As my fellow-townsman and ex colleague "Thomas the Fisherman" song about in the mid 80ties, can the task of crossing the Atlantic Ocean, north of 35 degrees north, be a quite special and not particular funny experience. If it at the same time had to be done during the winter season, and on board a small light loaded ship, a so called coaster, it's not funny at all.
In spite of the various opportunities of receiving more or less accurate weather forecasts from the many radio - and satellite stations covering the area from the Equator to Greenland, mainly west of 15 degrees west longitude, is it, because of the special weather conditions in that area, (the quite constant east and northeast travelling low pressures and their related frontal systems) almost impossible to get across the pond without some scratches.
Not that the weather situation has improved, on the contrary, I think it has got worse within the last 8-10 years.
Among the various scientist, scholars and meteorologist, there is many and divided opinions about the reason for that, but the bottom line for most of them is, that it is due to what today is known as Global Warming.
Due to different economic / political interest in the parts of the world, who, according to the scientist, are the main culprit to the phenomenon Global Warming, it doesnt look like the problem will be solved in the imminent future, and one should therefore not expect any positive improvement in the weather conditions in the above mentioned area, most likely the opposite.
The change and the improvement I mentioned in the beginning, is because todays seafarers now can obtain so-called tailor-made weather forecasts, for HIS particular ship.
I am aware of Danmarks Meteorologiske Institut (D.M.I.) in may years have provided a World Wide Weather routing service, but it is, according to my modest opinion, not of any use for the type of ships I mentioned in the beginning, namely the small, and many times light loaded coaster, who is trying to pound its way west, across the North Atlantic Ocean.
I have at several occasions spoken with skippers who, when they are westbound have used D.M.I. or for that matter, other commercial firms, who are providing Weather Routing, and they all say, that in the beginning of the voyage, everything goes according to the book.
To avoid the strong westerly wind, the ships has been directed north of the various east going low-pressure systems, and has, as a result, experienced light easterly and north-easterly winds.
But they all, inevitable, ended up so far north, that they now have to worry about icebergs in the water, icing on the ship, and now have to, in order to reach their destination, fight their way through the low-pressure areas they have avoided by steering the northerly course in the beginning.
At the same time, this service is obviously not free of charge, and although I, as an employee, dont personally have to pay whatever price they charge, I dont think its worth it.
Herb is a sailing enthusiast, amateurmeteorologist and radiooperator, who has been monitoring weather developments in the northern hemisphere the last many years, and who spends 2-3 hours every day giving advice and guidance regarding the weather situation in particularly the North Atlantic Ocean.
Herb is in my opinion, (and many other small cargo vessel captains), the person who know most about weather and weather developments in the North Atlantic area.
If you one evening, between 2000 and 2200 UTC are on board a ship located in the North Atlantic and the ship is equipped with a usable SSB-HF transceiver, then tune in on frequency 12.359 kHz, and you will see, or rather hear what I mean.
I spoke with Herb for the first time in december 1988. At that time he was living in Bermuda and was transmitting from Hes boat, S/Y South Bound II, but in 1994, he moved back to Canada, and now lives in the Toronto area, more specific in Burlington, Ontario.
He is now licensed by Industry Canada, the Canadian counterpart to the U.S. Federal Communication Commission, and can give weather briefings to vessels in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Mediterranean Sea, the eastern Pacific and as far away as the Black Sea, where I personally, on testbasis have communicated with him on several occasions. I have even been able to establish usable contact with him as far away from his homebase as Madagascar
He uses a 150-watt transceiver and two satellite dishes to gather weather information to compile a forecast that coincides with the positions of vessels that are maintaining radio contact with him.
I have never, so to speak, moved west of the English Channel, without having exchanged a few words with him.
90% of the people who uses him are sailing enthusiast and yachtsmen and women, who for one reason or another, have decided to spend a great part of their lifes on larger or smaller sailboats around in the Caribbean and adjacent water. There are actually many more of these people than one should expect, and many of them are British and Danes and other Scandinavians, but that's an other story.
They also sometimes takes the Big Leap across the Pond . Either west from the Canary Islands towards Caribbean or East from Caribbean via Bermuda and The Azores to Europe, and if you attempt do that, you better keep your ears open, and be well informed about the developing weather, otherwise you are liable to get some nasty surprises.
More and more so called professional and commercial sailors has within the last 6-7 years joined in, and everybodys opinion is that the advantage of using Herbs advice and guidance is invaluable.
Most commercial ships captains knows the value of being able to pass a durable E.T.A. on to the operation department at their shipping office.
It can be very difficult indeed, if not impossible, if you are on board a small coaster, where the wind and weather conditions are dominating factors, but on my last many trips across the pond on board the small 3 or 499 GRT ships, going either East or West, and during all season's of the year, the error in our primary E.T.A. has so far been very insignificant, and the living conditions on board has been, if not pleasant, so at least tolerable.
My opinion is, that this has only been possible because of the advice and guidance I have received from : VAX 498, SOUTH BOUND II COASTAL.
- But you don't have to take my word for it, click on the picture and check it out your self -
Or you could watch this clip from the American TV-Station ABC : A Personal Weatherman