Posts Tagged ‘Weathercraft’

Keeping a weather eye – Tip of the week #6

Friday, April 1st, 2011

The ancient Polynesian navigators of the Pacific were
probably equal to the most close-to-nature sailors the
world has seen. The average modern sailor isn’t likely
to develop or need to develop such skills of observation
as they had.

But one observational skill every skipper or navigator
should develop, even if they don’t go into the ocean,
is the clouds in the sky and the weather they foretell.

It doesn’t matter where in the world one sails, the same
sky formations herald the arrival of new weather systems,
as a front of cold air moves in high above currently
pleasant weather. As the system gets nearer the cloud gets
lower until the front arrives with a severe change in wind
direction and most often strength.

The first indication is the most important to the observer
as it is highest in the sky and, as the photograph below
shows, nearly always indicates the direction from
which the wind will come, which will in any case follow
whatever is the local pattern.

Fingers in the sky showing where the wind will come from

If you think of the high cloud as ‘fingers’ on a hand, the
wind direction is from the palm of the hand.

In our Weathercraft CD we have both a series of photos and
a video showing the approach and arrival of a cold front.


1. Thank your lucky stars

During the recent Cape Town to Rio race the watermaker
aboard Spirit of Izivunguvungu broke down, with the yacht
1,400 nm from its destination. Another competitor,
Extra-Link, diverted to her side and transferred 20 cans of
sports’ drinks and 140 litres of water – enough to safely
finish the race.

On Spirit’s return voyage to Cape Town the problems faced
by the crew of four were far more serious.

Firstly their satellite telephone stopped working. Then
their satellite tracker system failed.

Meanwhile race officials were monitoring yachts on their
return voyage from Rio. They put a call out for ships in
the vicinity of Spirit’s last known position to keep a look
out. How many ships would you expect in the South Atlantic?

Then the satellite tracker restarted, showing about half
a knot boat speed and giving its location – about 140 nm
north of Tristan da Cunha.

Lucky for them a Liberian-registered ship found Spirit of
Izivunguvungu, a yacht sponsored by the City of Cape Town
and skippered by an instructor and crewed by graduates of
the Izivunguvungu Sailing Development School.
The yacht had been dismasted, which had damaged her rudder,
her engine had failed and the hull was holed and she was
taking on water.

We’re glad we weren’t on board.

2. Video corner: How to sail ‘quicklier’

Watch this four-part interview to learn important tips
from Buddy Melges, designer of the Melges range of

In the first video, he talks about the importance
of physical fitness and mental concentration. And of
the need to present the boat to the wind, “not wait for
her (Mother Nature) to get on the boat and then make a

He also explains his use of the word ‘quicklier’.

In their own words: OLD NORWEGIAN ADAGE

There is no such thing as bad weather,
only bad clothes.

These days there’s a massive range of clothing – from
thermals through all the layers out to foul weather
gear – available to suit all kinds of sailors – from
the occasional inshore cruiser to the racing

My advice has always been to get the very best that
you can afford. But also seek the opinions of
experienced sailors, not just the sales staff at
the chandlery.

Changing weather patterns?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I know that some of our readers are meteorologists so I would be particularly pleased if they would comment – however harshly!

On the premise that the Antarctic ice cap is melting, (and evidence of bergs the size of Tasmania breaking away would seem conclusive to me) I believe that major climate change is happening right now.

The driest continent on Earth is Antarctica, all the usual air moisture being locked into ice and snow. Now that the ice is melting it stands to reason that the air is more humid than it was.

If that is correct, the prevailing west to south-west winds are carrying this damper air up to southern hemisphere landmasses.

Evidence of the approach of a front

Evidence of the approach of a front

This seems to me to be happening more and more often. In more than half a century of sailing I used to expect one of these cool changes to come every seven to 10 days in summer. Now we are getting them every two to four days.

The winds are heavier, storms more frequent and nastier and it is significantly colder.

Since Annie and I live in Sydney we have always known that we were in one of the world’s temperate zones. But I believe now that the temperate zones are having to work much harder at balancing out the cold and moisture from the south and the tropical heat in the north.

  • Has there been any research into these questions? 
  • Is it compatible with global warming? 
  • Is my theory – that increased moisture is being brought to dry countries like Australia – backed by scientific observation?

I look forward to your comments.

Sale! The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship is on sale!

Monday, June 21st, 2010

The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship

This month you can buy The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship and save:

NB: Prices in Australian Dollars Was Now
The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship
Boat Handling 1 and 2
Navigation and Passage Planning
Safety and Emergencies
Skipper and Crew, Knots and The Language of the Sea

Remember, this special offer expires on 30 June 2010.

Don’t miss this great opportunity. Use the ‘Share This’ button to tell your friends.
Click to get yours now – The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship.

Become a weather watcher

Friday, February 27th, 2009

If you spend time sailing, particularly racing, you should also spend some time studying the weather. Obviously getting a forecast regularly is one way but what I really mean is actually observing the conditions change as warm and cold fronts pass through. The more time you spend developing your own database of weather conditions and their effect on your ‘race track’, the better you will be able to compete in your boat.

However, not all observations carry equal weight. One fellow sailor told me several years ago that he watched the flags on the top of the Harbour Bridge to gauge the conditions he’d face out on the water. The height above sea level (134 metres) would make those flags a very unreliable source of information for a skipper.

If you learn to pick up gusts and wind shifts before the main fleet recognises them, you will do well. In addition, your observations should make you better prepared for the arrival of weather changes, which may whip up the waves and bring with them rain squalls and strong gusts. If you are sensible and reef early, you will be in control and on course while the rest of the fleet struggles to shorten sail.

Weathercraft provides much more information for both the coastal and offshore sailor.