12 December 2013

The wind held steady and fresh all night, which has given us a fine days run of 140nm. It’s overcast again today which is not uncommon at sea in the Tropics. But, we are still making good speed and reeling in the line of the equator the whole time.

Ocean Passages is a guide to mariners, which is found onboard every merchant ship and should be onboard every long distance cruising yacht. It lists the recommended routes between ports and places for all parts of the world. One section is for sailing vessels and the other for powered vessels. The sailing section was originally written for the old square-riggers to take advantage of the most favourable winds and currents in getting from A to B. The older volumes are usually recommended for sailors as the sailing information is said to be more relevant. I have two copies onboard. One is from 1973 but I also have a facsimile copy of the first edition from 1895 and it is interesting to compare between the two.

Elsi probably sails as close to the wind as the old square-riggers so the information is very relevant. The recommended route from here to cross the equator and head down the coast of South America is to sail south between 26º and 29º W. At this time of year, in a “normal” year, S’ly winds will be met with around 8º – 6º N. Then steer a course to cross 5ºN between 20º – 23º W and cross the equator between 24º and 29º W.  The reason for going to the east first is to get a better angle before getting into the SE Trade winds south of the equator.

After the non-existence of the NE Trades between the Canaries and the Cape Verde’s I’m not convinced that this is a “normal” year. So, we are heading a more direct course to 5ºN  23ºW, which will take us to the east of 26º W earlier. Time will tell if it’s a good decision or not. It’s more uncomfortable as we are having to close reach (sailing into the wind) to get there but for now it’s all going very well and we are still making good speed. If this wind could hold for a couple more days it would see us in a good position to head down to the equator.

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