Tack­ling the trade winds

It’s one thing get­ting to the Amer­i­cas, but an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ket­tle of (fly­ing) fish to get back

Practical Boat Owner - - Andew Simpson - An­drew Simp­son

The clas­sic trade wind transat­lantic cross­ing takes ad­van­tage of the clock­wise wind pat­tern that ro­tates ma­jes­ti­cally around the Azores High – the high-pres­sure an­ti­cy­clone that re­sides per­haps pre­dictably over the North At­lantic and the clus­ter of is­lands from which the sys­tem gets its name.

For cen­turies mariners in the north­ern hemi­sphere have taken ad­van­tage of what is ef­fec­tively a wa­tery con­veyor belt in terms of both wind and cur­rent.

A no­tional and not en­tirely se­ri­ous guide as to what to do pop­u­larly rec­om­mended that one headed south un­til the but­ter melted be­fore turn­ing right; where­upon you would be car­ried ma­jes­ti­cally to­wards the Caribbean and Amer­i­cas. For ex­am­ple, a sail­ing ves­sel, say in the UK, starts by head­ing south to­ward the Ca­nary Isles and al­lows this im­mense swirl to ease them to­wards their des­ti­na­tion.

And this can be sail­ing at its most sub­lime. Just three years ago we crossed from the Ca­naries to Bar­ba­dos in con­di­tions where the word ‘com­fort’ hardly does it jus­tice. Warm winds, sparkling seas, fly­ing fish jump­ing con­ve­niently onto the bar­be­cue, you know the sort of thing.

So much for get­ting there but get­ting back is noth­ing like so easy since the east­bound flow of this oth­er­wise boun­ti­ful carousel takes place much fur­ther north where the weather isn’t quite so agree­able.

In other words, whereas sail­ing there is usu­ally very plea­sur­able the re­turn voy­age with its as­sorted op­tions can be much more chal­leng­ing.

For ex­am­ple, many years ago I met a man who had de­cided to re­turn to the UK and set off from the West

Indies to the Azores, thereby avoid­ing the storms of the higher lat­i­tudes. In do­ing so he en­tered the ‘Azores High’ where ex­tended pe­ri­ods of calm are com­mon.

With lit­tle fuel on board, that sin­gle leg took him nearly three months, dur­ing which time he ran out of his es­sen­tial sup­plies and had to re­sort to eat­ing the goose bar­na­cles scraped from his hull. His fam­ily had given him up as lost.

Un­til re­cently there were few al­ter­na­tives for those sailors who wanted to re­turn to Eu­ro­pean wa­ters but that’s no longer the case. Many own­ers choose to trans­port their boats back on cargo ves­sels ei­ther spe­cially adapted or built for the pur­pose.

To re­turn a 40ft mono­hull to the At­lantic’s east­ern shore would cost about £12,000. This on the face of it, might sound ex­pen­sive; but when you con­sider the wear and tear of the sails and rig­ging on an up­wind thrash of per­haps 3,000 miles or so it might ac­tu­ally be quite a good deal. A friend whose cata­ma­ran (unin­sured against dam­age caused by ‘named storms’) was se­ri­ously dam­aged in the hur­ri­cane that struck An­tigua in late 2017 paid over twice that amount due to its large foot­print; but that still could have been the best op­tion.

The pho­to­graph that heads this col­umn shows a ded­i­cated boat trans­porter re­cently spot­ted along­side in Poole Har­bour. As you can see, its cargo in­cludes a mag­nif­i­cent J Class yacht and many other boat types, both sail­ing and power, mono­hull and multi. Ap­par­ently, it was on route from the USA and bound for Scan­di­na­vian wa­ters, with per­haps a few stops in be­tween.

And the trend is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity. Since boat­ing is an es­sen­tially sea­sonal ac­tiv­ity there is some merit in trans­port­ing your ves­sel from one cho­sen area to wher­ever else in­trigues.

So, for those ves­sels parked on deck it’s no doubt the Baltic for to­mor­row but wher­ever else next year?

‘For cen­turies mariners have taken ad­van­tage of a wa­tery con­veyor belt’

Trav­el­ling first class: a boat trans­porter in Poole

Monthly mus­ings Yacht sur­veyor and de­signer An­drew Simp­son cruises in his own-de­sign 11.9m (39ft) yacht Shindig. Read his blog at www.off­shore-sailor.com

At­lantic trade winds in July

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