Marine Weather for Dummies
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          More than any other factor, weather conditions affect the comfort and safety of a boat and its crew on a passage. Things can go wrong with the crew, or with the boat, but if the weather is bad when that happens, safety is much more likely to be compromised. And, if the crew picks a route that goes against the grain of the prevailing, or periodically typical, weather, they will have a slow and uncomfortable time with the need to rely frequently on the engine.

          An understanding of prevailing weather patterns (wind and seas), and how those patterns change over the course of each year, is critical for choosing a safe and enjoyable cruising route. To venture forth on a long-distance passage without such knowledge is to court discomfort, if not outright disaster. To go on shorter passages with comfort, the crew must know what kind of weather conditions are desirable--and the extent to which those are likely to occur in that area.

          Fair winds will minimize the need for the engine, and maximize time under sail. Note that swell height and direction, and the wind waves on top of the swell, affect comfort far more than wind speed. And, for safety, the effects of land topography and shoals on wind and seas must be understood and anticipated--not only on a passage, but at anchor. Only after the weather conditions necessary for a safe and enjoyable passage are clearly understood, is it possible to begin looking for a weather window in the upcoming forecasts. Then after evaluating area weather conditions one can safely select an anchorage and deploy the appropriate ground tackle.

          While we were cruising, we spent countless hours trying to understand and predict weather. We learned that there is no quick way to get a grip on this complex subject. There is no substitute for study combined with observation--and on a sailboat this can take several hours each day. In addition, a mastery of marine radio is essential. No wonder it requires years of study, and good intuition, to become a competent meteorologist. This Weather Page is intended to provide other cruisers, or interested land-bound people, with links to resources we found useful. It also gives some weather hints, describes a few difficult lessons we learned on this subject, and outlines our weather watching routine on a typical cruising day

 

Awareness of the forces at work in the atmosphere is a large part of seamanship"
William Crawford
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Bill Dillon (KG4QFM)
and
Pat Watt (KG4QFQ)
This page was last modified on June 19, 2009
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