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Old 27-06-2014, 10:08   #1
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South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

My husband and I recently purchased a 2009 Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 39i and are getting ready to do some long term cruising beginning between October and December. We are both fairly experienced sailors (having had a smaller Hunter for several years), however have mostly been day sailors.

Our plan is to start out in the US Virgin Islands (boat is located there) and cruise the Caribbean for a couple of months ultimately making our way down the coast of South America to Monte Video where we have family.

I would very much appreciate any advice or knowledge from anyone who has sailed this route previously. I understand that getting down the north coast of South America can been difficult due to current and wind and would like to know how anyone has dealt with this. We would prefer not to cross the Atlantic to Cape Verde as has been recommended. Does anyone know an approximate length of time to get down to Montevideo / Buenos Aires?

Lastly, if anyone knows of any recommended reading or websites for first time cruisers, I would glad to learn of these as well.

Thanks very much!
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Old 27-06-2014, 11:33   #2
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

I have not sailed the whole route but I have been along that part of the coast.

The route you propose is a tough one. If you follow the line of islands down to the coast of South America you will end up with roughly 2000 miles dead against the wind and currents before you can turn the corner at Recife. Unless you get lucky with a very calm season this trip has the potential to be a very long, wet, uncomfortable passage.

You will be crossing the equator and the ITCZ (the dead zone between the northeast trade winds and the southeast trade winds) which moves yearly and seasonally so depending on the year and season this might give you some area of calms when you could motor east.

If I had to do this I would try late summer (you will be south of the hurricane zone), hope for calm to moderate winds and try to motorsail. How's your fuel capacity?

Another option would be to try short, coastal hops and take advantage of the land/sea breeze effect. Before trying that I would recommend you carefully research crime and security on that coast, especially northern Brazil.

Just don't know any easy answer to this one.

How long will it take? Well it will be close to 5000 miles. How big a hurry are you in and hard do you want to push? For a boat your size you can use a very rough rule of thumb of an average of 100-125 miles per day. That is not stopping, that is sailing day and night. Figure the time from that.
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Old 27-06-2014, 12:01   #3
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

Thank you skipmac. Great information. Much appreciated!
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Old 28-06-2014, 11:10   #4
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

Skipmac,

After doing some further research several people suggest heading due east from Barbados and the south toward the corner of South America.

Do you see this as a more favorable option considering the winds and currents? Seems it may be...

Thanks,

Amy
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Old 28-06-2014, 11:37   #5
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

Amy
Have you picked up Cornell's Pilot Chart book? It will let you browse the conditions at different times of year over the entire world -- in the comfort of home.
Due east from Barbados would be into the teeth of the tradewinds. I wouldn't do that in a big power boat, let alone 40 foot sailboat.
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Old 28-06-2014, 12:03   #6
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

First a question. Are you familiar with the Pilot Charts? You can find them here.

Maritime Safety Information

There are charts for all of the oceans including North and South Atlantic. Since Barbados to the eastern tip of Brazil crosses the equator your area of interest is split between the north and south Atlantic charts.

There are pilot charts for each month of the year and they show:

- average wind strength
- % of the time that the wind blows from each direction
- main ocean currents

You really need to spend some time studying the Pilot Charts. You should also get a copy of Ocean Passages for the World, check out passageweather.com and maybe a copy of World Cruising Routes by Jimmy Cornell which I have heard is mostly the information from Ocean Passages with some new commentary.

As to your question about heading east then south, that may or may not help. If you head SE along the coast directly toward the corner the average winds a more frequently from the SE. If you stay further north by heading due east the winds in that area tend to be more from the E or ENE so either way you are going dead into it.

According to the pilot charts there areas along the coast where the currents are stronger and slower further off. But also areas along the coast where you may pick up a counter current to help a little.

No matter which plan you try you will be fighting to make easting. Could be going E against SE or SE against E or NE against SE but bottom line you are in sailing terms "going up hill". To get out of the east trade winds you could have to go as far north as north Florida. In the long run this might be easier.

A lot of boats from the US trying to reach the USVI have a similar though to a lesser degree, problem. One tactic is called taking I-65. This means before you get too far south you sail straight out into the ocean until you reach 65 W longitude or due north of the VI and turn south. In your case you would have to sail east to 35 W Long. From Florida that's roughly 2700 miles east out into the ocean before you turn south and then you would have a similar distance to reach Recife.

If I had to make this trip I think I would go for coastal cruising and try to do it in hops when the winds are calm. Play the land/sea breeze effect where the heating over the land causes the winds to blow onto or off the land, especially in the afternoon evening or early/late morning. But again, check out reports for security and crime along these coasts (noonsite.com is a good place). I have never been past Venezuela and am not up to date on Guyana, Suriname or French Guiana but I do know that parts of Brazil can be very dangerous.

Bottom line, there is no easy way to do what you want to do. You have to choose between a tougher route or a longer route.
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Old 28-06-2014, 12:07   #7
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

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Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
Amy
Have you picked up Cornell's Pilot Chart book? It will let you browse the conditions at different times of year over the entire world -- in the comfort of home.
Due east from Barbados would be into the teeth of the tradewinds. I wouldn't do that in a big power boat, let alone 40 foot sailboat.
See you beat me to recommending Cornell.

I have beat into the trades from south FL to the VI a couple of times and to put it very mildly, it was not fun. At least on that route we could stop at one of the islands in the south Bahamas or the T&C to rest and lick our wounds for a few days before hitting it again. Going due east from Barbados you have nothing but ocean.
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Old 28-06-2014, 12:12   #8
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

Amy, check out the earth wind map. You can see the winds in real time as they are now. If you keep an eye on them you will get a feel for the winds. You will want to come north of the trades before heading east, then turn south across the trades when you have made enough easting. In your case it just might be worthwhile going to the Azores and then the Cape Verde Islands just to break up the long trip. It depends on how the Azores High is. There have been mixed reports about traveling the North Coast of SA. Some good, some not so good. Noonsite might have more relevant information.
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Old 28-06-2014, 12:18   #9
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

Something to think about. Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is NOT a straight line.

That's kind of a boating joke. For sailboats dealing with the wind I think you can see the meaning. Also, a straight line between two points on a globe will be a curved line on a flat chart.
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Old 28-06-2014, 12:20   #10
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

You have received good advice above. By the way, on the earth wind map you can select and view ocean currents as well.
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Old 28-06-2014, 16:36   #11
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

if not pressed for time, i'd take the long route...

much easier and more likely u and your boat arrives in decent condition.

visit europe for a season..then head down to canaries..
then cape verde and/or gambia..
then cross over to brazil and all points south
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Old 28-06-2014, 19:53   #12
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

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Originally Posted by DeepFrz View Post
You have received good advice above. By the way, on the earth wind map you can select and view ocean currents as well.
I just googled earth wind map and its brilliant thanks for that

cheers

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Old 28-06-2014, 20:01   #13
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

It is beautiful isn't it. If you click on earth (lower left) you can set some parameters. Clicking on the wind measurement you can change what the reading is, km, kn, m/sec, etc. Clicking on any area of the map gives the reading at that location and the scroll wheel allows you to zoom in or out. You can drag the globe to center any area on earth. Brilliant.
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Old 30-06-2014, 17:16   #14
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

Jimmy Cornell's "World Voyage Planner" starts the discussion on voyages from North America saying "So near and yet so far is the best way to describe a voyage to any of the South American countries not bordering on the Caribbean Sea."

From his book, direct voyages starting from Bermuda need to balance the safe season in the North with favorable months in the South Atlantic. A November start is after hurricane season in the Caribbean and encounters the favorable winds in the South between October and February. Such a favorable route would cross the equator at longtitude 35W.

Anyway, i think you could benefit from a copy of Cornell's book.
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Old 30-06-2014, 17:44   #15
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Re: South America (Atlantic Coast) Sailing Advice

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if not pressed for time, i'd take the long route...

much easier and more likely u and your boat arrives in decent condition.

visit europe for a season..then head down to canaries..
then cape verde and/or gambia..
then cross over to brazil and all points south
+1. You want to do it the way the Portuguese did. Get to Brazil via the Cape Verdes and then head North, not South.
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