Time to learn

Here we are at the beginning of March, and for most folks across the U.S. it has been a rather difficult winter. Snow amounts have been well above normal over many areas, and unusually cold temperatures have affected much of the nation as well. News stories about paralyzed travel, both in the air and on the ground have been common over the past couple of months, and anyone who travels frequently has likely endured delays or cancellations. Collapsed roofs due to large amounts of snow have also occurred in some areas. While the days are getting noticeably longer, winter is not yet over, especially for more northern areas.

So what does an ocean voyager who is not lucky enough to be in the Caribbean, Hawaii, or the South Pacific do at this time of the year?

It is a time of year when plans for the upcoming warm season can be made. Projects that can be done in a warm basement, shed or garage are certainly underway in many areas, and those who are lucky enough to have their boats stored indoors may be taking the opportunity to do some refitting, refinishing, and refurbishing in relative comfort.

It is the boat show season, too, and in many different areas around the country there is the opportunity to look at new boats if you are in a position to trade up, and also the opportunity to check out the latest and greatest in terms of gear, supplies, and other products and services that might make the next season of cruising more pleasurable. Many boat shows also feature short seminars on many topics of interest, including, of course, weather.

And, speaking of weather seminars, this is a good time of year to dedicate some time to learn more about weather. These seminars can put you in a better position to ensure that your ocean voyaging takes place with minimum disruptions due to weather, and can reduce the chances that you will get into trouble offshore due to harsh weather conditions. Every year there are casualties among ocean sailors due to weather, and often these incidents could have been prevented if more attention had been paid to the weather situation, or if those involved fully understood the weather they were getting into.

So here comes my plug: I will be presenting a two-day weather course titled Understanding Meteorology and Marine Weather on Saturday April 9th and Sunday April 10th at the Marine Systems Training Center (MSTC) in Thomaston, Maine. This course is a joint venture between the MSTC and the Ocean Navigator School of Seamanship, and for details on how to sign up, the cost involved, and suggestions for area accommodations, contact the director of the Ocean Navigator School of Seamanship, Dave Jackson at 207-236-7014, or by e-mail at dpjackson@roadrunner.com.

In the course, we will spend time learning about the basic properties of the atmosphere, then will apply these properties to the task of learning about the weather systems which are likely to affect your ocean voyaging. In particular, we will go through the structure of fronts, high and low pressure systems, tropical cyclones (i.e. hurricanes) and other smaller-scale, local phenomena. We will also talk about upper-level processes in the atmosphere, including learning about the 500-millibar charts and their uses. We will spend some time exploring the websites where much data can be found, and through the weekend you will get the chance to go through several practical exercises that will allow you to apply what you have learned. The weekend will culminate with a route planning exercise utilizing real-time data. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers and to explore topics that are of particular interest to the group.

My course is certainly not the only opportunity to learn about weather this winter, and if the time and location of this course are not convenient for you, look for other opportunities to enrich your knowledge about this topic. Knowledge about weather and weather systems is a critical need for those voyaging offshore, and far too many voyagers are not as well versed in this subject as they should be.

So, enjoy the rest of your refitting-refinishing-refurbishing season, and I hope to see some of you in Maine in early April!

By Ocean Navigator