From zero to sailing to Gambia with fellow Ocean Nomads | Member Succes story

sailing to gambia

How is joining Ocean Nomads working out for our members? Jan shared a story with us about his dreams coming true.

A story of many “I can’t believe this is actually happening”

By Jan

This is just a write-up about my year and joining fellow Ocean Nomads Kyra and Robert on a leg of their epic sailboat trip to the Gambia River and a big shout out to the people behind Ocean Nomads for creating a platform that helps making dreams come true.

Talking about dreams, beginning of this year I was studying in the Spanish Basque Country and dreamed about sailing along its beautiful coastline. I just had no idea how to do that. So, I started researching and telling everybody about this idea. I found the Ocean Nomad book, read it, loved it and joined the network. 

I started volunteering in the traditional boat carpentry ALBAOLA and went with them to the beautiful maritime festival “Semaine du Golfe” in Bretagne. There we did daytrips sailing traditional Basque boats alongside huge Tall Ships like the “Shtandard”, “Osterschelde”, “Morgenster” and “Pascual Flores”. Two months before I wouldn´t have believed to even come that far. But naturally dreams evolve and so, instead of returning home to Germany after the semester ended, I started working as crew on a Tall Ship myself.

The first time I set foot on the “Nao Victoria” I could not believe that this really was happening, it just felt so unreal. For the next three months we toured around Europe going from port to port, from festival to festival. When we stopped over in Amsterdam, I met my first Oceannomad in person, as Menno decided to visit me on “The Nao” (he wrote this nice post about it). Although it was a great way to travel, spending time with an awesome crew and learning a lot, it was not that much actual sailing as I had hoped. Having square sails and being on a schedule doesn´t go along well, so we were mostly motoring which interfered with my desire to just go with the wind and witness the calmness on sea.

Towards the end of my time on “The Nao”, already being a little tired to always be on the road, I stumbled over a post on the Ocean Nomads app. Somebody was searching for crew for a trip from the Canaries to Cape Verde, Senegal and Gambia, maybe going on to Brazil. I was thrilled about these exciting countries and going there sailing made my adventure spirits fly high again. But again, I thought this would be too good to become reality. I gave it a shot anyways, just in case. The contact established and a few weeks later, instead of going home I went straight to the Canary Islands and after some delays due to weather conditions met Kyra and Robert on their Sailboat “Tonlei” in La Gomera. Again, it felt hard to believe this was happening.

Due to a lot of work on the boat, unsuitable weather conditions and broken motors we stayed four instead of two more weeks (Kyra and Robert were already working for two years on the boat) in the Islands, thinking: “will we ever be able to leave?”.  But finally we lifted anchor and headed off for The Gambia. The crossing was magic! Sailing is so different to motoring especially at night when there is nothing but the starry sky above, the wind, the waves and bioluminescent plankton below.

We arrived in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia and after an initial little culture shock were overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people. After being guided through the whole process of immigration by two super nice officers we left for the infamous Lanim Lodge, a first stop for most sailors that visit The Gambia. There again we were welcomed super friendly and quickly established familiar contact with the people around. Anchoring at Lanim Lodge was great for relaxing as you are surrounded by mangroves and at night you only hear the singing of the birds, the clicking of the oysters and sometimes some music from a distant village.

After about a week we ventured on up the river. As the wind was mostly coming from inland, we were motoring almost exclusively and by using the springtide we were covering ground quickly. Along the way we tried to spot wildlife going into creeks, but mostly found birds in the mangroves. For crocodiles and hippos we were not far enough up yet. Visiting the small villages along the river we learned a lot about local agriculture and fishing, got to try the simple but tasty local cuisine and got an insight into culture and life of the Gambians.

Shortly after passing the Senegambia Bridge, I had to leave Tonlei and take one of the local minibuses, in order to catch my flight back home. Kyra and Robert will continue their journey up the river and most likely cross the Atlantic to Brazil afterwards.

Looking back, it seems so hard to believe to me, that this journey actually became reality, something I would not have dared to dream only half a year ago. All my thanks go to Kyra and Robert for taking me along and to Ocean Nomads for enabling this connection.

Originally published on the ocean nomads network. Thank you Jan for sharing your beautiful story with us and giving permission to share it to further. We hope it inspires you who reads this to follow your dreams. We are here to help support with tips, connections, opportunities at every step of your journey.  How? Explore our blog, Read the book, join the community, enroll into our brand new course, or join us on a trip!

Are you looking to reach further and wiser with your ocean stories? One way to support our members is to amplify their voices on our channels. Reach out to the team on the network app or ahoy @ to let us share your story with the world. 


Video about their adventures

NEW! The ocean nomads crew course

A computer screen displaying a woman's face as part of a sailing crew.

Full Moon Newsletter

Subscribe to receive our Full moon newssplash for the latest updates in your inbox!

Scroll to Top