Weather plays a significant part in our daily lives. Once you move on board and start cruising full time you will notice that almost every aspect of your day is governed by the weather. From deciding if it’s safe to sail to the next port, have a beach BBQ, or even just figure out if it will be ok to do the washing in the afternoon. So the question is should you learn how to read weather? Or is it enough for you to rely on an outside weather routing service?
It’s 2020 Can’t I Just Use a Sailing Weather APP?
You will have noticed by now that I am not a purist when it comes to sailing. I believe modern aids such as apps and electronics are here to help us when used correctly. I also believe it is perfectly safe to cross an ocean in a modern production boat and have crossed oceans on our 38ft catamaran. What I am a purist in is that I firmly believe you need a reasonable level of being able to understand and predict weather trends. You do not need to become a meteorologist, just learn to read a weather chart and understand the basics.
Can’t I Just Use A Marine Weather Router?
No Outside Factor is as Important as Weather to a Sailor. In the Caribbean, we saw sailors all the time who lacked the ability to read any form of weather. Their cruising suffered as a result. They relied on outside forecasters who told them when they could or couldn’t sail between islands. And then they hoped like hell the forecaster was right. They were continually stressed about the weather.
They would make sure they were awake at 5 am to hear the daily marine weather routing broadcast net on the SSB (or the broadcast on the internet). They would pay for a detailed emailed forecast for a 50nm trip. A common line over sundowners was XXXXXX said on the net this morning that we couldn’t go. And they had no reason at all why the router had given this advice.
It took away a huge degree of their fun. Many of them really got into cruising and would like to have ventured further afield but couldn’t tear themselves away to do it as the thought of not having a daily interactive voice weather forecast from a pro scared them too much.
I’m not saying you must not use a forecasting service or that you need to be able to predict the amount of rainfall next month accurate to a quarter inch. Marine weather routing services provide a valuable service, especially on longer passages. They should be used to verify your own assessment of the weather.
What you need to be able to do at the very minimum is to understand weather systems such as fronts and troughs. Learn what they look like and how the weather changes as they pass. Same for tropical lows and highs. Have a look at how they interact.
Order a copy of Modern Marine Weather along with the Modern Marine Weather WorkBookF. And Learn how to read a Grib forecast. See how the weather plays out in general. How do various systems affect sea state etc? It’s very easy to learn and with an hour or two work a week you will be up to speed in two or three months. No problem.
At the same time sign up for the free service from Predict Wind. Take five minutes a day and start watching the weather where you live. See what it looks like in Grib format as shown by Predict Wind. Do the same with the cruising area you wish to sail. Pick a port and watch the weather. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn just by watching the weather as it happens.
Conclusion – Should You Learn How to Read Weather
I would urge anyone who wants to relax and enjoy cruising to the full extent possible to learn how to read and interpret marine weather. As you can see it’s not that difficult to do. And once you get out cruising you will be so pleased that you put in the effort as the weather will not be a mystery to you. You will start wondering what all the fuss is about worrying about the weather.