Current forecasts and weather apps provide a staggering amount of detail about upcoming weather events helping well-prepared sailors. Gone are the days when a skipper should be taken by surprise by a storm or weather event, this is certainly the case if he/she cruises close to a safe haven.
This article is not about current forecasting technology. It is a suggestion to skippers who learned their skills not to dismiss the need to predict daily weather and local sea conditions. Indeed, predicting the exact weather to be encounter when sailing on any particular day can be extremely rewarding, and is still to a large extent, an art rather than a science.
Sailing In Tidal Waters
I have sailed in many parts of the world but gained most of my heavy weather sailing experience in the Irish Sea off the coast of North Wales. Strong currents and rips are common around the coast of Anglesey. I grew up adding two levels to the Beaufort wind scale when judging the sea state from any wind forecast that came with the word northerly in it.
I often calculated my weather formula in reverse if a favourable tidal flow and southerly wind occurred. I would subtract two levels from the Beaufort scale in such conditions.
The Cruising Anglesey Pilot by Ralph Morris explains the dangers of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Irish Sea around Anglesey takes no prisoners.
Perhaps the pilot could have gone into as much detail about calm waters. For example, when the wind and tide ran together at speed the water is calm. A strong favourable wind and tide situation has produced some of the most exhilarating, safe sailing I have ever experienced. Learning about tidal flows is very much part of interpreting the weather conditions you will encounter when sailing.
Mediterranean Cruising is different. You will most likely encounter local un-forecast winds and sea states in part created by storms in other areas during low season sailing. With no daily tide to take the sting out of waves caused by localised weather, unexpected moderate waves can travel great distances before losing their energy. The ever-present danger of being hit by a wave is a worry. Especially when that wave can catch an unsuspecting crew member off guard. Talking about the unexpected wave danger as part of a Skippers safety briefing. Fortunately, rouge waves are less frequent in summer months but do exist all year round.
Ask A Local
Local knowledge is the answer in all cases. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of asking a local about local weather and trends before cruising. I refer back to my opening statement about modern weather forecasting. In my recent experience having been based in the Mediterranean for four years, local weather remains unpredictable. The confidence of knowing what might happen brings a certain pleasure. I have extensively sailed in all kinds of weather. Yes, when it’s off the scale you remember it! These off the scale days are predicted and calculated, and although testing they are manageable. It’s when your guard is down that one can get caught out without a backup plan.
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Yacht Charters can be found in tidal waters around the UK and to some extent along with the UK the south coast. Follow the link for Charter boats in tidal waters.