Whether you are anchored in the docks or out on the open sea, being aware of the weather that surrounds your seafaring vessel can be a matter of life and death. In order to prepare ourselves for unpredictable weather patterns, we need to develop a model that details how unpredictable weather behaves. The easiest way to establish this model is to take a look at the most important driving factor of the sailboat; the wind.
Handling Wind speed
In general wind speed and the direction that it blows, and the cumulative record that this creates. In thinking about this pattern, you can set down the weather conditions in a branching tree that consist of weather as it unfolds. Every new branch on the tree is a set of new information.
Without a 24 hour meteorologist on board this method of mapping out the weather can be quite useful. Even with this knowledge, however, certain measures must be done in order to ensure the safety of your boat and crew.
Bad weather is a memorable experience and will leave marks on both the hull of your ship and your own psyche. And when we speak of bad weather, we are not only speaking of the storms and high winds, on the contrary, a long lull of no wind can be just as bad or even worse, leaving boaters practically stranded in the middle of the ocean!
So mapping out wind patterns is of the utmost importance in sailing, both for the avoidance of storms and for the utilization of the wind that can fill your sails.
Balancing between the wind that is too turbulent and wind that allows for the most efficient means of sailing is the most important thing you can do when it comes to weather and sailing.
One ancient maritime instrument that can aid you in this task is the use of weather vanes. These weather vanes consist of one larger vane in the back and a smaller vane in the front while the axis of rotation lies in the middle.
If you will notice, the weather vane always points downwind because of the way its rotation works. The two variations of the weather vane are its size and the two vanes affixed to the assembly.
Sailboats work on these two enshrined premises. A sailboat will automatically balance out its sails as it comes to a slow drift in the water, if you are having a particularly hard time with turbulent wind direction, this is a great way to reset your momentum and get back on track again.
A properly balanced boat will have what is called “weather helm”. This is the kind of wind your sails need in order to move forward at a leisurely (not too soft, not too hard) pace.
But beyond these basic mechanics, an integral part of understanding how the weather will affect your boat is to be aware of what kind of boat you have in the first place, and how your boat model’s structure will interact with the environment.
A light boat with a large sail, for example, is uniquely equipped for handling the low wind weather environment of lakes. That large sail is needed to maximize the low wind speed on those lakes.
When you are out on the open sea, however, such a large sail would just create an uncontrollable boat and most likely capsize the wind tossed ship. For better control against the strong winds of the open water a smaller, more moderate sail is needed.
With these basic dynamics considered be sure to stock your vessel with all of the latest in weather charts, barometers and battery operated radios so that you can be continually up to date and aware of the weather surrounding you and just how it may affect you and your sailboat.