship47 11-15-2007 07:18 PM

wow thats absoulutely incredible. you have to do it. you just have to.

Swagman 11-16-2007 05:40 AM

All this chat about starting off ocean sailing with a toughish passage makes me wonder why you do not buy the boat you want in Europe> Then once you've finished with the Med, sail her home the easier downhill way, when you've more experience?

I'm not one of those who think anyone should put off going sailing and like ot think I fit in the 'jump in the deep end' bracket. But I'd hate for you to make the investment, take a bashing on the way over, and end up wanting to try and sell a US reg boat in europe and return home to give up the dream. Lots do.

Many eu charter firms sell off yachts of the size you've indicated. And having it at least eu registered initially will make it easier for you to extend your stay in some european countries........

Is this not worth consideration?


imagine2frolic 11-16-2007 02:51 PM

Aron.......that sounds like another Webb Chiles adventure

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