Sailing Across the Atlantic While Staying at Home

posted Nov 15, 2012, 4:55 PM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Nov 15, 2012, 7:25 PM ]
My good friend Tom and 2 companions (Larry & Bill) will soon set out to sail from the Canary Islands to Antigua, in Larry's boat. Once beyond viable Internet access, Larry will send me periodic SPOT messages so I'll be able to track the boat. After each SPOT message, Larry will call me via his SAT phone. In the meantime I will have downloaded the appropriate GRIB charts and will be able to give Larry the salient data for their course planning, particularly those wind speeds and directions lying in wait along their way. This should be fun.

I'll be using the free software package ZyGrib to download and interpret the GRIB data. Of course, there are more spendy tools which require a more sophisticated SAT setup. In fact, there even is software that will do the route planning for you. That would surely diminish the nautical fun/challenge even further. As an analogous aside, we kayakers now have sophisticated GPS tools in addition to the magnetic compass and charts. There are obvious pros and cons:
  • the more sophisticated tools may provide more information
  • the more sophisticated tools may be more convenient
  • the more sophisticated tools may enhance safety
  • the more primitive tools are typically more robust i.e. less prone to failure
  • the more primitive tools may lead us to a deeper understanding of our surroundings and conditions
  • any tool can be used incorrectly
The recommended approach is to learn to use the primitive tools well before moving to more sophisticated tools. Further, always carry the more primitive tools (at the very least, as backup) and maintain your skill level.