North Atlantic Gales

Click image for a larger view

On our 2,800nm North Atlantic passage from Newport, RI to Ireland we passed through three gales. The first two were in the initial week of the passage, before we turned the corner south of the Grand Banks. It was during the first gale that we battled a water ingress issue that set off alarms a 1:15am. We passed through the third system about three days before making landfall in Kinsale, Ireland. This one was the most intense of the three, but thankfully the fastest moving, and we passed through the worst in only a few hours.

The video below shows what the conditions were like on board Dirona during the daylight portions of two of the storms. In the first, the winds were fairly heavy, running 25-30 knots with gusts to 47 knots. In the second, the winds were surprisingly light, and yet the waves were even bigger.


2017.06.10 Update:

On this trip, the weather was far worse than expected. It was not dangerous, but was a bit of a reminder that the conditions in the North Atlantic can often be worse than predicted. Andrew Dickenson just sent us this article: Canada Launches Rescue as Winds hit Trans-Atlantic Sailing Race.

It’s a month closer to the ideal time to cross the North Atlantic and yet the conditions these boaters face are dangerous and potentially life-threatening when coupled with the mechanical problems they are seeing. Conditions are reported by the Canadian military to be 10 to 15 meter seas (32 to 49 feet) with 50 to 70 knot (58 to 81 mph) winds, much worse than the weather models indicate. Rescue efforts are still 24 to 72 hours away as we write this. The North Atlantic can be punishing.


If your comment doesn't show up right away, send us email and we'll dredge it out of the spam filter.

21 comments on “North Atlantic Gales
  1. Francisco Espinosa says:

    Hello James&Jenifer we follow your adventure from Spain, congratullations fantastic pasage from the US, if you come down to the Med pls let us know, we are in Barcelona a nice city to visit with great marinas, enjoy Ireland, warm regards F

  2. Shannon says:

    You should try a 360 camera and then see if viewed using Google Cardboard or GearVR if the waves would look more realistic.

  3. Tim Kaine says:

    I asked for video and you delivered in spades!!
    I was in a 90ft boat yesterday in 6-8ft seas with 12ft rollers mixed in out in Gulf of Mexico. The ride was smooth but when she stopped it really beat us up. So I can imagine what you went thru on a smaller boat in even bigger seas. Hats off to you both as that was quite a feat on an very adventurous passage. Your video is a very impressive show of our earth in motion. :)

    • Glad you liked the video Tim. Generally, any time I see video from our times in rough seas, I’m disappointed. Pictures don’t lie but the the waves always appear smaller to me in the picture.

      We tried to get some night video on this trip since we have a lot of fairly powerful lights on the boat and some of the rougher water we saw was at night. These shots had the above problem in an even bigger way. It seems the less context you can see, the smaller both the winds and waves end up looking.

      • Tim Kaine says:

        On the water is the one place where a picture DOES NOT paint a thousand words.
        So I understand about photos not doing justice for the rougher times.

  4. Steven Coleman says:

    Either fortunately for me or unfortunately for those that probably could have used my sympathy, I was never even slightly seasick during my time in the Navy. One of the sayings I use to spout quite frequently only 80 percent in jest during rough weather was, “The only thing I can’t stand is calm seas and the smell of land”.

    In the middle of one storm I distinctly remember a good laugh caused by our roll indicator, a brass pendulum which after 45 degrees simply said “WARNING END OF ROLL”. We where snapping port to starboard so severely it finally built up enough momentum to circle completely around the dial face.

    Trying to walk a straight line was an art and generally required a foot pushing off one bulkhead then another.

    For some strange reason I could easily fall asleep during rough weather as the pitch, roll and vibration caused by the screw almost coming out of the water then slamming back in was mesmerizing. I don’t necessarily think I could have been getting that much “REM sleep” as you could walk through the crews quarters and watch everyone gripping first one side of their bunk then the other correlating with the ships motion. And of course everyone’s irritability and exhaustion (mine included) grew worse as the days slugged on.

    One of my favorite past times when the ocean got lively until they got around to securing the main deck, was to lean over the bow and watch as the hull came up then dove back into the next wave. I remember that being more of a thrill than any amusement park ride I’ve been on since.

    It was however quite humorous when we did finally come in to trying to move on a concrete pier, dragging shore power cables. For several seconds after hitting the pier walking on something which didn’t move was near impossible.

    I’d say I was blessed when young to have a finely tuned inner ear as the U.S. Navy doesn’t really consider physical comfort as a prerequisite to getting underway.

    I’m pretty sure those days are gone, last year on my birthday a buddy arranged for me to go up and take control of a small airplane. After about 15 minutes, I suddenly realized if I didn’t do something pretty quick I was gonna puke all over the cockpit. Everything calmed down after I gave it back to the pilot but I seriously doubt I’d take any enjoyment out of being on the ocean in much more than a gentle swell these days.

    In many ways it would probably have been harder on me than you to suddenly realize what “mal de mer” really was in the middle of a crossing.

    • I seem to fairly resistant to sea sickness as well where I’ve only felt impacted twice and we have seen some rough conditions over the years. Neither of us has ever been incapacitated by it which is kind of lucky given how common that is for many people.

      We once decided to “test the stabilizers” to see if they were worth having while in the Gulf of Alaska. Wow, they were turned back on pretty quickly :-).

  5. Mark Nowlan says:

    Thanks for posting the vid of the crossing….Must have been a blast working on that water ingress issue tossing about! Ireland was undoubtedly a pleasured site. OH…Isn’t that Bulmers cider worth it though! LOL

    • We are glad to be in Ireland and plan to spend a while exploring Europe. But it was an unusually challenging crossing. We’ll work hard to have future crossings go better at least on the mechanical front.

  6. Evan Bauman says:

    I started feeling queasy just watching the video!
    Curious to know about the cameras that you have mounted for the forward and aft views. Can you please share model #’s and the method of integration with your boat network?

  7. Gerald German says:

    Did anyone of the two of you get seasick? I did just watching that.

  8. Timothy Daleo says:

    At 7:17 you can see the water sloshing in and going right to the the cabinet vent. I can just imagine the whole cockpit filled! I still think a big exhaust or radiator hose cut lengthwise to fit around the cord contraption and then resealed with 5200 would keep the water out :-)

    • Clearance is fairly tight and you can’t go up very high Timothy. You can see a picture here of the area needing sealing (if we don’t just seal the cabinet) here: //

      • Steven Coleman says:

        I don’t know how much heat would be generated by the retraction motor or even if it would run long enough to be a problem.

        One thing you could consider is making a funnel out of gasket material and attaching it at the 1 inch pipe with an “ideal clamp”. You could pretty much mold it to cover the entire assembly if you wanted to. Sealing the seam would be the only issue and I’m sure you have an idea on better products for that than I do.

        Obviously keeping the water out and giving it a way to drain if it does get in would be a better way but, some resistance to water coming in is better than none and, would probably look nicer.

        • Both you and Timothy are both pushing me to take some step to seal off the ingress route and others have via email. I respect your collective opinions too much to ignore them so I will do something. Keep sending ideas as they come up and I’ll figure something out to reduce the water ingress risk at that point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.