For people from a land-locked country, boat hitchhiking may not seem like the ideal way of going places. But young Czech traveller Matěj Vohryzek, who has just returned from a hitchhiking trip across the Atlantic Ocean, has proved that with a dose of courage nothing is impossible. He covered the journey in just three weeks, losing eight kilos on the way.
Matěj Vohryzek got the idea to cross the Atlantic by boat hitchhiking after returning to Europe from Brazil, where he studied anthropology. He says that unlike road hitchhiking, all you have to do is go to a port, find a boat owner who is going in the same direction, and persuade him to take you on board.
“You have to persuade the boat owner that you can cook, clean the boat, but most of all, stay awake all night to be able to hold the night watch.
“When a boat travels across the Atlantic throughout the night, you have to keep the course and watch the wind to avoid crashing into another boat. You are just an extra passenger and don’t cost the captain anything, so it’s a win-win situation.”
The first boat Matěj stopped took him from Western Sahara to the Canary Islands. There he boarded a yacht called Fuga that took him all the way across the Atlantic.
“In Las Palmas, the biggest marina in the European part of the Canary Islands, I found a boat belonging to an Argentinian captain. He took me on his boat to Cabo Verde, an archipelago located next to Senegal, which used to be a former Portuguese colony. From there I went to the Caribbean to the French island of Guadalupe.”
Matěj admits that boat hitchhiking is not for everyone, as it is both physically and mentally demanding. One thing you have to realize before setting out, he says, is that once you board the boat, there is no going back. You are bound to spend days or even weeks on a very small area with practical strangers, which can easily induce cabin fever.
“There was no fridge, so the only thing we had for food were the fish that we caught. And there was never enough drinking water. But the most difficult and at the same time the most beautiful thing was the night watch.
“As you travel from east to west, you see the moon setting before you while the sun is rising behind you. The night watch can last for nine hours so you can get really tired.
“But at night, when you are surrounded by luminescent plankton and the stars are reflected on the water, you feel like you are the only person in the world and that is truly fantastic.”
After his first success with boat hitchhiking, Matěj Vohryzek is already planning his next journey which should take him to New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific Ocean.
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