How’s the weather where you are?
Whether you are standing around the water cooler, talking to your Grandma or maybe a customer service representative in a foreign country, people are always asking and talking about the weather.
It's fun to talk about no matter where you are in the world, and when you are cruising/living on a boat it’s no different. What is different is the reasons why we are talking about it. Of course we still want to know if its going to be nice out or not but it goes a little deeper than that, it dictates so much more than what to wear. Besides, for us, the answer to that question is always- a bathing suit of course! : )
For us cruisers here on Saltair 3, the weather plays a huge roll in our daily life. We check it twice a day, sometimes more. Who knew that when you moved onto a boat that you would virtually become a metoerologist! Well, maybe not that extreme but lets just say we spend a lot of time studying the weather. We are now officially weather geeks! Yip, that’s right! Just how geeky? Well get a load of this….
We have a few different apps that we check weather like Passage Weather and Wind Finder along with a Facebook page called Mikes Weather. We check a few other websites and listen to forecasts put out by specialized weather watchers for boaters like the infamous Chris Parker. Why so many sources you might be asking? We can’t just turn on the news to the local weather channel and watch the cute weather person give us the general low down. We need to get more specific to our current location. Each of these sources have slightly different outlooks on the conditions so we look at all of them and figure out our own feeling so we can make the right decision for us and our boat.
So lets take an example of us sailing from Miami to the Bahamas. We would be looking for what cruisers call a “ weather window “ this is when there is a period of time where the wave and wind conditions will be favourable for our boat to travel. Its a bit different for everyone based on the type of boat they have and what the crew and boat can handle. The crew of Saltair 3 are no crazy adrenaline junkies when it comes to sailing, fair weather is what we seek. We would be looking at wind direction and speed as well as what the wave height has been doing for a few days leading up to our planned departure and what they are predicted to do upon departure. All this information helps us decide if we are good to make the passage. There are certain wind speeds that we do not sail in and in those cases we need to choose an anchorage that will protect us while the weather calms down. This is waiting for a weather window.
So now we are in George Town, Great Exuma anchored in Elizabeth Harbour. It is a huge harbour with many options for anchoring no matter what direction the wind and waves are coming from. That is until the threat of a Tropical Storm or Hurricane is forecast, that is a game changer. Hurricanes can pack huge winds and waves that come from all directions so the trick is to get tucked into an anchorage that is protected from large sea swell and wind. Even when we know we are going to be spending a few weeks in one place we still have to keep an eye on the weather so we know whats coming and can prepare. Things can change quickly. One minute you’re bobbing in the water at the beach with friends, ( talking about the weather of course ) the next your are heading back to the boat to lock things down for heavy winds.
Yesterday afternoon a system that we had our eye on south east of us had developed into a tropical storm and was forecast to be heading straight for us. Although it was a gorgeous day at the beach as we all discussed the “weather” with fellow cruisers we needed to take action. It was back to the boat to reset the anchor and move to a more protected spot, tie down any loose items on the deck and stow away anything that could potentially go flying. The harbour was a flurry of activity while other boaters did the same. With all the boats in the harbour on high alert we kept a close eye on the developments. In the end the storm made a turn in the opposite direction and disaster was evaded. Yeah!
So its back to the beach for us as we keep an eye on the forecasts and make decisions on where and when to go next. In the end everyones idea of a weather window varies, so people come and go and either have crazy tales to tell upon arrival or simple smiles from an uneventful passage.
Each season has its own weather patterns to learn and each area has characteristics for weather so we will continue to talk about the weather, study the forecasts and stare at the cloud formations to lead us through the caribbean and beyond.
Here’s to breezy, sunshiny days of sailing!