Keeping your Weather Eye Peeled

Bad weather can happen anytime at sea. And most responsible captains make it a point to check the forecast before setting out on a boat, to make sure the weather predictions are still accurate. Nobody wants to be in a small boat on a raging ocean in the midst of a furious storm with waves crashing over the bow or stern.

So, in addition to checking the forecast before leaving port (and not going out if the forecast is bad), the best advice for keeping abreast of the weather is to listen to the NOAA marine weather forecasts, which are frequently updated for the latest weather. 

On the VHF Public Service Band of your radio, you can find the National Weather Radio broadcasts on the following frequencies: 162.400MHz, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.500. 162.525, 162.550.  No matter the weather, it’s always a good idea to tune in and listen for alerts and changes to the weather.

Of course, boaters have been navigating the ocean for millenia, without the National Weather Service. And some of the tried-and-true indications that bad weather is a’coming still work in our technology dependent world.

Clouds.  Watch for a rapid build-up of clouds. A sudden approach, especially towers of clouds, flat clouds getting lower and thicker, puffy, vertical rising clouds getting higher and dark, threatening clouds rising in the south/southwest are all indications that a front may be approaching.

Look west.  In our normal weather patterns, the weather comes in from the west. Of course, here in New England, we have those stormy times called Nor’easters, when the wind shifts around to the east-northeast, a usual harbinger of a bad storm to come. If the wind starts shifting around to the north and east, it may be time to head for port.

Choppy water.  If the seas suddenly become rough and choppy, with waves moving in several directions at once, that’s a good sign that foul weather is on the way.

Air Temps.  When the temperature starts dropping like a rock, that means a front is nigh. 

Watch the barometer.  If you think a storm is coming, look at the barometer. When the barometric pressure drops, a weather change is imminent. Conversely, if the barometric pressure is steady and high, good weather lies ahead.

Need some more weather eye tips?  Watch for:

  • A hazy halo around the sun or moon
  • Lightning flashes on the horizon
  • Heavy static on your AM radio band

All are indications of heavy weather in the area.

When you see any of these indications, it might be time to put on your personal flotation device, batten down the hatches and turn the boat to a safe haven. It’s never a good idea to challenge Mother Nature out on the ocean. She’ll win, every time.