How Big of a Boat to Cross the Pacific?


How Big of a Boat to Cross the Pacific?

Crossing the Pacific Ocean is an incredible adventure that you are sure to be telling your children’s children long after the journey is complete. The first step in starting your adventure is choosing the size of the boat. 

How big of a boat to cross the Pacific? You need a boat that is at least 30 ft long to cross the Pacific, but it is much wiser to choose one that is at least 40 ft long. You need a boat this big because it needs to be seaworthy, have sufficient storage, and provide enough comfort for your journey.

If you’re dreaming of crossing the Pacific, here’s everything you need to know about how big your boat needs to be, what you need to bring, and when you should go, whether you are crossing in a sailboat or motorboat

How Big of a Boat Do I Need to Cross the Pacific?

Whether you are sailing or motoring, you need a boat that is at least 30 or 40 feet long to cross the Pacific. It is certainly possible to cross the Pacific in a smaller boat, but it becomes increasingly dangerous the smaller you go. 

As it is, you face serious risks of your boat sinking in bad weather even if it is 30 ft long. A boat any smaller is extremely unlikely to be seaworthy.

Why do I Need a Boat at Least 30 Feet Long?

30 is a bare minimum for how long of a boat you need to cross the Pacific for a couple of key reasons:

Seaworthiness

The ocean can be an incredibly dangerous place. In the deep oceans of the Pacific, waves can rise up to terrifying heights. Even a 40 foot boat will feel awfully small when you are going up and down 50 foot waves. 

Boats much longer than 30 or 40 feet have been sunk in the Pacific during ocean storms. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can plan on avoiding ocean storms. 

While you may be able to plan around the seasonal cyclons, serious weather can come up completely unexpectedly. It may even develop right on top of you so there is no opportunity for you to have warning. If you intend to cross the Pacific, you need a boat large enough to be seaworthy even in thunderstorms. 

Storage

No matter how much deep sea fishing you do, you’ll need a lot of supplies for your crossing. Plan your route and how long it should take. Then add on supplies for at least 25 to 30% longer than you expect the crossing to take. 

Ocean travel is full of surprises, and the last thing you want is to find yourself running low on supplies with a week still left on your journey. In order to bring enough supplies for you and any crew that you might be bringing along, you need a boat of at least 30 or 40 ft long. 

Keep in mind that it’s not just a matter of getting the supplies on board. Supplies will add weight to your boat, which decreases its buoyancy, how high it sits in the water, and overall seaworthiness. You need a boat big enough to hold all of the supplies that you need without being weighed down.

Comfort

A 30 foot boat may look big enough for you and one other person when you set off, but after a couple of weeks on the water, you are probably going to start wishing you had a few more square feet. A boat making an ocean crossing has to have space for storage, water collection, and other functional purposes, which leaves relatively little room for you to spread out. 

If you will be traveling with another person, you should have a boat up at least forty feet. If you want more crew than that, you should look towards a larger boat, particularly if you still want to be friends with anyone at the end.

How Long Does it Take to Cross the Pacific in a Boat?

Depending on the route you take and the conditions you encounter, it could take anywhere from five to ten weeks for you to cross the Pacific. In less than ideal conditions, it may take much longer.

When to Cross the Pacific by Boat

When you cross the Pacific is dictated by cyclone season, similar to how crossing the Atlantic is determined by hurricane season. If you’re leaving from Panama, it’s generally good to travel between February and June. If there aren’t any Cyclones predicted and you feel like taking a bit of a risk, you may be able to set off in late January.

If you want to cross the Torres Strait into the Indian Ocean, you want to be done with the Strait by August or September. That way, you’ll be able to get across the Indian Ocean and into the Waters of South Africa before late November, when cyclone season gets going again. 

If you have some time, you may decide to head to the coast of Australia and stay there through the Cyclone season, seeking shelter in anchorages or marinas if necessary. 

Crossing the Pacific in a Sailboat

Tradewinds later in the year can make for very pleasant and predictable sailing. There’s nothing like setting a downwind course and knowing you’ll be able to keep it for weeks at a time. Even if you are working your way to windward, you’ll have consistent winds which allow you to set a tack and stay on it, without having to constantly trim your rigging.

However, crossing the Pacific in a sailboat has some limitations as well. You will be dependent on the winds, so until the tradewinds get going near the end of the year, you may have sometimes when you don’t get any breeze at all. If the tradewinds pick up late and you still have a lot of ocean to cover before cyclone season starts, you could end up in a very dangerous situation.

Therefore, it is highly advisable that anyone crossing the Pacific in a sailboat also has at least two motors available so that they can still make progress when the wind is not cooperating. You should also bring everything that you may need to fix a ripped sail or replace a part that breaks on your motor. 

It is even more important for sailboats than for motor boats to bring all of the supplies that they may possibly need on their journey, since the length of the journey is less predictable. Since sailboats don’t need to worry about storing as much fuel as motor boats, there should theoretically be more room for you to store supplies. 

Crossing the Pacific in a Motorboat

Crossing the Pacific in a motorboat provides more predictability than crossing in a sailboat. Unless the weather is very bad, you can expect to make about the same pace and distance everyday. 

However, crossing in a motorboat brings some special limitations as well. You will have only your motor to propel you, so you are utterly dependent on it. 

It is wise to have at least four motors, along with all of the basic parts that you may need to replace anything on them that breaks. Of course you also need to bring as much fuel as you need to run them for the entire journey. 

It is absolutely essential for any boat crossing the Pacific to have superb navigation and communication equipment, but it is especially important for a motor boat. An electrical problem like that which can be caused by a strike of lightning can disable all of the electrical systems on your boat. 

Therefore, you need to be sure you have at least a couple of radios, plenty of flares, and other emergency equipment in case you are left stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without working engines.

How to Equip a Boat For Sailing Across the Pacific

The Pacific is a very deep ocean and you won’t be making many pit stops across most legs of your journey. Therefore, it’s very important to equip your boat properly, whether you have a sailboat or a motorboat. Here are a few things to prepare before you set off:

Choose the Right Kind of Boat

Simply being large enough isn’t the only requirement in the sailboat or motorboat that you choose. You also need a boat that is designed for ocean use. Ocean worthy boats typically have a high prow to help them cut through ocean waves. 

Monohull or Multihull

It’s up to you whether you want a monohull or a multihull like a catamaran or trimaran. Here are a few considerations to help you choose between them:

MonohullMultihull
Often come at a lower cost for the same lengthOffers more living space per square foot of length
Generally achieves higher speedsProvides a smoother ride, especially on rough water
Only one hull to paint, sand, and otherwise maintainMultiple hulls provide more storage space

Equip a Water Collection System

If you need to bring all of the water that you need for both yourself and your engines on board, it will take up a significant amount of your storage space.

It is much wiser to equip your boat with a water collection system. You are sure to get at least one good rainstorm on your crossing, and it only takes one rainstorm to fill your tanks with a good water collection system.

Enjoy Your Pacific Crossing

Whether you cross the ocean in a sailboat or motorboat, you can have an incredible crossing on the Pacific Ocean, provided you choose a boat that is at least 30 feet long. Whatever route you choose, you are sure to have a grand adventure that you will not soon forget.

Coral Dawn Drake

I spent most of my childhood on the family sailboat. On weekends and short holidays, my family sailed the waters around our home in South Florida. Over the summers, we sailed through the Bahamas, exploring the lonely islands of the Abacos. It wasn’t unusual to go weeks without seeing another person, but that was just fine by us. We fished or gathered conch for our dinners and spent the hot afternoons snorkeling over some of the most beautiful reefs in the world. Now I’m a fulltime writer. My parents still have our Maine Cat 30 and I spend as much time on the water as I can.

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