How Big of a Boat to Cross the Atlantic?

What’s more romantic than crossing the Atlantic in your own boat? If you have dreams of ocean crossings, you are doubtless wondering how big of a boat you need. 

How big of a boat to cross the Atlantic? Whether you are in a motorboat or a sailboat, you need a boat of at least 30 or 40 feet to cross the Atlantic Ocean. You need a boat this big because it has to be seaworthy, have enough room to store everything you need without being weighed down, and for your comfort.

If you have dreams of crossing the Atlantic in your own boat, here’s what you need to know about how big of a boat you need and some other important things to consider about choosing the right vessel for your crossing.

How Big Of A Boat Do You Need To Cross The Atlantic?

Whether you’re motoring or sailing, you need a boat at least 30 ft long to cross the Atlantic. Ideally, your boat will be at least 40 feet long for safety and comfort. The experience of motoring or sailing across the Atlantic are very different, but both require a boat of at least this size. If you intend to have a crew on the boat as well, you may need a boat that’s even bigger. 

Why Do You Need A Boat Of 30 Or 40 Ft To Cross The Atlantic?

It’s possible to cross the Atlantic in a much smaller boat, so why do you need a 30 or 40 ft boat? The answer is simply that trying to cross in anything smaller can be very dangerous and also becomes increasingly inconvenient. Here are a few of the reasons why you want a boat at least this big:


When the waves kicked up, you do not want to be stuck in a small boat. Boats much bigger than 30 or 40 feet are regularly sunk in the Atlantic due to inclement weather. 

Any smaller than this and you take a real risk with being sunk in a storm. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can plan your trip around potential inclement weather. 

Storms can come up without warning in the unpredictable Atlantic Ocean, and any vessel could be caught unprepared, no matter what time of year you travel. Not every 30 or 40-foot boat is as seaworthy as necessary to cross the North Atlantic, but this size is a basic prerequisite for being fit for ocean travel.

Supply Storage

Even if you do as much open ocean fishing as you can while you cross the Atlantic, you’re going to need to bring supplies with you. You need to bring as much food and water as everyone in your crew will need throughout the crossing. 

Keep in mind that crossings often take longer than you expect, so it’s important to stock enough for delays as well. If you will be making the crossing in a motorboat or if you have a backup motor for your sailboat, you’ll need to store fuel. 

If you need to store a lot of supplies for your crossing, you may need a bigger boat. Too much weight can make your boat sit lower in the water, which can make even an otherwise seaworthy boat considerably less seaworthy. A boat that sits too low in the water can more easily be swamped by waves. 

Make sure that you know how much your boat can hold safely before you load it up and head out on the water. 

Comfort Of The Crew

A 30 or 40-foot boat may seem pretty big until you spent a few weeks out on the open water in it. If you want to enjoy your crossing, you need a boat big enough that everyone on board can establish their own space on the boat and stretch their legs periodically during the voyage. Even for only a crew of one or two, 30 or 40 ft is necessary to accomplish this goal. 

Crossing The Atlantic In A Motorboat

You may be amazed by just how much fuel it actually takes for you to cross the Atlantic in a powerboat. Simply storing all of that fuel will take up a fair amount of room on your boat. 

Generally, fuel shouldn’t be used for more than 90 days. While this should be long enough for you to cross the Atlantic, it may not be. Using fuel stabilizer or not mixing fuel before use means that you can keep fuel for longer, up to six months or even two years. 

A significant amount of your overall storage will need to be devoted to fuel storage. That means that you may need a bigger motorboat than sailboat for the same crossing.

The advantage to crossing in a motorboat is that while it may require more storage and fuel, using fool for your locomotion instead of using the power of the wind can make your journey a lot more predictable. Whereas a sailboat will need to wait for the wind to be right to make progress, a motorboat can travel under almost any conditions except for very stormy and inclement weather. Therefore, you won’t need as many supplies to plan for in case you don’t reach your destination when you expect to. 

However, you will be utterly dependent on your motors to reach your destination safely. It isn’t a bad idea to bring spare parts for just about anything that may go wrong in your motor. 

You should not attempt an Atlantic crossing with anything less than two motors, and most people feel much safer with at least four. That way, if a motor does go out, you have back up. 

The last thing that you want is to be caught in the Atlantic Ocean without a motor. Motors are heavy, so be sure that your boat can handle the weight of motors that you need to carry safely.

Crossing The Atlantic In A Sailboat

There isn’t much more romantic than the idea of crossing the Atlantic by sail. Nothing but you, your boat, and the Atlantic winds to ferry you across the ocean. 

However, sailing across the Atlantic comes with significant risks. You are dependent on the wind to carry you across the water. 

If the wind fails, you may find yourself stranded out in the ocean much longer than you had intended. Unless you are absolutely dedicated to traveling by sail alone, It is wise to equip your sailboat with a couple of motors. It’s true that extra motors will add weight, which is not what you want, but most sailors find that the added comfort in knowing that they can motor when they need to is well worth the extra weight. 

How Big of a Boat to Cross the Atlantic?

Since both your sails and your motor are essential for a safe crossing, it’s a good idea to bring whatever you need to make basic repairs on both. Sails can be ripped in a storm, and while patching them together by yourself on board is not going to result in the quality of sails as you started with, it’s better than trying to sail with ripped sails. You should also bring extras of whatever might go wrong with your motor. 

Monohull Vs. Multihull For Sailing Across The Atlantic

Sailboats and power boats both come in either monohull or multihull. Multihull boats include catamarans, which have two hulls, and trimarans, which have three hulls. The boat you choose is largely up to personal preference, as long as it is large enough and is seaworthy. Here are a few points to consider to help you decide which is right for you:

Generally more affordableSometimes seaworthy at a smaller size than monohulls
Only one hull to wax, paint, and otherwise maintainOffers a much smoother ride, especially in rough water
May make better time overallMay make better time with less wind or wave resistance

What’s The Smallest Boat That You Can Cross The Atlantic In?

The smallest boat to cross the Atlantic was only 5 ft, 4in long. It was captained by Hugo Vihlen, A 61-year-old man from Homestead Florida. While it is certainly possible to cross the Atlantic in a boat this small, most of us wouldn’t choose to make the passage this way. 

Hugo lost 34 pounds and took considerably longer to make the crossing than he’d intended. While he expected it to only take 75 days, in fact, it took a 106 days. He was clear that he had no intention of doing anything like that again, indicating that he must not have had the best of times.

This little boat was not like most. It was made of stainless steel and built like a submarine to keep Hugo safe from the elements. He was stopped twice when he tried to sail off of the coast of Cape Cod by the US Coast Guard because the Coast Guard considered the boat to be unsafe. It was only when he set off from Canada that he was able to make the trip. 

Hugo did not have enough wind to make the sail as quickly as he had intended. If he had not gotten supplies for a passing ship, he may not have made it. 

Enjoy Your Crossing

It’s hard to imagine anything more adventurous than crossing the Atlantic Ocean in your own boat. Whether you want to choose a monohull or a multihull or a powerboat or sailboat, as long as you choose a boat of at least 30 or 40 feet and plan carefully, you will likely have a very enjoyable trip.