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Old 05-01-2015, 23:07   #1
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Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

I'm pretty new to all this, but I was wondering, and I do have some reasons for asking--

If you started in Melbourne, and wanted to circumnavigate Australia, which direction would you go, and why? Would it depend on the time of year? I've been looking for charts showing the prevailing winds, but I must not know the best ways to search for them online.

Also, if there is a better forum category for me to ask this question in, please let me know.

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Old 05-01-2015, 23:56   #2
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

The easiest way is counter-clockwise, so head up the East coast first.

You can find the wind information from the NGA website or search for Atlas of Pilot Charts on Google and you should find the site.

Avoid the cyclone season up north and be down the west coast before Mid November.
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Old 06-01-2015, 00:04   #3
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

Thanks, Seaurchin2! I do have some friends in Queensland-- I guess I could ask them when typhoon season is! They have been through several nasty ones. What time of year is that?
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Old 06-01-2015, 00:19   #4
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

Cyclone season runs from the beginning of November to the end of April, I think you will find loads of information on the BOM site (www.bom.gov.au)
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Old 06-01-2015, 00:50   #5
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

Anti-clockwise has a lot going for it, though clockwise is possible.

If I were doing it I would want to leave Melbourne around February or March, but this is also assuming I would want to take a year to do the trip.

One insurance quote I recieved specifically noted the period between November 1st and May 1st as having particular exclusions in their insurance for the northern part of Oz, and I assume the actuaries know what they are talking about. If they don't want to insure me during that period, then I probably don't want to be there during that period if I have a choice in the matter.

Anyway, we plan to leave Adelaide in December, giving us plenty of time for Tassie, before heading up the East Coast and across the top.

Alan Lucas's cruising guide makes interesting reading on the subject of the East Coast current. Others here will be much more help than me, but from my reading of his guide, I could not see any significant seasonal advantages with the currents and came away with the impression that you just had to use one of the many forecasting services and charts to plan your trip as you go, almost at a daily level.

Good luck, I hope your planned journey comes to fruition.

Matt
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Old 06-01-2015, 01:39   #6
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

We're planning the same trip commencing real soon now. Cyclone season is from November to May, tending to occur earlier in the season the further North you are (as a very, very general rule of thumb). March and April in recent times is the most active period in the Coral Sea region. The cyclone belt "ends" at around 26 degrees latitude although some have been recorded coming as low as about Port Maquarie. The best time to cross the Bight is around February too, I believe, so in general you want to be North in winter and South in Summer.

Now the reason for going counter clockwise is that the trade winds blow east to west in the north (actually south east due to the Coriolis effect from the Earth's rotation) and west to east in the South (Horse latitudes). Don't discount the effects of the trade winds. They can blow consistently at around 25/30 knots for days at a time in the Torres Straight and from about Cooktown up in the Winter so you definitely don't want to be beating against that!

For pilot charts, they can be downloaded free for the Australian coast here: Maritime Safety Information (Thanks USA!) and you can research cyclones here:
Previous Tropical Cyclones

p.s. read the thread about Kimberley crocs (gulp!)
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Old 06-01-2015, 04:31   #7
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

You might enjoy chechking out the Earth Wind Map
earth :: an animated map of global wind, weather, and ocean conditions
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Old 06-01-2015, 09:01   #8
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

Thanks, mates, very helpful!

So say someone left Melbourne in June and was heading up the east coast in June-July (not stopping to have too many parties along the way). If they got to the Torres Straight around late July or early August, would the trade winds make it difficult to get around Cape York, then?

I'm guessing you would want to steer well out to sea away from the GBR especially with those trade winds beating on you. Don't want to get dashed on the reef in the night, or whatever. So would it help to beat up to near New Guinea and use the coast for sort of a lee against the trade winds?

I wonder how the old square-rigged ships did it back in the day!
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Old 06-01-2015, 12:45   #9
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

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Originally Posted by Jim the Brave View Post
I wonder how the old square-rigged ships did it back in the day!
Not always perfectly. Australia - Captain James Cook - Stuck On The Great Barrier Reef
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Old 06-01-2015, 14:47   #10
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

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Originally Posted by Jim the Brave View Post
Thanks, mates, very helpful!

So say someone left Melbourne in June and was heading up the east coast in June-July (not stopping to have too many parties along the way). If they got to the Torres Straight around late July or early August, would the trade winds make it difficult to get around Cape York, then?

I'm guessing you would want to steer well out to sea away from the GBR especially with those trade winds beating on you. Don't want to get dashed on the reef in the night, or whatever. So would it help to beat up to near New Guinea and use the coast for sort of a lee against the trade winds?

I wonder how the old square-rigged ships did it back in the day!
It's doable. The trades can be pretty fierce at times over the winter. Grab a copy of one of the Alan Lucas books that cover cruising along the NSW and QLD coasts. You'll find them a wealth of information.

One other thing to be aware of is that the Torres Straight is shallow and is subject to huge tidal streams. There are areas where you should only progress with a favourable tide.

And don't worry too much about the reef. Captain Cook came unstuck because he didn't have a chart plotter (although he knew there was something big out there because of the sea state) and the "Barrier" part of the reef starts to close with the coast up from around Cairns. South of that you can work between the coast and the reef quite easily. It's also possible to basically day sail along vast portions of the coast adjacent to the Barrier Reef (which is what Cookie actually did as well).
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Old 06-01-2015, 15:54   #11
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim the Brave View Post

I'm guessing you would want to steer well out to sea away from the GBR especially with those trade winds beating on you. Don't want to get dashed on the reef in the night, or whatever. So would it help to beat up to near New Guinea and use the coast for sort of a lee against the trade winds?
In June/July you wouldn't be "beating" up to near New Guinea. You will have the seas and winds on your beam/stern quarter and it can get pretty windy and rough at that time of year in the middle of the Coral Sea. The coast is no protection, the strong Sou'Easters pretty much parallel the south coast all the way up into the Gulf.

I generally go inside the reef past Lizard to 2 Mile Passage before crossing to PNG. And if heading for Torres Straits, you are far better off following the designated shipping channels all the way up the inside.
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Old 06-01-2015, 16:08   #12
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

All very good advice. I lived in Darwin for 28 yrs watching the cruising folk.
Darwin is easy to reach and is a fascinating place. However!!! Many sailors want to visit the Kimberley region. Simply spectacular. Deserving at least three weeks to appreciate.
This creates a time problem. As mentioned by others you do not want to be heading down the WA coast after November. You will get blown to Bal!

Many sailors rounding Cape Leveque (north of Broome) experience continuous winds from the SW/S and simply turn back. This region requires really careful consideration.
One option is to spend the dry season in Darwin/Kimberley area and then leave the boat in Darwin for the wet and restart next dry season. Common practice. Renew the kitty.
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Old 26-01-2015, 00:04   #13
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Re: Prevailing winds and currents around Australia?

We cruised up and around to Darwin from Tasmania and so can can reaffirm the good advise here. However you run with the detail of stops you will have generally good trade winds and current up the east coast if you are going up into the winter, ie. heading up past Brisbane in May/June/July and enjoy the Whitsundays in July and August going over the top September time you will likely have good winds across Carpentaria gulf with time to stop in lots of remote places such as Wessel islands. Indonesian rally participants cruise up the east coast and to Darwin for June time and I understand have good conditions and consistent trades for that period. Have a great trip.
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