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Hurricane Alex
heads up the East
Coast in 2004.
In the Atlantic,
It was september, by reputation the worst month start of the ocean crossing, we reached over a cut-off
August and
of the year for tropical disturbances in the Atlantic. low pressure system that was parked over the Azores.
September are the
peak hurricane
s/V Isbjorn was a sloop rigged mini-maxi racer-cruiser. then, halfway across the ocean, the chess game with
months; winds on
Impeccably maintained for years, the aluminum- the weather became a bit more intense.
the ocean surface
hulled vessel was lying in norway and needed to be All three of the tropical depressions developed into
swirl anticlockwise
relocated to newport, rhode Island, for a brief refit full blown hurricanes. two of them had already come in the Northern
prior to sailing the Caribbean for the winter. the owner ashore, degrading into extra-tropical depressions when
Hemisphere.
of the vessel, a friend and much respected sailor, cut off from the warm water’s energy source, and then
Hurricanes last
an average of
contacted me, wanting to know if I could help the passed to our north, travelling down the storm track as
three to fourteen
captain sail the boat from europe. there were already we had suspected they would. had we opted for the
days. A long-lived
three named tropical disturbances in the southern northern route this story could have been quite different.
storm may wander
part of the north Atlantic and the chances were good the third hurricane was a bit more problematic. 3,000 to 4,000
that they would be making their way north, along We were in daily communication with Commanders’
miles, typically
the eastern seaboard before heading in an easterly Weather, and when the hurricane appeared about five
moving over the
sea at speeds of
direction across the northern north Atlantic – right days from our position, they projected that it would
10 to 20 miles per
along our course. the captain of the vessel was actually pass further away from us. their forecast had
hour. Hurricanes
also a friend with whom I had already completed the hurricane making landfall about 60 miles east of
in the Northern
transatlantic passages, and I knew that he and the halifax. the national hurricane Center and our daily Hemisphere usually
boat would be well prepared. weather faxes progressively forecast the track to
begin by traveling
My initial thought was that it might be better to get closer and closer to us. With the hurricane about
from east to west.
As the storms
wait until november and take the boat directly to the 400 miles away, according to the nhC, we would
approach the coast,
Caribbean, but because of the planned refit that option eventually be in the leading right-hand quadrant of the
however, they shift
was eliminated. Departing from norway, we had two hurricane if we didn’t take evasive action. the speed of
to a more northerly
options on the route. We could pass north of the British the system would increase as it went over cold water, direction, finally
Isles and take an initially shorter-looking course along even though its intensity might diminish slightly.
heading north-east.
the Great Circle back to newport. Alternatively, we With the Gulf stream to our south it was time to
The path of an
individual hurricane
could drop south through the north sea and english make our move. had we gone earlier, the hurricane
is irregular and often
Channel and take a more rhumb line course across might have made a sudden unpredicatable turn to
difficult to predict.
the Atlantic, aiming to keep the Gulf stream to our the east and we would have headed into it. With only
All hurricanes
south and avoid its adverse current. Although this 24 to 36 hours to closing with the storm, the track eventually move
more southerly route initially appeared to add miles to forecast was becoming more reliable. By turning to
toward higher
the passage, this was the one we chose. If we went the south and crossing the Gulf stream, both the nhC
latitudes where
there is colder air,
the northern route we could be positioning ourselves and Commanders’ Weather forecasts would put the
less moisture, and
directly in the track of the storm, and as a result of this hurricane to our north. Commanders’ still believed that
greater wind shears.
there was the possibility of being forced up against the depression would make landfall about 60 miles
These conditions
the Greenland coast in storm conditions. Additionally, east of halifax which would be about 700 miles from cause the storm to
that route would have taken us into prevailing south our projected position. According to the nhC, if we
weaken and die
westerlies for the last half of the trans-Atlantic maintained our new southerly course and speed, we
out. The end comes
quickly if a hurricane
passage. We could have been forced to beat into would be about 250 to 300 miles from the hurricane
moves over land,
storms with little room to run off in the event of a full- – removed from the worst effects. We kept monitoring
because it no longer
blown hurricane. the storm’s progress, cleared everything possible from
receives heat energy
And so we set off. We quickly made good time the decks, readied storm sails, prepared for heavy and moisture from
moving through the north sea and broad reached south weather down below and made sure that batteries
warm tropical water.
in the north westerlies. After motoring in the english were fully charged.
Channel, we stopped for a few hours in Lymington, on As the next 24 hours wore on, we were pleased to
the south coast of england, to top our fuel tanks and see that the forecast from Commanders’ was almost
add a few provisions. With favourable weather at the perfect. While we rode up and down on 25-foot high,
34 YACHTWORLD.COM MAY 2009
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