Weather, Tides, and Sleep patterns
I wanted to write a short blog to give you all an insight into the life of a Skipper and the decision making processes we go through as we Circumnavigate the UK. The young people aboard and our Afterguard have all been fantastic and actually make my job much easier when planning the next leg.
As Skipper, you are solely responsible for the vessel and her crew. As such each passage plan starts with an initial idea; as simple as point a to point b. I’ll be looking at weather for that leg as much as a week ahead to start seeing whether we might encounter any issues. For example I was watching the weather for the Inverness to Edinburgh leg whilst travelling through the Caledonian Canal. We could see there was a gale coming and had to pick the weather window carefully. I subscribe to a number of forecasting services and as such when we get to 96 hours away from our nominated departure point I’m able to see much more detailed weather forecasting using a WRF Europe weather model. This gives me a high resolution local area model of what the weather is doing in Europe.
So for this upcoming leg, Grimsby to London I was particularly interested in a low pressure system hanging over the English Channel south of the Isle of White. This is causing strong South Easterly winds which are holding us here until at the earliest Monday night. We need to travel towards the South East so a strong wind will make for a very uncomfortable ride!
This brings me into another decision making point, that of crew strength. You need to take into consideration the ability of all aboard and how the weather and sea state could affect that. The team aboard have been awesome, and at times have dug deep to push through tiredness and inclement weather, however we have found that passages over 30hrs in length take a little too much out of the crew. This is no way is a negative, the young people are easily the best group I’ve ever sailed with! I constantly need to remember most of the crew are just 14!
With that information I can look again at the ports we can visit and perhaps change our end goal. We split the Newcastle to River Orwell leg into two and came to Grimsby for the reasons above. Our next leg was going to be from here in Grimsby to the river Orwell. Looking at the weather for that leg means a departure time of 2200 on Monday night and a 21hr passage. This will give us reducing and changing winds round to the North East, a much better point of sail
Also important in the decision making process is whether we are ahead or behind schedule. This is a difficult for skippers as it’s important to try to stay on schedule, but you have to weigh this up against the safety of the vessel and the crew. It’s easy to talk yourself out of a passage and stay in port. This is the most difficult decision making process I have to make, I’ve spent hours sat at the chart table mulling over these decisions. Pulling into Dundee harbour and anchoring was one such decision.
Looking forward to this next leg we are now quite a few days behind schedule and where we can I’m trying hard to make these days back up. As such I’ve been looking at the passage from the river Orwell to London, which is just 15hrs. Potentially we could join the two and make up a day. It would mean dropping the river Orwell as a location but it would gain us a day. Which brings me back to the very beginning again!
So our upcoming passage is now Grimsby to London; the initial route is 218 nautical miles and at 6 knots (our average speed) this will take 36 hours. We want to arrive in London during the daylight so this gives us a potential departure time of around 2200 to get to London by 1000. Finally another consideration is the tide. We are behind a lock gate here in Grimsby and can only enter (or leave) 2hrs either side of high water. Thankfully high water is 2243 on Monday! Another check in the box.
Now we need to return to our route and identify any tidal gates. Tidal Gates are points around our coastline (like headlands) which dictate the time when we need to pass them. This could be due to either the amount of water moving, think about running up the down escalator for an idea; or how the water interacts with the headland and creates dangerous seas.
Armed with all this information I need to plan (with the help of the afterguard) the correct watch bills, the menu we’ll be eating and whether there is enough water, fuel, food, and gas aboard! If all this is ok then we get to slip our lines and head out to sea!
So our next passage is Grimsby to London, we’ll be departing tomorrow night and all being well arrive on Wednesday morning!
Fair winds all
Don’t forget to track our progress!
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