No matter what time of year it is, keeping a weather eye peeled is always the best advice for boat captains. Especially here in New England, the weather can change in a moment’s notice, so being prepared means being aware of the conditions around you and your vessel.
The first bit of good advice is to never venture out of port if bad weather is predicted. Yes, the weatherpersons on TV or the radio do not get it correct every time, but most of the time, they do, And if a storm is predicted, it’s a pretty good bet that a storm is coming, Listen to what they say and plan accordingly. The oceans are vast, the power of Nature is unstoppable, and your boat, no matter how nice, is small and vulnerable.
But if you find yourself out on the water, here are some tips for keeping an eye on the weather and how to know if dirty conditions are on the way.
Watch for a rapid build-up of clouds. A sudden approach of dark clouds, especially towers of clouds, is a pretty good indication that a front is coming through.
Look west. In our weather patterns, most bad weather comes up from the west. Of course, our really bad storms are called Nor’easters, so if the wind direction suddenly changes and begins blowing out of the north, northeast, it’s time to head for port.
Choppy water. If the ocean suddenly becomes increasingly choppy, with waves moving in several directions at once, that’s a good indication that foul weather is on the way.
The air temperature often drops precipitously when a front blows through. If you can feel a decided drop in the temperature, it’s likely a storm is coming.
Watch the barometer. You should have one onboard at all times. When the barometric pressure drops, a weather change is imminent. If the pressure rises, good weather lies ahead.
Good seamanship means being prepared and alert. Check the weather before you leave port, and keep an eye on changing conditions around you once you’re away. It could save your life, and those of your passengers.