Can Yachts Cross The Pacific & Atlantic Oceans? 5 Important Facts

In Boating by Christopher Schopf

Many people dream of cruising around the world without having to give up the amenities of home.  In order to do this, of course, they have to be able to cross over wide open seas.

Can yachts cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans?
Both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans can be crossed in a yacht.  You can cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in a sailing yacht or a motor yacht. You need a big enough tank to hold 1,5 the amount of fuel you expect to burn.

This being said, not all yachts are capable of making these trips.  If you decide to cross either of these oceans, you’ll want to make sure you have an ocean-faring yacht as well as the equipment and skills needed to make the trip.

In this post, I’ll go over some of the important facts you should know about yachts before you decide to make your voyage.

Category A Yacht Are Ideal For Open Oceans

Yachts are categorized within four main categories.

These categories range from A to D and they determine what type of waters the yacht was built to navigate.

Category D Yachts

A category D yacht is only rated for inland or sheltered coastal waters.

You can use them on lakes and rivers and even protected harbors.  They’ll do well as long as the waves don’t reach heights of over 4 feet.

Category C Yachts

A category C yacht is rated to be used inshore.

This means that it can head away from the protected harbors but it shouldn’t go very far.  Large bays and lakes can be navigated and the boat can take on waves of up to 8 feet high.

Category B Yachts

A category B yacht is designed to go offshore.

It can handle strong winds and waves of up to 13 feet.

While you probably wouldn’t want to do an ocean crossing in this vessel, it might be able to handle one if the weather stayed calm for an extended period of time.

One of the issues a category B would have is that it might not be built to be self-sustaining for the length of time needed to cross an ocean.

Also, it wouldn’t be able to hold up in the event of a foul weather event.

Category A Yachts

Category A boats, on the other hand, are designed to sustain themselves for long voyages like a crossing of the big seas. They are made to withstand rough weather and storms so you won’t get lost in the middle of the Atlantic or Pacific.

They are longer than 40 feet and can take on waves of up to 23 feet.  These boats can also take on strong winds of up to 47 knots.

They have weather systems and advanced computers that help you calculate and master the long trip of crossing the biggest seas.

Who Determines How A Yacht Is Categorized?

The manufacturer or boat builder will initially determine which category the boat should fall under.  However, this shouldn’t be the only determining factor.

To ensure that the yacht is actually built correctly for trips over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, it should be certified by the International Marine Certification Institute.

When you’re looking to buy a yacht, make sure it has been rated by this institute.  You can do this by looking for a certification plaque that will be mounted on the bulkhead.

Your Motor Yacht Should Be Able to Carry 1.5 Times The Amount of Fuel You’ll Need

Sailing yachts are often better suited for longer ocean crossings.  One of the main reasons for this is simply that they can power themselves for an indefinite amount of time.

This being said, you don’t have to own a sailing yacht to cross the Atlantic or the Pacific.  A large motor yacht can potentially make the trip as well.

How Much Fuel Is Needed To Cross The Atlantic & Pacific ocean?

For a medium-sized yacht, you should expect to have at least 50 gallons of fuel (200 liters). If you are cruising in a big yacht you will need more than that. You should bring 1,5 the amount you expect to burn.

The motor yacht will need to be able to hold more than enough fuel for the trip though.

The reason for this is that strong winds and currents can drastically increase the amount of fuel needed to complete a voyage.  For this reason, many veteran sailors say that you should bring about 1.5 times the amount of fuel you think you’ll actually need to complete the voyage.

Remember, running out of fuel in the middle of the ocean is a whole lot different than running out of fuel while cruising up the coastline.

You may not see anyone for days in the ocean and even if you do, they probably won’t be able to tow you back to shore.

How Long Time Does It Take To Cross The Atlantic & Pacific Seas?

It will take around 4-5 days to cross the Atlantic ocean and much more if you are using your sails instead of the motor. It will take around 10-12 days to cross the Pacific ocean with a large yacht with a strong motor.

These are very general numbers.

They will vary a lot according to how much fuel you are willing to burn. The faster you sail the more fuel you will burn. You can also cross the oceans with a yacht with sails.

This will save fuel but slow you down significantly as you are much more dependent on the weather conditions.

You May Need to Upgrade Some of Your Systems

It takes a significant amount of time to make an ocean crossing.  During this time, you’ll need to meet your food, water, and energy requirements.  You’ll also need to continuously navigate the boat.

Modern technology makes meeting these needs much easier.

Here are some systems you may want to consider upgrading to make life easier on the ocean.

  • Your water maker.
  • Your power generation systems.
  • Your freezer.
  • Your autopilot.

Water Makers

A watermaker will give you the ability to make your own potable water throughout your journey.

This cuts down on how much fresh water you need to pack and makes your yacht more self-sufficient.

This is important for a trip as long as crossing the Atlantic or Pacific sea.

Remember, your freshwater needs aren’t just restricted to drinking water.  You’ll need fresh water for bathing, cooking, and for washing your yacht off as well.  Most yachts will need daily cleanings as salt water can quickly take its toll on a yacht’s decks.

Power Generation Systems

A yacht can generate its own power using the sun, the wind, and the water.  They do this through the use of wind turbines, solar panels, and hydro-generators.

Wind turbines can create an impressive amount of energy in high winds.  However, most people will want to travel downwind which reduces the amount of power that can be generated by the wind turbine.

Solar panels work great on sunny days while the panels are angled towards the sun.

The drawback is that they do not work nearly as well when they’re shaded and every day is not a sunny day while out on the water or land for that matter.

Hydro-generators, on the other hand, can generate power 24 hours a day.  This is because they are powered by the movement of the water and since you’ll be traveling day and night, you’ll always be generating energy.  The only drawback is that a hydro-generator does not produce a lot of energy at one time.

What is The Best System to Use?

The best power generation system is a system that makes use of all of the technologies available.  Your energy requirements during an ocean crossing can be extremely high.  Not only this but yachts, in general, tend to need more power than other vessels.

Add a hydro-generator, a wind turbine, and some solar panels to your system and you’ll have power day and night whether your crossing wide open expanses or anchoring at one of the islands along the way.

Freezers

This one might be obvious, but you’ll need to pack a lot of food for your voyage.

Increasing the size and number of freezers you bring with you will increase the amount of meat and fruit you can bring.

Of course, you could skip this step and go with mostly dry foods instead.  But honestly, what yacht owner wants to subside on a daily diet of rice and beans?

Autopilot Systems

Your yacht will be moving at all times and someone or something will need to be navigating it.  Autopilot systems make navigation easy and make an ocean crossing much less taxing.

Bring a backup autopilot system or spare parts for your existing system so that you can make any repairs necessary to keep it working throughout the entire trip.

Fail to do this and you’ll find that the crew has to spend a lot more time navigating and a lot less time enjoying the journey.

Remember, it takes close to 5 days to cross the Atlantic ocean.

Your Crew Should Have Ocean Crossing Experience

It is possible to make an ocean crossing by yourself but it isn’t recommended.  This is especially true if you’re making the crossing in a yacht.

Reason being, a yacht is going to be larger and more difficult to manage alone than a small sailing craft would be to manage alone.

For this reason, you’ll probably want to hire a crew or bring along plenty of friends or family members that can help you make the trip.  At least one person on the crew should have some experience making an ocean crossing.  This person’s knowledge could prove invaluable both before and during the long trip.

Trade Winds Will Dictate Your Voyage

You might think that you can easily shorten the time it takes to cross the Atlantic or Pacific oceans by making it a more direct one.

Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true and your route will largely be dependent on trade winds.

What I mean by this is that you’ll end up traveling in a direction that puts you downwind.  This reduces the stress on your boat, makes the ride more enjoyable, and even makes it quicker.

Final Thoughts

Many people have crossed the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans in yachts as well as many other types of watercraft.

If you’re planning on making the trip in your yacht, just make sure you have the right boat for the job, the right crew for the journey, and the right technology to make everything simple and easy.