We’re coming up on the beginning of the fall migration season on both coasts when sailors start heading toward the sun for the winter. Whether you are making coastal or offshore passages, finding a safe weather window for departure and then reacting prudently to changes in the weather is all about good forecasting. It is funny to think back to my early days of passage making when we relied on high seas radio broadcasts from WWV, WOM and WOO for forecasts and weather faxes when we could receive them. For the most part, a barometer, a thermometer and a hygrometer were the instruments we relied on. That meant there was a lot of uncertainty while offshore and we had to deal with whatever the oceans threw at us without much warning.
Today, it is so different. With excellent forecasts readily available via satellite communications and HF radio, we can get new seven day forecasts every day we are at sea. Some services like Ocens, PredictWind and MaxSea will tailor forecasts –delivered to you by email or satphone– specifically for you and your boat. But, the biggest innovation is the ability to get high quality forecasts from proven professionals, the weather routers of the world. I have used some of the better known weather routers and can vouch for the huge value of having someone with all the weather tools and latest information in front of them looking over your shoulder. So, if you are heading offshore this fall, during the fall gale season, think seriously about employing a weather router or join an event like the Salty Dawg Rally that supplies one. You’ll never regret it.