Transatlantic Passage Planning | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Transatlantic Passage Planning

By Paul Shard, Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Weather Research

May and June is generally acknowledged as the best time to cross West-East and has the advantage of arriving in the Azores in spring/early summer when the islands are arguably at their best. Starting from the Caribbean as we are means we don’t have to cross the Gulf Stream or worry about that - we will be looking for a forecast with E or SE winds so we have a nice few days at the start and head N-NE so we will be on the north side of the Azores High. Hopefully this will mean following winds as we turn eastwards around 30N. Check out Jimmy Cornell’s excellent book World Cruising Routes for recommendations of the passage you are considering.

Weather Planning

With just a few days to go we will fine-tune our departure forecast using and our weather routing software to plan a specific route. Check out my blog on the weather routing app Weather4D

Rigging Check

We had local St Martin riggers FKG look over the mast tuning a couple of weeks ago but I will be up the mast carefully checking spreader ends, masthead, chafe etc. With a hopefully large downwind component to this passage I will be adding some rigging tape on the back of the spreaders to reduce chafe if we have the main all the way out. I will set out the downwind pole and check all components of that setup to make sure its all in order. Lubricate all cars and check blocks are turning freely etc. Make sure all turnbuckles are taped and in good order. Lubricate the gooseneck and furling gear.


Sheryl will be laying on some great food for this passage I think :-) Her plan is to pre-prepare portions of repeatable meals to be frozen. With a day to go we will be buying fresh produce and final stocking up. Check Sheryl’s provisioning blog here

Mechanical Check-up

The past few weeks here in St Martin we have been working on a variety of projects and tune-ups getting Distant Shores II into top shape. Almost all items are now checked of my “to-do” list but I will be giving extra special care with our main mechanical systems in the next few days. I did a check over the steering system (lubricated and tightened chains), engine and generator, but will take another look, checking fluid levels, belts etc. I have bought spare engine oil and checked we have additional Racor Filters (our primary fuel filter), belts, impellers etc.

Lights, Radar, AIS & Navigation Equipment

I did a plotter software upgrade a few days ago and have been looking it over to make sure we are familiar with new features. I will also check all lights, test the radar, confirm our AIS is transmitting and generally make certain our nav systems are up and running.


I will check and empty our seawater strainers, and clean the knot-log impeller.

Bottom Check

I will also swim the bottom 1-2 days before we set sail. Barnacles grow prolifically here in the Caribbean and everything seems to especially enjoy life in the St Martin Lagoon :-) so I will make sure we have no unwanted growth slowing us down before we set sail. Even a small amount of growth could slow us 0.5 of a knot. But 0.5 knot equals roughly 1 day slower passage…

Happy Hour

Tempting as it is to celebrate departure with a big party the night before we find that can make crew more susceptible to seasickness. We will have a nice dinner the out a day or so earlier, then the evening before departure we’ll have a more restrained meal and an early night to make sure the crew is in top shape for the adventure ahead!


We like to leave around noon if possible for a longer passage. We have a few hours at sea in full daylight to get clear of land and get into a bit of a routine before the first night watches. It will take a few days to get into the rhythm of life at sea and this is a good way to start off!

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