Weather and sea state are major factors to safety on the water. Weather becomes even more important as you venture further and further offshore and away from the relative safety of inshore waters or safe harbors. For long distance cruisers and passagemaker’s, weather becomes a critical factor in planning any voyage.
Some of the important aspects for the mariner: The wind and sea state affect dead reckoning, reduced visibility limits piloting, and overcast and clouds prevent celestial observations. In the event of heavy weather, these mere inconveniences turn more ominous and the safety of the vessel, passengers, and crew become a critical concern.
Secondarily, weather plays a vital role in enjoying your day on the water. While your boat may well be of a size and seaworthiness to easily withstand a gale, what about the crew? I mean really, who in their right mind would enjoy their time battling 47 knot winds and 10 to 14 foot seas if you don’t have to?
Weather can change fast, sunny afternoon skies can rapidly turn to thunderstorms with their attendant heavy rains, high winds, and lightening. While great weather can add to the enjoyment of a day on the water, a sudden thunderstorm can turn that great summer day into a dangerous and even life threatening situation for the un-prepared.
So... Know Before You Go! Before casting off your lines, be sure you check the latest weather forecast for your area or planned route of travel. And be sure that you understand what it means! Is your vessel up to the challenges of the forecasted weather? What if it is worse than predicted? How about your crew or passengers, are they capable of being an asset in a heavy weather situation or will they become a liability? These are all questions that you as the captain should be asking yourself before ever leaving the dock especially when the weather is threatening.