Cornell's Ocean Atlas - 2nd Edition



 The first edition, published in 2012, was based on satellite observations undertaken in the previous 20 years (1991-2011). The second edition is fully revised and updated by incorporating data gathered during the last five years (2011-2016).  So the data now spans 25 years and also...

 The first edition, published in 2012, was based on satellite observations undertaken in the previous 20 years (1991-2011). The second edition is fully revised and updated by incorporating data gathered during the last five years (2011-2016).  So the data now spans 25 years and also reflects any changes that have occurred during this latest period.

Besides that, the new edition will also be reformatted to incorporate a new feature: monthly windgrams for the most sailed ocean routes. Windgrams are a summary of wind direction amd strength derived from the individual windroses along a specific ocean route.


Cornell’s Ocean Atlas is:

  • The first significant innovation in pilot charts — an essential tool for passage planning — since pilot charts were developed by Lieutenant Maury of the US  Navy in the mid-1800s.
  • The first and only pilot charts to be based on extensive near real-time geospatial and remote buoy sensing data from 1987 to the present measuring  true surface wind and current – gathered from a network of OSCAR and other meteorological satellites, using NOAA and Earth and Space Research (ESR) data  programs
  • An integral part of Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising  Series – works hand-in-hand with World Voyage PlannerWorld Cruising Routes and World Cruising Destinations

60 monthly up-to-date pilot charts of all oceans of the world show:

  • current rates and direction
  • wind speed and direction
  • approximate extent of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, commonly known as thedoldrums
  • the most common tracks of tropical storms
  • and the mean location of high pressure cells for each hemisphere

 Canary Islands and New York to the Lesser Antilles (Caribbean)69 detailed charts of the most common transoceanic routes including:

  •  Lesser Antilles (Caribbean) to New York and Azores
  •  Lesser Antilles (Caribbean) and California to Galapagos
  •  Pacific Northwest and California to Lesser Antilles (Caribbean)
  •  Pacific Northwest to Galapagos and Marquesas
  •  California to Hawaii and Alaska
  •  Panama to Marquesas and Hawaii
  •  Australia and New Zealand to Tahiti and Fiji
  •  Tonga to New Zealand and the Torres Strait
  •  Seychelles to South Africa
  •  South Africa to North East Brazil
  •  Plus expanded detail for the Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean, Baltic Sea

Comprehensive description of weather conditions in every ocean.

Sidebars with tactical suggestions have been added to the months when most passages are undertaken.

Comments and tips on tactics, as well as weather overviews for each ocean, were contributed by meteorologists and routers specializing in those oceanic areas, such as Lee Chesneau, Peter Gibbs (BBC), Herb Hilgenberg, Bob McDavitt (New Zealand Met Office) and John Neal.

From Jimmy Cornell:

“The main objective of Cornell’s Ocean Atlas is to make it possible to take advantage of prevailing winds and seek out whenever possible favourable conditions. Essentially, to try to always be in the right place at the right time, or, better still: Not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time!”


Concealed Spiral
Jimmy and Ivan Cornell
136 pages
Dimensions (IN):
17.25 x 11.75
Cornell Sailing
Date Added:
October 2017
Published Date:

For many sailors, the Cornell name needs no introduction. Jimmy Cornell is known for his multiple circumnavigations; organization of transatlantic rallies, world rallies, and world races; and his long-distance sailing books. Ivan is known for bis own immense sailing experience, his website, and work in films. Their first edition of this atlas, which was released in 2011, was lauded by one reader as "the first major update in 150 years."


The reader was referring to U.S. Navy Lieutenant Matthew F. Maury, who published

the Wind and Current Chart of the North Atlantic in 1847 based on his painstaking review

of thousands of U.S. Navy ships' logs dating back to its origins. This publication was a

compendium of the knowledge of passages and meteorological information from all of

these voyages. His work was seminal to the development of the U.S. Naval Observatory.


So, the concept of pilot charts is not new. They have been used since Maury's time to determine the safest passages and typical weather patterns that may be encountered during a particular time of year. They give information on prevailing winds, currents, ocean conditions, typical storms and other meteorological conditions for specific times of year in regions around the world. They can be downloaded or purchased from several websites including the National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency and commercial sites. However, when the Cornell’s started the task of writing the first edition of this atlas, they planned to take the cornerstone of long-distance travel to the next level.


In their first edition, they sought to combine their own personal knowledge of sailing routes around the world with the latest information regarding weather and current conditions in each region. To achieve the latter goal, they collected data from the NOAA satellites for regional currents and winds from 1990 to 2011. Ivan utilized his expertise in computer science to apply this data in a meaningful way to map renderings. The resulting publication wasn't just a collection of pilot charts -- it was a compendium of modern climatology combined with the knowledge of someone who had experienced these conditions.

The second edition makes improvements on the first. In the first section, they illustrate the climate changes that have occurred over the intervening years. This is notable in several regions. One example is the development of Hurricane Catarina in 2004 off the coast of Brazil, previously a region not known for tropical storms. They highlight wind and current trend changes that have developed since the first edition. This updated information alone is a reason to refer to the second edition.


Although many mariners have used the first edition for planning ocean voyages, the atlas supports its original intent by providing monthly windgrams for common ocean routes used by sailors. The windgrams serve as a visual reference in the margins of the standard pilot charts. They give an easily interpretable prevailing wind direction for routes between ports during the referenced month. The large format also allows them to provide traditional wind roses at a frequency of 2.5 degrees in areas of frequent travel.


Finally, in the margins of common routes, they provide sailing tactics that are individualized to a cruisers goals. For example, tactics for sailing from Hawaii eastward to the mainland U.S. are divided into those who want to use the most advantageous winds versus those who desire to motorsail and use the shortest route.


The most significant criticism for the atlas is that the title understates what it is, so those who are unfamiliar with the first edition might steer toward other resources. On the surface, it is a beautifully laid out atlas of updated pilot charts in a large, easy to read format. The next layer is a primer on regional meteorology and climates stated in a practical, non­technical narrative. Following this are sections that look like the "best of' Jimmy Cornells’ World Cruising Routes. All of this information,  jammed in with tactics based on the Cornell’s personal experience as well as inputs from weather routers make it much more than an atlas of pilot charts.


SCSA Review May 2018 by Brian Pinkston 

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