How Long to Cross the Atlantic by Boat? Sailboat, Cruise Ship

To cross the Atlantic by plane, from New York to London and vice versa, takes only about 6 hours. If you are looking for something more adventurous, you can boat across. How long does it take to cross? 

On average, it will take approximately 8 days to cross the Atlantic by boat. The time it takes, of course, depends on the type of boat as well as the route. The time it takes for different boats to cross the Atlantic are as follows:

  • Sailboat: 3 to 6 weeks
  • Cruise Ship: 7 or 8 days
  • Cargo Ship or Oil Tanker: 10 to 20 days
  • Aircraft Carrier: 6 days

There are people who have sailed across the Atlantic to achieve different kinds of world records. There are people have crossed this vast ocean repeatedly as part of their work in an ocean freighter or tanker. And there are also, of course, many people who have enjoyed their annual vacations traveling from the US to Europe and vice versa via a cruise ship.

The Atlantic is the second largest ocean in the world, next only to the Pacific Ocean, so you would have to plan a fair amount of time to cross it by boat. Do you know that someone is trying to cross it in just 48 hours?

Read on to learn more about how long it takes to cross the Atlantic by boat including by sailboat, cruise ship, cargo ship, and more.

How Long Does it Take to Cross the Atlantic by Sailboat?

How Long Does it Take to Cross the Atlantic by boat

Generally, it will take from 3 to 4 weeks to cross the Atlantic in a sailboat. However, it will depend on several factors. For instance, your point of origin and your point of destination will directly influence the duration of your voyage. There are many places in Europe where you can start your journey to the United States. 

The best and easiest way to sail across the Atlantic is to use the trade winds, so-called because ancient traders use them for faster ocean travel. The time will speed up or slow down depending on the sea route that is chosen. In crossing the Atlantic, sailors use either the Northern Passage or the Southern Passage depending on where they are coming from.

Northern Atlantic Passage Sailing Route

The Northern Passage is from West to East. That means you will be starting in the United States and end up somewhere in Europe. Your port of departure will be in Bermuda because the best westward winds come from this place. 

One route that you can take starts from the Caribbean going to Bermuda, and then to the Azores and then to Portugal and on to your final destination.

Your travel time on this route will be: 

  • 4 to 5 days from the Caribbean to Bermuda
  • 14 to 17 days from Bermuda to the Azores
  • 4 to 8 days from the Azores to Portugal
  • 3 to 10 days to your final destination in Europe.

The time you’ll be sailing across the Atlantic if you use the Northern Passage will take from 25 to 40 days, roughly 3 to 6 weeks depending on the weather and the current.

Southern Atlantic Passage Sailing Route

If you are coming from Europe and you want to sail the Atlantic to go to the United States, you will take the westward route which is from east to west. This is called the Southern Passage. 

Your port of departure will probably be the Canary Islands, which is offshore from Western Sahara. Afterwards, you can sail directly to the Windward Island in the Caribbean or you can sail to Cape Verde, which is offshore from Dakar. 

Your travel time on this route will be:  

  • 5 to 7 days from Portugal to the Canary Islands
  • 5 to 8 days from the Canary Islands to Cape Verde, or
  • 16 to 21 days from the Canary Islands to the Windward Islands 

Your total voyage in crossing the Atlantic using the Southern passage will take from 10 days to 31 days. If you are out of luck you could be spending an additional 5 days before you reach your destination. Even then, traveling westward takes a shorter time than going eastward.

How Long Does It Take to Cross the Atlantic by Cruise Ship?

Cruise ships can negotiate the Atlantic, either westward or eastward, in a matter of 6 to 7 days. There are several different cruise ship lines that cross the Atlantic. One of them is the Royal Princess which started its maiden voyage by crossing the Atlantic in October of 2013. It usually departs from Venice, Italy to Florida, USA. 

If you take this cruise from Venice, Italy, you will be spending about 18 days before you reach the port in Florida, USA. Along the way, you will be visiting several Mediterranean ports. Some of the cruise liners that serve this route are also offering this route in reverse. They call it “cruise repositioning”. The ship will reverse its trip going from the USA to Europe using the reversed route. 

There are several other luxury cruise ships that cross the Atlantic. Cunard is one of these liners serving the New York City to the United Kingdom route. These cruises are usually offered during peak seasons. Their passenger fees are naturally higher. The least expensive cruise that takes 7 days to complete will set you back around $1,000.  

How Long Does It Take to Cross the Atlantic by Other Types of Boats?

Freighter or Cargo Ship

As in crossing the Pacific from California to Japan, you can also use a freighter or a cargo ship to cross the Atlantic. Paying a passenger fee in a freighter is the cheapest and the simplest way you can cross the Atlantic by boat. 

These ships carry a maximum of 12 passengers. They are mainly for transporting containers of cargo. So, if you will choose to board a cargo ship, you will only be incidental. You have to know how to take care of yourself. But you will be given comfortable quarters and decent food, but just not that many amenities.  

Be prepared to spend from 10 to 20 days onboard the ship before you reach your destination. If you have a flexible schedule, that would not be much of a problem. The passenger fee for this kind of voyage is roughly around $100 per day. So, your transport fee will be from $700 to $1,400 for the whole trip. That’s very reasonable for that long distance.

There is a freighter cruise line that starts in the U.S. East Coast going to the Mediterranean. It departs every two weeks and allows six passengers on board. The trip takes 18 days starting from New York and ending in Spain.

There’s another one that starts also from the U.S. East Coast. This one is going to northern Europe and the Mediterranean as well. It departs once a month and allows seven passengers on board. The trip takes around 14 days.

Here are some of the estimated times for cargo ships to cross specific points or ports in the Atlantic Ocean. 

  • 13 days from Liverpool (England) to Wilmington (North Carolina, USA) 
  • 9 days from Le Havre (France) to New York (USA) 
  • 20 days  from Le Havre (France) to Veracruz (Mexico)  
  • 10 days from Natal (Brazil) to Bilbao (Spain) 
  • 14 days from Rotterdam (Netherlands) to Port of Spain (Trinidad, Southern Caribbean) 
  • 28 days from Bremerhaven (Germany) to Coronel (Chile) 

Aircraft Carrier

An aircraft carrier, speeding at 30 knots (32.52 miles per hour or 55.56 kilometers per hour) can reach the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in a matter of 6 days. It can go up to that speed because of its modern propulsion system and the special design of its hull. 

The Nimitz is reported to have a top speed of 70 knots (80.55 mph or 129.64 kph). At that speed, it can cross the Atlantic in just about 3 days.  

Oil Tanker Powered by LNG

Right now, an oil tanker powered by liquefied natural gas is serving the Northern Sea Route. This is the first time there is an oil tanker transiting this route. Some say climate change made it possible for commercial ships to use this route.

The Aframax tanker, loaded with more than 100,000 metric tons of crude oil, started to take this route in August of 2019. It took about eight days to reach Cape Dezhnev from Cape Zhelaniya. It moved at an average speed of 12 knots. 

If this oil tanker crosses the shortest route from the US east coast, Port of New York to the nearest port in the United Kingdom, London Thamesport, which is about 3,785 nautical miles, it will reach the port in London in about 11.4 days.

The Smallest Boat Atlantic Crossing World Record

Robert Brown and his younger brother Ralph have crossed the Atlantic using a small powered boat. It took them about a month to complete the entire trip. The two left Tampa, Florida and reached Germany in 76 days. 

They actually started to cross the Atlantic from Labrador, Canada on July 28, 2009 and arrived in the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland on Aug. 28, 2009 in exactly thirty days. So, technically, they made their Atlantic crossing in one month.

Their 21-foot vessel became the smallest powered boat to cross the Atlantic. The feat enabled Robert and Ralph to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.  

Someone Is Trying to Cross the Atlantic by Boat in Just 48 hours

This is amazing. Richard George, a UK businessman, is trying to cross the Atlantic in just two days. If he accomplishes this feat, he will be the fastest man to ever cross the Atlantic. This report was published in Mail Online. I was trying to get the latest update of this news to no avail. 

Anyways, George has assembled a team of engineers to build a 34 meter (112 feet) powerboat which they call a wave-piercing boat. With this boat, they plan to make the Cornwall, UK to New York trip in only 48 hours. 

George would like to break the record of Aga Khan. The present record of Khan is two days, ten hours and 54 minutes. Khan’s powerboat traveled at a fast clip of 65 kph to get the record. George’s powerboat has an average speed of 105 kph. On paper, Khan’s record will be easily erased by George.

There are Some Who Actually Row Across the Atlantic

cross atlantic by boat how long

Would you believe that there are some guys who were able to row their boats across the Atlantic? For these people, this feat is so doable that they are trying to break each other’s records.

The current record holder is Charles Pitcher, a Briton. It took him 35 days to row his way across the Atlantic. He started in the Canary Islands, followed the trade winds, and finished his voyage in Barbados, a good distance of 4,880 kilometers. 

In accomplishing this feat, Pitcher overturned the record of the fastest four as well as the fastest double who rowed across the Atlantic.  

The vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, although second only to the Pacific Ocean is still formidable. It takes a resolute person to want to cross it aboard a sea craft. If you are up for the trip, you should be willing to spend about 8 days on average to cross the Atlantic by boat.