A boat-owner's perspective on hitchhikers (1 Viewer) Featured News & Blogs 


Subverting from within
Oct 15, 2013
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Bellingham, WA
This article from a boat-owner can be a bit harsh on travelers at times but it gives an interesting perspective on hitching a ride on a boat and also has some tips on how to get a ride.

Catching a Ride Across the Atlantic

A yotty lets off steam – and provides a few tips.
by Jill Dickin Schinas, published in March 2011

Crew available. Hi there! My name is Ninja. I’m 23 years old and I want to sail to the Caribbean.
I’ve already walked across Europe! I’m a vegetarian. Expert juggler.
No sailing experience yet, but I’m very enthusiastic.
Willing to work my passage.

So read the advert on the notice board in Las Palmas. It was one of about 30 similar ads – some nicely printed on an A4 page; some scrawled in biro on a scrap of paper – all of them put together by young men and women whose aim it was to hitch a free ride across the Atlantic.

All told, there were 90 wannabe deckhands hanging around the marina this winter, and fewer than half of them achieved their objective. Indeed, according to the rumour on the grapevine, only 20 would-be sailors found places with the ARC fleetand fewer than 20 got rides aboard other boats.

The remainder are probably feeling disgruntled; but what they ought to be doing is asking themselves, “Why (not) me?”

Hitch-Hikers, Please Read This

So – you’re 23 years old, or thereabouts, and you’re off to see the world. You’ve got your pack on your back; your juggling sticks are under your arm, and your wisdom weed is hidden in your shoe. That’s about all you’ll need, isn’t it? You won’t want much money: there’s no need to worry about hotel bills or the price of food, ‘cos you’ll be couch-surfing and you’ll be scrounging from the bins around the back of the supermarkets. And when you want to move on, you’ll stick out your thumb.

Fine. But what if it’s an ocean that lies between you and your next destination?

No problem. Boats cross oceans. And boats need crew.

Somewhere in the back of your mind there’s a wishy-washy picture of “crew” pacing the deck and doing… erm… nautical things… like… well, you know: working the ship, and all that!

Somehow you’ve managed to get hold of the idea that any-old-body – such as you, for instance – would be suitable as crew. So – you turn up in the marina thinking that you’re needed; thinking that you’ll stroll around for a while, and check out the boats, before you choose the one that’s right for you.

Some of you actually think that you’re going to get paid to sail across the ocean… (This pause represents the riotous laughter of any liveaboard yotties who happen to be reading this.)

Well, this article is for you, hitch-hikers; so, listen and attend. I’m going to tell you why you aren’t welcome aboard our boats.And then, if you stay the course, I’ll tell you how to improve your chances of becoming one of the lucky few in next year’s Transatlantic Lottery.

We Don’t Need You

The first thing that any would-be hitch-hiker needs to know is that WE DON’T NEED YOU.
No! We really don’t!

In this age of satellite navigation and radar warning systems absolutely nobody actually needs crew. Even a singlehander can get by on his own.

However, some folk do like to have extra watch-keepers aboard, and some are willing to take people in order to earn themselves a little bit of pocket money.

We Charge

Some of the hitch-hikers to whom we spoke this year were outraged when their prospective landlord-come-skippers asked them how much they were willing to pay.

“I’m offering to work my passage!” said one be-dreadlocked back-packer.

“How much sailing experience do you have?” I asked her.

“Well, I’ve crossed the channel a couple of times on the ferry, so I know I don’t get seasick.”

“If you don’t know how to sail, how are you going to work your passage?”

“Oh, I’m a quick learner.”

“Oh, so you want free transport, free lodgings, free food, and free sailing lessons too!”

When you come along, with your cocky smile, thinking that you’re God’s gift to the cruising world, it gets up our noses. If you want us to give you a lift you can at least ask nicely, and unless you are a very experienced sailor, with at least one previous Atlantic crossing to your credit, you can expect to have to pay.

Well, why shouldn’t you pay? When you check into a B and B you expect to pay, don’t you?

The usual rate for hitch-hikers is between €10 and €15 per day, but some people charge as much as €30. Indeed, some yachts – fully certified ones, with all the right paperwork – charge around €3,000 for a trans-Atlantic crossing. That works out at about €120 to €150 per day.

Lest you still haven’t understood the scene I should also point out that the people who take a ride on these yachts, and who pay that amount of money, don’t expect to sit back and file their nails all day; they pay €150 per day for the privilege of standing their watches, taking their turn as cook, and sharing all the other chores which are part and parcel of the cruising life. Most of them are already experienced sailors.

We Don’t Want You

Many hitch-hikers seem to look upon a yacht as if it were a means of transport. This is understandable, because a yacht is a means of transport. However, that is not the way that we yotties think of our boats. When we are using them to race around the cans or to make a little excursion at the weekend, then we think of them as a marvellous invention and a source of great pleasure; and when we live aboard them we think of them as Home Sweet Home.

Now, why the heck would anyone want to invite a complete stranger straight off the pavement and into his home?

Just try this little exercise: I want you to walk up to a house in a strange town, knock on the door, and then say to the bloke standing there on the mat, “Hi! This is a pretty house! I’m looking for somewhere to live. Could I spend the next three weeks in your living room?”

If he doesn’t call the police then you must be travelling around Africa or Asia – in which case you are rich, compared to your soon-to-be host, and you will be expected to pay for your accommodation.

Why Would We Want Your Company For Three Weeks Solid?

Actually, asking for a ride on somebody’s sailing boat is worse than asking to kip on their sofa because a boat is not like an ordinary home. When you kip on someone’s sofa they aren’t generally sleeping right there with you, on the other side of the room.

A yacht is not a tardis – alas – and unless the boat which you have hit upon is a mega-yacht, with en-suite cabins, space will be at a premium. A great many back-packers cannot seem to grasp this fact. When we tell them, “Sorry, we don’t have space for you,” they say, “But man! Your boat is so big!”

Our boat is 50 feet long. The beam, at the widest point, is 15 feet. If we filled the entire space with rows of seats, in the style of a ferry or a mini-bus, then we could probably accommodate 30 people. As it is, however, the space is occupied by the sort of furniture which is usual to a very basic house: by locker-seats containing our food, clothes, charts, tools, and other supplies; by a small table; by a compact kitchen (properly known as a galley); and by five beds – one for each member of our family.

One would-be passenger, when greeted by these facts, said, “Oh, that’s okay. I can crash in the cockpit.”

Anyone who cannot understand the idiocy of that suggestion may as well stop reading this, straight away.

Personal Space

There is not much privacy aboard the average yacht. I sometimes wonder what the hitch-hikers knocking on the side of our boat would say if they realised that the dwelling within the steel hull is the sort which the United Nations would probably condemn as unfit for human habitation. Would they still want to hitch a ride with us if they knew that the toilet resides in the corridor and is in full view of the main cabin?

Perhaps back-packers don’t need privacy. But we do. We don’t want to have to get dressed to use the loo. Actually, we don’t want to have to get dressed, full-stop. It’s hot and sunny out there, in the middle of the ocean, and we don’t generally wear clothes. But nor are we so uninhibited as to want to stand naked in front of a hitch-hiker.

Easy Going or Uptight?

Meal times are another potential source of friction. In this family we eat when I’m hungry. When I’m not hungry I don’t remember to cook. How would that go down with a hitch-hiker, I wonder?

Of course, when we’re at sea we take it in turns to cook. But then there’s the irritation of having someone else messing about in the galley, putting things away in the wrong places – or not putting them away at all…

A friend of ours took on three hitch-hikers and carried them off to Brazil. One got on his nerves; one was too lazy even to take her turn at the dishes. The third he fell in love with… but unfortunately she did not feel the same way about him. All in all, the account of their adventures reads like a comic tragedy.

When you are all living in each other’s pockets – or, to be more exact, when you are living in my pocket – little things, such as the way a person eats their breakfast, can become magnified out of all proportion.

We once met a young lad who had hitched a ride with a singlehander but who now found himself abandoned in the Cape Verdes. The skipper accused him of having taken a cushion out into the cockpit to make himself more comfortable.

The hitch-hiker was dumbfounded – “It was just a cushion! The guy is nuts!” – but we were able to see things from the old man’s point of view. Taking a soft, household cushion outside is a really silly thing to do. Sea air is damp and salty, and salty things never dry. Who wants the cushions from their sofa made salty and damp forever afterwards?

Besides – “It was just the last straw,” said the erstwhile skipper. “He’s a nice enough lad but he has no respect for me or for my property. He didn’t pump the loo properly; he left the galley in a mess; he helped himself to my favourite tea bags, so now I don’t have any left…”

It reminds me of a girl I used to know at college. She was the sort who would use up the last of your milk, on a Saturday evening after all the shops had closed, and then say, “For heaven’s sake! It was only milk! How can you be so incredibly mean?”

We Are Not Operating a Ferry Service

We’re heading for the Caribbean, and that’s where you want to go – but what happens if we change our minds? What happens if we decide go somewhere else?

The liveaboard life is governed by only two things: the seasons and our whims.

22 years ago, when we were even more broke than we are now, we almost gave a ride to a rather unpleasant German fellow who was offering to pay £15 per day. Fortunately (as it turned out) he found someone else who was willing to take him for only £10 per day.

Off we went then – just the two of us – with the Caribbean our avowed destination; but when we were two days out we decided to detour, and have a look at the Cape Verdes. And while we were there, in the islands, it seemed silly to miss the chance of visiting Senegal. And then Guinea Bissau caught our eye; it was not much further from the beaten track. Then, having gone so far south, we realised that we may as well cross to Brazil and sail up the Amazon…

We eventually arrived in the Caribbean several months after our departure from the Canaries, and here we bumped into the fellow who had given a lift to the German. “How did it go?” we asked him.

“Oh, I changed my mind. I went to Senegal instead. The hitch-hiker was a pain, so one day while he was ashore I just buggered off. I threw his stuff overboard.”

Why should we take the risk?

More than anything, a boat in the middle of the Atlantic is different from a house because you can’t just step out of the door and go away.

A boat is a very tiny island. Think Big Brother. Or think of being cooped up in a prison cell with someone that you hate.

If it all goes terribly wrong, then you can’t run away. And nor can your skipper.

Several single-handers, when questioned on the idea of taking crew, said that they would never risk it. One was desperate for company but his fears held him back: “What’s to stop the guy from murdering me and then making off with my boat? When he gets to the other side he can just tell everybody that I fell over the side, can’t he?”

I laughed.

Later that evening I happened to meet up with a young couple who were hoping to catch a ride – for free, despite having no experience whatsoever – and having put them straight on this issue I then mentioned my friend.

“What’s he like?”

“He’s a miserable sod, but he’s competent; he’d get you there in one piece.”

“What’s his boat like? Is it a fancy one?”

“It’s ugly, but it’s seaworthy. Fancy? Well, it’s worth about £250,000 – or so he tells me.”
“Ha! So – if he’s a miserable bastard I could bump him off and nick the boat, and no one would care!”
The fact that the remark was made in jest did not stop the shiver from arcing up my spine.

Another singlehander of our acquaintance does take crew, but only in return for significant financial gain. He says that he never sleeps properly when he has strangers aboard. “Oh, I lock my cabin door – of course, I do; you have to – but I still worry.”

This particular boat is fully licensed and our friend usually charges €2,500 for the Atlantic crossing. “I only take hitch-hikers if I can’t find proper charter guests, and even then I make them pay a minimum of €500 per person. I won’t take them for less than €500 even if they seem to be nice people. It’s just not worth the risk. I like single-handing, so that’s not an issue; I am happy to sail alone.”

Legal Hassles

No vessel which does not have third-party insurance should ever take crew under any circumstances. This is because the law, throughout much of the world, does not understand the difference between a paid crew member or paying passenger, on the one hand, and someone who is just there for the ride. If someone gets hurt then, regardless of where the fault might lie, the law favours the guest over the captain of the boat.
An Australian friend once gave a lift to a young woman. They had been at sea for all of half an hour when, contrary to his orders, she decided to climb the mast. As she fell from the mast she bounced on the guard rail… and then she fell into the sea.

When the woman’s head did not break the surface, matey jumped overboard. (Well, what else could he have done?) As his boat sailed away – alone and unaided, in the direction of the rocks – he struck out for the shore. All the while, as he swam, he held the casualty with her mouth clear of the water. Eventually, they arrived at the beach, an ambulance took the injured girl to hospital, and our friend hurried away to salvage his boat.

If our Aussie friend had not dived in and saved her the young woman would certainly have died. Besides being knocked unconscious when she hit the rail she also punctured a lung. As a reward for the skipper’s bravery what do you think she did? Did she take him to dinner and pay for the repairs to his boat?

Nope. She sued him. And the amount which she was awarded, by the court, was greater than the value of his restored boat. He had to sell her.

‘Nuff said. (This is the kind of person who makes me hope, with all my heart, that there really is a hell.)

By the way – this is not the only story that we have heard of a hitch-hiker suing the captain for an injury which he sustained aboard the boat. In another instance a liveaboard arriving in Portugal had his boat impounded after a crew member with a broken arm went to the police.

Are You Aware of the Risk That YOU Are Taking?

Given that the two parties have often only just met it’s not surprising that many skipper-hitchhiker alliances don’t work out too well. And being dropped off in a port which was not your own choice is the least of your worries.

One thoroughly nice-seeming man told me, “If my crew were to be injured – if he broke his leg falling down the forehatch, or whatever – then I would certainly throw him overboard. I would have to. I’m not insured, and I couldn’t risk a claim against me.”

And worse things than that happen at sea.

If you are a single girl in your early twenties, ask yourself why this 40-something singlehander wants you along for the ride.

Most singlehanders are men, and most of them would rather not be alone; most are looking for a girlfriend. That’s fine if it’s what you want – but if it’s not what you want DON’T GO!

There is no law and order out there on the high seas. There will be no one to turn to when he tells you that you owe him a ride for a ride.

You’ve probably been told about the two English girls who hitched a ride with two young Germans. When the boys tried to force themselves on the girls one of them grabbed a wine bottle and, acting in self-defence, smashed it over the skipper’s head. In all probability the only thing that makes this story noteworthy is the fact that the girls actually managed, accidentally, to kill one of their assailants. Otherwise the sorry tale would not have made it onto the front page of the world’s newspapers.

Young men might imagine that they are immune from this sort of problem or threat – but they are not. Nick tells the tale of an Italian yacht which arrived in Mauritius with two men lying dead in their own blood on the side deck. He had actually met the lads, some months earlier, while they were wandering the docks in South Africa looking for a ride.

The skipper of the vessel was still aboard but he was completely ga-ga. He couldn’t explain why he had shot his crew.

Death from gunshot wounds, bludgeoning, or other violent causes is not the only risk that the hitch-hiker takes when he signs on with a stranger. The Robertsons had a back-packer aboard when they hit a whale and sank.
Before you board, ask yourself – or ask someone else; someone more likely to know the answer – Is this boat seaworthy? Is this skipper competent?

‘Still want to go?

How to Improve Your Chances of Being One of the Chosen Few

1 – Get Some Sailing Experience

Generally speaking, the more sailing experience you have, the more likely you are to get a lift.

The people who found places amongst the ARC fleet were sailors. They were people who actually wanted to make an Atlantic crossing – as opposed to wanting a magic carpet ride to the next place on their world tour check-list.

The only exception would be in the case of a nervous single-hander who fears mutiny and murder and who, in consequence, is looking for someone who could not possibly manage the boat by him/herself.

2 – Look The Part

Cast your eyes over the yotties with whom you seek to travel.

How many of the men passing up and down the marina jetties have long hair tied back in a pony tail?

How many are wearing grubby T-shirts emblazoned with a cannabis leaf; and how many carry an enormous back-pack with a bong poking out of the top?

Not so many, hey?

(The chap wearing the grubby tie-dyed T- shirt is from Mollymawk; and we’re not looking for crew.)

The vast majority of yotties are neat, tidy, clean people. The ones with the nice big shiny boats are business men, many of whom own their companies. When not holidaying aboard their yachts they reside in suburbia – in large houses with well-kept lawns – or in picturesque 18th century cottages which have been tarted up and equipped with all mod-cons.

Would you presume to go knocking on the door of such a house asking for a fortnight’s accommodation? No; you wouldn’t; the idea would not even enter your head it’s so laughable.

This having been said, the one-year-sabbatical yotties are much more likely to be looking for crew than those of us who travel full-time. So – if you want to get a ride with them you should revise your dress code.

Go and take a shower, and buy yourself a new shirt.

Leave your back-pack and your djembe in your digs.

Remove any offensive jewellery (such as studs through the tongue or eyebrow) and don’t wear anything which hints at a marijuana addiction. Dope is a touchy subject amongst cruising folk. Did you know that the customs people are entitled to search any boat – foreign or local – at any time? If the search turns up any illegal substances they won’t be the only things to be confiscated. The skipper will be held responsible for the “cargo” and he may forfeit the whole boat.

The wannabe deckhands at Las Palmas tend to hang out as a pack. They gather on the beach or at the head of the jetties or in the Sailor’s bar. They flaunt their drop-out status.

Many of the yotties find this gang of hippies quite intimidating. Live like you wanna live, by all means, but be aware that being viewed as member of this set will significantly hinder your chances of hitching a ride.

3 – Word Your Ad Carefully

The advert that you place on the noticeboard is your CV. Some people place two separate ads, one designed to appeal to the Very Straight yotties – with their nice, expensive yachts – and one designed to appeal to fellow hippies.

Save yourself some effort. There is only one hippy-boat in the marina in Las Palmas. It has been there for several years. It isn’t going anywhere.

Prospective hosts are unlikely to be interested in the fact that you have just ridden a mono-cycle across the Sahara. Nor do they care whither you plan to wander when you reach the far side of the pond.

I recommend that you restrain yourself from advertising your skill at juggling, tai chi, or sculpting statues from metal or marble.

Mention of musical abilities is also a touchy subject. The ability to play the guitar is almost always seen in a very favourable light, but the words, “I like to sing” on your advert are a guaranteed no-no.

Don’t get me wrong; many yotties enjoy a good chin-wag with a xylophone player or with someone who has lived for a fortnight with the Tuareg, or swum the Straits – or what have you – but they don’t necessarily want to share their home with someone so wacky.

You can save this sort of exciting info for your first meeting (when you will greet your would-be skipper with a pleasant smile and the offer of any assistance which he might need in preparing the vessel).

Your ad should tell us your nationality, your age, and your sex. It should tell us what sailing experience you have, if any, and it should provide us with a phone number and an e-mail address.

A smiling photo is a definite asset. Resist the temptation to use the one of you riding a camel.

4 – Change Your Attitude

Yes, of course you want to get to the Caribbean. Every sane person wants to get out of Europe and spend the winter in the Caribbean! But most of them don’t come and pester us; most of them buy an airline ticket.

Stop thinking about you and your aims, for just a moment, and put yourself in the place of the fellow who owns the boat. Why would he want to take you? What can you do for him?

Perhaps he wants some company – but are you the right kind? Will you get along together?

Perhaps he wants someone to help with the watch-keeping and the general boat work – in which case, why not offer to lend a hand now. For free – of course!

What else can you offer? Are you a fantastic cook? Are you a carpenter? Can you teach him to play the guitar or to speak Portuguese? (These, and other relevant assets, are worth mentioning on your ad.)

Make it clear that you realise that you are asking for a favour.

Make it clear that you know that a yacht is a very private home. It is not a ferry, a hotel, or a youth hostel.

Recognise the fact that you will be getting under the fellow’s feet, and let him know that you aim to minimise your impact in his life.

Forget all about being a laid back dude. Instead, show respect for this person whose help you are seeking, and be the very model of Perfect Behaviour.

5 – Get Your Name onto an Online Crew List

Strange though it may seem, most folks crossing to the Caribbean have already realised long in advance that they will need crew…

Many people buy their boat for the specific purpose of making an Atlantic crossing. Their plans were probably laid years in advance. Decades in advance, in some cases.

Is it very likely that these people, who have invested so much time, effort, and money, will turn up in Gibraltar or the Canaries and suddenly say to themselves, “Oh, shit! I know what I’ve forgotten…! Crew!”

Those people who are not sailing with family or friends generally find their crew through an agency. Thus, getting your name onto a well-known crew list ought to be a priority.

Yacht delivery skippers also sometimes need crew – and since the boat that they are delivering is not their own pad, and the crossing is a job rather than a holiday, they tend to be less finicky about their companions. Better yet, these guys don’t charge a penny. They’ll even cover your board!

If you have sailing experience you could consider approaching a company. Otherwise, get your name onto one of the lists.

6 – Aboard a Private Yacht: Be Ready and Willing to Pay

Boats cost money, and they cost a lot of effort to maintain.

How much are you willing to pay for the privilege of being carried across an ocean under sail?

“We’re willing to pay for our board,” said one madam (clad in flowing skirt and hob-nailed boots, and waving a funny cigarette around) “but we resent people trying to make money out of us. €5 per day is more than enough.”

Needless to say, she didn’t find a place.

7 – Make Friends with Us

The very best way to get a ride on a yacht is to make friends with the owner; and, indeed, with the whole yachting community.

Just so long as you see the world as a Them And Us place – with “Them” as the rich, boat-owning bastards, and you as the peace-loving, totally cool and connected guys – you are unlikely to find a comfortable berth.

Yes, it all comes back to attitude.

A Classic Example of How To Do It

A couple of years ago we were approached by a young Spanish guy who wanted to hitch a ride to the other side of the pond. He was a diving instructor. He had very little experience of sailing, but he was very eager.
We told Ricard that we weren’t looking for crew, and he said, “No problem. But if you meet anyone else who needs crew, you tell him about me, please. Okay?”

They all ask that of us, of course; and then they disappear, and we forget all about them.
But Ricard didn’t disappear.

The following day Ricard came to visit us, bringing a bottle of red wine and some fruit. Then he offered to take us all diving, using the company’s launch, while the boss was away for the day.

At this time Caesar was still a newly qualified Advanced Open Water Diver. “So! Next thing is Divemaster,” said Ricard. “I gonna teach you.” And he did.

Within a few days, as you may imagine, we knew Ricard very well – and our friends knew him too. He had joined us for supper on several occasions and he came to our parties – always bringing with him copious quantities of good wine.

When Ricard wanted to borrow our dinghy to visit the other yachts in the anchorage he was very welcome to do so. Most would-be deckhands lack the initiative to tour the anchorage as well as the marina, and those who do venture out here generally do so only once. But Ricard was different. Every time he saw a new boat in the anchorage he would swim over to Mollymawk, borrow our dinghy, and go straight to the new arrival to offer his services.

After three weeks of trying and failing, Ricard met a Norwegian fellow who was single-handing aboard a catamaran.

Runer wasn’t looking for crew, but when Ricard offered to pay for the ride he showed a certain amount of interest.

When Ricard offered to help with his shopping he became even more interested. Buying chandlery and engine parts is none too easy if you don’t speak the local lingo, but with a native on hand it was a doddle.
Still, Runer had the single-hander’s usual worries: was this young man to be trusted?
“Come and meet my friends,” said Ricard.

As luck would have it we happened to be having a party that night, and so the Norwegian skipper was able to see that he was dealing with a well-liked member of the community. “Is he okay, d’you think?” he asked me.
“More than okay. Provided you don’t mind the fact that he’ll take over your boat and do everything for you!”

Then Ricard moved aboard the catamaran and took over the cooking.

Then he cleaned the bottom. (Most back-packers are not even aware that the bottom of a boat often needs cleaning, but Ricard had already lent a hand with ours.)

Then Ricard found two more back-packers who were willing to pay for the trip, thereby adding to the cruising fund.

Then he provisioned the boat.

Then he got water for the boat, using our jerries.

And then they set off – with the old man still in full command, but with Ricard at his right hand ready to help with absolutely anything that might want doing.

Much as I like Ricard I don’t think I would want him to sail with us. But then I wouldn’t want anyone to sail with us. Because I wouldn’t want anyone living in my space, getting under my feet.

Or at least, I thought I wouldn’t… until we met Adam.

Not So Much a Hitch-Hiker as an Honoured Guest

Adam is a back-packer and a hitch-hiker, but he’s different.

Or perhaps it’s just that we met him first as a person. He was simply another fellow to chat to on the quayside; not somebody wanting something from us.

Not a threat.

Not a pushy salesman selling something that we didn’t want to buy.

In fact – significantly – Adam never actually asked if he could come sailing with us.

Adam comes from Israel, and he has spent the past few months hitching across Europe. When he needs money he busks. When he wants a bed for the night he goes on-line and looks for a nearby “couch”. If he can’t find one, he kips on a park bench.

Adam came to the Canaries to help with the construction of the An-Tiki raft. Nobody asked him to come. He just rocked up and joined in, and so they fed and watered him and gave him a bed.

Enter the Mollymawks, at stage left.

We came, we saw, we liked the crew… and since Adam was a friend of the An-Tikis he was a friend of ours too – naturally. He came for supper with Anthony, and Robin, and the rest of the team. He played his guitar and we all sang along.

The conversation, on the following day, went something like this:

Robin: “I’ve got an idea. Adam, why don’t you sail with the Mollymawks to Patagonia.”

Adam: “It’s a good idea. What is Patagonia?”

Robin: “Or to the Cape Verdes. How would you like to sail with them to the Cape Verdes?”

Adam: “I’d like it very much. Where are the Cape Verdes? I’ve never heard of them.”

Me: “The Cape Verdes are great; you’ll like the Cape Verdes. And now that Xoë has jumped ship we have a spare bunk…”

So it was that Adam came to join us for the trip south from the Canaries.

He pays his own way; he cooks and washes up without even being asked to; and he is a very strict guitar teacher, who ensures that his young students – Roxanne and Caesar – practice every day.

Adam recently spent two hours under the boat – in a cold, rather rough sea – scraping barnacles off the bottom. He joins in with all aspects of our daily life – with everything from shopping, handling the boat, going to a gig, climbing a hill, or fetching water – and he copes incredibly well with the vicissitudes of living with a crazy family in a half-built, very untidy boat.

The fact that he was born and brought up on a kibbutz probably helps enormously.

Adam is not so much a hitch-hiker as a really good friend to the whole family.

Now that’s the way to do it! That’s the way to bum round the world!

Watch this space, and we’ll tell you how it goes – but I’m fairly sure that this particular hitch-hiker will have got fed up with us long before we tire of his company.



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Matt Derrick

Permanent Wanderer
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Aug 4, 2006
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Austin, TX
This is a great article. Definitely a must-read for anyone interested in that kind of travel. It can be kind of hard to read all the negative stuff, especially the views of the skippers of hitchhikers, but I suppose that's a deserved reputation the traveler scene has gotten (which irritates me that travelers can be such dickheads). Great advice on how to get a ride though! I feel like most of his advice could be applied to all kinds of travel, since a lot of travel punks have really adopted a 'me first' kind of attitude that has gotten pretty out of control in the past few years, and i personally find it disgusting.

Hillbilly Castro

Wise Sage
Aug 22, 2011
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Westernville, NY
Wow, yeah tough slog there with the sharp words. As Matt said though, it is sadly deserved, given the lot the author probably has in mind and their pie-in-the-sky attitude.

It reminds me somehow of Anthony Bourdain saying in his book Kitchen Confidential that among food purveyors, meat people are funny and fish people are humorless. I think the harshness of the fish industry could be extended to boat people in general, from the folks I've met. A sort of intensity that might be peculiar to the sea. I couldn't say.

Honestly, getting yer MMD and Z-Card and just being a licensed merchant mariner is not that expensive. Then you've got a little something that might entice a captain to bring you aboard, and you might even earn a buck doing it. Though for the cost of that, it might make more sense to just get a ticket across - they're getting cheaper and cheaper.


Sep 21, 2012
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the northcountry
Speaking as an ex-ships cook I feel pretty comfortable saying this: Fuck Yacht Culture.
Pleasure boats are expensive, the people who own them generally have (or had until they bought a boat) quite a bit of money and the attitude that goes with it. You don't want anything to do with them, if you're looking to travel, stay away from the the marina and head to the working ports, or even better find a dry dock. It might not be as sexy as crewing a boat with sails to exotic locales, but a working boat is much more likely to take you on, teach you something, take you on and pay you.
Ps. Before you commit to any boat try and spend some time with the captain and crew. You won't be able to escape from these people for days or weeks at a time, better be damn sure that you don't drive each other crazy. If you have some reservations about the captain, then really don't do it as they're going to be running your life. I once joined up with a captain I knew I disliked, we almost ended up killing each other in Puerto Rico. No joke.
Dec 31, 2015
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Frederikshavn, Denmark
Really a practical guide for anyone thinking about these kind of adventures. I do understand that it's a great way for a hitchhiker to travel, but I must say that I was surprised at finding a dumpsterdiving community of hitchhikers in the end of November just outside Gibraltar. The guy who came first had been there three weeks, the rest had followoed. Quite an international group, all kndividuals but really clinging in these packs as described in the article. They had no experience, weren't really liked in the sailors community and didn't know really why no one was bringing them to the Canary Islands.
Well, I headed to the ferry town across the bay and two hours later a couple, fellow misfit hitchhikers paid my ticket and told me I would be in Africa that same afternoon, surely as I watched the sun set on my first trip to Morroco, my worries were much diferent than that of the 8 people in their tents nestling outside the Gib.


I closed my account
If I knew anything about sailing I would find this pretentious bastard, commandeer his vessel, keelhaul the sumbitch, and then maroon his 'tiny crew' on some rat infested island while I sail off into the sunset with his wench in tow.
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Aug 25, 2016
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Tel Aviv, Israel
This is great information, from a realistic viewpoint. It's hard to blame the guy for his somewhat hard-nosed attitude when he points out all he stands to lose when inviting someone on board his boat. I especially like how we finished with positive examples of how to go about it. I think the example of the Spanish guy is a good role model on and off the road, on land or sea. It comes down to bringing something to the table and being aware of other folks' needs. Good stuff.

Deleted member 20240

I closed my account
I think how this brings up the close quarters being an issue and how things can go deadly psycho is darkly enlightening. Sometimes, when you have a desire to do something you can develop rose colores glasses and can overlook the fact that shit can indeed fail to meet your expectations in an indescribably shitty way. Its always nice to have a reality check rather than a big mistake.

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