Weather

Transatlantic: Day 24 [Day 45]

The day has arrived, the day when we turn towards the Azores!

You might be wondering how we decided when to turn? Was it because Predict Wind said we should turn? Was it because someone told us to? Or was it because the clouds said it was time?

Well, a little of some and a lot of the others.

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Our Australian friends and our friend in the States both were away from their computers today, so we didn’t hear from anyone until late that night when they both told us that we should turn South towards Faial. At that point we had already turned!

What made me make the decision to turn? The clouds and the compass.

The weather was changing overhead and the high pressure was being pushed further to our stern, meaning that we would be able to turn without getting caught in the windless region of the high pressure system that was off our starboard side.

The compass was really the important one in this decision (as it should be). I knew the course we would be holding to get to Horta on Faial, and I decided that it would be best to sail a bit further East before turning so that we would be on a broad reach instead of a beam reach. Why? If I’m wrong about the winds on a broad reach, they will either be a run or a beam reach. If I’m wrong about the winds on a beam reach, they will either be a broad reach (which is fine) or a close reach (I hate beating)! I don’t want to run that risk!

So I simply sailed until the bearing to Horta was going to be a course on the compass that would have us on a broad reach with the low pressure that was coming in!

The other giant sign in the sky was the clouds literally turned at that point and basically lined a path that pointed straight towards Faial, the way they were blowing, it looked like a good track to be on and follow the weather system into the island chain!

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You can see here, we made it to around the area of our little sign post out in the ocean (on this digital map) and began turning towards the Azores! My, how far we have come!

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The other good part about staying with the winds is it helps keep us charged up! Our batteries got a little low during that period of no wind that we had. We really like having fresh food on the boat, and to do that, we need to power the biggest most power hungry monster in our yacht: the fridge. This monster chugs the amps and just gives you the cold shoulder! Our house bank got a little low so we were supplying power to the fridge from the motor bank. That drained the motor bank down quite a bit though!

All this fast sailing we are having is great because our electric motor works as a hydrogenerator when sailing fast and that produces the power needed to charge the batteries back up!

Here, the display is saying that we are generating 6 amps at 48 volts. When you step that down to 12 volts (to power lights and the fridge) those 6 amps become 24 amps! That is some serious power it can generate and that is crucial because we will need power when we enter the marina and need to dock.

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Looking ahead at the information from Predict Wind, you can see that they are calling for the winds to be pretty good for the next few days, and then get kind of light. I don’t really care much for these kinds of charts because it all seems like guesses to me. I like when they are all agreeing, like they do for the first few days (because they are all working with good data) but then the radical spread occurs where one is calling for winds of 4 knots and another is calling for winds of 15 knots! All this tells me is that further out, no one knows and I should just ignore the computer programs and look to the sky to read the clouds.

Clouds tell you the weather you are having and going to have because they are generated by the very weather you are seeing and experiencing. I would much rather look to the sky for my weather than to look at a computer screen generated by a program written by someone who is guessing based on incomplete data.

Transatlantic: Day 23 [Day 44]

July 30, 2018 and we are nearing the Azores. The goal was to make it there in around 18 days, and at this point we are 5 days over that mark. This might seem like an issue to someone who is adhering to a strict schedule, but that is not us!

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The winds got a little light so we turned North a bit until they got stronger, then we continued sailing East towards the Azores.

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According to our friends who have now made it to Flores and our friends who are in the United States with weather routing programs on their computers, they have been telling us that the ideal turning waypoint is coming up. I plotted it on our screen with a sign post because I thought it was cute and it gave me something to do. I also added another lighthouse down on Ponta Delgada of Sao Miguel. Why? Because it is a harbor that I have studied and if we miss Horta, we can try for Angra, and if we miss Angra, we can try for Ponta Delgada. Why have so many backups? Because having backups means we don’t stress out if we miss our goal.

Imagine you are in a race and someone holds out a cup of water. It is a long race and this is the only cup of water that you will be offered to you. You are probably going to be really focused on that single cup of water. Everything else is unimportant and all your attention goes into reaching and obtaining that water.

That’s a lot of pressure to grab that single cup of water!

How about this situation for perspective: same race, but a long line of people holding out cups of water. If you miss one, simply re-aim for the next cup and grab that one. Easy!

That’s what I did here. I marked all the cups and created a long line of them for us to grab. We still have our ideal cup, but we can grab any of the other cups if we miss.

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The clouds start talking today too. Up ahead on our starboard side, the sky is completely clear (high pressure).

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To our Port side, you can see clouds rolling in (approaching low pressure).

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Way out in the distance, directly to our Starboard beam, you can see reddish skies. This is very visible with polarized lenses, and tells you that you are looking at a high pressure system in the distance. The higher air pressure refracts light differently and shifts it towards the red side of the spectrum. Just by looking at it, you can see that there is a High to Starboard and you know that means no wind over there.

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As the day continues on, the low from the Port side begins to roll in further and is now visible on the starboard side. This is how we make sure to stay in the wind. A low pressure system will have winds rotating in a counter clockwise manner, so being on the lower right side of the system means we will be having winds blowing from behind us! Basically, we can expect to be on a Broad Reach on Port Tack tomorrow (when the system comes in all the way), just by looking at the clouds!

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As the day drags on, the low pressure continues to roll in. Low pressure systems are great because the winds come on gradually. This means that you don’t have to reef right away when you see them because you aren’t going to get smashed by a wall of wind in two days. Instead, the winds will simply continue to build gradually and you can go reefing accordingly.

Transatlantic: Day 21 [Day 42]

We continue to make our way East but we have removed the Northern component of our course. Why? We have enough wind!

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The winds in the Westerlies are pretty easy to navigate and sail in because you can choose what kind of winds you want to be having. The further North you go, the stronger the winds will be. The further South you go, the lighter the winds will be. If you feel that the winds are a bit light, simply sail a bit more northerly until the winds build to your liking. If you feel they are a bit too strong, simply head a bit more southerly. When you finally find the winds you like, just head East and the winds will stay constant for you!

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While stronger winds do mean larger seas, when they are following seas, they are not so bad!

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The waves come at your stern and simply slide under the overhang. The stern lifts and you surf down the wave. As the wave passes the boat, the bow goes up and the boat would normally lose its speed as it tries to climb the back of the wave, but the winds are strong and won’t let you decelerate, powering you along as you ride through the seas.

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As night falls, the stars begin to come out. This one star, probably Venus or Jupiter, is already out even before the sun has sunken beneath the horizon. We always reef down in weather like this, not because we want to go slower, but because we don’t want to be reefing in the dark. Should the winds build further, we would be over-canvassed and over-powered, necessitating us to deal with tanbark sails in the dark. Reefing early means that the person on watch simply watches and the person off watch sleeps. Nothing dramatic happens and everyone stays safely well rested.

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Thankfully, the Moon is well light in the night as we are making our way towards the Azores. I always prefer to sail at night with a full moon. It makes the mystery of the darkness wash away as your eyes adjust to the small amount of sunlight being reflected back at the surface of the Earth.

It is also very useful to judge the sea state as the moon beam lights up the tops of the waves on its way to your yacht. In your perspective, it might look like a single beam of light leading up to the moon, but everyone has this same perspective as the light from the moon is radiating out evenly in all directions and you are only able to perceive the light that is coming your way; just as someone else can only perceive the light coming their way.

Imagine if we could all see the world from other peoples perspectives? I’m sure there would be a lot less conflict!

Transatlantic: Day 9 [Day 30]

The winds have gotten a little odd on us. We are far from any point of land and able to sail in any direction to provide us the most comfort.

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Far to our north-west is a hurricane, and it also has wind. A friend of ours that was about 400 nautical miles ahead of us the whole way had the ability to download and view weather routing information to his yacht. He would plug in our position and then tell us what waypoint to aim for to get the best speed.

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The interesting thing about the software is it doesn’t care what is causing the wind, it simply sees wind and suggests a way to sail it. Here, it is suggesting we head north and into the hurricane. Our plan is to not sail into a hurricane and instead stay south as that monster blows past us.

We know that after the hurricane passes, we will have a high pressure to deal with and light airs, but we would rather float around in no wind than brave a hurricane.

Atlantic Crossing Part 8

 
 

Herby gives you a crash course on how to read the clouds and use old school weather techniques to get you across an ocean safely and without relying on electronics.