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Atlantic Crossing

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

19th May, 2019

Good morning Blog followers. Its 0400 on a rather windy Monday morning. After a successful Atlantic passage, six days, I felt I should update you with what’s going on. We are running south off the coast of Newfoundland, dodging icebergs, well, bergy bits. There are reasonably large, but not quite ice-bergs. Just taking this hour of quiet to write the Blog before I go back to the Bridge to asses if we can, or not, get into St Johns, its rather windy.

Before sailing from Dover, that’s seven days ago now, I was assessing the weather patterns for the Atlantic because there are a number of ways to go. You would think we would just follow a straight line from Lands-End to St Johns, but no, that’s far too easy! A straight line on a charts is what we call a Rhumb line and is actually longer than a curved passage, known as a Great Circle. The problem with a Great Circle passage in the northern hemisphere is that, whilst shorter, it takes you further north in, potentially rougher seas. Essential you can do a mixture of ‘passage’ types to get from A to B. My main consideration, apart from getting to the destination on time, is storm dodging and vessel comfort and then once in the western seaboards, watch out for ice-bergs.

From the outset a low pressure system with 5.0 meters seas forecasted was tracking ENE and heading into SW Ireland. Therefore, my early plan was to Rhumb line WSW for the first 700 nautical miles, allowing the storm to track north of the ship. Whilst the sea days roiled passed I watch the movement of the jet stream and the antics of the series of low pressure systems tracking up the Atlantic western seaboards. I was also starting to watch the trend of iceberg movements south of the Labrador Sea. Early reports from NOAA suggested a much higher than usual incidence of Ice-bergs this year.

By Wednesday morning, having tracked to the south, at latitude 46 degrees, I put my Great Circle plan in place to ensure I dodged the storm now forecasted to be off Newfoundland on the 19th, as we arrived, all rather inconvenient. I kept full speed on as I wanted time-in-hand to go slow through the ice-field, as for sure I would encounter bergs at some point. My ‘night’ plan, ice-bergs are very hard to detect at night, was to be steaming at 6 to 7 knots; thus time in hand certainly required.

By the morning of the 18th, the storm now brewing had intensified and pushed a tentacle of ‘stormy conditions’ north of Newfoundland. Having kept lots of time in hand, I was able to sail due west, having passed the Flemish Cap and seek calmer waters off the shore of Newfoundland rather than the planned SW passage to St John than. I f had not adopted this strategy we would have had wild conditions, so going north was a great plan, even though I say myself. Last night at 2030, I reached the end of my westerly track and had to turn south. This put the stormy weather astern and created reasonable conditions and we tracked slowly south with a wary eye on the icebergs.

So now, just assessing where to enter St John or abort, its somewhat breezy, its narrow, restricted and there are no tugs. Let’s see what the next few hours brings….

Captain Stuart Horne

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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