Although we have never been hit with lightning, it is one of the few things about which we worry when at sea, in particular with modern yachts. Hence this new vide0. Read the rest »
For marine weather-related questions and answers, read on.
Got a question to add? Use the form found under “Cruisers Q&A”.
Many years ago, while researching ultimate storm tactics for our book Surviving the Storm (free download here), it became clear to us that, whether it was Fastnet 79, Queen’s Birthday Storm, or the 1998 Sydney Hobart Race, heading into the waves is often the best tactic in severe weather.
Because our yachts surf downwind under control making quick passages, and since in all but one of the serious storms we have experienced our natural course was downwind, we’ve rarely had the chance to experiment with truly dangerous seas on the bow. And while this most recent experience is far from what we would call a survival storm, the unusual sea state did give us a chance to test several FPB specific steering and throttle techniques, along with gathering a couple of ideas for improving electronics and night lighting layout.
The notes which follow, although aimed specifically at the FPB fleet, may offer some ideas to others who find themselves in difficult seas… Read the rest »
Dear Madam, Sir, Two years ago, I ordered your Mariners Weather Book and read it. A compliment to your book. It is one of the best books, to learn maritime weather by sailors. On page 366, you refer about the Dvorak Technique to understand hurricane forecasting. Please give me the detailed information about this book: Where can I order it? What’s the price? Yours sincerely, A. Schroeder
Hi, I am enjoying reading our book “Surviving the Storm”. I know you could not cover all the topics, and I have not read the whole book yet, but I could not find data or reference to world storm patterns. If one was chicken, and wanted to avoid category two and three heavy weather storms (page 16), what cruising routes could be planned, and where not to be at what time of year? I recall some published charts that show wind direction and speed at various locations. What about information on routes and the best time of the year to avoid bad storms. Could you name a few good sources for me. I get the hint that New Zealand is risky at best. If I missed this information in your book, please let me know where it is located. Thanks, Mike
Firstly, let me say how much I am enjoying your books, Mariner’s Weather Handbook and Surviving the Storm. For anyone with the slightest interest in the weather around them and in taking a boat to sea, they are excellent reading. However, I do have a couple of queries:
On page 340 of the ‘Mariner’s Weather Handbook’ you show three photographs of tropical revolving storms, when and where they should not be, one off Angola (West Africa) in April 1991 and two of one storm in the Eastern Mediterranean in January (no year mentioned). It is my understanding that no tropical revolving storms have ever been reported in the South Atlantic (until now) and that the sea temperatures in the Eastern Mediterranean in January are certainly not high enough for cyclogenesis nor is the ITCZ anywhere near the Mediterranean. Have you any explanation for these phenomena and/or a year for the Mediterranean storm (I would like to research past meteorological records to find what conditions actually existed in the latter case).
I look forward to your reply, Brent
Re sailing to Bermuda, what’s the best weatherfax station for the trip–New Orleans? And for Bermuda–Newport, is it the Boston station? Anything we need to worry about weatherwise for the Virgin Gorda–Bermuda run or is it pretty straightforward this time of year? As for Bermuda–Newport, I am basically terrified and am quite tempted by American Airlines. This, from someone who’s sailed 5800 miles, now! There’s no reforming a worrier…
We are due to leave Mexico at the beginning of April and spend the season sailing the Pacific Islands. From our reading and research we are unsure which weather and fax stations provide the best information for which areas. Is there is a source for this information or can you make recommendations? In addition we have heard that New Zealand and Fiji are newly co- operating on producing forecasts for cruisers and would like to know if this is correct, where the results are broadcast from, the schedules and the channels used for faxes and forecasts. Many thanks Dudley and Philippa
Enjoy your book which I have recently received. I got started on the topic of 500mb charts and went to the Internet to practice. I need some help on downloading these charts so I can print them. Can you give me some help? I was able to enter all the necessary web sites and find their locations, but could not get beyond that point. Thanks, Michael
My wife Tina and I will be leaving California next October, taking a year trip and making our new home in the U.S. Virgin Islands to work the boat in Day-Charter. I have learned alot from your books.
At your recommendation, I am buying the Furuno 207 weather fax. My local dealer says that I should not buy the optional amplified antenna coupler, but use a Metz whip antenna. I also recently bought a Sitex Navfax 200 SSB receiver and he sold me the Metz whip antenna, rather than the optional active antenna. He told me the sales reps have told him they work better than the active antennas. I have not installed it yet–which antenna do you use and what would you suggest for best reception for both of these units? I would appreciate any guidance you can offer.Thanks again, Frank
Hi–I took your advice (article on The New Way to Get Weather Faxes) and got weather faxes from Marine Prediction Center. When I opened them they were scrambled letters and numbers only. Is the TIF format something I need to have a program for in order to decode and read? Thanks, Frank
Steve, We are planning a bareboat charter in Tonga Vava’u and the first thing we are doing is choosing the time of the year we want to go. That will depend on a chart of weather in the Tonga region, including precipitation, winds and temperature. Do you know where we can get that chart? Thank you, Mary and Pablo V, Florida, USA
Steve…I hope you will forgive me for taking advantage of my ability to contact you so easily to clarify two points mentioned in your book. I realize you are extremely busy and would understand if your response came after you have completed your new book. Firstly, if I understand correctly, troughs (areas of lower contours) shown on the 500 mb charts are actually areas of higher pressure (page 136 of Mariner’s Weather Handbook).
Greetings from Cartagena, Columbia. We purchased your Mariners’s Wx Handbook in August and have enjoyed reading it as we sailed West from Curacao. This has been a very unusual year in the Caribbean with the late hurricane “Lenny” that tracked East from Jamaica to St. Martin and now all the rain on the coast of SA in the normally dry month of Dec. It looks like a La Nina event with the cold water off the coast in the Pacific. Your book talks about El Nino but not much about La Nina. We are planning a cruise to the South Pacific this Spring. Can you tell us how this might affect the wx patterns? Or can you give me some references of web sites etc. to check. Hope to hear from you soon and best wishes for the holidays, Tom and Maureen
Hi–I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction to find general season / wind / current / climate information for sailing in the red sea on your site. I had a good look round, but could only discover the present conditions there, as opposed to information to help me plan a trip there. Is there another site/source of information I should use instead? Many thanks, Francis P. from the United Kingdom
Hi Steve and Linda, I just started reading your Mariner’s Weather Handbook and I stumbled across something on page 59. In the italic at the bottom of the page it is stated that the effect of coriolis is less at higher altitude. I was puzzled by this, because from my time as an aviation student (a long, long, 21 years ago) I remembered that, due to friction, the effect of coriolis close to the surface, and especially over land, was less. Also in the italic part you (correctly I believe) state that over water (less friction) the wind angle relative to the isobars is less. This indicated a greater effect of coriolis. With no coriolis at all the wind angle would be perpendicular to the isobars. This also agrees with my experience as a pilot. The first 4000ft or so the wind veers as you go up. Less friction means greater effect from coriolis. What do you think? Has 21 years been too long or is there indeed something unclear in the text, and is it that what has got me thinking? I would very much appreciate it if you could shed some light on this matter. In the meantime I’ll continue reading your fine book, as I’ve done with the Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia.
Gooday–Looking for a web site dedicated to info on offshore sailing. I am a novice thinking of sailing Victoria, Canada to Mexico then across the Pacific to New Zealand with all the stops. Need to to know the right time of year and all that stuff. Please respond. Regards, Gaz.
Hi. I have purchased and completely read Mariner’s Weather Handbook, and now I am reading Surviving the Storm. I would like to take a stab at weather prediction, say for my own area (Detroit, MI) as a way to build the skills you suggest are necessary to make the best possible passages. My problem is, after reading all this material I must be in info overload as I have no idea how to start. Could you suggest a simple recipe for doing prediction using the internet that I could try out? I tried looking at some of the marine sites mentioned in the book, but there are so many sites and so many links to info. I am lost. A recipe might look like…
I’m starting to practice weather forecasting with the 500mb and surface charts. The NWS site has lots of different charts with different forecasts such as 12,24 or 36hr forecasts. Which one of these would you recommend that I use to practice?
These are the charts I download: 15.00Z Surface Analysis Chart Part 1 10E-45W Northern Hemisphere Size: 38.4K–Updated: Fri Nov 26 03:23:37 1999 UTC 16.00Z Surface Analysis Chart Part 2 40W-95W Northern Hemisphere Size: 32.5K–Updated: Fri Nov 26 03:33:36 1999 UTC 28.00Z 500MB Surface Chart Analysis 45W-85W Northern Hemisphere Size: 26.8K–Updated: Thu Nov 25 23:23:35 1999 UTC.
I’m “superimposing” the 500mb on the surface analysis charts to forecast what the weather will be like for the next 24 hrs. Am I on the right track?? Regards, Susan
Good day! I was wondering if you would be able to refer me to an online source for understanding weather in the Caribbean–rainy season and dry season, and what exactly triggers the onset of each. Any direction you could give would be much appreciated! Thanks, Tim
Hi Steve, I have just discovered your website, and via Ocean Navigator have ordered your storm tactics book (Surviving the Storm). We are preparing for a 14-month trip first from East Coast US to Europe, then down the clasic trading route to Brazil, and through the Strait of Magellan in January, & up the west coast of SA, returing home via Panama Canal and the Yucatan. I have had a lot of people recommend the Sea Station unit to us. It’s a lot to jam on a well-found 36 ketch, but I am tempted. It has weather fax through the SSB as part of the software. I would like your comments. Do you think this is any substitute in regions where weather fax is unavailable? It uses low power and is no big deal for the computer, so long as we have power. Many Thanks, Andy.
Hi Steve, We were planning to leave for Bermuda tomorrow, but just received a WX report from Commanders that’s a bit scary. They are predicting the “largest storm of the season” over Bermuda this Thurs and Fri. Are suggesting we can get there before it hits, but I’m not sure about that. And even if we get in safely, will have to anchor in St. George’s sufficiently well to withstand 55 knots, according to them. We asked Herb about the storm tonight, but he refused to comment, saying Fri is too far off. I can’t see the warning signs on the 96hr 500mb (maybe they’re over the West Coast now?), but I confess I’m still not great at understanding the 500mb charts, your Mariner’s Weather Handbook notwithstanding. We have no deadlines, no pressure to leave, except for a fridge full of food! What do you think, O Great Seer of the 500mb charts? Commanders says if we don’t leave tomorrow, we should wait till Tuesday, and will be motoring most of the way. By the way, David Jones has not warned our friends about this at all (they’re using him for routing), and they’re expecting to arrive in Bermuda Thurs or Fri as well.
Sorry to trouble you, but I would appreciate your opinion. By the way, we’re in Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor, and BEOWULF looks in great shape over there in the yard. Regards, Candace
New Wx book a bargain at twice the price. I am reading it for the third time. Do you know where I can download (from the web) wx fax for south pacific? I have friends at 16S 155W headed for Australia. I would like to watch their weather, but cannot find any source for that area. Any help will be appreciated. Best, Jamie
I read recently of your joining Sail Mail. I, like you, have a dedicated wfax. Have you switched to ssb–computer weather , or do you still use the wfax primarily? I have a SEA235, didn’t know about its duty cycle when I bought it, have a fast laptop with 400mb of ram, but am also told it will cost additional 1500-1700 dollars for the modem, cables etc. and additional software. So I desire your opinion as to its worth, primarily for weather. Thanks, Dave.
Where can I find more technical info on passages in El Niño years? I’ve been unable to find anything, even in your books and website. There’s talk of reinforced trades, reversed trades, and as you say reduced trades. Is there any solid data or experience on the subject? Many thanks again…Jan
Dear Steve, I have just read your analysis of the Queens Birthday Storm 1994. First of all, I’d like to thank you for your efforts in producing such detailed analysis – they are a wonderful education for relative novices like myself. I do have a question you may be able to help me with.
I agree with your position that the best way to avoid bad weather is to get out of the way – by staying in shelter or sailing fast in a direction which avoids the storm track.
Avoiding the storm track has to rely on knowing which way the storm/low pressure system is likely to be moving. These days, with all the communication aids to obtaining recent surface charts obviously has made this vastly easier than it was 10 or 20 years ago.
However there may well be occasions when you have lost communication and you know, either from before your weather fax went down, or from increasing wind and the barometer going down, that there is potential for bad weather.
You can simply find in which direction the low lies and work out the quadrant you are in.
However, my question is, how reliably can you estimate the potential storm track if you are no longer getting comms? The latitude you are sailing in and in which ocean obviously has a strong bearing as most lows are likely to track NE, E or SE if you are below 25/30 degrees South. Is this true, or can you be more accurate than NE/E/SE, and how?
Cyclones can and do seem to go W – possibly more frequently than they track NE/E/SE? Why is this? And will tropical lows do the same?
There is probably a lot more to this than I realize, but I would be greatly interested in any comments you might have and how if possible can you predict the track.
Best regards, Peter P.S. I have purchased Practical Seamanship – love it, so also just ordered the Cruising Encyclopedia.
I am hoping to make this trip starting in October of this year. Do you have an opinion regarding the “weather window” in mid October? From what I have read I should be OK although there are always exceptions. I thought I would keep an eye on the group of people in the Baja Ha Ha race that usually head south from San Diego to Cabo in late October. If there are no storms developing off the coast of Mexico that would eventually head northwest then I thought I would leave San Diego on a rhumb line for the “Islands.” If you have an opinion or experiences contrary to mine, I would appreciate the input. Sincere and personal regards, Jim Alexander
Merry Christmas Steve and Linda: We’re planning an Atlantic Crossing via Bermuda, Azores, Portugal in June. We have a 1998 Valiant 42. I have Inmarsat C and SSB aboard. What is your advice for a daily routine for getting the weather forecast predictions as we cross? Also, I have your book on weather. Thanks and the best of New Year’s to you. Thanks, Roy
I bought the Mariner’s Weather Handbook and find it helpful. I have a question, though. On page 123, you attempt to show divergence/convergence on a drawing (bottom of page). I have read it 10 times and don’t understand what you are trying to tell me. It is early in your discussion of this subject and so I do not want to move on without an understanding. Can you elaborate on what that drawing is showing me? Thank you, George
Steve, My question relates to how the sea and land temperatures influence wind patterns. If the sea temperature is warmer than the adjacent land, then what type of flow can I expect? This specifically relates to So. Calif. waters and down towards Ensenada. Thanks, John
Hello Dashews- Got your letter about the weather book. I have a question: Can I interpret the meteorology around me with the help from this magic book of yours, WITHOUT assist from electronics like weather faxes and other fancy modernities? Is it enough with your book, thermometer (showing Celsius of course), a barometer and some bottles of nice wine? Regards from Sweden, Sigge
Dear Sailors:Last summer, I was reefing the sail, had my hand on my aluminum mast, and a thunderstorm that was a mile away sent an invisible charge my way and gave me quite a shock with a boom that I think was caused by the main bolt hitting a nearby ridge. What are the odds of getting a strong bolt through the mast? What will occur? We were sailing down in the Keys last month, and a lightning bolt hit a sailboat mast while the boat was on the trailer, out of the water. The mast glowed red for five minutes. I can’t find any information on this subject. Does a lightning bolt destroy radios? Can it hurt the hull? Best regards, Chris
Hi folks – If you were a small Falmouth Cutter 22, heading around the world, on what date would you most like to leave Panama, in order to best avoid the South Pacific typhoon season? This is the only piece of essential cruising information I can’t find on your marvelous web site. Thank you very much. Dr. Gene
I have a compaq laptop (slow & old, but OK) and use weatherfax from J.E.Hoot to receive weathercharts and forecasts.
I have difficulties to find the best frequencies for the mediterreanean and I always seem to miss the timing. Any suggestions as to the software, or the emitting station?
P.S. I enjoy your Mariners Weather Handbook and CD.
Good Morning Steve and Linda: I try to read everything that either of you write and have ALL of the books. However, in sailing TIMING is everything as you know. Vicki and I have a 1998 Valiant 42 built for us in Texas. We have dear friends, Joe and Pam Harris from Durham. They have the Sundeer 60. We are to meet them in Crete in the Fall of 2003.
WHEN SHOULD I LEAVE FOR CRETE AND WHAT IS THE BEST ROUTE? I’m retiring in June of 2003 and will have a lot of time to get there. This might be a good article to look into as I’m probably not the only one to run across this problem. Any books that you recommend will be read. Thanks and keep up the good work–GURU–you’ve never let me down. Roy
Hi, I have an oceangoing motor yacht designed for ocean crossing and heavy coastal work. The weather routing techniques we would use are different from the techniques a sailing yacht would use. For example, we would tend to motor through the middle of a high for calm seas and light winds, rather than try to pick a path around with the strong and steady prevailing winds abaft the beam. How useful is the Mariner’s Weather Handbook for me? I don’t want to pay out that kind of money for a book, only to find that it is predominantly aimed only at sailing yachts. Thanks for giving me your honest view.
Steve, This may seem like a dumb question, but….How does the height above the water affect the anemometer readings? The reason I ask this is that my mast is 56ft off the water and it seems that the wind speed readings I get are consistently higher than mates of mine that have shorter (i.e. 35ft) masts. I have B&G gear so it should be accurate….is there a formula that we can apply to get surface wind speed, knowing the height of our instruments ? Thanks Cheers Alan
Dear Dashews, I have been very impressed with all three books I have ordered and read, Surviving the Storm, Mariner’s Wx Handbook, and Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia…I would really like to relate more to the weather and practice more with the reading of 500mb and surface charts. I am not very good in tracking these down on the Internet even with the use of the wx links in your web site. Could you please suggest which site will offer me the best data for the 500mb and surface charts? I really do not care if it covers one particular part of the world because I would like to be able to study areas around the world with the worst wx at that time so as to relate the forcast info with what is actually occuring. Thanks, Silas
Dear Steve, Thank you for your last article of weather charts by e-mail from NOAA. Any possibility to have the weather charts for my area River of the Plate (Buenos Aires and Uruguay coast) would be wonderfull. Thank you, and excellent your work for all the cruisers world wide. Best regards, Roberto
Do you know of a web site that provides a simple, conventional weather map of North America, with pressure gradients, indications of highs, lows, warm and cold fronts, and especially wind roses in coastal waters? I looked up the links you provide on your home page (for which I thank you) but they seem mostly to be satellite images, which are very interesting but relatively uninformative, or oversimplified crude drawings that show wind directions, but no indications of strength or the underlying causes of the winds, i.e. pressure gradients. It may be that what I seek is there, but I haven’t had time or patience to ferret it out. Perhaps you know of such a site, in which case I’d be very grateful if you could send it to me.
I would like to see information for first time participants on rallies, races and regattas. I went on the NARC Rally thinking it was about safety and found myself in 30-35 kt. winds with gusts even higher. There was no reliable weather information after the weather briefing in Newport and trusted the coordinator to keep us safe and informed. We ended up calling the weather coordinator on our Gobalstar because he had no way of keeping updated on the weather. I would like to know what questions I should ask IF I EVER DO THAT AGAIN. What I should look for in a coordinator to judge the safety of the operation.
Hello, I’ve been reading Mariner’s Weather Weather (which I find very helpful and readable compared to several other weather books I’ve slogged thru, thanks!) and I was wondering what scale of 500mb and surface charts you recommend I study (as I try to get a hang of this theory before heading out sailing in a few years).
I’ve seen them ranging from very small areas to the world (particularly the 500 mb ones). Thanks, Glen
Steve: Just read your excellent article in the recent issue of Ocean Navigator, concerning heavy weather steering issues. We just placed an order for a 43′ Hallberg-Rassy, and I’m curious to learn what you think of the “beefiness” of its steering system. It has Whitlock wheel steering, with Cardan linked rod steering. Do you think this meets your recommendation for “twice ABS specifications”? Thank you for your help! Mike B
Hi Steve–I’m confused about how to tell the difference between a stable trough that runs from the northeast to the southwest and an unstable one that runs from the southwest to the northeast ( page 180, top paragraph). How do you tell them apart? On page 168, you suggest using clipboards to organize the surface and 500mb charts. Do you use six of them? It seems like a lot but I’m having trouble organizing the paper explosion.