Sailboat hitchhiking is a popular and eco-friendly way to see the world, but how do you actually get started? We wanted to get the low down and caught up with two sailboat hitchhiking pros, Mariusz ‘Maniek’ Hońka (27) and Maciek ‘Termometr’ Badziak (27), who hitchhiked from Poland to Bora Bora, crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
How much sailing experience do I need to hitchhike on a sailboat?
“None,” Badziak said, though it makes it easier to find a boat if you do have experience. Hońka said, “I spent 2 weeks sailing as crew in Poland’s Mazurian Lakes district. I knew what a boat looked like, where the mast was, how sails look, etc”.
The guys explained that you don’t need super salty skills to become an ocean nomad. As sailboat hitchhiking involves traveling long distances in a small space with other crew members, good social skills are highly valued.
“Skippers and boat owners prioritize good people over good sailors,” the guys said,” The important attributes are a positive attitude and an open mind. Each skipper has different rules and so it’s also important to be flexible. However, any skill that you have can be to your advantage – mechanical knowledge, sailing experience or cooking skills are always welcome onboard.”
How do you find a sailboat to get on? Are there any websites or physical locations you’d recommend for finding a boat?
According to the guys, “The most popular crew websites to find a boat are: Find a Crew and Crewbay . You can also try on sailing forums, but in our opinion the best thing is to go to the marina and meet the sailors in person. It’s also very important is to print out a good poster/advertisement with a nice photo and information about you and post it in places where the skippers spend their free time.”
“I was sitting with a friend on a bench in Gibraltar drinking a beer,” Hońka said, “and two guys asked if I could help them with carrying supplies in exchange for a beer. One day later I was on a brand new delivery catamaran for a 5 day sailing trip. That was the first boat I hitchhiked.”
“Sailing vessels are not your only boat-hiking options,” Badziak said, “In the Darien Gap in Panama, we were stuck in a small jungle village without any road connection. We went to a bakery where we met some people who turned out to be crew on a boat. A few minutes later we were signed up and going through clearance at the migration office. That’s how we got on a cargo ship for 5 days delivering supplies for Kuna tribes on the San Blas Islands.”
Top 5 tips for catching a ride on a sailboat
Here’s what the guys had to say:
- Be well-known in the marina – talk to as many people as possible. Be friendly even with people who can’t take you on a board.
- Prepare a good ‘CREW AVAILABLE’ poster
- Be patient! With a bit of luck you’ll find a boat on the first day but it can take a few months.
- Check sailing seasons. The probability of hitching a ride increases with the numbers of sailors going in your desired direction
- Prepare a list of boats that you have already asked so as not to disturb the same people with the same question. You won’t be able to remember the dozens of faces that you’re likely to meet in a single day.
What are the best/worst moments in boat-hiking?
“The worst is when you wait a lot in one place for a long time without any opportunities,” the guys said, “The best moment is when you get a message that you are welcome on board. You take your stuff and go for an adventure!”
The most surprising thing about sailboat hitchhiking?
“The most surprising thing was that you can get on a boat without any experience,” the guys said.
“A few years ago I met a guy on a bus who had already crossed the ocean by boat hiking,” said Hońka, “From the beginning it sounded like a fairy tale. Over a couple of years I read more information about it, which encouraged me to go for it and ultimately the dream came true.”
“In Poland we have a big hitch and boat hikers community,” Badziak explained, “Most of them share their crazy stories on a special Facebook group. When I read for the first time that it’s possible to hitchhike a boat, I knew I had to try it.”
Tell me about your trip so far. Where did you start? Where are you going?
“The idea of our project is to hitchhike around the world without spending money on transportation and accommodation. We started separately in September 2015, however our tracks were very similar: Poland, Gibraltar (our first boat hiking experience), Canaries, Cape Verde and Brazil. After 6 months we met in Peru traveled around Latin America for a year. Then from Panama we hitchhiked a boat to New Caledonia. We are currently in Bora Bora having a great time.”
How can we follow your journey?
Our project: “Autostopem Dookoła Świata” (“Hitchhiking Around the World”) you can follow on:
Fiona McGlynn is an award-winning boating writer who created Waterborne as a place to learn about living aboard and traveling the world by sailboat. She has written for boating magazines including BoatUS, SAIL, Cruising World, and Good Old Boat. She’s also a contributing editor at Good Old Boat and BoatUS Magazine. In 2017, Fiona and her husband completed a 3-year, 13,000-mile voyage from Vancouver to Mexico to Australia on their 35-foot sailboat.