Preparing for the Atlantic crossing on a sailing yacht

29 January 2023

In preparation for the next move from the Canaries to the Balearic Islands, as one of the captains and main organizer of the Atlantic Challenge, I decided to share my thoughts on the preparation of the participants, on things that will come in handy, and also clothing. Below I will try to answer the questions:

  • What to expect from the sea and the ocean? What weather conditions will you encounter?
  • What to take with you to the ocean?
  • What should not be taken on a yacht?
  • How to prepare yourself before moving?

What weather conditions will you find offshore?

Sailing in the Atlantic Ocean can be a breathtaking and unforgettable experience, but it's essential to be prepared for the weather conditions. 

Our spring crossing traditionally begins in mid-April, when the weather in the Canary Islands is already very warm, like in summer. At sea, almost from the very beginning, it will be most comfortable to wear a light windbreaker, and on night watches you will want to wear pants and a jacket. Since the spring passage is usually against the wind, monohulls will list and may flood the deck. You may need rubber boots, pants and an offshore jacket. When approaching the Mediterranean coast, the weather will no longer change much, because the sun is already warming the air well, the water temperature will be about the same as in the ocean.

offshore sailing

Since the wind is mostly headwind, the three weeks that we allocate for this crossing allow us to wait out the bad weather and find a convenient start date. But I recommend buying tickets for flying home a couple of days later than the planned finish, or buying after passing Gibraltar, in order to understand that there will be no problems in the Mediterranean Sea.

It is also worth saying a few words about the weather during our autumn crossings in the opposite direction from Ibiza to the Canary Islands.

In November, the temperature of the southwestern part of the Mediterranean Sea drops to 16-18 degrees. Of course, you can still swim on a sunny day, but at night it can be quite cold in the wind. You need to understand that the wind blowing over the water for tens of miles takes the temperature of the water surface, which means that during the day it will be warm in the sun, up to +25, but at night, without solar heat, especially in strong winds, there will be about 15 degrees and 100% humidity.

After passing Gibraltar, the water temperature will immediately rise to 18 degrees, and further, as you move south to the Canary Islands, the air temperature will be higher at night and during the day. In Tenerife day and night the temperature fluctuates between 21-25 degrees. In the ocean, with a high probability, tailwinds will await you, so the weather will generally be calmer and warmer than in the Mediterranean. Although it happens in different ways.

Recalling my sailing trips, I can say that in November 2016 in the Almeria region, with a headwind of about 20 knots, I put on everything that I had at night and could not keep warm on the night watch. At the same time and in the same place in 2017, we were walking with a favorable warm wind and were in T-shirts during the day, in light jackets at night. Therefore, it is worth having clothes with you for both occasions, because it is better to have boots and not use them than to freeze at night on deck in wet sneakers.

Clothing recommendations for offshore sailing.

For participants of both the Atlantic and Mediterranean stages, I strongly recommend having a set of waterproof offshore yacht clothing: jacket + trousers, yacht boots, warm fleece for cold nights. Sneakers or boat shoes for dry weather, pants, shorts, T-shirts, gloves, cap, hat (mandatory), shower slippers, headlamp for night watches. Sleeping in a sleeping bag is more comfortable and warmer than covering yourself with a blanket, so if you have one, take it with you, but if not, you can buy it in the same Decathlon. A complete list of items can be found in FAQ on our website.

I want to tell you more about the jacket and pants. Almost all yachting brands (Slam, Musto, HH, Henry Lloyd, Gill, Gastra) have a line called Offshore. This garment is designed to withstand prolonged exposure to rain/spray in the wind in cold weather. Imagine the situation: night watch, 25-30 knots of wind blowing for 3 hours in a row, temperature 15 degrees, everything around is wet, salt water is constantly flying from all sides. Your clothes should be able to cope with this task, keeping the body warm. Many people ask if good ski clothing is suitable for yachting. My answer is yes, but you need to understand that it is made for other tasks and the likelihood of getting wet and freezing is quite high. A jacket preferably with a high collar and a large hood, high pants to the chest with straps over the shoulders and puffs at the bottom, rubber boots with non-marking soles.

By the way, in Tenerife, in Ibiza, where we start our transitions, there is a store, which sells fairly inexpensive yacht clothes and yacht boots with acceptable quality. This is a good opportunity not to carry with you, but to buy on the spot.

What not to take with you?

Do not take hard suitcases. After you put things in the cabin, the suitcase will remain under your feet and will interfere. Take soft bags that can be emptied and folded into a drawer.

But don't forget!

In preparation for the ocean, I advise you to brush up on the rules of COLREGs, because we have to go through many areas with intensive shipping, and therefore disperse from large and small merchant ships, fishermen and yachts. Also, do not forget about working with sails, safety on board and means of rescue. A clear understanding of the rules and safety precautions will help you quickly get up to speed on board and make the right decisions without hesitation on your watch. I, as the organizer, will make every effort to ensure that this transition leaves bright and interesting impressions, be rich in experience and leave behind many new friends.

See you under sails of #SailMe Charter!

Ivan Bryukhovets,

RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Commercial and Cruising Instructor.