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Peter Owen 03-28-2006 01:33 AM

Transat in July/August
Met a guy planning to leave Southern Spain for French Guyana via Cape verde Islands on 1 July. I can't find anything that says don't or it's impossible but I'd like to hear a more expert view so .....?

Thanks for your help; regards

Jack Tyler 03-28-2006 06:16 PM

Sailing to some of the N Atlantic islands during the summer (Madeira, Azores, and perhaps the Canaries) is considered by European sailors to be somewhat a rite of (offshore) passage and these island groups are far enough N that they escape the influence of most tropical waves which, by July, are being generated off the African continent and moving W'ward towards the Caribbean. The 'guy you met' is betting that he'll get far enough S soon enough, the tropical waves will be insiginificant enough that close to the African coast, and the storm season will be light enough in July that storms won't be a factor for him. OTOH the Trades will be light and the ITCZ rambunctious and unpleasant, no matter how good his luck is with the tropical waves.

It doesn't sound like an appealing choice, but perhaps he faces timing issues that make this choice necessary. It surely wouldn't be mine.


JeanneP 03-30-2006 12:00 AM

I'm sitting in St. Martin right now, the weather is unseasonably warm, and I'm betting we see a hurricane here before June 1. The water has to be 79* F or above, and it's almost there right now! Most unusual weather, the Heineken Regatta, for only the 2nd time in its history, had to cancel the last day of the regatta because there was no wind.

I wish the fellow luck, but encourage him to keep a very close eye on weather reports before deciding to leave.

taya 03-30-2006 06:14 AM

I'm the "guy that Peter met" and Peter has asked me to join the forum.

Indeed I do not have the possibility to cross in winter. Given that, my reasonning is the following.

1-There exists no hurricane or tropical storm track east of 30W in July in the tropics. Over the last 140 years two tracks at the the tropical depression level exist (max sust wind less than 40kts): anna in 1969 and cesar in 1990 (one can check the track viewer at So I plan to sail south, East of 30W (more or less).

2-The ITCZ is at its northernmost position at that time (and also is skinnier that at most other times) which means the SE trades can be found at much higher Lats than in the fall/winter: say between 3N and 5N according to the pilot charts (Cornell's World cruising route has average locations of the ITCZ).

3-Lastly, in the Summer, the portugese trades should hopefully help us get quickly to the NE trades.

So the idea is to sail south, cross the ITCZ around 30W and turn West once we find the SE trades, crossing the Atlantic around 3N-5N. The trades average force 3 at that time but there is a significant west setting current to compensate. Since there has never been a hurricane south of the ITCZ in the Atlantic we should be safe. If the trades turn out to be fickle (always a possibility) we'll put some south in our easting and head for the northern coast of Brasil.

As far as I'm concerned the main unknown will be the position and strength of the SE trades.

JeanneP 03-30-2006 11:15 PM

What? From 10* North to 10* South - the doldrums (little to no wind) and equatorial countercurrent.

forget about historical weather patterns. We are in a different time - hurricanes are stronger, more frequent, and outside of any of the norms - they start earlier, end later, and are stronger. We had two named storms start after December 1, 2005 - i.e. after the "official" season had ended. Things just aren't the same anymore. (if it's a named storm, it's a tropical storm, not a tropical depression - winds just below hurricane strength). I think you need to do a bit more research.

And you're right - until a bit more than a year ago, there had never been a hurricane recorded (doesn't really mean there weren't any, just nobody reported one) in the South Atlantic. but there was one in 2004 (or 2005).

Our daughter lives in Denmark. A few years ago they had a hurricane - first ever recorded!

I think that weather is changing.

Yes, you might very well miss a hurricane, but there's no place for you to run if one forms. Tropical depressions are more common and often come wave after wave making sailing uncomfortable and very slow, and they will dog you in June, and July as well. And early season hurricanes are born off the coast of Africa - they may be tropical storms there, but that's nasty and not what you want to be sailing in.

People do it, they survive. I hope that it works for you.

taya 03-31-2006 05:06 AM

Yes the weather patterns are changing.

Which is why the ARC crossing the Atlantic at the end of November, at the time when people are supposed to cross, barely missed TS delta. And early hurricanes also make the eastbound crossings at the "safe" time toward the end of May and June, something of a more risky proposition. When I crossed the Atlantic eastbound last summer at the end of June, I was indeed worried until I reached the long. of the Azores! So the hurricane season is longer, and more tropical waves turn into tropical storms. Given that, I find that the PLACES where tropical depressions are spawned during any specific time window is still reliable and definitely more reliable than their number during that time. This is why I think that longitudes East of 30W are safe in July and August.

The two Hurricanes I mentioned started out as unnamed tropical depressions and if you check their tracks didn't become TS's until significantly passed 35W.

I would appreciate getting some data on that South Atlantic hurricane. What position, when etc... I would be grateful if Jeanne could post where she heard about it. Noaa tracks don't show anything. I don't recall the ITCZ ever migrating south of the equator so I don't really understand how the south atlantic could have seen a hurricane.

I kind of doubt the hurricane in Denmark! There certainly was a terrible storm with hurricane force winds that devastated Europe a few years ago, but I don't recall it being a tropical air mass.

All that said, if in late June it seems that the ITCZ is further south than it should, is much wider in latitude than it should and if the SE trades are absent, I probably won't go especially if June hurricanes

are doing strange things.

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