Sea Science: by Jordanna Sheermohamed
Heading out on the high seas can be an adventure filled with endless skies and eternal horizons, provided said skies remain cooperative. Even the most compliant conditions can turn an adventure into a nightmare, with elevated winds and seas battering the most trustworthy vessels.
Safety measures currently in place include satellite phones, radar, life boats, GPS trackers, and other items of the sort designed to assist once threatening weather is imminent or already raging off the starboard side. There’s also yacht insurance to aid with the damage or recovery of lost assets when weather demonstrates its fury to the fullest.
However, with so many preemptive measures in place for the “after-the-fact” moment, one has to wonder why there isn’t more emphasis on preparation prior to getting underway.
For many captains, being at sea is just “another day at the office,” but a bad day at sea can make even the loveliest of offices feel like an eternal Monday with only decaf left in the pot.
Knowing when the weather is likelier to err on the side of safety can offer an extra level of protection for seafarers, especially those on lengthier voyages when conditions are likely to change because of the extended time frame alone.
This is where the value of weather routing reveals itself as a low-cost hedge against potential and problematic weather conditions. The “know-before-you-go” information can be useful as well for a variety of other reasons: It can aid in making the most of a weather-related time delay, for example, or even reveal a superior window of time to take advantage of favorable ocean currents and following seas.
It’s worth pointing out that while most will successfully avoid unfavorable weather, sometimes the unfavorable weather can work its way toward a yacht’s location – hello, hurricanes. Evacuations or the last minute scramble to an alternative hurricane hole can require up-to-date weather information of both the location and a looming storm’s trajectory and likelihood of impact.
Hot on the tail of tropical weather reports or outlooks, most weather routing clients request images that display significant wave heights, surface winds, ocean currents, sea level pressures, and swell direction/period because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
In addition to images, weather forecast analysis reports can provide the written explanation and qualitative specifics of an expected sea state. These details directly affect the ride quality as well as estimated time of arrival to a new destination or much-missed home port.
Some clients love the detailed satellite imagery to interpret incoming conditions, especially those with a personal interest or possible background that may have overlapped meteorological studies.
Regardless of familiarity with weather, advanced knowledge or warning remains one of the most important tools you pack for your time on the water – not only to stay safe, but to maximize your fun.
Jordanna Sheermohamed is president and lead meteorologist of Weather Forecast Solutions, a weather-forecasting firm (WeatherForecastSolutions.com). Comments are welcome below.