Many people are pretty right when they think I have a lackadaisical attitude to sailing...
I am probably sailing the Atlantic from Europe to the Caribbean in November 2020 so I have started to follow the weather patterns now, a year out.
I have done this passage twice before, once to the Caribbean and the earlier time to Brazil.
So this is a little piece about how I do it and what I am looking for... and how I can CHEAT in my planning.
For those newer to the game it would be great for others who have done a few passages to mention any methods and tricks they have in planning a passage for weather.
The passage from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean is often the first major passage for european boats... kinda similar to the first passage down the East Coast of the USA to the Bahamas or the Caribbean; or on the West Coast USA from California to Mexicos Sea of Cortez.
The timing for the Atlantic crossing really has very very long window. December though March or April. But the ARC Rally for cruisers left the Canaries yesterday, Sunday 24 November.
Now, we all know an abide by the rule to never let a date sway our passages... but heres a date thats a bit difficult: Christmas. Peoples Christmas plans are very personal and different and few wish to be at sea. They like to dump the boat and fly home to family, or drag the brats to them for an adventure Holiday.
The difficulty is that the Atlantic Trade Winds have not set in before the beginning of December and not really stable until maybe February. Unlike other passages where it can be too stormy to leave early, here the weather can be too light. But earlier again, theres the chance of a hurricane.
Its about 2,400 nms and a time of about 3 weeks. If you cant find the wind it can easily be 4 weeks. So if you leave after November 20th you may bump into Christmas at sea.
Here is todays Passage Weather chart. Looks a bit light in the beginning and then the wind fills in; plenty of wind at the end.
Except its not that simple!
1) As Ive said often but no one believes me is that I add 5 knots of wind above 20 knots and subtract 5 knots under 15 knots. So if it says theres 10 knots out there theres really SFA.
2) The great circle route does not go straight to the Caribbean... it 'curves North'.
So you need to edge south a bit for wind, but every mile you go south you add miles onto your passage becuas eof the GCR and the extra 'straight' miles. Last time I did it instead of 2,400 miles I went over 3,000 nms... thats where the 4 weeks can come in.
So, how far south do we need to go????????????????
I steal and cheat and ... survive
I follow other ships, I steal their AIS track and I cheat by spying on others. And this keeps me in the picture of how everyone else is doing it.
As I said, the ARC started yesterday and, stupidly, everyone has a live tracker so moi et tu can spy, cheat, and steal their tactics... and watch to see who was 'right'.
The Red line is the GCR rhumb line and everyone has headed Due South or SSW except for Eucmene a Dufour 405 doing 4.5 knots.
Of the Dues Southers is Amailia only doing 5 knots.
One doing SW is Allegra doing 12 knots but looks like a whopping racing catamaran.
Another doing just SW, a fraction south of the rhumb line is the Australian 60 foot Cat Muttley (great aussie name LOL) at 7 knots.
So I can use these guinea pigs over the next few weeks and see who has done best, and sort them out as to my type of boat and style of sailing.
At the moment I am clearly with Euceme. Same length, similar type of cruising boat. 4.5 knots in some clear sun and a fishing rod out the back is right down my idea of fun after a few winters in Europe. His speed will pick up in a week to 6 knots and the last week to 6.5 to 7 knots. Fine by me.
If he gets becalmed... check that fishing rod and roll over.
If he even saves 200nms by his lazy ways thats 2 days the faster boats have to make up.
Conclusion: Start your passage planning 1 year out so you can check the weather for your passage next year.
Your tips and ideas, critiques etc are welcome