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How to plan long distance cruises or circumnavigations

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What is the issue?
Long distance sailing is unlike any other form of transport because you typically cannot plan to simply go from A to B. In fact a sailing passage from A to B can often turn out to be a voyage from A to E to G to C to get to B. This is due to the cyclical patterns of oceanic winds, currents, regional and seasonal weather that are at play at all times. It may even be the case that the scheduled arrival at a destination B would be imprudent and could place the crew and vessel in jeopardy. On the other hand a much more attractive alternate destination may make perfect sense and is not considered. In short, long distance is complicated and requires knowledge, careful consideration and planning.

Why address this?
You need to base your cruising plans upon the patterns of oceanic winds, currents, and regional weather conditions. Work with the flow of the world’s ocean systems and your voyaging will be a pleasure. Go against it and you will, at best, have an absolutely miserable time.

How to address this?
You need to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the world oceanographic conditions and then base your cruising plans around them.

Through the centuries the Royal Navy has carried out this research for its square rigging fleet and documented it in ‘’Admiralty Ocean Passages for the World’’. The book is available today from the British Hydrographic Department and is still an excellent resource. However modern cruisers need not turn to this as Jimmy Cornell has created ‘’World Cruising Routes’’ see figure 1. This book is geared specifically to the needs of cruising sailors and has everything you need to work from.

It features many hundreds of individual sailing routes, winds, currents, regional plus seasonal weather conditions that you can expect in most every corner of the world. As well as the routes he lays out logical schemas to work your way through extended multi-leg passages or circumnavigations. This enables you to simply schedule optimum arrivals and departures with all the details you need to hand. The book conveniently includes many thousand GPS coordinates for navigation and route-by-route descriptions of expected weather conditions and hazards. However these are only for range finding, convenience and caution. The book operates at a very high level and is a route planning resource only. You still need charts to plot your course, plus detailed landing pilots and guides.

Of course with such a large and global scope some routes are missed out but I would say these would be very few and most mortal cruisers would be hard pressed to discover them. More importantly you have to appreciate the book details the expected, or average conditions recorded, over many centuries of experience. You can never guarantee the weather you will actually experience, just what is most likely.

A particularly extreme example of this was our circumnavigation that was impacted by an El Nino. Aboard our boat Jimmy Cornell was an excellent target for our rage and fury when things were not working out as we had liked. rnrnThe book is a must for cruisers and will be a daily companion. Preferably buy it long before you depart and schedule your cruising plans the schemas provided from the outset.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

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