Many people dream of sailing the world, even of circumnavigation. This is entirely plausible, but does require quite a bit of planning and effort. This series of blogs will look at the some of the resources that are available to plan long-distance trips. These blogs assume a certain level of technical and maritime proficiency, but are designed to help those who are new to long-distance cruising. This first blog will discuss the basic planning of Routes, and the recommended books for that task.
The first, and most important step, is developing an understanding of the realities of cruising- either at a local level, or sailing the world.
We strongly recommend reading a book like Jim Trefethen’s The Cruising Life: A Commonsense Guide for the Would-be Voyager. This is a no-nonsense discussion of the realities of cruising, and includes chapters entitled “Should you go cruising?” and “Cruising without a boat: meet the Cruising Kitty”.
Trefethen addresses the important financial, social and practical questions of finding out whether cruising the world is a realistic possibility, a dream for the future, or the product of restlessness. After the feasibility of cruising is determined, he guides the reader through financial planning, the acquisition of the boat, and actually setting off on the cruise.
Once you’ve decided that you do want to go cruising, then it’s time to start planning where, and when. While cruising and sailing does seem to present an incredible opportunity for freedom of movement, the truth is that this is practically somewhat more limited. Just as driving from destination to destination is limited by road networks, ocean passages are likewise influenced by prevailing winds, and tidal cycles.
It is strongly encouraged to do some reading on the traditional cruising routes. This will teach about traditional departure points and landfalls, the benefits and drawbacks of each route. Books like Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes are really important because they provide this kind of information in a really easy to process, and understand way. They also do so in a way that makes multiple-leg journeys easier to plan. Some books, like the Cornell, or Admiralty Ocean Passages, or Rod Heikell’s Ocean Passages and Landfalls cover the entire globe. Other books are more focused, such as the Pacific Crossing Guide, from the RCC Pilotage Foundation.
When planning on a global scale the ability to move from any beginning point, to any end point, is rationalized into a system of routes defined by the beginning and ending ports. While strict adherence to the routes is not necessary, they do represent the distilled experience of decades- and in some cases, centuries of sailors. These routes have been shaped the dangers of the oceans in that larger voyages are often subdivided into shorter routes between landfalls. While these can add miles, they also provide advantages for cruisers.
Once you have figured out where you want to leave from, and go to, the next step is to learn about the ocean that you’ll be crossing. Pilot Atlases provide tons of information about tides, currents and winds. Examples that we often have in-store include Jimmy Cornell’s Ocean Atlas and James Clarke’s Atlantic Pilot Atlas. These are Pilot Atlases, which have an important feature not included in basic charts.
What makes Pilot Atlases important is the wind and tide information that is included. The symbols seen in the photo to the left are known as ‘wind roses’. Each such wind rose represents the behaviour for a certain area. They show the distribution of the winds that prevail in that area from the eight cardinal points. The arrows fly with the wind, and their lengths show the percentage of the total number of observations in which the wind has blown from that cardinal point. The number of feathers shows the force of the wind, which has been recorded most frequently from that sector. The wind force is measured on the Beaufort scale, with each feather being equivalent to one unit of wind force. The green lines represent the currents for the observed period. This kind of information is critical for planning routes, expected durations, and logistical concerns.
There are other books specifically on the subject of world or long-range cruising. For example, Jimmy Cornell’s World Voyage Planner is a great source for information on how to plan for a world voyage, and also provides information and concerns for different parts of the world. Luckily, there also a significant number of experienced cruisers who have written about preparing for world cruising. For example, Larry and Lynn Pardey‘s books cover a number of topics from financial concerns to how to feed and cook for a crew. Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Essentials: The Boats, Gear, and Practices that Work Best at Sea examines another important aspect- that of the boat itself.
Next time in this series of blogs, we’ll examine the resources needed for more detailed local planning: Cruising Guides, Pilot Guides and Charts.