How to Hitch across an Ocean

This is an article i wrote for the online hitching magazine Random Roads.

In 1989/90 I sailed across the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles to Sydney. Hitching on sailboats is easier than it sounds. I took 10 different boats, mostly on the west coast of the Americas.

From Random Roads - circa 2008

From Random Roads – circa 2008

Ten different captains and ten slightly different agreements for passage. Mostly, it was berth space, food and passage in exchange for some work around the boat and especially steering and adjusting sales.

In one case a skipper asked me to pay 1/4 of the diesel fuel bill for the passage, so I would sail as much as possible. We sailed a lot, even with very little wind and when we arrived in Panama he declined my offer to pay my agreed share, saying he just wanted to cut fuel expenses which we did.

Most sailboats are owned by persons of affluent background and they want to sail with their friends. Often their friends think it is a good idea and agree to come along and then find out that sailing is not their cup of tea (too dirty, bumpy, boring, cramped – any number of reasons). Thus crews are constantly unexpectedly reforming. This is your opportunity for a ride.

In all the ports I visited in Central America and the South Pacific including Australia at 8 AM local time all the boats in the harbor talk with each other over radio on channel 19. They talk about all kinds of things they need, like where to get the bottoms of boats scraped and where is a good place to buy diesel fuel that is not watered down. At the end of this broadcast I gave my name and said: “I am looking for a ride to the Marquesas and I can navigate.”

The four capabilities that boat captains are most often looking for are

  • cooks
  • people with the capacity to repair diesel engines
  • navigators
  • people with medical skills, especially emergency medical skills

I mostly choose navigation, since I am good with math and dangerous with cooking. Learning navigation is relatively accessible, by going to a course or getting a book.

The navigator also turns out to be one of the easiest jobs, because almost all sailboats going long distance have satellite navigation systems which make directing the boat relatively easy. Navigators, like medical folks, are to be able to deal with emergencies, specifically lightning hitting the boat.


About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

3 responses to “How to Hitch across an Ocean”

  1. Dwight says :

    I want to hitch hike from the West coast of the USA to Kuala Lumpur. Have no money but can work, some fiberglass experience, can operate GPS, lot of electronic experience and lot of mechanical experience. Can cook good enough to please myself, at least. Can repair diesel engines, most mechanical items. 31 years experience as a Service Support Representative with IBM. Worked as auto mechanic for about 2 years, Homebuilder for 4 years. Have college degree. My email is

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Dwight:

      You can totally get a place on a boat, you have great skills for many captains. AND this is not the right place to find rides. You would do much better on CraigsList or somewhere people are actually looking for riders.

      And what is reliable and historically effective is to take a 6 pack of beer, go down to the appropriate harbor and suggest that you go sailing with captains there.

      ALSO reliable is getting on citizen band radio channel 19 (i think) at 8 AM and all the boats in the harbor talk to each other and you can say you are hitching and then meet people. This works especially well on the west coast of the America’s where traffic is mostly just north or south.

      Paxus at Twin Oaks
      24 Ferguson 2014

  2. Dwught says :

    Thank you for your replay Paxus at Twin Oaks. I want to go South West to as close as I can get to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I would like to travel with my wife, also. She is from Malaysia and her family (my in-laws) live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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