weather

Transatlantic: Day 22 [Day 43]

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.

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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!

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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!

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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?

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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.

Transatlantic: Day 16 [Day 37]

My birthday was yesterday, and the lack of wind continues.

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The rest from the race across the ocean was nice, but we are now rested and ready for some wind again.

Maddie has a bit of a melt down because the voyage is supposed to take 18 days (roughly) from Bermuda to Faial, Azores, and we have no wind, no motion, and no idea when the winds will return. To top it off, we are still 800 miles away from the Azores, so if the wind comes back right now, we will still be looking at another 8 days of sailing to make landfall.

If the winds came now, we would be making landfall in 24 days instead of 18 days. And, that was if the wind came right now, but we don’t know when it’s going to come, and that part was hard for Maddie as Day 18 was fast approaching.

After a good cry to vent her frustration, we were able to relax and enjoy the sunset. The tranquility of the ocean would be short lived and we would soon have wind again.

Transatlantic: Day 13 [Day 34]

July 20, 2018. We are racing North even though our destination is East. Why? To stay with the winds!

A massive high pressure is east of us and we don’t want to enter it, so we are trying to sail around it, but this thing is huge and moving towards us?

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Will we make it out of its path before it covers us? Only time will tell.

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In the meantime, we are keeping our fishing gear inside and out of the water because Portuguese Man-O-War are everywhere out here.  

Their tentacles stretch out around 100 feet and if one gets snagged on our fishing line, I would be in a lot of pain when I reel in the line.  

Yes, even severed from the colony or animal (their exact classification is still being debated) the stingers will still sting and cause extreme pain! To avoid this displeasure, we simply resist the urge to fish.  

Transatlantic: Day 12 [Day 33]

We are approaching the Azores High and it would behoove us to head further north to keep with the winds.

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We are moving a little slower but still moving right along. The weather around us is stable and we are making great progress, but we know that the large high is rising up from the south and will bring calm winds and seas. The further north we can get, the more chance of keeping up this pace we will have.

The view never changes, everywhere we look, all we see are clouds and waves. The waves tell us what the winds are like right now and the clouds tell us what the winds will be like in the next few days. We haven’t bothered to receive a Weather Fax in weeks since they are so inaccurate. Instead, we get our weather the old fashion way: by looking up at the sky!

Transatlantic: Day 6 [Day 27]

It’s a really big ocean, and while we feel that we have been moving fast each day, we are still only in the beginning of our voyage. Every day, every hour, every wave, we get closer to our distant goal, but it never gets closer to us.

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We are traveling very far south of the usual route and the reason is simple, sail to the winds that you have and not to the winds you might get by going somewhere else.

Our friends on shore are telling us that we will have steady winds in the 20 knots range a few hundred miles north of us. We could sail a few days north to find them and then turn East, or we could simply sail straight towards our destination via the shortest distance possible.