Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. This little ditty is pretty useful, and the author of Marine Weather Forecasting knows it also; it’s short and easy to remember. This small book is designed to let you forecast the weather and is intended for the sailor who wants to spend his time sailing but who wants to know what is going to happen today and tomorrow.
This is not a handbook on meteorology nor a guide on weatherfax and satellite imagery. The premise is that with basic tools, the average sailor can predict local weather over the next 24 to 48 hours.
Tools of the trade are the barometer, the thermometer, and the psychrometer. The what? The psychrometer is a tool to measure the dewpoint, which is needed to forecast fog and rain. Other tools are pilot charts to get the average conditions and your own two eyes and brain.
I’m no weather expert, but I do live in the year 2000. The author writes, “Since there are no weather maps at sea and few weather observations available, the yachtsman must depend upon his own abilities to make short-term forecasts for his local area.” Obviously, this skill is desirable and is the reason for the book, but weatherfax is available and weather broadcast sources seem to be ignored. There are charts and diagrams converting inches to millibars, the Beaufort Scale, dewpoint temperature determinations, and others. Basic cloud-shape pictures are shown, although in black-and-white.
In one section, a forecast method is presented using the barometer and current wind conditions. This is useful, but the style is very dry, and following the technique is difficult. In another section, we are treated to a rough drawing of the world’s wind patterns and a description of the monsoons in the China Sea. Interesting, but I doubt if most readers will ever be in the China Sea.
My biggest disagreement is with some of the storm tactics. Oil is recommended to calm stormy seas, although it does say that this may be illegal. Will I ever try this? No, because of the environmental hazard and because many cruising writers say this is ineffective and a waste of time. The assertion is also made that it is the wind, not the waves that present the greatest danger to a small boat. Perhaps you feel differently, but I grew up with the opposite idea.
Marine Weather Forecasting has a good premise and some interesting tidbits. Unfortunately, it wasn’t right for me.
Marine Weather Forecasting by Frank Brumbaugh (Bristol Fashion Publications; 2000)