AN North America to Northern Europe

Best time: Tropical storms: Charts:


Cruising guides: Waypoints:

June to August June to November

Cruising Association Handbook, Shell Pilot to the English Channel Vol. 1.





Distance <M)

Kouli- AM4IA AN1411 Brenton 24"N. 1 n W

AN1412 Nantucket 40'30'N, 69\V3'W (AN1413) (39'00'N, 50°00'W)

AN1417 Lizard 49°55'N, 5'10'W


Falmouth 50'0.9'N, 5'04'W


AN1414 off Halifax 44'25'N, 63'25'W

AN1415 Sable


43"00iN, 50C00'W (AN1413)

AN1417 Lizard



AN 1418 off St John's 47°34'N, 53'40'W

AN1417 Lizard



Route W141B AN1411 Brenton

AN1415 Sable

AN1419 Wrath 58C40'N, 5'10'W


AN1414 off Halifax

AN1415 Sable

AN1419 Wrath


AN 1418 off St John's

AN1419 Wrath


RnuU-.WJ 41C AN1411 Brenton


AN1417 Lizard



A cold, wet, and foggy route at the best of times, at least it has the advantage of both favourable winds and current. The great circle route is the obvious choice for a fast passage to Northern Europe, but for destinations south of the Bay of Biscay some of the alternatives ought to be considered. These are described in routes AN123, AN124 (pages 137), as well as AN143 and AN144.

Having chosen the great circle route, some of the problems which affect this northernmost route must be considered first. There are two main caus es of concern for those who undertake this passage: fog and ice. Both of them are linked to the Labrador Current, a cold current that flows along the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Fog is caused by warm air blowing over the cold waters brought down from the Arctic by the Labrador Current which also carries icebergs south during the summer. As the North Atlantic warms up with the advance of summer, fog becomes less frequent and the icebergs also start melting, although they sometimes drift as far south as latitude 40eN.

Therefore the latter part of summer appears to be safer and the recommended time for this passage is August. This might be too late for those who intend to do some cruising in Northern Europe during the same summer and the alternative is either to leave earlier and brave the dangers or take a more southerly route (AN141C).

The great circle route from US ports passes south of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland from where it splits into a northern branch, going round the north of Scotland towards Scandinavia (AN141B), and a southern branch to the English Channel (AN141 A). The most difficult parts of the voyage are the first few hundred miles until the concentration of fishing boats on the Grand Banks has been left behind and also the area with the highest risk of fog and icebergs, close to Newfoundland. For all the above reasons, but also because better sailing conditions will be found further south, the great circle course should not be joined before meridian 55 8W is passed. Naturally, if conditions warrant it, the great circle course to the port of destination can be joined earlier, but in the absence of reliable weather information, it is safer to follow the above advice. In this case, boats leaving from Newport, and using as a departure point WP AN1411 off Brenton Reef, should sail first to WP AN1412 off Nantucket Shoal, to stay well clear of the various shoals. This suggestion also applies to boats leaving from New York. In late spring, or even early summer, the course may have to dip south to WP AN1413 and stay on this latitude until longitude 55 °W is reached, as suggested earlier.

The initial course for boats leaving from Halifax, Nova Scotia, bound for the English Channel leads to WP AN1415 south of Sable Island. Only if there are no reports of ice on that latitude can the course be altered for the next WP AN1416. Otherwise it may be advisable to sail to WP AN1413, as suggested above. Boats leaving from St John's, Newfoundland, and also bound for the English Channel, are so far within the ice zone that passages early in the season should not be attempted unless one is confident that there is no such danger. Eastbound passages from St John's can join a great circle course directly.

The winds in late spring and early summer will be westerly around 15-20 knots, occasionally higher. The frequency of gales in August is low for these latitudes and calms are rare. As the route passes well to the north of the Azores high, the weather should be outside of its direct influence, but there might be an effect if the high does move north. If the Azores high is located in its usual position, the weather is more likely to be affected by one of the lows moving eastwards across the Atlantic from North America to Europe. In higher latitudes, such lows can produce gale force NE or E winds. The favourable effect of the Gulf Stream becomes less noticeable eastwards of about longitude 40 °W, where it changes its name to the North Atlantic Current.

Route AN141B, which is the great circle route passing north of Scotland, uses the same waypoints to WP AN1415, south of Sable Island. From there, if there are no reports of ice en route, a course can be set for WP AN1419 off Scotland's Cape Wrath. Boats leaving from Halifax should also use WP AN1415 before joining the great circle route to WP AN1419, whereas boats leaving from St John's can join that route directly.

Boats from the US east coast sailing the southern route (AN141C), should set an initial course for WP AN1413. The main objective of this is to avoid the southern limit of ice and, in early summer, it is recommended that the latitude of this waypoint is not passed. Occasionally, provided there is no danger of ice, it may be necessary to go to 40 °N or even further north to reach an area of prevailing westerlies. The frequency of gales is lower to the south of the recommended route, but one should not be tempted to turn east too soon because of the danger of losing the westerlies as one enters the Azores high which extends furthest north in summer. The Gulf Stream runs along most of this route at a favourable rate of at least 1 /2 knot. In the absence of reliable weather information it is therefore recommended to make the crossing in higher, rather than lower, latitudes. Hurricanes rarely affect this route east of Bermuda, but late summer passages are nevertheless discouraged because of the violent storms that occasionally occur in the eastern Atlantic after the middle of August.

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