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How Long Does It Take to Sail Across the Atlantic? What to Prepare?

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

how long does it take to sail across the atlantic

Sailing the Atlantic Ocean may be an adventure you have been planning to take. It may seem intimidating at first. But as long as you have good boating experience, skills, and an appropriate boat, it is possible to fulfill this unforgettable journey.

How long does it take to sail across the Atlantic? It can take an average of three to four weeks. You can cut it to two weeks, depending on some factors. From the weather and the boat’s condition to your chosen passage and chosen season to sail, all these can speed up or slow down your voyage.

Knowing the Best Time to Sail


Taking note of the season of the year is important in sailing. This helps you identify what to prepare for your boat and personal essentials.

Naturally, weather conditions can also affect your sailing. It is why you must sail between November and February. Aside from avoiding the hurricane season, these months are when the trade winds are present. Easterly and Mid-Atlantic trade winds can help push you faster to your destination.

Surprisingly, the Atlantic is warm during this season. The water temperature is around 82.9 degrees Fahrenheit. You wouldn’t need to bring additional clothes and essentials to protect yourself from the cold.

Additionally, the November to February period is best if you are sailing from East to West. But if you are coming from the West, it is best to sail across the Atlantic Ocean during summer from June to August. Weather patterns are more stable at this time.

Why Does It Take So Long to Sail?


Sailing is a challenge, even for veteran sailors. This holds true, especially when your destination is thousands of nautical miles away. In kilometers, that is about 6,800 km to 8,000 km, given the voyage is S-shaped.

With how vast the Atlantic Ocean is, weather conditions and your routes primarily affect the time it takes to sail. How many days is it usually? Around 21 days or more to complete the sail across the ocean. But it’s better to measure the voyage by distance and not by time. This helps you prepare your supplies more easily.

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean

How long would it take to sail across the Atlantic? It depends on your passage. There are two sailing routes across the Atlantic, and you should choose one that best fits your point of departure and is appropriate for your boat type and condition.

1. East to west (westward or southern passage)


Make sure to sail South-East. To do this, travel to the Canary Islands of Spain from Portugal. This takes five to seven days. Then, head to Cape Verde in five to eight days. Finally, sail windward to the Caribbean.

How many miles does it take, then? For your information, all of these take 4,300 nautical miles and 26-36 days if the conditions are right and you don’t encounter any problems with your boat along the way.

2. West to east (eastward or northern passage)


If you are from the US, you would have to sail to Bermuda from the Caribbean to utilize the trade winds to your advantage.

From the Caribbean to Bermuda, it takes five to eight days of travel. Then, head to the Azores in Portugal for 14-17 days and from the Azores to the Portuguese coast in four to eight days.

Add in three additional days to account for the winds and other factors. So, all in all, this passage can take you 26 to 36 days.

What to Prepare Before You Sail?


Sailing across the Atlantic requires expertise in boating, adequate experience, knowledge of routes and even shortcuts, a reliable vessel, and proper supplies.

Traveling background or experience is important as sailing the Atlantic can be challenging. Without prior knowledge, you may have difficulty adjusting to sudden changes in weather and the movement of the ocean.

Without proper research, you may also get lost and spend more time on the sea. In the worst-case scenario, you can run out of supplies.

For supplies, these include drinkable water and food for three to four weeks. It is better to pack more than to run out, especially if you have a crew with you.

For equipment, pack clothing and accessories:

  • Goggles
  • Bandanas
  • Shirts (anti-microbial and with UV protection)
  • Trousers (breathable and water-resistant)
  • Wetsuits (for thermal insulation)
  • Windbreakers
  • Life jackets
  • Gloves (e.g. fingerless and three-fingered)
  • Socks (e.g. wool and athletic)
  • Sailing boat shoes (e.g. dinghy and offshore)

For communication devices and tools, you need these:

  • Satellite Phone (for when there are no mobile network signals. Some models offer a low bandwidth of internet access)
  • Marine VHF Radio (for traffic control, communications with harbors and marinas, and calling rescue services)
  • International Signaling Flags (for creating signals to other boaters such as distress signals and geographical ones)

The Proper Sailboat for Atlantic Crossing


The appropriate boat is about 30 to 40 feet long. If you sail using anything smaller, there is a possibility that it may not withstand harsh weather conditions and ocean currents. Additionally, it may take you a long time to reach your destination.

For example, the Father’s Day boat is the smallest sailboat to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It was navigated by Hugo Vihlen in 1993. Since the boat was only five feet and four inches long, Vihlen took a total of 115 days for the voyage. This was actually his third attempt, and fortunately, was successful.

The fastest Atlantic crossing by sail was in 1992 by the Destriero monohull. Its size spans 67 meters and has 60,000 horsepower. It reached a total of 3,106 nautical miles in 58 hours and 34 minutes at a speed of 61.094 mph.

Now, can you cross the Atlantic in a yacht? Yes, but it has to be a large superyacht. And it must carry large loads of fuel to make it across.

How to Shorten the Voyage?


A good tip to shorten your journey is to know all about winds and currents. These wind patterns can help you chart your course efficiently.

  • Trade winds are moderately strong winds. They are stable and reliable, blowing from the East and helping ships go to the west. They are most intense 30 degrees north and south of the equator and help vessels travel towards the Americas.
  • Westerly winds are from the temperate latitudes of the Atlantic. Their strength depends on altitude and is more suitable for advanced sailors, as Westerly winds are stronger than Trade winds. You’ll come across these while traveling in the Canary Islands, between 40 and 50 degrees latitude in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Polar winds come from the disparities between the cold polar air and warm air near the equator. As the name suggests, these winds play a role in forming polar ice caps.

While this type is strongest during the winter season, it is actually quite weak among Atlantic Ocean winds. This is why it is more suitable for the more advanced sailors.

Knowing these wind types can help you choose your passage and navigate.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is it safe to sail across the Atlantic?

Generally, it is not dangerous to cross the Atlantic Ocean. As long as you have a proper sailboat, a good crew, enough supplies, and proper knowledge and skills, the journey can be safe and feasible.

However, as with any other voyage, you must still look out for possible dangers. These include sudden changes in weather (e.g. hurricanes or thunderstorms), large waves or strong currents, whales, and collisions with freights or other boats.

How hard is it to sail across the Atlantic?

Truthfully, it depends on the sailor to determine how safe and how long to cross the Atlantic. Experienced ones may have the upper hand, but then again, the challenge relies on the skills, self-sufficiency of the boat, and the conditions of nature.

What is the cost to sail across the Atlantic?

Your expenses can range from $5,000 to $7,000. This excludes the sailing boat but includes your supplies (e.g. food and equipment) and fuel.

If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent one between $500 to $5,000. These are for small models, but if you want a commercial or larger vessel, it can cost tens and thousands of dollars.


If you are seeking to sail the Atlantic, you may have asked, “ How long does it take to sail across the Atlantic?” Typically, sailors need between three to four weeks or 21 to 28 days to cross about 3672 to 4320 nautical miles (given the S-shaped or curved trail of the route).

You can shorten the voyage to two weeks as long as you have the proper supplies, an efficient sailboat, good weather conditions, and suitable passage for you and your crew.

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