A quick "dit" on weather for sailing
A lot of things we say come from strange places. I was reminded the other day by a friend that the term "four square meals a day" (is that a thing in Canada?) comes from the Royal Navy. Basically, in times of old, meals were served on square plates and that's supposedly where this saying comes from. However, the internet tells me this isn't true. Who knows what to believe! This is probably a good way to introduce weather. Sometimes it's hard to know which forecast to believe when they are all so different. Here's a quick post with some "dits" (meaning stories) on weather. It's a start but it's just one opinion of many, that's for sure!
The No. 1 Rule for Weather
No. 1, the weather can and will change when you least expect it or are not prepared for it. It sounds obvious but you should always be prepared. Take a rain jacket and extra layers even if you don't think you'll need it. Stay close to shore if there are storm clouds, even if a storm wasn't forecast. If you're a beginner, stay in protected waters until your confidence and skills increase. There's nothing that strikes a blow to your confidence quite like a capsize in strong winds you weren't expecting when you're under dressed.
Get Local Knowledge
There are many tips I can give for sailing in Toronto or for sailing in England, where I'm from. I'm not the only one that could write a long list of local knowledge "dits." People who sail half a mile from Sailing Fanatics in Toronto may have different "dits" than I. Some who sail early in the morning will experience different effects than those who sail in the evening. The weather in May, June, July and August all have different characteristics that are equally predictable and unpredictable at the same time.
Writing this has given me the enthusiasm to write a post in the future about "local knowledge" for Toronto. However, in this post I'm not going to write my specific "dits." Instead I'm going to say, "seek local knowledge" for wherever you sail. That means, talk to the sailors in harbour, in the bar, at the club or in the town. It doesn't even have to be a sailor but usually sailors are most clued in to weather and wind. Ask about wind and weather at the time of day you want to sail, you'll no doubt discover a useful tip or two.
Weather Websites and Apps
There are many! The following are my favourites. Use many and not just one. Take an average and consider that any of the possibilities they suggest could come true. As much as we try to predict the weather and are right, we are also wrong because at times the weather is very unpredictable. I know you as well as I will have experienced that!
Toronto Windsurfing Club has a personal weather station that's close to Sailing Fanatics. Weather Underground has a user friendly interface, radar picture and a good wind forecast which is important. You'll find a more specific forecast for wind and weather than you'll find on The Weather Channel or Weather Network.
Predict Wind is another favourite for me. Their wind forecast is accurate and they were recommended to me by a meteorologist, so, I figure it's probably got to be good. My experience is that it has a higher chance of being right for a specific location than the more generic forecasts. The downside is that it is very wind focused. The other weather elements are harder to decipher because of the user interface.
I struggled with this third one. A lot of the apps and website that I use are very wind focussed. This focus on the wind is at the expense of the other weather elements. When it comes to weather I really like to be able to look at the radar picture. The radar picture gives you a real time update of rain or storms coming your way. Some even give a prediction of where the weather you're seeing on the radar picture might be headed. However, it takes a while sometimes for the actual forecast to catch up with the radar picture.
Weather Underground has a great radar picture feature on their website and app. Minute cast is more user friendly than predicting weather from a radar picture and is surprisingly accurate. As far as I know it uses the radar picture and GPS on your phone to tell you when rain will hit your position. It's a great no interpretation necessary tool. It's available on Google Play and you can get the predictions from the Accuweather website as well.