The time of the optimists in Las Palmas
Wanderlust and an empty wallet go just as well with a cream cake with anchovies. Imagination and courage are needed if you still want to travel. Sailing to the Caribbean as a hitchhiker, for example. That’s why in the time before the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), the biggest sailing rally in the world, all kinds of optimists gather in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to get a ship to St. Lucia.
At the end of October, beginning of November, more and more people walk through the marina with backpacks. In the bars and on the walls you will find notes praising George, David or Lucy as the perfect crew member. “Crew available” is supposed to attract understaffed skippers.
This way needs adventurousness and joy of sailing. Sailing as a hitchhiker is not really cheaper. The expectation is to do some work on board as a fellow sailor and take over watch duties and then pay nothing for the passage. But “nothing” still means a starting fee of around 250 € per participant for the ARC+. On top of that there is also a contribution for the catering (travel kitty), because during the 3 weeks eating and drinking is quite helpful. As there are also professionals at the ARC who sell their berths to fellow sailors for a fee, these are no option. If you add up everything that is not inevitable, then the flight to the Caribbean or South America is not even much more expensive.
In front of our jetty Lukas from Poland has been occupying a place on the pavement for days. Courageously, he asks all the sailors if they have any jobs for him. And, of course, whether they wouldn’t take him with them to St. Lucia.
The attractiveness of a crew member increases naturally, with his skills. Whoever has an impressive sailing vita to offer is of course clearly ahead of the guitar-playing beginner with dishpan hands. And the sympathy is still of great importance when you spend 2-3 weeks together in a clearly arranged space.
Most of the usually 270 ships already have their crews ready when they arrive in Las Palmas. But some split off before departure. With just over 1,000 sailors there is sometimes a free place available. Then you have to be in the right place at the right time and then it can work, with the hitchhiking.
But 2020 is not a normal year. Corona makes it very difficult for Lukas & Co. The offer is extremely much smaller than in normal years: less than a third of the usual ships want to go to the Caribbean this year. And my impression is that very few of them want to “go there” individually – e. g. without ARC or ARC+.
And then there is the ARC C19 protocol, which makes completely new demands and makes it extremely difficult to get on board. The crews have to be together one week before the start. Visits on board are strongly discouraged and everyone keeps a clear distance in the marina. A few days before departure there is a compulsory corona test, without which Cape Verde and St. Lucia remain closed.
The entire crew must be C19 negative, otherwise the ship may not take off. No small risk when taking in a stranger. In addition, the corona test must be paid for and it is not a bargain at around 120 €. And suddenly the flight ticket across the Atlantic becomes more and more attractive.
All this makes it even more adventurous for Lukas. One of the few positive aspects is that his competition is less than usual. And the possibility that the C19 hinders the arrival of some sailors and therefore leaves seats free.
It remains a gamble for the patient and optimistic, the hitchhiking trip across the Atlantic / Holger Binz