Even the best weather
predictions are only good out for a period of two or maybe three days - at least that's the way it has worked for us. Practically, that means that I don't set out in the face of what is obviously going to be bad weather, but at the same time, I know that on a long passage
, I don't have a clue as to what will happen after those first three days are past.
The last half of our circumnavigation
, we started using ham radio
to pulldown weather faxes and grib files covering our area of the world. This worked well for us. The "CATALOGUE" function of airmail via Winlink will get you the weather for almost every place around the world. You can get a current
weather fax and grib files that predict wind
strength and direction while you are at sea.
That being said, in the real world of offshore
weather, the grib files often turned out to be grib fantasies, and the weather faxes sometimes rapidly change. On one trip to New Caledonia
, we had an Ozzie weather fax showing a tropical cyclone heading toward Queensland
, and a New Zealand
weather fax showing the same tropical cyclone heading south toward New Zealand
A further complicating problem is the fact that grib files don't work in the area of a tropical cyclone. There is a disclaimer accompanying grib files that says you should not rely on them when there is a tropical depression or cyclone in the area, and unfortunately, that's when you really need to know what's going to happen.
I had to develop a strategy that allowed me to deal with offshore
weather without being driven crazy by weather forcasts. My strategy ended up being rather simple. Wherever I was offshore, I had an exit strategy that would get me away from storms that came my way. Storms don't just pop up. I always had warning from weather fax, swells rolling in, and falling barometers. I carried enough fuel
for 1000 miles motoring, and I was willing to sail in any direction to get away from a serious storm, even if it meant turning around or motoring away from my destination
. In a worst case situation, I would put out my parachute sea anchor
, and in my circumnavigation
, I only put out the sea anchor
one time three hundred miles north of New Zealand.
When I sail offshore, I want to know two things. What's the likely weather for the next three days, and what is my exit strategy if the weather looks like it is going to get really bad? When I know the answer to those two questions, I don't really worry about the weather. I can't control the weather, but I can control my yacht and point the bow wherever I want to go. If the weather doesn't cooperate, I have plenty of options available, and the odds are very much in my favor that I will have an enjoyable voyage.
When it comes to weather, don't let paralysis of analysis keep you from sailing the seven seas. Instead, do your homework, then go sailing, and every day decide what your exit strategy will be if the weather doesn't pan out as planned.
The odds are in your favor if you use your common sense.