Bust time: Tropical storms: Charts:
November to March
US: 121, 122 Intermediate
AS110 Table N aa^sj^'E
Jamestown 15'55'S, 5'43'W
Because of the consistency of the SE trade winds and the absence of tropical storms in the South Atlantic, this passage can be made throughout the year. However, most sailors plan on leaving the Cape area before the onset of the winter gales and therefore the best time for this passage are the summer months, from November to April. Such timing fits most forward plans, whether it is to arrive in Brazil for Carnival, the Caribbean for the winter cruising season, or the USA and Europe in late spring or early summer.
It is generally advisable to wait in Cape Town for a favourable forecast, or at least until any existing lows have passed over. Strong SW winds sometimes give a welcome boost at the start of this passage, although they occasionally reach gale force. If the African coast is followed northward, the strong Benguela current will be in one's favour, although fog is often associated with this area and is caused by the warm wind blowing over the cold waters of the current. The suggestion to follow the African coast, in order to take advantage of the favourable current and possible land breezes, runs contrary to the recommendation made in the past when the masters of sailing ships leaving Cape Town were urged to make a good offing to the NW to avoid being caught on a lee shore by W or NW squalls. This advice is still valid and during unsettled weather it is indeed better to keep a safe distance off the coast. Violent onshore squalls have been recorded in both seasons, so a prudent distance should be kept off the coast to be able to take an offshore tack should a squall strike unexpectedly.
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