Weather Course

WoodenBoat School 1997

I looked back now at Staten Island with the Horn behind, and I hoped to God I should come that way no more in sail. I had hoped that before, perhaps even more fervently on at least two occasions; yet here I was again. And I made no promises and took no oaths, for I knew well that my life, such as it is, is too bound up in these ships for me to make forecasts. If the ships bring me here again I suppose I shall come. But I hope not.

-- Alan Villiers

Unlike Cape Horn, in July of 1997, I found myself once again at WoodenBoat School in Maine. I had been there once before for a course, Cruising on Christmas, but what captured my eye this year was a course on weather. The momement you take up sailing is the momement you become connected into this complex system called weather, and I decided I should know a bit more about it. The course was taught by Michael Carr, the president of Ocean Strategies a routing company (among other things). Bottom Line: I had a great time. The course was exceedingly interesting and useful. The weather was great (unlike the foggy experience of last time) leaving evening time for sailing on WoodenBoat's little wooden boats, and hanging out with folks who are interested in sailing. Plus we had tropical storm "Danny" to track.

Basically the class started out each morning with us meeting at the boathouse, which overlooks the water and walking over to print out the latest weather charts from off the internet. My weather page lists most of the sources of information we used. We then came back and spent some time analyzing this information, plus integrating it with what we saw out the window, and the data from a little weather station Michael brought along. We also had access to WoodenBoat's weather fax, which allowed us to pick up weather information from Halifax to get the Canadian perspective. [You can obviously tune the weather fax to U.S. stations, but we had some reception problems].

After that we had lectures, which were a mix of theory and practice, spiced with Sea Tales, exercises, slides, and overheads. We'd break for lunch which was brought down from the kitchen, then either get our next fix of weather maps or go back for more lecture. After class students have access to a set of wooden sailing and rowing craft, though some of the evenings the wind was pretty light.

I've included a partial bibliography from the class for those who might be interested. There was a huge notebook that was handed out, which is not included here, and rumor has it that Michael will be producing a weather book himself. Obviously different folks learn in different ways, but I find that having a lecturer and being able to ask questions is a lot more effective for me than pulling material from a book. I'll probably get some of these books, and work my way through the notebook, but the class is what made it gel for me.

Partial Bibliography

Understanding Weatherfax by Mike Harris

Meteorology for Seafarers by Frampton

Where the Wind Blows from Breakwater Books

The Concise Guide to Carribbean Weather by David Jones

Copyright 1997 Mark Rosenstein. Disclaimer.