Category Archives: Boat Operations

Weather – To “Go” or “Not To Go”

11/22/2020: Initial post

Whether the weather is hot or whether the weather cold,
Whether the weather is wet or whether the weather dry,
Whether the weather is windy or whether the weather is calm,
Whether the weather is nice or whether the weather is snot,
There will be weather, whether or not.

The US East Coast ICW from Maine to Florida, or the Great Loop cruise, are long cruises that span significant geography in eastern North America. Weather conditions encountered by long distance cruisers will range over time from “delightful” to “severe.”  Annual El Niño and La Niña conditions in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean (ENSO), and the Madden-Jullian Oscillation (MJO) in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, can lead to significant year-to-year variations in overall North American weather patters.  Regional patterns in the Southern US are different than in the Northern US and Canada.  Year-to-year variations are a fact of life.  There are dry years and wet years. There are calm years and stormy years.

Summer T’storm Out!ow Boundary produced 50-plus mph gusting winds for 40 minutes. Could not see the shoreline, barely could see the blue-roofed MYC Pavilion. Very exciting!

In general, I discourage the all-to-common notion that a fast boat can “run away from” – or, “outrun” – developing thunderstorms.  This is NOT a good assumption on large bodies of water where there are limited “ditch-out” options to get off the water.  It is NOT a good option for running offshore or running large Bays and Sounds.  The air masses that produce thunderstorms can be hundreds of miles across.  Very large air masses can become unstable (cross the “wet lapse rate”) in minutes, and build across wide areas very quickly.  We have had severe weather blow up for 30 to 50 miles all around us in a matter of 15 – 30 minutes.  Being exposed to high winds, heavy rain and lightening in a boat on the water IS NOT part of our definition of “havin’ fun.”  We suggest prudent avoidance is much better than managing an unpleasant – or dangerous – heavy weather encounter.

Hazy, hot, humid summer afternoon on a mooring ball in the US Northeast.

We suggest that each individual cruiser establish – in advance – a written criteria for the conditions that are acceptable for their routine daily departures from safe harbor.  One size does not f!t all, and no single criteria fits all cruisers. Different boat designs ride rough seas quite differently from one another. Dfferent individuals on boats of the same make and model may have very different attitudes and sensitivities (tolerance) about what constitutes “acceptable” travel conditions to them. Steelhulled (all metal hulled) boats are more safe in lightening than Fiberglass-Reinforced Plastic (FRP). Boats with active stabilizers often handle rough seas better than boats without stabilizers. Individualized vessel departure criteria must address the needs of the captain and crew, pets, any guests (children) and the vessel itself.

The US East Coast and Gulf Coast are prone to hurricanes from mid-August to mid-November.  Less of a time-span in El Niño years, more in La Niña years.  With just a few exceptions, we live in a time where weather forecasts are reasonably good indicators of future reality.  During hurricane season, we watch the Atlantic Basin and Gulf of Mexico daily.  When storms are forming and tracks are developing, we don’t depart from a safe harbor unless we know we can get to the next safe harbor well before encountering the storm.

Your individual departure criteria must ensure the safety, and consider the comfort, of all aboard.  Boat’s are generally tougher than people. We find little enjoyment in being beaten up on the water. Seasick or terri!ed guests are undesirable. A happy crew and a happy marriage depend on getting this criteria right for your crew and your boat.

Finally, the prudent captain will review the weather forecast for the daily cruise area against his or her departure criteria.  A beautiful early morning can deteriorate into a lousy afternoon. Sanctuary’s departure criteria follows:

Sanctuary’s “go”/”no go” criteria:
  • Bright sun to periodic, light rain;
  • visibility >3 StM;
  • Seas <2 ft from any quarter;
  • winds <15 kts;
  • air temps >60℉.
  • Periods of rain, no or “isolated” t’storms;
  • visibility >1<3 StM;
  • seas 2-4 ft if following, 2-3 ft if ahead, abeam or abaft of abeam;
  • winds 20- 25 kts;
  • air temps >45℉<60℉;
  • these conditions forecast to be stable or with an improving forecast.
  • T’storms;
  • strong squalls;
  • persistent rain;
  • visibility <1 StM;
  • winds >25 kts;
  • air temps <45℉;
  • deteriorating forecast.
 Additional              Considerations:
  • Direction of surface feature steering winds at altitude 18K;
  • travel on protected inland river/ICW vs. open water;
  • distance from  “safe harbor;”
  • if offshore, period and direction of ocean swells;
  • air temps;
  • hours-of-daylight;
  • seasonal wx patterns of the region;
  • availability of traveling companion (“Buddy Boat”);
  • availability of Tow Boat if needed.

Some useful guidelines in the US Northeast and mid-Atlantic states for Barometer status and trends:

  1. barometer rising & Westerly wind → good weather
  2. barometer falling & Easterly wind → perform “180° turn;” return to safe harbor
  3. barometer slowly falling & steady breeze → unsettled, likely wet, weather
  4. barometer rising → best for boating
  5. barometer falling → stay alert & watchful

Some useful resources for tracking local weather and weather forecasts include:

  1. Sirius/XM satellite “Master Mariner” subscription; provides real-time weather conditions displayed on new generation chart plotters and via WxWorx-on-the-Water on Windows-based computers. Sanctuary uses WxWorx-on-the-water.
  2. Link: Marv’s Weather Service
  3. Link: Atlantic Marine Zones
  4. Link: National Weather Buoy Data
  5. Link: Great Lakes Weather
  6. Link: Chesapeake Bay Weather
  7. Link: Severe weather
  8. Link: Local weather forecasts
  9. Link: Local weather forecasts
  10. Link: Local Weather forecasts

iOS (iPhone & iPad) weather apps I personally use and like:

  1. Storm Radar
  2. Dark Sky
  3. Marine Weather Forecast Pro
  4. Windy; pro upgrade gives several weather model wind forecasts that are particularly useful on large East Coast Bays and Sounds
  5. NOAA Buoys Live Marine Weather (Hurricane forecasts; not easy to use)

For hurricane tracks and track projections:

  1. Marv’s Weather Service
  3. Mike’s Weather Page

Leaving Boat Checklist

  • Secure flybridge and deck.
  • Close propane tank’s valve.
  • Install Instrument covers on flybridge instruments.
  • Discontinue power to flybridge instruments and utility outlets.
  • Discontinue power to Garmin® Autopilot pump via engine room circuit breaker.
  • Stow/secure SSB/VHF radio antennae.
  • Stow dinghy and dinghy gasoline container.
  • Lock deckbox.
  • Stow tools
  • Finalize arrangements for emergency access to vessel and/or storm-tie vessel.
  • Verify operation of Siren Marine® boat system/shore power monitor.
  • Close and secure hatches, windows.
  • Discontinue power to propulsion engine.
  • Secure engine key.
  • Shut off 700W Xantrex® inverter.
  • Defrost/secure fridge/freezer.
  • Pump out holding tank; secure heads.
  • Discontinue dock water at pedestal and at onboard fresh water inlet.
  • Stow TV.
  • Disconnect salon DC utility outlet.
  • Remove coffee maker filter, clean coffee maker
  • Empty trash cans, remove trash from vessel.
  • Final check dock line placement and tension.
  • Final check fender placement.
  • Final check shore power connections and slack in shore power cords.
  • Leave thru-hull diagram on salon table.
  • Set Heat Pump to “dehumidify” mode.
  • Remove batteries from smoke detectors and CO detectors.
  • Secure PORT salon door.
  • Shut off all AC/DC electrics (except house battery charger, refrigerator based on duration of absence).
  • Secure boarding steps.
  • Lock STBD salon door upon departure.

Pre-Cruise Preparation

Pre-Cruise Preparation:

  1. Prepare a Float Plan; communicate plan to an independent, non-crew safety contact.
  2. Ensure that navigation charts are onboard and, optionally, cruising guides for entire range of the float plan.
  3. Prepare Chart Plotter waypoints and eRoutes, if desired.
  4. Assess, repair or replace as necessary:
    • Water tank status; top off if necessary.
    • Fuel stores; top off if necessary.
    • Propane stores; top off if necessary.
    • Holding tank status; pump out if necessary.
    • Dock lines and fenders.
    • Fire extinguishers.
    • Stores of non-rechargeable batteries for self-contained devices; i.e., smoke and CO detectors, PLB (SPOT), GPS, portable VHF, cameras, flashlights, etc.
  5. Secure for sea: personal belongings, vessel equipment and  stores:
    • Galley.
    • Engine room (including tools and spare parts).
    • Forward and aft berths.
    • Lockers, lazarette.
    • Decks.
    • Flybridge.
    • Dinghy, dinghy motor, motor davit.
  6. Check systems for proper condition/operation:
    • Bilge status; inspect packing gland and rudder stock for visible leaks.
    • Bilge Pump: automatic and manual operation; “high bilge” alarm operation
    • Condition and charge status of ship’s batteries.
    • Charge status of rechargeable batteries; cell phones, computers, cameras, bluetooth GPS, etc.
    • Navigation and anchor lights operational.
    • Propulsion engine serpentine belt condition (NAPA 25-080530).
    • Propulsion engine air filter (Duralite ECB08-5001, Fleet AH1136, NAPA 6634).
    • Thruster system hydraulic pump drive belts (Gates #9530, NAPA #25-9530).
    • Windlass, chain snubber, primary and backup ground tackle.
    • Washdown system.
    • Steering system.
    • Generator operation.
    • Throttle and gear shift controls.
    • Magnetic Compass, fluxgate compass, radio(s) and instruments.
    • Charge status of fire extinguishers.
    • Serviceable PFDs available for all crew/personnel.
    • Thru-hulls in “sea” mode.
    • Hose connections, hose clamps; for leaks, tightness, corrosion.
    • Hoses, for cracks, kinks, damage.
  7. Check all fluid levels:
    • Check battery electrolyte, if appropriate.
    • Check Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) level of thruster hydraulic fluid reservoir; top off with Dexron III automotive ATF, if necessary.
    • Check ATF level of marine gear weekly; top off with Dexron III automotive ATF, if necessary.
    • Check hydraulic steering fluid level.
    • Check oil level in propulsion engine.
    • Check oil level in generator engine.
    • Check coolant level and condition in propulsion and genset engines.
    • Check for and correct leaks of fuel, engine oil, marine gear fluid, steering hydraulic fluid, thruster hydraulic fluid and/or engine coolant.
    • Ensure that “Engine Room” light switch is “off” when engine room activity is completed.

Day-of-Travel Procedures

Departure Preparation:

  1. Pre-plan travel route
    a) create eRoute files in chart plotter format.
    b) upload eRoute to chart plotter.
  2. Review weather forecast for planned cruise area against Sanctuary’s departure criteria:
    Acceptable: Bright sun to light rain; visibility > 3 StM; Seas < 2 ft from any quarter; winds < 15 kts.
    Marginal: Periods of rain, no or “isolated” t’storms; visibility > 1 < 3 StM; seas 2-4 ft if following, 2-3 ft if ahead, abeam or abaft of abeam; winds 20-25 kts; these conditions stable or with an improving forecast.
    Unacceptable: T’storms; strong squalls; visibility < ½ StM; seas 4 ft or more; winds >25 ks; deteriorating forecast.
    Additional Considerations:  Direction of surface feature steering winds at altitude 18K; travel on protected inland river/ICW vs. open water; distance from  “safe harbor;” if offshore, period and direction of ocean swells; air  temps; hours-of-daylight; seasonal wx patterns; availability of  traveling companion (“Buddy Boat”), availability of Tow Boat if needed.
  3. Orient/review safety and operations plans with all new visitors & crew:
    • Locations of PFDs, fire extinguisher(s), VDSs, first aid kit.
    • PFD use (severe weather, rough seas, MOB, etc.)
    • MOB procedures
    • Use of Marine Radio for distress calls (DSC, Ch16, manual responses)
    • Propane valve, range/oven use
    • MSD use
    • Trash disposal plan
  4. Secure TV and computer(s) for travel; secure any loose items on salon nav console.
  5. Ensure engine room, galley, sleeping quarters, decks, dinghy and outboard motor are ready for sea.
  6. Ensure engine room lights are “off”
  7. Disconnect and secure aboard: fresh water hose & pre-filter, TV cable, etc.
  8. Connect Raw Water Washdown hose and nozzle, if they will be needed.
  9. Assemble/stage flybridge items:
    • VHF handheld
    • PLB – SPOT
    • Charts/Cruising Guides
    • eRoute chip
    • iPad, charging cable
    • Cell Phone(s), charging cables
    • Binoculars
    • Sunglasses
    • Garmin GPSIII
  10. Reset GPSIII Track Log

AC Electrical System:

  1. Disconnect and secure all shore power service cords and any attachment adapters.
  2. Determine heating/cooling needs – generator use – while underway.
  3. If the generator is not going to be needed, return the AC System to its “Secured State.” 1
  4. If the generator will be needed:
    • start the unit,
    • verify that genset cooling water is flowing from the genset exhaust port,
    • transfer AC electrical loads to the generator via the Generator Transfer Switch.
  5. Important:2  If the generator is run concurrently with the propulsion engine, set the “Charge” function of the Magnum MS2012 Inverter/Charger to “off” by:
    • setting the Inverter/Charger circuit breaker on the Newmar distribution panel (panel 1) to “off,” or
    • via the ME-RC Inverter/Charger Remote Control Unit.

DC Electrical System:

  1. Verify battery monitor operation and battery bank state-of-charge.
  2. Activate Bilge Pump, Switch 11, marked with Red tag to activate manual bilge controls.4
  3. Activate Safety and Navigation Equipment, marked with Green tags:
    Windshield/Horn Switch 9 windshield wipers and ship’s horn
    VHF/Video Plotter Switch 16 salon nav station Chart Plotter, VHF radio
  4. Activate NAV lights, marked with Yellow tags, based on conditions of reduced daylight or restricted visibility:
    Instruments Switch 1 night light on salon nav station’s magnetic compass
    NAV/COM Switch 3 port and starboard marker lights, 135º white stern light
  5. Activate Windlass Heavy Duty Breaker, on electrical panel, and Washdown Pump, Switch 13, if needed.
  6. Activate Refrigerator, Switch 14, if needed.
  7. Activate Water Pump, Switch 12, if needed.

Propulsion Engine (Start):

  1. Before engine start, check propulsion engine oil level and marine gear ATF level.
  2. Ensure that the “Engine Room” light switch on the DC Panel, Switch 6, is “off” whenever engine room activity is completed.
  3. Ensure Transmission Lever (Black Ball) is in “Neutral” position.
  4. Ensure Throttle Lever (Red Ball) is in its “minimum throttle” position (fully to rear).
  5. Inset key into starter switch on Salon’s Engine Control Panel.
  6. Rotate key clockwise to the “on” position; gauges will come, low oil pressure alarm will sound.
  7. Rotate and hold key clockwise to the “Start” position; release key when propulsion engine starts; skip to item 9.
  8. If engine doesn’t crank, re-check that transmission lever is in “neutral” position; return to item 6. 5
  9. Increase the throttle setting (move forward) to achieve 1000 – 1200 RPM.
  10. Verify that cooling water is flowing from the vessel’s exhaust.
  11. Monitor oil pressure, water temperature, and alternator voltage as engine warms up.


  1. Turn on all navigation instruments; GPS, chart plotter(s), AIS, depth sounder and Auto Pilot.
  2. Verify KVH Azimuth 1000 fluxgate compass is operational.
  3. Turn on and initialize Garmin GPSIII tracking GPS.
  4. Turn on iPad; initialize Garmin BlueChart app.
  5. Load eRoute into Garmin GPSmap 541 to facilitate Auto Pilot navigation.
  6. Turn on VHF radio; set to scan Channels 09, 13, 16 and 22.
  7. Optionally, turn on VHF handheld radio; set to scan 68, 69, 71 and 72.
  8. Setup paper charts, cruising guides, etc.
  9. Center the vessel’s rudder via the ship’s (steering) wheel:
    • Turn the ship’s wheel to its full left stop position;
    • While counting the number of turns from the full-left-stop to the full-right-stop, turn the ship’s wheel to its full right stop position;
    • To center the rudder, return the ship’s wheel ½ the number of stop-to-stop turns.
  10. Activate the thruster system by pulling “up” on the power pull switch.  Verify that the “Power” light is illuminated.
  11. Check thrusters for proper operation.
  12. Turn on PA/Intercom, if desired.


  1. Ensure that the directional toggle switches at both the salon nav station and the flybridge nav stations are in their “neutral” (vertical, “centered”) position.  If not, the other control station will be disabled, and one direction of thruster operation will be in-operable.


1 Assess hazards; boats, fairways, persons, objects in the water, low-hanging wires, etc.
2 Perform final check propulsion engine gauges; ensure readings are within normal ranges.
3 Reduce throttle (move backward) to its minimum setting.
If departing from slip/berth: If departing from anchorage:
4 Considering hazards, visualize your plan for leaving the slip and leaving the harbor. Considering hazards, visualize your plan for leaving the anchorage.
5 Prepare dock lines for easy removal.
6 Communicate departure plan to all hands.
7 Verify shore power cords have been removed
8 Disconnect dock lines.
9 Using just enough power to maintain control, ease Sanctuary out of her berth; sound horn blast(s), as appropriate.
10 Deck hand(s) secure dock lines and store them aboard in clean, dry locker location.
11 Deck hands secure fenders upon clearing dock. End of procedure.
12 Helmsman raises anchor at direction of deck hand; deck hand uses raw water washdown to rinse rode and anchor as it is raised.
13 Deck hand secures anchor, washdown and foredeck.
14 Secure Raw Water Washdown circuit, Switch 13, on DC Panel.   End of procedure.

Under Way:

  1. Frequently monitor propulsion engine gauges; ensure all readings are within normal ranges.
  2. From interior helm station, monitor High Bilge warning light.
  3. Periodically inspect engine room (fuel filters, leaks, accumulated bilge water level) and manage exceptions.
  4. Monitor and re-secure dinghy and motor, deck, living and cargo areas of vessel, based on sea conditions.


  1. Visualize plan for securing; entering harbor, anchoring, or tie-up in slip or wharf-side.
  2. Communicate arrival plan to all deck hands.
  3. Deploy dock lines.
  4. Using just enough power to maintain control, ease Sanctuary home.
  5. Tie off lines and deploy fenders; or, deploy and set the anchor.
  6. Turn ignition key to “Off.”
    • If the “Charge” function of the Inverter/Charger was set to “off,” restore the setting to “on.”
  7. Secure NAV lights if they were “on.”
  8. Secure any DC Circuits that are not required after arrival.
  9. Illuminate Anchor Light, as appropriate.

After Arrival:

  1. Secure Flybridge Instruments.
  2. Secure Flybridge enclosure.
  3. Re-establish shore power, if available.
  4. Transmit vessel position using SPOT “OK” facility.
  5. Update MS Excel log book.
    • C:\HDS\Home\Cruising\Long_Cruise_Records\Sanctuary_Fuel_Use_Record.xls
  6. Download ship’s GPS track.
    • Coastal Explorer
  7. Check engine room/bilge for leaks of fuel, engine oil, marine gear fluid, thruster fluid and/or engine coolant
  8. Manage any exceptions to “normal” daily operation
  9. If fresh water is available, rinse sea spray from decks.


1  Note: Refer to “AC Electrical System Operating Procedures,” for definition and detailed procedure.

Note: if this action is not performed, the ship’s tachometer(s) may not operate or may operate in an erratic manner.

Note: Ensure that “Engine Room” switch is “off” whenever engine room activity is completed.

Note: “Automatic: bilge controls are always activated, powered from the vessel battery bank, via a red wire connected at the Battery Selector Switch.

5  Note: The Transmission is fitted with a “neutral safety switch,” which will prevent the engine from being started if the lever is not centered.