The weather, we can’t control, but with modern technology, we can predict. Today, sailors easily access the weather forecasts from their ships, and can be in contact with home when sailing, all via satellite communications. Out at sea we can approximately know what is to be expected from winds, storms, and swells and be prepared for them.
But still, many of those variable things remain uncontrollable nowadays, regardless of the advances made in maritime technology and forecasting the weather.
Often the predictions are right, maybe less when we find ourselves in more and more remote areas. Sometimes reality out there at sea doesn’t match the models created by computer science.
Now out there the fair wind blows, we set sail! … meanwhile, the computer screen shows something different. Steady good Westerly pulls us on a good course to the Falklands / Las Malvinas, the forecast shows lighter and continuously backing and veering breeze.
We expected to be motoring, but instead, we sailed.
Keep a continuous eye on the strength and wind direction, check how’s the barometer doing, scan the horizon for dark clouds passing by, adjust your sails, adjust your course, sail as much as possible, and take advantage of what the weather brings. Focus on what’s actually happening, rely on your experience and the long time spent in the field, to use what the environment offers at any time.
Given a good barometer and eyes, a sea forecaster has all the instruments he or she requires. Of all the weather systems there are variations and combinations, but whatever these may be, and however complicated, these portents remain always constant. The changing sky, the fluctuating glass, the signs and beacons which nature plants in heavens - these are always there in a more or less marked degree. Out at sea there is never lack of indication of what tricks nature has in her store.
Little Blue Book of Sailing Wisdom
Ed. by Stephen Brennan
Forecasts do not always match with the actual situation at sea, but having the possibility to look ahead and track the weather patterns is actually not to forget. They are a tool that greatly helps the planning and routing of a trip like the one we are on.
Computer simulations based on mathematical models usually give useful information about what to expect with more or less accuracy depending on our location in the world. A tool first developed in the 19th century by the renowned Captain Robert Fitz Roy. Most known for his circumnavigation of the planet on board the Beagle sailing together with Charles Darwin, he knew the importance of trying to figure out the movements and evolution of the weather systems at sea. A Pioneer in this discipline, he invented the first weather stations creating a system of meteorological warnings including the first daily weather forecasts.
Like that, and well into the famed Roaring 40s, we could enjoy an unexpected good sailing day. Not always roaring, but often strong westerly winds are found between the latitudes 40 and 50 degrees, and south of them too. They are caused by the combination of air being displaced from the Equator toward the South Pole plus the Earth’s rotation. Their denomination was first used by the Dutch explorer Hendrik Brouwer in 1611 when using a different route than the usual one by those old times, he halved the duration of the trip from Europe to Java.
“To run the easting down” was the saying describing this fast passage under the good winds of the roaring forties. When this route was known it represented a major aid for sailing vessels in the 17th and 18th centuries, becoming the Brouwer route.