Boat hitchhiking is becoming an increasingly popular way to see the world, but how do you actually get started? We wanted to get the low down and recently caught up with two boat hitchiking pros, Mariusz ‘Maniek’ Hońka (27) and Maciek ‘Termometr’ Badziak (27),who are on a trip hitchhiking around the world without spending money on transportation or accommodation. They started their adventure in Poland (with almost no sailing experience) and have since crossed the Pacific and are now in Bora Bora. Here’s what they had to say about boat hitchhiking:
Y&S: What was your sailing experience before you started boat-hiking?
M: 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.
M&T: The first thing you have to understand if you want to find a boat is that skippers prioritize good people over good sailors. Because of that the most important attributes are a positive attitude and an open mind. Moreover each skipper has different rules which you have to follow 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.
Y&S: How did you get the idea to go boat hiking?
M: A few years ago I met a guy on a bus who had already crossed the ocean by boat hiking. 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.
T: In Poland we have a big hitch and boat hikers community. 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.
Y&S: Tell me about your trip so far. Where did you start? Where are you going?
M&T: 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.
Y&S: How do you find a boat to get on? Are there any websites or physical locations you’d recommend for finding a boat?
M&T: The most popular websites to find a boat are: Find a Crew and Crewbay . You can also try on sailing forums, but in our opinion the best 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.
M: I was sitting with a friend on a bench in Gibraltar drinking a beer. 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.
T: Sailing vessels are not your only boat-hiking options. 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 get on a cargo ship for 5 days delivering supplies for Kuna tribes on the San Blas Islands.
Y&S: What are your top 5 tips for boat hiking?
- 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.
Y&S: What have been your best/worst moments in boat-hiking?
M&T: The worst moment is when you wait a lot in one place for a long time without any visible opportunities. The best moment is when you get a message that you are welcome on board. You take your stuff and go for an adventure!
Y&S: What surprised you the most about boat hiking?
The most surprising thing was that you can get on a boat without any experience.
Y&S: What advice would you give someone who was thinking about doing a boat-hiking trip?
M: Do your research. Get at least a little knowledge about sailing, but don’t hesitate too long. Adventure is waiting for you.
T: Don’t think too much. Just go and try.
Y&S: How can we follow your journey?
Our project: “Autostopem Dookoła Świata” (“Hitchhiking Around the World”) you can follow on: