Saturday, 21 February 2015

Sailing around Australia; Whether it's the weather

21/2/2015  Whether it’s the Weather

After spending a week at American River on Kangaroo Island it was time to start thinking about the next leg of our sailing adventures aboard Easy Tiger. Deciding whether it was the right weather to go was a critical decision.

Picking the right weather for each stage has been the most important part of our sailing around Australia adventure. Mostly we get it right which means that conditions are in our favour and we have a comfortable, safe ride. But, sometimes we get it wrong and that spoils everyone’s day.

To find the weather forecast that is the most accurate and localized for the area we want to sail in can be overwhelming. There are dozens of weather forecasting web sites including Willy weather, Seabreeze, Bouy weather,  Accuweather and even one called "Skippysky", to name a few.

To be better at picking the weather we have made a list of the forecast conditions that we are prepared set sail in.

First on the list is that the forecast predicts no more than 20 knots of wind.  As it says on the weather bureau's (BOM) site, wind can be up to 40 percent stronger than the average forecast. That means that 20 knots could easily be gusts of 28knots or more. Winds that strong could make it a wild ride.

The next piece of our criteria is that we want no wind in the direction we are headed. So if we want to go southeast and the forecast mentions winds from the south east, we stay put.

Seas and swell are the next parameter. 3 metres is enough to cope with. Again, the BOM site says that as their forecast is an average, actual swell heights could also be 40% higher than forecast. That means a 3metre forecast could easily be 5 metre seas.  That would raise the heart rate!

Our study of the weather  starts with a quick look at the coastal waters forecast  for both our departure point and our destination. We find this by logging on the Bureau of Meteorology’s home page and using the  clickable map. This gives a basic weather forecast for a reasonably local area. The basic forecast will give wind, seas and swell conditions forecast for the next three days.  It’s quick and easy to use.  It is updated twice daily. We simply compare it with our checklist, if our conditions aren’t met we have another day to do other things.

If the local coastal waters forecast seem to meet our criteria for both our departure point and our destination we will then “dig a bit further” by scrolling down on the BOM site to “Meteye”.

Meteye gives both wind and swell / seas forecast for the local areas via another "click on" map. This can be time forwarded in three hourly increments to give weather forecasts up to seven days ahead for the nearest weather station to the planned route. If Meteye shows favourable conditions as well, we then log on to “Bouy Weather”.

The Bouy Weather website premium subscriber's version offers a seven day basic forecast from the closest weather station to the point you click on. Unfortunately Bouy weather only reports for the morning and afternoon for each day. What you will see is a green flag for ideal conditions, yellow flag for not such ideal conditions or red flags for dangerous conditions. Each flag is accompanied by a short forecast giving wind direction and speed. 

For a more detailed cross reference or double check, we will also log on to the Predict Wind site. We started out subscribing to Predict Wind as they have a nifty satellite communicator that allows us to get their weather forecasts anywhere any time. Plus, their satellite communicator allows us to send basic emails anywhere anytime.

The Predict Wind premium service  has a weather router tool included, which allows one to type in parameters such as boat performance in certain wind types (boat polar), the destination and the preferred date and time of departure.  The Predict Wind weather router will then display a plotted course with three other alternative departure times and the various courses for you to choose from. By clicking on any part of the plotted course on display, you can see what the wind conditions are forecast to be at any point of that route, along with the swell and your predicted boat speed at that time.

For inexperienced sailors like myself, becoming a student of the weather has been a real learning curve.  Whether it is the right weather to be leaving safe haven and tackling the next leg of our sailing adventure is without doubt the most important decision we make on Easy Tiger.

At American River wiring for a lull in the south easterlies, so that we could go south east to Robe.
Sailed past the Penneshaw hotel where we had a nice lunch a few days before
Total glass out. Even the birds enjoyed the calm conditions, and the offcuts of tuna we fed them.

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