Tag Archives: Weather

5 Things to Consider Regarding Weather

At the core off all we do as sailors is one thing – weather. It’s is our engine, our bliss or our most frightening adversary. Because of this, we need to know more about it than the average Joe. The subject of weather is vast and can be complicated, but let’s start with the basic ideas surrounding weather. Here’s a little list of five things to think about as it pertains to weather.

  1. Check the Weather
    The first thing to always remember is to simply check the marine weather forecast before leaving the dock. Of course this is obvious, but so many sailors look out the window, see the sun, raise the main and off they go. The VHF has a dedicated channel that continually plays the weather forecast in a weird half man, half robot voice – while you’re straightening out the boat for the trip, listen and make sure there are no extreme conditions coming down the pike. More than one over-anxious sailor has been caught with their pants down in this way.
  2. Watch the Waves
    The behavior of the waves will tell a sailor quite a bit. Not all of us have anemometers but we all can keep our eyes on what’s happening with wave action and understand how much wind is present. Knowing the speed of the wind is important in determining the proper amount of sail to have up. Here’s what to look for:
    • 5-knots of wind creates small wavelets in the water.
    • 10-knots of wind scattered whitecaps appear.
    • 15-knots the wind is forming waves – many of them with breaking tops.
    • 20-knots the wind begins to kick up spray and life on the water can get a bit more intense.

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Two Cool Videos for Sailors

A couple of videos ASA sailors should see this week:


Our latest advanced sailing tip produced in cooperation with Forespar Sailing. See this video and plenty more in July’s online “Sailing with Style” magazine.


Now this is cool. All sailors have to be keen observers of the sky (night and day) and the shifts in weather conditions. Clouds, wind direction, and color are all critical in sailing and learning to sail. Here they are on spectacular display in Spain’s Canary Islands.

“Every man needs to find a peak, a mountain top or a remote island of his own choosing that he reaches under his own power alone in his own good time.” – Alain Gerbault, In Quest of the Sun

El Cielo de Canarias / Canary sky – Tenerife from Daniel López on Vimeo.

Keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter for even more videos, tips, news, etc.!

Pacific Tsunami — News, Updates, and How to Help

tsunami noaa
Those of us in the United States woke this morning to hear about a massive and devastating tsunami in Japan, the result of a powerful 8.9 earthquake off of the country’s northeast coast. At ASA our prayers are with the families of those who have been killed and hoping for the continued safety of the survivors.

Damage has also been reported in Hawaii and the West Coast of the US; mostly boats and docks hit by the surge. Boats that moved out to sea were unharmed. Beaches and piers are closed due to strong undertow and currents.

Here are some key places to get information about what’s going on:

I’ll be updating our Facebook and Twitter pages as there are new developments.

Youtube is compiling eyewitness footage that you can find here, and this video will give you an idea of the magnitude:

London newspaper the Guardian also has aerial footage of the surge that must be seen to be believed.

The Weather Channel is posting constant live updates.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you can visit the Red Cross and make a donation to their relief fund.

Please feel free to comment, discuss and share information.

February Photo of the Month Winners

This month’s photo contest on Facebook was one of the most closely contested we’ve ever had. With 30 entries for the theme “Cold, Foul Weather, or Winter Sailing,” we had everything from folks breaking ice and sailing on Northern lakes to people sunning themselves in the Florida Keys. We even had a pair of wooden “gutter racers” and a shot of somebody’s hot tub (where they’ll be safely ensconced until spring). Click here to view the entire album. A huge thanks to everyone who contributed, and without further ado, we present the winners:


Even though this photograph, simultaneously dramatic and peaceful, garnered a staggering number of votes, it was barely enough. Congratulations to Sum Chan for besting a strong field and earning publication here and in ASA’s “Sailing with Style” E-Newsletter. Here is the photographer’s description: “Chasing the Sun on Santa Monica Bay – it may not be an easy decision on a cold (relatively speaking in SoCal) cloudy day whether to chase the wind or the sun. Models: Anya Essiounina and Hunter 310.”
winning photo


This shot was not far behind. Our good friends at SailTime once again stuffed the ballot box showed their enthusiasm for the sailing lifestyle with this cheerful, but chilly, entry submitted by Laura Chapin: “San Francisco to Half Moon Bay on a SailTime boat…oh what fun!” Thanks Laura, and congrats on getting so close to 1st place!
runner up


This month I want to recognize the two entries that came the furthest to join us. First, this majestic double-rainbow is courtesy of Dick and Karen, crew of the catamaran Butterfly, currently cruising the Caribbean. Not only did they take time out of their busy cruising schedule to send these, but WOW! IT’S A DOUBLE RAINBOW! ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE SKY! You can follow Dick and Karen’s adventures, complete with some great photography, on their blog.

We also have this terrific “driving the boat” shot submitted by Esra Arikan all the way from Turkey. The photo is of winter sailing in the Marmara Sea! Click the photos to enlarge.

marmara sea

Voyaging with Velella: The Irresistible Horizon Line

red sky at nightContinuing the “Voyaging with Velella” series by ASA writer-at-large Meghan Cleary. Meghan, Prescott and their kitten Nessie are on a planned 9-month cruise in the tropics.

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.

I love it when those sayings about weather turn out to be true. Makes me feel like a real old salt. Like how my last sight of the evening sky looked like this, and this morning the lagoon is pure glass. White flocks of egrets’ wings flap across the still water along knotted mangrove forests, tufts of smoke hang in the dense hills, this sky is an almost colorless blue. For the first time in a week, the air has been scrubbed clean of hazy humidity, leaving the sensation that we’ve just showered clean without getting wet.
I’ll be sorry to leave Barra de Navidad. When you anchor somewhere for over a week, it starts to feel like home. We know where the cheapest lavanderia is, which cafes make “real” coffee (as opposed to the ubiquitous cup of Nescafe) and have free internet, and I’ve even found a little hole-in-the-wall craft store. As I type this, I’m listening to the unusual accent of the French Baker on the radio, calling out to cruisers that he’s headed out to the lagoon. Each morning he dings his little bell and pulls alongside each boat with “Bonjour, French Baker this morning?” His canopied panga is lined with warm danishes, croissants, baguettes, fruit tarts, and cookies—the other day we bought cranberry oat cookies with sherry and orange zest. After endless huevos rancheros, a buttery chocolate croissant is worth hanging around for.

For the first time since we started cruising, we’ve gotten to know a place, and it feels right. I was beginning to feel despondent about passing through Mexico like a skipping stone. Though we’ve been in the country for two months, our average time in a single anchorage is, sadly, only one day. My anxiety accelerated every time we picked up the hook again, because the trip—the slow, immersive travel we worked so hard to be able to do—was rushing by and we were missing way too much. The knowledge that the “end” of Mexico is right around the corner has put a hard knot in my stomach for weeks.
When sailors dream of cruising, we aren’t dreaming only of warm remote shores and a self-sustaining little home. I believe that what most people seek when they choose to cruise is a certain pace of living. It is an adventurous pace, but also an exploratory one. I care as much about discovering the cultural pockets we find in tucked-away anchorages as I do about discovering a migrating pod of whales at sea.

Prescott put it eloquently in observing that there’s something irresistible about the horizon that beckons sailors. The landlubber’s equivalent is “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” That horizon always subconsciously represents warmer water, bigger fruit, more colorful flora. Perhaps south of where we are, we would find some of those things. But we are realizing that we could forever haul ourselves over horizon after horizon in search of what we have right here. What we would leave behind is the contented pace we went cruising to achieve.
at anchor
So we’ve decided to rein in our galloping itinerary in favor of savoring Mexico. We’re enrolling in Spanish language classes, studying our birding books, and reading John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl” aloud as we make our way North to the Sea of Cortez for spring sailing. We’re writing more, swimming more, and reinstating the daily siesta. Because although we may have started out with vague intentions to land in New York City at the end of all this, we’re not ready to trade in this pace for that—not yet.

As last night’s fiery sunset predicted, it’s time to sail. But this time, we’ve thrown the calendar overboard, and we’re sailing “by the wind.”

Here’s where the wind has taken Velella now:

View Voyaging with Velella in a larger map

Weathering Earl in the British Virgin Islands

Avoid ending up like this.

Many of you have been lucky enough to learn to sail, cruise or charter in the British Virgin Islands. Here is an update from Pat Nolan who owns and operates Sistership Sailing School on Tortola after recently weathering hurricane Earl:

Location, location, location. That real estate mantra also applies to hurricane survival (followed closely by preparation, preparation, preparation). Having just come through the very large, very powerful category 4 hurricane Earl in the BVI, I can say that both location and preparation are key to minimizing damage. Lucky for us the eye of the storm passed about 30 miles north of Anegada so we on Tortola, roughly 27 miles southeast of Anegada were spared the worst. We still experienced sustained winds of 100+ mph; winds strong enough to sink boats, blow boats ashore, smash boats into docks and. Those who took the time to move boats to a well protected hurricane anchorage, secure the deck and all gear topside, in addition to properly anchor riding out the storm, sustained minimal damage if any.

One must remember that the wind often comes from every direction during a hurricane, so your choice of anchorage must be protected 360 degrees. For those of you familiar with the harbors in the BVI, Road Town, Soper’s Hole and Anegada proved places NOT to be. In those harbors numerous boats were sunk, piled on top of one another or beached. In Trellis Bay, Nanny Cay, Paraquita Bay and inner Sea Cow’s Bay boats did fine. Boats in virtually landlocked Paraquita Bay are packed in like sardines, lying to hurricane gear installed by the government. Trellis Bay hosts a large community of live-aboards lying to their own private moorings. Those folks are old hands at hurricane preparation and it showed – no damage reported there. Nanny Cay, the marina we operate from, is completely land locked save for the very small entrance. All the boats are moored to floating docks. Even though well protected, the high winds and tidal surge still put a huge strain on the docks. Several times during the beginning of the storm we needed to jury rig finger piers that sheared off from the main dock. Struggling in 80 knot gusts to secure a bucking bronco of a finger pier with two big boats attached to it is not my idea of a good time. It took a team of us to do it, but it worked.

Luckily that work was done in the daylight. When the worst of the storm hit after dark, the dock was not the place to be. Safely shuttered in our concrete block of a house we crossed our fingers that the docks would hold through the night. They did.

Many snowbirds keep their boats in the BVI. Unless you have hired a good management company to oversee your boat in your absence you would not want to leave it in the water; rather on the hard, in the yard is the place to be. Boatyards here are experienced at storing and securing boats to minimize storm damage. It is imperative that owners take the time to make their boats are ‘hurricane ready’ after their last cruise just prior to hauling out. Not sure exactly what that entails? Many great articles have been written on this subject. Just Google “How to prepare my boat for a hurricane” and take your pick. And don’t wait till the last minute – it all takes time.

Sirocco and Bora Bora Breezes

Continuing “Croatian Tapestry”

The builders of Korcula were excellent urban planners. Inside the walled city the narrow alleyways feel mazelike, but in fact they are laid out in parallel lines with only a couple cross streets running the entire length. The ancient builders positioned the streets this way to take advantage of the seasonal winds: Warm Sirocco breezes are the city’s natural air conditioning in summer, while the cold northern Bora Boras, coming from the perpendicular direction in the winter, are blocked out.

Our passage back to Milna from Korcula gave us first-hand experience of the biting Bora Bora, beginning at 8am. After a lovely sunrise, it began to rain by the time we collected our boats’ papers from the reception office. I had (very stupidly) elected not to pack my hefty foulies on this trip, thinking ah, it’s the Adriatic–any weather we might see will be nothing compared to winter in the Pacific Northwest! Well, that was true, but I still wished I had my foul weather jacket as we headed out into the wind-tunnel Korculanski Channel. I settled instead for garbage-bag couture.

Due to the snarly weather, we had agreed on a radio protocol: every hour on the hour we would check in and report positions. Having the rest of the fleet close by was certainly a comfort when we hit weather–one of the many perks of flotilla sailing, I realized that morning. It was a bit of a bucking-bronco ride, especially on our little boat (the smallest in the fleet). One of the neighboring big boats even hung back near us to make sure we were fine (thank you Hedda Gabler!!)

We skirted the edge of a distinct squally-looking cloud bank, and hugged the southern coast of Hvar. Though the forecast predicted strengthening conditions throughout the day, the winds were tempered in the shadow of the island, and the waves settled significantly by the time we motored in to Milna. Everyone was wet and aching for a hot shower, and luckily for us, Milna had the BEST showering facilities. I really think there may be nothing more satisfying in life than a hot shower after a cold rainy sail.

We congregated for dinner at a restaurant that sat just beyond our med-moored sterns. The catch of the day was a grilled steak from a 50-kilo tuna. Even the resident kittens got a fresh chunk! Freshly dressed and warm, with a roaring outdoor grill wafting the savory fragrance from the biggest tuna I’d ever seen, I was prepared to sleep soundly under the patter of rain on the cabintop.

As we motored away from Milna to return our boats the next morning, I was glad we experienced a little weather on the trip. Weather makes the food taste better, the beds more comfortable, the showers more spa-like. It made me feel like we’d properly “done” the Adriatic. So we piled into busses and returned to our villa in Trogir having been baptised by that jewel blue sea. I took away the warm flavor of bijela kavas, unlabled bottles of home-pressed olive oil, a thousand stunning photographs, and some med-mooring tricks up my sleeve.

(Oh–and I also took home a sparkling little ring on my left hand. You never know what’s going to happen on an ASA sailing flotilla ladies and gentlemen!!)

Managing Weather

In this guest post, Captain Tony Wall of Biscayne Bay Sailing Academy recounts delivering a 46′ sloop–while managing the effects of a nearby hurricane.

As a professional sailing instructor and USCG captain, I was contracted to sea trial a 46′ Bruce Roberts sloop named Harmony. Everything went satisfactorily, the deal went through, and the new owner, Veli-Matti Alho, asked me if I would be interested in delivering the yacht from Port Everglades to Galveston, Texas, crossing the Gulf of Mexico. My work schedule did not permit this, but I offered to teach him the ASA certifications Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Cruising, with extensive practical offshore and advanced passage-making, during a trip from Port Everglades down to Key West.

Beautiful weather accompanied our trip south to Miami, and we sailed into Biscayne Bay for a night of rest on the dock. Engine/charging problems meant we could not re-start the engine, so we were required to sail through the Biscayne Ship Channel in the dark without auxiliary power–a daunting prospect, but successfully accomplished. Several days of repairs followed, during which Veli and I tracked the weather closely.

A late season tropical storm was developing into Hurricane Ida and heading rapidly west of Cuba heading for the Gulf of Mexico. As the storm hurtled up the gulf, Miami experienced gale force winds from the east–a good direction but not for us! Harmony strained the docklines, safely tied up at Dinner Key Marina. The third day brought 20-25 knots from the south, and rather than heading straight into it, we waited for a better window. Day four’s forecast was 20-25 knots north-west–there was our chance!

We left Biscayne Bay around 10:00am with full sail–a conventional mainsail and a 150% genoa. By late afternoon approaching Key Largo, I suggested we put on the heavy-air staysail and put a single reef in the mainsail to reduce the overall sail area in a balanced way.

Since our draft was 6ft 8ins, our strategy was to head south and south west outside the reef, rather than going inside the Hawk Channel, which would require too much concentration (especially considering we were hand steering). Overnight, as expected, the wind accelerated to 20 plus knots with gusts into the upper 20s. We were able to progressively take in the large furling genoa from the cockpit to reduce the force on the rig. Flying the staysail only in a situation like this is a great example of the offshore flexibility of the cutter rig.

We were running on the ocean side of the barrier reef that extends all the way down the keys, from near Key Biscayne to Key West, a total of 150 miles. Dawn came slowly–all night we were sailing at hull speed or above, pushing towards 9 knots of speed. It was an exhilarating sail, but definitely hard work and not conducive to sleep! When dawn finally came, I took this video of the boiling sea to starboard (north and north west) and encouraging light from golden-red sunrise off our port quarter.

As we approached Key West, we realized that we had covered 154 nautical miles in 22 hours–certainly the fastest voyage I had ever made. The moral of the story is to choose your weather window carefully to ensure favorable winds, and to be ready for deteriorating conditions by reefing down early. With a prepared boat and crew, you can manage strong weather and use it to your advantage.

Captain Tony Wall
Lead Instructor, Biscayne Bay Sailing Academy
Tel 954 243 4078