Hitchhiking in America is a bad idea

Hitchhiking across the oceans: that's how it works!

April 11, 2013

* Guest contribution by Timo on Bruder Leichtfuss *


I actually hitchhiked across the Atlantic on sailboats.

From Gibraltar via the Canary Islands and the Caperdian Islands to Recife, a large city on the coast of the easternmost tip of Brazil.

Half a year ago, I couldn't really imagine that it would really work. But it does, and it's not even hard at all. As long as you pay attention to a few little things.

I have met quite a few people on the islands in the Atlantic who have made it across the ocean without ever having been on a sailboat before.

A lot of things about hitchhiking on the sea are not that different from “classic” hitchhiking on country roads and highways: Laughter often works wonders. And being open, friendly and maybe somehow interesting also rarely hurts.


What you should know

You should definitely know that Hitchhiking on the world's oceans is actually never the cheap alternative to overseas flights. Because sailing is very, very slow. It took me almost exactly three months from Spain to Brazil, during which time I at least had to eat and drink.

Fortunately, I myself were spared long “transfer times” between two boats, but I got to know many hitchhikers who had to wait a few weeks for their next lift in Gran Canaria, for example - that can then also cost money.

So if you just want to get to South America cheaply, you should look for a flight.

The fact that life and travel at sea is very different from on land and so far away from civilization you can have a completely different kind of experience - for me it was definitely worth it!


Why do captains take trampers with them?

In order to be taken along, it makes sense to get an idea of ​​life on board and to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the captains.

Why do they even collect any hitchhikers on some ocean islands? Usually the main reason for this is simply that the captain regularly wants to sleep a few hours at a time during the weeks at sea and the lookout should still be manned. Even a non-sailor learned that quickly!



Who is particularly fond of being taken along?

  • Are very popular at sea Cooks, because food is often the only variety the crew has or doesn't have at sea.
  • Photographerswho document the trip, which may also be something very special for the captain.
  • Craftsmanwho can do repairs on board. In such a household that swims in salt water and is constantly moving, something always breaks.
  • Or Doctors and Nurses, simply because it feels good on board a small boat, far from any hospital.

But there are also captains who are simply traveling alone and want a little entertainment.


Where and when do you have a good chance of being picked up?

The Highway rest areas of the oceans are the major ports at important geographical points.

In Gibraltar For example, every ship that leaves the Mediterranean for the Atlantic comes by. Many stay for a few days, be it sightseeing or buying tax-relieved British diesel - a perfect place to find sailboat lifts.

The islands are similar: The Canaries and Cape Verde are important stops on every Atlantic crossing from Europe to America. Almost every boat anchors here again to stock up on provisions or to do repairs.

In addition to the right place, timing also plays an important role when sailing: There is the right season for almost all sailing routes. Almost all sailors take the route across the Atlantic between November and January - autumn with its hurricanes is over and the trade winds blow particularly reliably from the northeast.


And how do you get a boat?

Even before starting the adventure, you can do the different Crew fairs on the Internet scour for boats looking for crew members. See for example Find a Crew or Crew Seekers.

That was usually more successful for me Search on site: Notes with my photo at port offices, conversations over the railing or you happen to drink your third beer with the right captain in the port bar.

Then suddenly it's like every hitchhiking tour, or as almost always when traveling - once the adventure has started, everything comes by itself.

Here's an overview map of the trip across the Atlantic!


About Timo:

Hi, I'm Timo, 29 years old and a real East Frisian by default! For almost ten years now, I've been using Hamburg as my home base - although I'm actually constantly on the move. And I've actually been that for as long as I can remember: as a twelve-year-old I was already out and about on the North Sea coast with my bike and tent. Since then, the virus hasn't let go of me, my excursions have got longer and longer: They went on desert hikes in the Middle East, diving in Southeast Asia, surfing in South America or by bike, on foot or by hitchhiking across Europe. A year ago I gave my most loyal friend, my backpack, a face and a name. Since then, “Bruder Leichtfuß” has been the mascot for my little travel blog. Most recently it was about my hitchhiking trip to the carnival in Brazil.


Who of you has hitchhiked by boat or would like to do it? Do you have any further questions?