No matter whether you are savvy boaters or first time sailors on bareboat sailing holidays, it’s always good to be aware of several boating matters. While on sailing holidays, your tour operator has already informed you about the VHF bands to receive the most accurate weather radio according to your itineraries, yet relying to electronics only regarding the weather could be dangerous. As you become an experienced boater, you will learn that there are many signs that will help you get an idea of what kind of weather is approaching. Some are based on folklore, but many have proven to have some truth to them. Here are some of the different things to watch for, and what they may mean.
Read the Clouds and Wind, smell the Humidity
A great start to reading the weather is to notice specific signs and translate natural behavior into physics
Cirrus clouds: Thin and wispy clouds that generally occur in fair weather and point in the direction of air movement at their elevation. They are ice clouds, positioned high in the atmosphere and are a sign of fair weather coming soon. If you see them moving, then expect an imminent weather change. If they are small and not moving, good weather will stay for more.
Wind: Pay attention to the wind’s direction. If you notice a shift change of direction, means an upcoming weather change. Nevertheless, the change of the wind’s direction does not determine whether it will be a good or bad weather change, so you have combine with other signs as well.
Storms in the distance: When you are at the sea, with an endless horizon spreading before your eyes, it is not difficult to see the edges of storms, lightings and heavy clouds. These may move towards your position or pass without touching. Before you start worrying, check your barometer, watch for other impending storm signs and have in mind that storms often change directions, while the larger ones usually follow a circular pattern.
Humidity scent: You don’t have to be a really experienced boater to understand that smell of humidity rising. Though, it is not a sign by itself, needs to be combined with more significant ones.
Read Celestial Signs
Weather lore, is good old wisdom mainly based on experience and has proved to have some truth. For example, the old saying “Ring around the moon, rain before noon. Ring around the sun, rain before the day is done“. Modern science has proved that these rings are a reflection on moisture-laden ice crystals in the atmosphere.
The tighter the ring is to the edge of the celestial body, the more time you have before a rain. Large, loose rings are more predictive of rain within a few hours or less. The strength of the ring is often correlated to the strength of the coming rain. If you can count a number of stars between the edge of the ring and the moon, then there is not enough humidity for a large rain event, and will likely mist or sprinkle instead.