After sailing about 8,000 nautical miles around the Pacific Ocean and Carribean Islands, visiting Mexico, Costa Rica, Galapagos (twice), Panama and Cuba we have at last ancored in Martinique. As part of the French (Antilles) West Indies, Martinique is located in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea and serves as a good hotspot for yachts preparing to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s a much more challenging proposition to sail the Atlantic west to east than the traditional tradewind route the other way and for sure this will be a good record in your personal log book.
Winds from the east are blowing against the south side of the high, which has the power to push tropical systems further west from the eastern Atlantic to the Caribbean Sea. Taking the same route as the Canary Islands to the Caribbean would mean sailing upwind against tradewinds.
Important to know that the weather window to cross the West to East is much shorter and more volatile than East to West. The predominant winds in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the United States, blow from west to east in accordance with the rotation of the Earth. As a result, storms follow the jet stream in that same direction, making the weather very unpredictable.
The experience of previous Atlantic crossings showed that chances of navigating calm waters are high around the Azores High. The air is circulated clockwise by the high-pressure block of the Azores High, which behaves anticyclonically. Due to this movement, African eastern waves are pushed away from coastal West Africa and into the Bahamas, Central America, and the Caribbean, along the southern edge of the Azores High. Therefore, the chances of navigating relatively calm waters are high around the Azores High.
Most sailing routes try to cross the Atlantic above the Azores-Bermuda High and head to the Azores islands. Early in the season, low-pressure systems are more likely to be located further south, if we head north, we’ll often encounter headwinds north of the Azores. As summer draws near, low-pressure systems have a tendency to drift further north, and the Azores High widens, resulting in lighter winds as you approach the Azores. The arch route going around the north of the Azores high straight to the Azores – probably the fastest and most reliable route, and we will follow this strategy.
I suppose that during this trip we will be overtaken by at least one front, and perhaps more, due to weather systems spinning off the US East Coast that can produce lows and frontal systems that can stretch well south. Therefore, our goal will be to catch and ride favorable winds as far as possible. To do this, we will head to Azores and after that will continue on to Canary Islands or Portugal.
Our starting point will be Martinique, conveniently located and suitable for provisioning, spare parts and repairs.
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