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Old 12-07-2011, 05:16   #1
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Atlantic Trade Winds

I am planning to sail from Gibraltar to the Caribbean (Trinidad/Tobago) this year 2011. I have heard talk about the trade winds starting later each year and being weaker. Does anyone have any information on the timing and strength of the trade winds from recent crossings or a link to weather records I can research? The standard Pilot Charts do not reflect recent changes. I would like to arrive in the Caribbean as early as reasonable after the hurricane season to maximise the time we have there but don't want to wallow in the middle of the ocean for weeks on the way. I have learnt from the Indian Ocean that sometimes it is a matter of heading "out of your way" to find the wind then gaining the time back from the wind and accompanying currents. Is this the case in the north atlantic?
Thanks
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Old 12-07-2011, 06:06   #2
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Re: Tropical Atlantic Trade Winds Weakening

Over the past 60 years the easterly trade winds over the tropical Atlantic Ocean have decreased in strength, say Hiroki Tokinaga and Shang-Ping Xie of the University of Hawai. The pattern suggests a permanent ‘Atlantic El Niño’, changed precipitation over the Sahel region of Africa and the Amazon basin and may even influence US hurricanes and European weather patterns.

Earth warming unevenly: Tropical Atlantic sees weaker trade winds and more rainfall

Weakening of the equatorial Atlantic cold tongue over the past six decades : Nature Geoscience : Nature Publishing Group
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Old 13-07-2011, 02:13   #3
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

Thanks for those links but I am hoping for some more specific advice such as the approximate dates the trade winds started blowing at reasonable strength and consistency during the last few years. There must have been many yachts making this crossing and waiting in the Canaries for the winds to start. Can anyone tell me of their experience of this? Also, I assume there will be records of wind strength somewhere but all my searching has not found them. Maybe someone knows where they can be found.
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Old 13-07-2011, 03:19   #4
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

Try this, it forecasts a couple of weeks at least.

PassageWeather - Sailing Weather - Marine Weather Forecasts for Sailors and Adventurers

and don't forget tropical depressions!!!

National Hurricane Center

Best of luck, and smooth sailing (with a little adventure now and again, just to keep you sharp).
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Old 13-07-2011, 03:57   #5
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

Sagan, The trade winds are produced by the Atlantic high. The trade winds are not a local or seasonal wind, they blow all the time. Granted sometimes more, sometimes less.

When you read scientific reports they get all excited about a 1/10 of anything. I live in the Caribbean and have seen no weakening of the trade winds. Some days blow more or less than others. And will very in strength and direction from season to season but only slightly. NE thru SE and 10-20 knots on average.

I don't understand where you are getting information that would prompt this question.

I could see where a series of lows coming off the coast of Africa could interrupt the trades for short periods of time. Particularly in the area between Gibraltar and the Canneries.
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Old 13-07-2011, 04:37   #6
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

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Originally Posted by seacap View Post
Sagan, The trade winds are produced by the Atlantic high. The trade winds are not a local or seasonal wind, they blow all the time. Granted sometimes more, sometimes less.
+1 The weather is not an exact science so the only answers you'll get will general at best. The most common time to cross is late Oct / early Nov' which is comfortably after the hurricane season and is when the annual ARC rally crosses using the trade winds from the Canaries and the Azores.
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Old 13-07-2011, 06:51   #7
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

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Originally Posted by Sagan View Post
I am planning to sail from Gibraltar to the Caribbean (Trinidad/Tobago) this year 2011. I have heard talk about the trade winds starting later each year and being weaker.
They are weaker in the early part of the season, November and first part of December.

Last year I left one day behind the ARC (I should have left one day before the ARC as the wind was dropping.

The video here shows what it was like Mid-Atlantic Nov/Dec 2010

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Old 14-07-2011, 11:47   #8
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

Awsome vid and very informative, thanks Mark!
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Old 15-07-2011, 10:55   #9
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

Good one Mark. Get your life jacket on please. See you in Panama mate or BVI James
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Old 15-07-2011, 14:21   #10
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

Hi Sagan,

I am planning the passage form Europe to Caribbean this winter. I am therefore making quite a bit of research; I also tend to belive that somehow the seasons are somewhat moving forward. Not only for the trade winds but even the meltemi is settting u much later in the Aegean sea. Remember that this year ARC was a disaster, no trade winds, many boats had to refuel in CApe Verde, some have given up, some other had to beat for days..
It is obviously too early to talk about a "trend shift".. But one thing is sure, as Mark pointed out leaving later gives you more chance of established and stronger trade winds. I said more chance; no guarantee..
Good luck

Yeloya
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Old 16-07-2011, 04:09   #11
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

Thanks for the helpful feedback. Mark, I will have to wait until I have better internet speed to view your video but the first minute looks great. The "Wind" dongle off the coast of Sardinia is too slow for such things. Putting Seacap, Mark and Yeloya together with the caveat of Simonmd a picture is emerging. But based on Seacap input, are the stronger trades blowing in Oct/Nov but further south or were they just not blowing at all last year during the ARC?
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Old 16-07-2011, 06:00   #12
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

Mark can correct me if my recollection is faulty, but I believe the 2010 ARC winds were dominated by a big Low crossing from west to east that pushed the mid-Atlantic High away, bringing with it winds that were pretty much on the nose for anyone trying to sail the more direct route, and forcing the boats to go pretty much straight south toward the Cape Verdes to avoid the headwinds. The tropical Tradewinds were still there (below about 25 North latitude). What was missing were the behind-the-beam winds normally encountered from the Azores to the Tropics, which are a result of the clockwise rotation of the mid-Atlantic High when it's in it's customary position.

I don't think the conditions last season should be viewed as a climatic shift in "normal" weather. It's "normal" for Lows to push off the US east coast and weaken the mid-Atlantic High, or even push it away if they're strong enough. It happens regularly every year. If you study what's going on while in the Azores, you will be able to pick your best time to leave--when the High is predicted to build and stay for a while and a big Low isn't approaching from the west.
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Old 18-07-2011, 09:19   #13
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

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Originally Posted by Hud3 View Post
Mark can correct me if my recollection is faulty, but I believe the 2010 ARC winds were dominated by a big Low crossing from west to east that pushed the mid-Atlantic High away, bringing with it winds that were pretty much on the nose for anyone trying to sail the more direct route, and forcing the boats to go pretty much straight south toward the Cape Verdes to avoid the headwinds. .


Yes, it was an interesting weather pattern and really benefited the bold.

The winner of the ARC was a Swan 80 that just ploughed straight into the 'storm' on the Rhumb Line.
They only had 5 hours of 35 knot winds and did the whole trip in 12 days or something stupidly fast.
The other slower boats who bashed into it did well, but had the stronger winds for longer.

I couldn't go bashing into it for a few reasons:
I had done 30,000nms without a refit (showed later when I broke the forestay!)
My Genoa was (is) shot and UV damaged and I wanted to keep the wind out of it.
I am solo
I had time to spare.

However going south was 'wrong' because there was no wind! I went south and EAST of Cape Verd Islands!
Herb's weather on Southbound II recommended going south too.
However, we shouldn't be scared of a little head wind. Nic and I had it for a few weeks coming up the Red Sea and yes it was tough, but not that tough!
If our boats can't handle the Atlantic into the breaze at 25 knots we shouldn't go at all.

If my boat had the repairs needed then I would have turned west vastly earlier about the line where the wind was 20kn on the nose. One could 'see' where the wind directions were so you could decide where you wanted it.

[Another interesting thing was some boats did very well sailing down the african coast on the 180m depth line.]

It took me 30 days to do the 2,600nms rhumb line and I probably did 3,500 miles all up. The longest passage I've done. We did Galapagos - Marquesas, 3,200nms in 20 days. Take extra food!
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Old 18-07-2011, 09:27   #14
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

The reason for the weather to be like that was nothing to do with changing weather patterns. It was just a normal abnormal event.
The ARC and many cruisers leave 'early' so they can have christmas in the Caribbean. Chrissy ain't much fun at sea.

The trade winds are better set in a month later.

In effect the mid atlantic low was very low and the kept Azores High even lower. It happens.
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Old 19-07-2011, 08:56   #15
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Re: Atlantic Trade Winds

I read these narratives about doing the ARC out of the Canaries,many first time crossings of the Atlantic. Sounds like a great gig, but how do these yachties get their boat to the Canaries to participate?
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