Thursday, March 14, 2013


When we sailed in temperate areas (Great Lakes, New York Harbor, and Chesapeake), our sailing plans were often influenced by the weather forecast.  Where we sailed, when we sailed, whether we sailed -- all were strongly influenced by the forecast and by current conditions.  Face it, its not any fun to sail in a thunderstorm.

Our experience in the tropics has been very different.  Basically, every day is a good day for sailing.  We don't like sailing in rain squalls, but the weather forecasts that are accessible to us do a terrible job of predicting squalls.  And they are so frequent, especially early in the winter, that you just can't expect to avoid them.  There are some variations in wind direction that occasionally influence our routing decisions, but this hasn't been the norm.

This season, however, has been very different.  We have been stuck for days because the wind was from an unfavorable direction.  The Caribbean has been experiencing severe northerly swells the past few days, and that has influenced our choice of harbors.  We have had to postpone sailing because the forecast winds were too light.

Well, its the luck of the draw.  We tend to sail whenever we feel it is safe -- and that includes being confidant we will be set the anchor during daylight.  Safe for us includes a pretty wide range of conditions.  Sustained winds of 30 or even 35 knots are really no problem for Callisto, with the proper sails set.  And waves of 10 or 12 feet aren't usually unsafe, though they can be very uncomfortable.  Fortunately, we have rarely seen waves that big.  Our biggest concern is encountering a squall just as we are entering a harbor.  Strong winds and poor visibility can be a real problem when you are trying to maneuver in tight quarters.  We sometimes will turn back out to sea, waiting for a squall to pass.

Regarding forecasts, when we have internet we tend to look at a few different websites.  Some of our favorites include:

It is very helpful to compare multiple forecasts, since the more they agree, the more reliable the forecast tends to be.

When we do not have internet, we can access weather forecasts through our SSB radio.  This is less convenient and the information is more limited, but it is still important to keep up to date with the weather!

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