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Old 28-12-2006, 00:20   #1
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Ocean Passages for the World

I'm currently working through the passages from the Carribean and West Indies, to join the 60-some other world ocean passages already transcribed. I'm nowhere near the half-way mark, but I'm wondering what other tools people use when planning longer cruises. What books and documents?

I've started scanning the planning charts for Ocean Passages for the World (a 1950 Crown Copyright, and so available for free use now); I'm wondering if these are the kinds of tools passagemakers use when in the navigational planning stages.
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Old 28-12-2006, 06:39   #2
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You will find very few people using Ocean Passages these days, for many reasons. Here are a few sources which you could choose from:
1. Pilot Charts (now available free & on line for the S Pacific, N Atlantic and Indian; others to come). There's a huge amount of passage-related info in these and, altho' a bit labor intensive to use and suffering from a 'low tech' image, you'll gain a good feel for the ocean's behavior along any intended route by working over these manually.
2. In combination with the Pilot Charts, consider using a routing software package. Virtual Passage Planner can be downloaded for free, is usable only for the month of January, but will give you a feel for what number-crunching of wind and current data can add to a manual PC review. Increase the iterations used by the software and compare the multi-leg output of the software with your comparable piltot chart and see what you think.
3. Dedicated pilots come in many forms and you might look at what's available for your intended route - let's say for a one-year period - to consider your choices. E.g. if thinking of visiting Europe, there are at least two 'Atlantic Crossing' pilots that discuss routing strategies, an Atlantic Islands pilot that talks about that area of the N Atlantic, Sailing Directions published by NIMA (free and on-line, also) to be reviewed, and it goes on. When looking at multiple long legs, consider each leg separately. E.g. from Vancouver you will find NOAA's Coastal Pilots (yet again, free and on-line for downloading in .pdf format) discussing the Pac Coast run, harbors of refuge, etc. and you will probably find that completely adequate. Once you leave the USA for a run to Hawaii, consulting one of the pubs issued by the various Race organizers might prove very enlightning. OTOH if heading further S along the C American coast, you might choose to use a cruising guide (aka: pilot) of which there are many. Also keep in mind that a dated pilot, available perhaps from a reseller for only a few dollars, can offer timeless routing strategy & weather information. Stone's Cruising Guide to the Caribbean and Bahamas and Calder's Northwest Caribbean Cruising Guide both offer excellent weather summaries for their areas and will cost you very little.
4. Multiple weather discussons by region are available on-line that range from the wide-area ENZO phenomenon, influential to passages into the Pacific, to discussions of micro-climates such as those around the Hawaiian islands, the Scottish Orneys or NZ's South Island. Generally speaking, on-line weather sources are more reliable than on-line routing discussions by individual skippers & crews, because the latter encompass relatively little experience over short time periods.
5. Having said that, you will also find some very thoughtful discussions on many of the common routes if you are a wise on-line researcher and have the time to dig them out. As one example, anyone thinking of making the run into the S Pacific from the Pac Coast is unlikely to do better than read Ken & Cath's discussion of it - visit FELICITY's website and download that document at http://www.svfelicity.com/articles/milkrun.pdf

One final observation, since there will be many readers of this post that are eager to point out I've omitted Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes, which is a useful reference for all the major routes around the world. Routing advice as captured in pubs like Jimmy's and also Anne Hamick's Atlantic Crossing Guide often reflect the way in which the authors choose to cruise, not just hard data. In these cases, you end up getting traditional views on a given route that are based on historical documents like Pilot Charts but which may omit the use of real-time information available on most cruising boats these days. So e.g. both Jimmy and Anne (neither of whom cruised with real-time wx data availability when preparing their guides) would counsel you to depart Bermuda heading NE to 40-42N and then sailing E towards the Azores, turning SE only for the last hundred miles or so. They recommend this because the prevailing N/NW winds are steady at that latitude, even tho' that route takes you into much harsher frontal weather than further S. Most boats these days opt to track the fronts, stay further S while still far enough N to avoid the light winds of the Azores High, and arrive more rested and with less broken gear than those following the guides' advice. So...one golden rule IMO is to blend multiple views from multiple sources and realize than no one is going to be an expert on the exact weather and winds you will be seeing on a future passage you have yet to make.

Good luck on the planning; it's a great way to spend cold winter evenings!

Jack
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Old 28-12-2006, 11:19   #3
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Passage planning documents

<nods> I have the paper versions of the N. Pacific pilots; they're a bit of work to interpret simply because they try to pack so much information so densely, but very useful. Unfortunately, more-current versions of paper pilots are simply not available. My local chart shop has had standing back orders, but the USGPO is not filling them. You said some are available online? do you know where?

I've been working with a number of coastal pilots/sailing directions. What surprised me was how the US Pilot 7 and Pub 154 Sailing Directions had specific errors; it reinforced the rule to never use only a single reference, and prefer local references (use Canadian HO when in Canadian waters, etc.) when they are reasonably current.

One of the reasons I use older pilots from the age of sail is because they include details relevant only to sail and low-powered steam craft. For example, the UK pilot to the Red Sea gives instructions on sailing the lee coast where there is an acceleration ridge as the wind lifts, and the US The Gulf and River St. Lawrence describes in detail the coastal currents and counter-currents along the island shores and their use in a notoriously windless area for coastal trade. Such information is reduced or removed entirely from more modern editions.

The 1950 edition of the Ocean Passages for the World incorporated the records of voyages of commercial sailing and steam vessels, primarily those of Messrs. Hardie and Company of Glasgow, of the years just previous laid on pilot charts of both the British Met Office and the USN HO. Admiral Somerville noted that the courses remained virtually unchanged from the 1924 edition, which had likewise used commercial shipping records from its time period. In comparing with Jimmy Cornell's I find the passages virtually unchanged, and the text is sometimes clearly taken from OPftW.

Weather and currents, on the other hand, are far more dynamic than once thought and a huge amount of new information is available. I'd love to know how to find the weather discussions online you mentioned, but especially information regarding the Gulf Stream and the equatorial currents (even though the Southern Ocean is the primary route for commercial traffic, leisure sailors travel the other way 'round and usually with the equatorial currents.)

Basically what I'm doing is building a wiki for sailors who make passages, or want to. So I'm looking for people to add links to useful information as well as add articles, and to tell me what they'd like on the site.
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Old 28-12-2006, 12:20   #4
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Amgine... do you have a link to the wiki?? Would love to check it out, and add if I can.
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Old 28-12-2006, 19:57   #5
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The wiki

Url is Main Page - Sailwiki

Yah, I know, it's less than pretty, but I'm the only one working on it.
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Old 29-12-2006, 07:34   #6
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Amgine:

The lack of more recently published Pilot Charts should not concern you. The existing sets have been developed over 150+ years; it's hard to imagine the last few years of data is going to alter the averages they represent.

You'll find the existing on-line PCs at: Maritime Safety Information

I doubt you will find less useful regional wx routing info in the legions of cruising guides and journals, all of which have been developed over the last half century by crews on fore-and-aft rigged sailboats, than in Ocean Passages. It's also fair to say that pub's routing advice is pretty general and oriented to commercial routes, while we yachties typically want to run from one small island nation to the next, or similarly want to avoid one spot or another because of political or regulatory pressures. Perhaps we just agree we have different views, but I found Ocean Passages to be found wanting two decades ago, given the more recent, more relevant information now available.

What weather discussions will suit your needs depends on what your plans are, and therefore where you will look. E.g. over the full length of the typical SoPac Milk Run, the only two spots where winds are not highly predictable in strength and directon are in the ITCZ and the leg from Fiji or Tonga down to NZ. The location of the former is routinely documented and developing a route to minimize exposure to those unpredictable, convective conditions is as simple as crossing at the narrowest portion of the belt. For the run down to NZ, Bob McDavitt's discussions (done weekly or a bit more often) seem to be highly regarded. If planning an Atlantic Crossing, the expert is Herb Hilgenberg (SOUTHBOUND II) and listening to his daily briefings before each leg of the Crossing is very helpful prep. If curious about the Gulf Stream, few bodies of water have been more closely studied. Look e.g. to the Univeristy of Miami and Jennifer Clark's websites for lots of detail on that. If using Winlink, you can even download via SSB Radio a graphic of the current GS with its cold and warm water eddies, very helpful for near-term routing decisions.

Look around and I think you'll find a good deal of the info on regional wx patterns that you seek.

Jack
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Old 29-12-2006, 13:26   #7
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I once looked at Cornells book and it seemed to be dopied straight from OP.
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Old 10-03-2010, 13:40   #8
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hard to beat Op for armchair planning as shown in the quick answer in the florida to durban question.
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