Sunday, June 26, 2011

Navigation At Sea

2011 06 20

31 17.95N
062 01.37W

Route planning on a transoceanic is a hoot. There are a number of possible ways to get where you are going:

1. Europe is East of here, go that way.

Upside: This is fast, easy to understand and it works.

Downside: People look at you funny when you tell them about your route.

2. The Rhum Line: draw a straight line on a Mercator projection map or even better just crank up the old chartplotter, point and click on your destination and sail away.

Upside: This is easy, you can use any highschool geography textbook to draw your line and if you are rich enough to have a chartplotter and the batteries and generating capacity to run it all day long then you may never have to think about what you are doing.

Downside: You have to be rich enough to afford the chartplotter, generator and batteries.

3. The Great Circle: knowing that the Rhum line is for know nothing dorks you buy an expensive great circle chart which looks really weird but allows you to draw a straight line that is instantly translated into the shortest real world distance between two points on a globe.

Upside: People look at you like you are very cool when you are at the club explaining how you routed the trip.

Downside: Great circle charts are hellish expensive. On a trip of 1,000 miles the distance saved using the great circle method is about 20 yards (give or take), because the great circle route is not a straight line you have to break up your trip into small segments with waypoints, find the lat and long for each waypoint on the great circle chart nand then enter them in your chartplotter, and if you already have a chartplotter so why are you wasting your time. Do it like the rich stupid people.

4. Bob and Connie's Method: buy an expensive chartplotter, generator, battery bank, buy an expensive great circle chart, raise your sails and figure out that you can only sail one direction anyway - some version of east - and that you will have to sail east until you hit the far shore and then work out the details. Call it the expensive Number 1 option.

Upside: It is practical

Downside: It is hard on your ego and your pocketbook

5. The Herb Hilgenberg method: Call up Herb Hilgenberg, find out how bad the weather is on your planned route, divert south a hundred miles or so and wonder how the heck you are going to get to Europe by sailing south from Bermuda.

Upside: we are waiting to see. If there is one we will let you know.

Downside: There is a lemming problem here. If I am going to end my life broken and bleeding at the bottom of a cliff I want it to be because I walked up to the cliff, looked over the edge and declared to the world "I think it is a great idea to jump off this cliff. Anybody want to watch" after which I jump. My decision. Not for me the death of all those other lemmings who leap from the cliff's edge because somebody told them to. This lemming will jump to his own death.

Here is how this line of thinking came about:

We left Bermuda at 0000 local time, 0900z on the 19th. From the grib files preceding departure for 36 hours we should have found ourselves in a pleasant ENE run in light winds for about 3 days. A low pressure cell was to intrude into the more northern bit of ocean but by making more east than north We could avoid it handily and use its winds to power a run to 38 degrees North latitude.

Setting off we found it more comfortable to sail more east than anything. Good thing.

At 2000z we logged in to llisten to Herb Hilgenberg who advised of a line from 32N 60W to 35N 55W North of which he saw nothing but gales. At the time we were at about 32 35 N. We angled south.

At 2200z we actually began a correspondence with Herb and were logged in as one of his sheep. He advised us things had intensified and we could expect sustained winds to 30 knots tomorrow and as high as 40 knots by Thursday. He advised we make for 31 N and calmer air. We agreed.

Immediately the wind built to 22 knots and there it has sat all night. Conditions are vigorous as we run on a course vaguely 150 degrees true to get well south of 32N by break of day. We have just crossed into 31 59N territory so it looks like we will avoid the worst of it.

We both hate vigorous sailing, especially at night. The alternatives are a lot worse.

Bob and Connie

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