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Azores to the UK: departure planning

northcave

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Bristol
Summary: advice on weather and departure planning sought from people that have sailed from Azores to UK before.

More info: I just singlehanded from Canaries to the Azores with the view to then sail back to the UK in August. I’ve never sailed this stretch before and it will actually be the longest offshore passage I’ve done. I want some additional opinions on weather planning from those that have done this route before.

Looking at the 14 day forecast in predict wind via different models, it doesn’t look straightforward. It’s a succession of lows skirting across in a NE direction towards Ireland and Scotland. The prevailing advice is to head north to 47degrees to catch the NE going current and then sail in to then UK.

However 47 north at the moment looks right in the thick of it in terms of these depressions rolling across with gale force predicted in the middle of these systems.

Is this normal for this time of year or we just in the middle of a spate of depressions at then moment? Or will. Be a case of carefully plodding a line at the bottom of these systems and adjusting along the way to ensure you don’t get in the middle of them?

My preference is to beeline for the Scily Isles directly going on to Falmouth, rather than going to Galicia.

Thanks for advice in advance and please don’t troll me with comments like “if I’m asking questions like this then I shouldn’t be sailing this passage”. Everyone is learning and I’m an advocate of taking advice from those with more experience than myself.
 

capnsensible

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Hiya. I've sailed that route a few times but never singlehanded.

Last time was last year but heading to Brittany. Even so we put a lot of north in before cutting across Biscay. We had access via iridium to a route planner programme. To be honest, it just told me kinda what I already had worked out, like you mention, get a loada north in and follow any depressions on the south side.

Some years ago I took a yacht from the Canaries via Azores to South coast Uk without any outside forecasting. That's how I kinda knew. Forecasting frontal depressions more than five or six days away isn't easy so I reckon sometimes you just gotta go. I would say that you have to be mentally prepared for some heavy airs during the passage, when it's from aft set the sail plan and enjoy the ride!

Hope it goes ok. 👍
 

GHA

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Hopefully somewhere warm
The 500mB chart can be handy for watching where the lows will go, the centres tend to track a few hundred miles north of the 564 line though the fronts will often be south of it.
This is a bit thrown together page but the 500mB charts are down the bottom-
Euro Weather – My First website

The probabilistic charts can be useful as well > NAEFS Probabilistic Wind Speed Guidance

Though more than 5 or 6 days out is heading to guesswork anyway - go for it and keep the boat happy :)

And 2 for the kindle if you don't have already>
Modern Marine Weather: From Time-honored Traditional Knowledge to the Latest Technology eBook: Burch, David, Burch, Tobias: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
The Barometer Handbook: A Modern Look at Barometers and Applications of Barometric Pressure eBook: Burch, David, Burch, Tobias: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
 

northcave

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Bristol
Hiya. I've sailed that route a few times but never singlehanded.

Last time was last year but heading to Brittany. Even so we put a lot of north in before cutting across Biscay. We had access via iridium to a route planner programme. To be honest, it just told me kinda what I already had worked out, like you mention, get a loada north in and follow any depressions on the south side.

Some years ago I took a yacht from the Canaries via Azores to South coast Uk without any outside forecasting. That's how I kinda knew. Forecasting frontal depressions more than five or six days away isn't easy so I reckon sometimes you just gotta go. I would say that you have to be mentally prepared for some heavy airs during the passage, when it's from aft set the sail plan and enjoy the ride!

Hope it goes ok. 👍
Thanks.

I was thinking of going with the twistle rig as it’s good for downwind and easily manageable in a strong wind. Means also we can forget about the main or just sheet it hard amidships to help with roll.
 

srm

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16 May 2004
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Azores, Terceira.
I have heard it suggested that the old semi-predictable weather patterns can no long be relied on. This is my sixth year in the Azores. I have not kept records, but from memory there has not been a clearly repeating wind pattern from year to year.

We have been in the circulation of the Azores high for getting on for two months now and it looks like continuing for a while yet. It does look as if the lows are tracking further south the last few days.

Sorry, no simple answer, just make a judgement and go when it looks right to you.

Hope you have a safe passage.
 
Last edited:

northcave

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Bristol
I have heard it suggested that the old semi-predictable weather patterns can no long be relied on. This is my sixth year in the Azores. I have not kept records, but from memory there has not been a clearly repeating wind pattern from year to year.

We have been in the circulation of the Azores high for getting on for two months now and it looks like continuing for a while yet. It does look as if the lows are tracking further south the last few days.

Sorry, no simple answer, just make a judgement and go when it looks right to you.

Hope you have a safe passage.
Wow you’ve been here for 6 years! Afloat? Out of interest what’s it like during winter here in terms of boat security from wind and waves, weather for sailing between islands and weather to do stuff on land. My guess is perhaps no great on all counts.

We wanted to get here in April and enjoy at least 3 months in the Azores but now we’re rushed to get back to the UK for a trip to Svarlbard next year. There’s a tiny part of me thinking of staying here providing I could find a secure harbour to leave the boat whilst I have to return to the UK for substantial periods over Christmas and so forth. But likewise I’d like to be able to return and enjoy the Azores between Sept and March if I did leave the boat here.
 

geem

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Anywhere without Covid19
We did the trip earlier this month. We had to deal with one low pressure system that gave us seas up to 3.4m. We adjusted our speed to let the Low pass in front of us.
I am weather routing a friend who is currently doing the trip singlehanded in a 28ft Vancouver. He has had to deal with a couple of systems with wind up to 35kts but nothing too bad.

My opinion is you generally sail the direct route and make adjustments to your course as you need to. A friend who can send you weather info on a Garmin Inreach or similar works very well. F8 out in the Atlantic isnt too bad compared to close to UK in shallow seas. If it behind the beam its all doable.
 

srm

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Azores, Terceira.
Wow you’ve been here for 6 years! Afloat? Out of interest what’s it like during winter here in terms of boat security from wind and waves, weather for sailing between islands and weather to do stuff on land. My guess is perhaps no great on all counts.
We arrived at the end of July 2014, just in time for the Praia festival. The plan was to cruise the islands then head north (back to Orkney) at the end of summer 2015. We are still here. My justification to friends when selling my house in Orkney was "another island group with the advantages of Orkney but around 10 degrees warmer all year round". They agreed the ten degrees sounded good.

Keeping a boat afloat during the winter depends on which marina, they all suffer from swell, some more than others. We settled in Praia da Vitoria and only put the boat ashore for two winters, 2015/16 as going to UK to sell house and winter before last to change stern gland, cutless bearing etc. and touch up Coppercoat after ten years afloat. We lived aboard for the first three years, leaving the boat over Christmas/ New Year. Now have a shore base as the boat is too small for my wife's growing collection of weaving looms. There are a significant number of sailors, some who have circumnavigated, that have settled here.

Saiing during winter is doable, certainly compared to my experience of around 35 years based in Shetland, then Orkney. However, no continental shelf and in the middle of the Atlantic so big swells. Atlantic depressions can track well south in the winter as the Azores high often hibernates somewhere near the tropics so very changable wind and weather conditions. Jan 2 this year I was planting trees wearing jeans and tee shirt, but the previous Oct 2 we went down to check the boat in Praia as hurricane Lorenzo passed over the western Azores. Much damage in those islands but my wife's comment in Praia was "no worse than we saw that summer in Denmark". Fortunately, hurricanes have a small diameter wind field. That was the second hurricane since we came here, the first was in Dec 2015 (I think) and lost its status a couple of hundred miles south of the Azores. A local charter company had a two week booking over the last winter holiday period by a group of surfers who wanted to use the boat as a base in Sao Jorge. Winter is a good time for exploring ashore as not too hot, though the walking trails can be very wet and muddy.

I would have no concerns leaving the boat in Praia over the winter (either ashore or afloat) and it is a pleasant, but quiet, place to visit with enough local facilities still open (at least before virus lockdown). Sailing will depend on the weather but could be possible in the central group if you are not on a tight timetable.

Hope this helps. PM me if you want more specific info.
 

webcraft

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I did it once in 2007 in an Albin Vega.

We were waiting to depart Terceira with several other boats, all of whom were heading for Plymouth or Ireland. Every forecast that showed reasonable weather for the first few days ended in toil and trouble to the South of Ireland, so we decided to head for Galicia instead and cut several days off the passage.

We had some contact with Herb via another yacht within VHF range, which allowed us to stay South out of the worst of a very vigorous depression that tracked North of us, with GRIBS ssaying the same thing. One hectic but not too scary night with biggish seas and winds, but otherwise a very pleasant passage of eight and a half days for 850nm

Of course we then had Biscay to face, but with a reasonably accurate five day forecast not such a worry. If you opt for Azores-Ireland direct you have to be prepared for what the weather will throw at you once you are out of reliable forecast range, i.e. for the second half of the passage in a slower boat. If I come that way again I think it will be back to Spain again then Biscay.

All in my very limited experience, no warranty implied or given :)


- W
 

Tradewinds

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Suffolk
I did it once in 2007 in an Albin Vega.

We were waiting to depart Terceira with several other boats, all of whom were heading for Plymouth or Ireland. Every forecast that showed reasonable weather for the first few days ended in toil and trouble to the South of Ireland, so we decided to head for Galicia instead and cut several days off the passage.

We had some contact with Herb via another yacht within VHF range, which allowed us to stay South out of the worst of a very vigorous depression that tracked North of us, with GRIBS ssaying the same thing. One hectic but not too scary night with biggish seas and winds, but otherwise a very pleasant passage of eight and a half days for 850nm

Of course we then had Biscay to face, but with a reasonably accurate five day forecast not such a worry. If you opt for Azores-Ireland direct you have to be prepared for what the weather will throw at you once you are out of reliable forecast range, i.e. for the second half of the passage in a slower boat. If I come that way again I think it will be back to Spain again then Biscay.

All in my very limited experience, no warranty implied or given :)


- W
More or less mirrors my experience Aug 99. We had grumpy old Herb doing the weather routing as well.

Ended up diverting to La Coruna. Nice stop while the weather settled enough for a calm'ish crossing of Biscay.
 

northcave

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Bristol
Just like to say thanks all. This is all very helpful!

we’ll be heading to Piria this weekend and will wait it out there and cycle around the island until a reasonable forecast occurs! My partner has since arrived so I won’t be doing it singlehanded any longer.
 

Halcyon Yachts

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Weather forecasts beyond 5 days are very speculative. Generally speaking you should head North or North East until you pick up useful West or South West winds to go direct. Having a satellite device is highly recommended so that you can check the forecast on a daily basis and adjust as required.

We have done this route more times than I can remember. On occasions, going via Northern Spain has a been the safest/most comfortable option.

Pete
 
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