Sitting in Steamboat…but Watching Florida Weather
Every time we get ready to leave our home in Steamboat and head out for the high seas, our mutual level of craziness seems steadily increase until it finally reaches a crescendo a few days before departure. This is when we finally throw up our hands and conclude that we’ve done everything we could think of to get ready (and then some!), and whatever else there is can be done later, or not at all. A sense of peace descends on both of us and we relax, pack our bags and go. Every departure is a bit different and this time around we even got in a 4 mile cross country ski trip on the day before we left.
But for me, the self-appointed family weather geek, one tradition remains the same. About six to eight weeks before we depart I start to make my daily check of the weather forecasts for the area(s) where we are headed. I’ll also commission our Iridium Satellite phone, purchase some airtime, and test out my favorite data compressed weather tools available through the sat phone. When we’re offshore and have no high-speed internet available, I’ll use the sat phone for weather much more frequently.
My Favorite Marine Weather Sites
Watching the weather from Colorado, I’m using some of my favorite sources of online marine weather forecasts. It’s good to check several of these sites to see if they agree about the direction and strength of the winds as well as the height of the waves.
- Predict Wind
- Passage Weather
- NOAA radiofax charts
- NOAA coastal zone forecasts, (particularly if we’re planning to cruise in US coastal waters).
These are not Weather Channel types of forecasts but rather, a more detailed maritime forecast useful to off shore (and near shore) sailors. To be clear, I’m not looking for a prediction of the weather we’ll have on a departure date. Rather, my goal is to get a sense of the overall weather patterns.
Getting in the Rhythm
Over the years I’ve found that weather seems to develop a certain rhythm as different “fronts” approach, winds clock around the compass as the front passes and conditions settle until the next one. These rhythms vary by season and also seem to be a bit different each year. So, by watching the cycles for several weeks in advance I can get a feel for the timing and duration of foul winds and seas, and be in a much better position to make decisions on departures, passages, anchoring etc. once we’re on the boat and underway.
Best of all my “weather watch” builds our excitement to leave the snow and mountains and go sailing. It gives me a little daily reminder that soon, we’ll be aboard Snowcat heading over the horizon once again!3