Weather Analysis And Routing Is The Skipper’s Responsibility

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Many times over the years people have said things to me like:

He lost his boat because the weather router screwed up.

We got a real dusting and did a lot of damage because the weather forecast was wrong.

This might sound perfectly logical, but it’s not.

Let’s look at a recent incident in which a weather router sent a boat into a piece of ocean with a substantial current in an attempt to avoid bad weather. The weather deteriorated more than expected and the resulting wind-against-current generated breaking waves that rolled the boat and eventually led to her abandonment. Many people blamed the router. That’s simply wrong. The skipper was at fault.

Why? Because before going offshore a skipper should understand the conditions and risks prevalent in the sea area to be crossed so that he or she can properly decide when to put to sea and how to route the passage. A weather router or forecaster is an adviser only, not a substitute for an experienced and well-informed skipper. It is the skipper’s responsibility to act in a safe manner, which, going back to the example above, would not normally include entering a high current area with heavy weather coming.

Over the years, I have had weather routers advise me to:

  • leave port as I stood in a telephone booth rocked by 60 knot gusts;
  • sail into an area of 5/10 pack ice to get a more favourable wind direction;
  • leave on a crossing with a hurricane tracking up the coast just 400 miles away.

Needless to say, I did none of those things. And, if I had taken their advice and something had gone wrong, it would have been my responsibility alone, not theirs. I’m the master on Morgan’s Cloud, not some meteorologist, who may have never been offshore, sitting in a warm office on dry land looking at a very focused set of data that may miss a vital macro fact or trend.

Now please understand that although we rarely use a weather router these days, we still consult one when faced with a tricky passage, particularly late or early in the sailing season. Weather routers can bring meteorological understanding to a situation that no amateur can hope to match, but most of them are not mariners and they are not the skipper of your boat.

So, how should you go about getting weather information and using it to make the right decisions when offshore, even if you blend that with advice from a weather router? To answer that question, this book details our approach to route planning, weather reception and risk analysis on Morgan’s Cloud.

In this book we will teach you how to evaluate a forecast and assess the probability of it being radically wrong, as well as how to interpret the actual conditions to warn you when the weather is about to deviate from the forecast.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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