Planning an ocean passage for a small vessel is a critical operation. Get it wrong and the voyage may be slow, difficult, uncomfortable or even dangerous. One can never guarantee that the weather will be on side but choosing the optimum route and time of year could make the journey a pleasure and save on time and fuel.
The traditional approach is to consult the various sailing directions, pilot books and charts. These are prepared from satellite data and from the logs of large commercial sailing ships of centuries past. Their needs and conditions under which they sailed were quite different from those of sailing boats today, which for the most part, are family crewed, small craft of 7 - 15 metres length.These are exactly the type of craft that, since its inception in 1998, have contributed hundreds of thousands of daily weather observations to the YOTREPS scheme.
Now, for the first time, YOTREPS report data is available in a form that can be easily assimillated. Ocean Passages provides an analysis of passage routes and weather conditions experienced by present day voyagers.
Since its beginning in 1998, YOTREPS has collected hundreds of thousands of reports from boats on long distance voyages in all parts of the world. These are immediately forwarded to international marine forecasters, where they are used as a reality check on forecast accuracy. They are also plotted on a web chart, along with a text message to help shoreside friends and relatives keep up to date on progress. Reports are also archived for the Ocean Passages analysis. Here is a plot of several year's reports for all months of the year:
Each red point represents one report and clearly shows the pattern of popular cruising routes and also the ocean regions that are rarely visited. Most boats are following the traditional tradewind routes but this chart gives no indication of boat heading or times of the year when particular routes are open. The next screen shot shows just the reports for December, which is the main month for trans-Atlantic crossings. Green markers are for boats reporting winds abaft the beam. Notice how most head south west from the Canaries before taking a westerly course for the Windward islands.
Other Ocean Passages screen views show boat courses:
Ocean Passages also has the ability to mark a multi-leg passage route and to collect and to analyse data from all reports made by boats travelling along or passing through that route. Here is an example, again for the trans-Atlantic December passage:
Ocean Passages is available as a free beta release. There are no instructions, no help file, no program support and no charges. Written to run under Windows XP, Vista or 7 you can download a copy Now!