We are nearing the end of July, and also nearing the Azores. Soon we will need to turn South towards the island chain and enter the Azores High, an area plagued by light winds and currents. Normally, cruisers will sail across the Atlantic and then motor the last few days once they lose all wind as they enter the High. We don’t have that luxury, which is why we carry a suit of light air sails. I had these sails (a drifter and a light air mainsail) made out of ripstop nylon (spinnaker material) just so that we would be able to sail once we entered the High ourselves.
The closer we can get to the islands without entering the High, the longer we can sail for. To complicate matters further, the Gulf Stream flows through here, so wind or no wind, there is a strong current carrying you to the East. If you miss your island, you might have some trouble sailing back to it against the current with no wind!
Our Australian friends were able to receive this information from Predict Wind, but we weren’t able to see it while we were still sailing. They just gave us a brief version in 160 character text messages to our satellite phone. When we did finally meet up in Horta, they gave me all of these screen shots that he had taken of the weather reports.
The forecast is processed by Predict Wind and run through four models. You have the US model, Predict Wind’s version of the US model, the European model, and Predict Wind’s version of the European Model. The information is broken down into various categories and based on the performance of your boat or the conditions you are looking for, you can choose the route that you think will work best.
Talk about gambling!
It gets interesting when you throw islands into the mix. Some of the models are saying to go North of Corvo, others are saying to go between Flores and Corvo, and others are saying to go South of Flores.
As you approach Faial, the red model is saying to drop south of Faial and come back up to it, while the green model is saying to go North of Faial and then approach Horta from the East side of the island.
The same information goes in, and yet all four models say something completely different. Out in the ocean, it doesn’t really matter where you go because there is just plain old ocean everywhere. When you throw islands into the mix, you now have wind shadows to contend with and you have to wonder: are these wind shadows accounted for?
We had another bright moon light night to show us that the wind and waves were plenty and strong. We continue to sail East, waiting for the signal in the sky to tell us to turn Southward towards Faial.