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.
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.
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:|
Some useful guidelines in the US Northeast and mid-Atlantic states for Barometer status and trends:
- barometer rising & Westerly wind → good weather
- barometer falling & Easterly wind → perform “180° turn;” return to safe harbor
- barometer slowly falling & steady breeze → unsettled, likely wet, weather
- barometer rising → best for boating
- barometer falling → stay alert & watchful
Some useful resources for tracking local weather and weather forecasts include:
- 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.
- Link: Marv’s Weather Service
- Link: Atlantic Marine Zones
- Link: National Weather Buoy Data
- Link: Great Lakes Weather
- Link: Chesapeake Bay Weather
- Link: Severe weather
- Link: Local weather forecasts
- Link: Local weather forecasts
- Link: Local Weather forecasts
iOS (iPhone & iPad) weather apps I personally use and like:
- Storm Radar
- Dark Sky
- Marine Weather Forecast Pro
- Windy; pro upgrade gives several weather model wind forecasts that are particularly useful on large East Coast Bays and Sounds
- NOAA Buoys Live Marine Weather (Hurricane forecasts; not easy to use)
For hurricane tracks and track projections: