Sailing to the caribbean seas!

In this blog article Mareike Guhr, known to many as an expert for long trips and voyage planning, describes which books, charts and other sources are used for a good travel preparation.


Seekarten und Bücher für die Transatlantik-Reise

Transatlantic - the word has something magical about it, as it describes the crossing of an ocean. Our ocean! Because the Atlantic Ocean is actually on our doorstep. For many sailors it is a long-cherished dream to conquer an ocean. The main goal is to use it to reach the other side with wind and current. After all, the other side is 2700 nautical miles away, at least on the classic route.  For most sailing yachts this means two to four weeks at sea.

With today's navigation possibilities, the whole thing is no longer difficult, but still wants to be carefully prepared.
For long-term planning I still prefer to consult Jimmy Cornell's "Sailing Routes of the World".  There I see exactly when I should be where best and where not. The usual time for an Atlantic crossing from east to west is between the end of November and the end of January, because after all, nobody wants to get caught in the last hurricanes of autumn nor arrive too late in the Caribbean to enjoy the season on site. This year I sailed with the ARC, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers to the Caribbean. There are 200 yachts starting from the Canary Islands at the same time, providing an additional safety net.

Täglicher Positionseintrag auf der Seekarte

For the crossing I equipped my plotter with new electronic nautical chart (Navionics) for the Caribbean and on the chart table there is also the passage chart. Actually two of them, because besides the North Atlantic chart, I still like to take the great circle chart on board. Every day at 12 o'clock UTC I draw a cross with my position in the chart and can check my etmal (nautical day distance) and the course and I'm still happy years later to dig out the chart and follow the route.
If you like you can have a look into the ocean current atlas, but on this route we can usually expect a wonderful current between 0.5 and 1 knot from behind.
As backup I have a sextant and the corresponding yearbooks and HO tables with me. Most of the time, however, it remains with a few practice readings.

Starting at the Canary Islands sailing westward to the Caribbean

In order to start well prepared in the Canary Islands I need the nv charts atlas ATL3 "Atlantic Islands" and the Cruising Guide by Rod Heikel. Having arrived in the Caribbean I will be on my way with the Windward- and Leeward Islands charts from NV charts, as well as the ring books written by Chris Doyle as Cruising Guides.

Back from the Caribbean towards Europe sailing east

A slightly different matter is the return route from west to east. Here we don't have to deal with the favoured tailwinds, but usually sail north first, as far as the easterly wind allows it, and then, as soon as the westerly wind systems take hold, turn right and set course to the east. The first stop from the Caribbean is the Azores, about 2400 nautical miles away. To get to the mainland you have to cover another 1000 miles on the second stroke. Northeast winds are usually expected here, as the usual return time is in May/June, when the season ends in the Caribbean.

Spannende Lektüre im Segelhandbuch für den Atlantischen Ozean

For the return trip I use the same paper charts and harbor guides as on the east-west route.
To get some tips not only for navigation but also for planning I recommend the Atlantic Ocean Handbook by Jane Russell. The author covers all preparatory topics from equipment, safety on board to crew preparation.

And then this year I discovered another gem: the sailing manual for the Atlantic Ocean of the German Imperial Navy from 1910, which may sound dusty, but it contains an incredible amount of interesting information that is just as important today as it was 100 years ago and invites you to browse. It comes in german language, though.

book list


More Information about the blog, life and sailing of Mareike Guhr:

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