Please select your home edition
Edition
Bakewell-White Yacht Design

A cruising sailor's best friend- The Weather Window

by Des Ryan on 11 Oct 2011
Weather Window - but what exactly is it? .. .
One of the main differences between racing and cruising, apart from the competitiveness or otherwise, is the constant use by cruising sailors of the concept of the Weather Window.

Most cruising, except for a few ocean crossings or a non-stop circumnavigation of something-or-other, is undertaken in passages that are rarely more than a week long.

So whereas the racing yacht must go when the gun goes, the cruising sailor has the greatest chance of travelling during clement weather, just by waiting.


Many of the difficulties encountered in racing, including the occasional fatal race like the 1979 Fastnet and the 1998 Hobart Race occurred because the sailors were racing in weather that would horrify an self-respecting cruising sailor. Had the crews racing had the luxury of being able to say 'No' when they read the weather forecast, many of them would not have departed.

But what exactly is a 'Weather Window'? Well, simply put, it is the time period of weather and sea conditions which are relatively suitable for the planned voyage. The weather window occurs usually between two periods of time when the weather is unsuitable, eg. sea state or winds would make an unpleasant, if not dangerous journey.

A fixed schedule is an anathema for a cruising sailor. Agreeing to collect visitors from a particular harbour on a particular day, or agreeing to deliver someone at a particular time to a particular place are agreements that the prudent sailor should avoid at all costs, as it may put the yacht and the crew in jeopardy if the weather conditions dictate that one should not sail.

For example, in temperate latitudes from the autumnal equinox right through to the vernal equinox in the spring, you can expect some king of weather disturbance every four days or so that lasts for 24 to 36 hours. So the sensible time for travelling, both for safety and for comfort, is between those disturbances.

The prudent sailor will be watching the weather patterns, the lows passing through, and the fronts, and will be standing by ready to go as soon as the disturbance has passed and the winds are favourable. Patience is the key, and the crew pressuring a skipper to go against his or her better judgement because 'I have to get back to work' or something similar, is the kind of pressure that good skippers will resist, and that good crew will never offer.

There are other kinds of weather windows apart from those experienced between systems passing. These are longer in their time frame and are more commonly referred to as seasons. Often these are the times when there are no hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones, dependent on where you sail.

At other times it refers to the prevailing winds. Travelling up the Red Sea, for instance, is usually undertaken between February and April, as these are the months when the south east winds extend furthest up the Red Sea, making the best of running with the wind while it lasts.

Rallies often make the most of the cruising season, occurring at the beginning or end. The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) is a prime example of this, crossing the Atlantic from East to West at the beginning of the cruising season in November/December. This allows yachts from the Mediterranean region to spend the cruising season in the Caribbean. The return rally is timed for May, before the hurricane season begins in the Atlantic.

Similarly, the Port2Port Rally, from Port Vila in Vanuatu to the Port of Bundaberg in Australia occurs at the end of the cruising season in October, getting the yachts out of way of the cyclone season that afflicts the South Pacific from November on.

A skipper's weather and climate consciousness and his adherence to the use of weather windows is one of the greatest indicators of his or her good seamanship.

Barz Optics - Kids rangeBakewell-White Yacht DesignNorth Technology - Southern Spars

Related Articles

Kids Polarised Sunglasses from Barz Optics
Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Each pair are supplied with a neoprene case and sunglass retainer.
Posted on 4 Aug
Reducing weight aloft with composite backstays
Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance. Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance. Every kilogram you take out of the rig is roughly equivalent to 4kg added to the bottom of your keel!
Posted on 26 Jul
Free $US3,000 Carbon Vang with SouthernFurl boom orders in July
Southern Spars is giving a free carbon vang - valued at US$3,000 - with SouthernFurl in-boom furlers ordered in July Southern Spars is giving away a free carbon vang - valued at US$3,000 - with all of their SouthernFurl in-boom furlers ordered in July. Carbon gas vangs make a great addition to the furling boom package, though if you’d prefer to keep your existing one, Southern Spars will offer you a 5% discount on the price of your boom instead.
Posted on 29 Jun
Newport Bermuda Race - High Noon takes honours
As the Newport Bermuda Race fleet rushed to the finish line on Monday in the wake of the first-to-finish boat, As the Newport Bermuda Race fleet rushed to the finish line on Monday in the wake of the first-to-finish boat, the powerful 100-foot grand prix Comanche, to the surprise of many they were led by an unusual boat and crew. High Noon, at 41 feet, is fully 59 feet shorter than Comanche and tens of feet shorter than many other entries.
Posted on 22 Jun
Platino recovery - Family confirms that tug has made rendezvous
Reports in social media say a salvage tug has made a rendezvous with the Platino earlier than expected. Reports in social media by family and friends of Nick Saull, the crew member killed during a catastrophic incident abroad the 66ft yacht Platino say the salvage tug which left on Tuesday night has made the rendezvous earlier than expected. The Facebook report says the tug, Sea Pelican, arrived on Friday morning, the weather in the area has eased and with a more favorable outlook.
Posted on 16 Jun
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron to ban bottled water
Approval has been given to create a ban on bottled water that comes in plastic containers. The RQYS Management Committee has confirmed that approval has been given to create a ban on bottled water that comes in plastic containers. This will place the club as a leader in environmental impact management in Australia and around the world. The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club earlier this year did likewise. Who’s next?
Posted on 16 Jun
SouthernFurl In-Boom furling systems withstand Sydney Hobart test
Southern Spars design team have developed the SouthernFurl Boom smaller budgets and yachts from 35-70 feet. Have you ever scared your family when you got stuck with too much sail up when you should be reefed? Southern Spars’ range of SouthernFurl booms are the answer – letting you reduce sail quickly and easily without leaving the safety of the cockpit.
Posted on 23 May
2016 Garda Trentino Olympic Week - Day 4
Garda Trentino Olympic Week 2016 draws near to the conclusion: the weather once again proves difficult. Garda Trentino Olympic Week 2016 draws near to the conclusion: the weather once again proves difficult. Tomorrow the medal race is scheduled for the Lasers and another two races for the three paralympic classes.
Posted on 13 May
CCA presents RCC Award to Scott and Mary Flanders
CCA has announced that Scott and Mary Flanders are the recipients of the organization’s 2015 Royal Cruising Club Trophy. The Cruising Club of America (CCA) has announced that Scott and Mary Flanders are the recipients of the organization’s 2015 Royal Cruising Club Trophy.
Posted on 22 Apr
Cyclone Winston Relief Fund – Help the people of Fiji
Sea Mercy is sending volunteer fleet of small and large vessels, loaded with shelter, food and medical supplies to Fiji. Sea Mercy is once again sending our volunteer fleet of small and large vessels, loaded with shelter, food, water and medical supplies and teams to Fiji.
Posted on 27 Feb