Guest Post: Understanding Weather for Sailing

As a weather-dependent sport, it is important for sailors to be able to understand and detect weather forecasts and predictions by a number of methods. Luckily, our guest-blogger and seasoned sailor, Louise of the popular blogs, Sandy Toes and Writer Woes and Bailey Boat Cat shares her tips for understanding weather for sailing through using weather forecasts and personal observation for your next sailing holiday

understanding weather for sailing

Horoscope with numbers?

One of the most important things for sailors to consider before heading out of the marina is the weather. All conscientious sailors will check the weather forecast before planning a sailing trip. We’ve all heard the saying, red sky at night sailors’ delight, red sky in the morning sailors warning. You can also tell a lot about the weather by the colour of the sea, of course it’s a reflection of the sky, but from a boat you can see weather approaching from miles away.

understanding weather for sailing

How useful is the weather forecast though in reality? We’ve met lots of seasoned sailors who refer to the weather forecast as a horoscope with numbers! I absolutely love this analogy!

I think their point is, regardless of the forecast, you always need to make you’re own judgment call. You can make you’re decision on the suitability of the weather for sailing, based on the forecast and your own observations. If you notice that the barometer is falling fast then you can be sure that there’s a gale on the way and it’s probably not the day to throw off the bow lines. You can also tell a lot by looking at the cloud formations, you can study these easily with the aid of a reference book until you know how to judge them yourself. You can also use your common sense to look around at the current conditions where you are. If there’s thunder and lightening in the distance, make sure you know which way it’s heading.

Once you have all of the information you can cross check them with the weather forecast and make your decisions based on all of your findings.

understanding weather for sailing

Even after all of the preparation and forecasting, sometimes the weather changes quickly and you might be caught by surprise. To minimise a mad rush to reef, drop sails or heave too, you can do a few things.

  • You can watch out for a front coming. If you suddenly see white water in the distance on an otherwise calm day use some binoculars to check what’s going on. It might be a change in current or it could be a front whipping up the water giving you a timely warning to prepare.
  • You can also tune into the radio for the latest weather forecast in your area. If you’re sailing a long way this can be particularly useful.
  • If your boat has Navtext it is a very useful tool to monitor the weather. There are also lots of apps for smartphones to aid in your assessment of the conditions and lots of websites if you have access to the Internet.

understanding weather for sailing

Whether horoscopes are your thing or not, weather forecasts are essential for sailors, as is your common sense!