When the butter melts, turn right! 29:10.93N 25:28.49W

The Return of Irene III - 2018
Louis Goor
Wed 6 Dec 2017 13:53

Wednesday 6 December 2017 - Day 3 at Sea

Thousands of yachts cross the Atlantic in a westerly direction every year. They sail between the months of November and February, as that’s when the hurricane season has blown itself out. Normally they would expect to have the trade winds - which we all learned about in geography – at their backs.

For centuries, the rule of thumb has been: sail south until the butter melts, then turn right and the winds will take you on to the Carribbean.

When plotting his original passage plan for Irene III’s voyage, Louis was expecting to sail from the Canaries, approximately 600 nautical miles south, to a point north of the Cape Verde islands. For those of you following our trip on a world map – our most southerly point was due to be in line with the northern coastal border of Mauritania.

But the word from other sailors on the marina, confirmed by the sophisticated maritime weather forecasting service we’ve subscribed to, is that the trade winds are not blowing quite as hard as usual this season.

Using that same snazzy forecasting tool, ironically named TimeZero, which provides data on wind and wave directions, the prevailing currents as well as up to date barometric pressures, we went looking for the best available combination to take us on our way. The route TimeZero suggested we follow is completely at odds with ‘melting the butter’.

Since leaving La Gomera three days ago, we’ve been sailing in a generally north-westerly direction. Our plan is to keep heading north for a few more days until we’re about in line with Agadir in Morocco. Then we’ll turn left and head for Antigua.

The Atlantic is even more vast and expansive than you’d expect. The experience of a 360 degree horizon, completely flat and empty at every point, is new to most of us. Seeing the sun setting at one point while within minutes a full moon rises like a ripe orange, is quite special. So far we’ve seen no other boats or ships nor spotted a single jet overhead.

This ocean is a lonesome place. That’s not to say that we’re lonely – far from it. We had another visitation, albeit brief, from a pod of dolphins yesterday. And a couple of us spied the flume of a surfacing whale about 200 metres off our port beam. She dived and never reappeared in our field of vision.

Our weather has been very settled, producing a calmish sea state. We’re riding gentle lolling swells, which Irene III glides through with ease. The daytime temperatures have been in the early 20’s, falling to around 18 degrees at night. However the wind factor means we havn’t set up the sun loungers on the aft deck just yet.
By 11.30 am today we had sailed 500 nautical miles – which means we’re making just under seven knots an hour. When we find those constant 20 knot winds that Time Zero promises are just ahead, we hope to increase that average – but hopefully not by too much as that would compromise the levels of comfort and safety we are currently enjoying.