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xluke 12-03-2012 10:07 PM

Climate / weather resources / prevailing conditions
I am planning a trip along the east coast going south from the Chesapeake to SC/FL via offshore route in mid-March continuing into April and May. Can anyone provide resources for prevailing conditions around that time? I'm particularly interested to know if depressions are common in Mid to late March, and what prevailing winds and usual wave conditions are.


Cruiser2B 12-03-2012 10:28 PM

Re: Climate / weather resources / prevailing conditions
I use websites such as windfinder, weatherunderground and sailflow, take the information and use my best educated guess. 2 years ago I sailed from Oriental to Norfolk via ICW in March...(motored too). Winds were some component of North...mostly NE. I went via the ICW so I am sure there are other offshore weather sources, but I would bet N-NE. Late april into may winds switch to South here on the Chesapeake.

Not sure if this helps

xluke 12-03-2012 10:43 PM

Re: Climate / weather resources / prevailing conditions
Thanks for the tips.
I found these pilot charts which are helpful: Maritime Safety Information

But they don't offer much info on the commonness of severe weather...


MarkofSeaLife 12-04-2012 11:09 AM

Re: Climate / weather resources / prevailing conditions

Originally Posted by xluke (Post 956598)

But they don't offer much info on the commonness of severe weather...


Yes they do. And it's extremely important you see that part of the pilot chart.
Blow it up to about 200% and scroll far to the right you will see a very small map of the Atlantic with little boxes with numbers in them. These numbers are the percentage days with gales.

In the March Pilot, Look at the area in the north of the USA and you will see its 5% I will never sail, nor have I sailed through a box with 5%
Then further south it's 3% I have never sailed, nor will I in a 3% box.

Now look at Florida and the Bahamas. That's the only weather I will sail in 1% or 0%

As you go through each month you will see those figures change dramatically. By may/June it's all 0% up and down the coast.

So not only does one pick a weather window for a passage, one also picks a climate window (season) for their passage or cruise.

I only sail in the right season.

In your plan I would not go outside from Chesepeake. I would plan to do the ICW till the boxes work for you. If you are inChesepeak and a particularly nice weather window opens then you could think about racing around Cape Hatteras.... But it's the Graveyard of the Atlantic for a reason and you would be sailing against the season.... And two people have died there this year....

A lot of people will tell you that the passage is safe.... But your pilot chart tells you different.

So the pilot charts give you a lot of information, but you need to read all the fine print on them and really study them :)


RichH 12-04-2012 01:09 PM

Re: Climate / weather resources / prevailing conditions
The problem with passaging the East Coast in March (and November) is the arrival of the equinoctial gales ... or the change between summer and winter weather patterns, and the 'violence of the gales' between these two 'undulating zones'.

These changes between seasons although regularly occurring cant really be predicted nor forecasted for more than a few days out; nor, the intensity or 'mildness' of the equinoctial changes. Its a 'crap shoot'.

You can 'better your chances' by becoming a technical student of the weather and then make your own personal forecasts. An example of such tech textbooks:
... VERY expensive.
and then using NOAA, etc. weather charting websites to fill in 'your own' blanks to make your own personal forecasts:
NOAA National Weather Service
Ocean Prediction Center - Atlantic
Sailing Weather - Marine Weather Forecasts for Sailors and Adventurers - PassageWeather
For your own predictions of 'equinoctial / jet stream position and changes: etc. .. 'high altitude' weather - jet streams / storm tracks, etc.

The BEST weather predictions .... When 'lower down' along the SE coast / south of Hatteras, better to contact (monetary subscription) with a pro 'weather router' such as Chris Parker (Marine Weather Center - Bahamas & Caribbean Marine Weather Services) on Single Sideband HF radio .... 4.045 mHz upper side band starting at ~7:00 AM .... VASTLY better than 'NOAA" which is seemingly VERY conservative in its predictions (probably so because of litigation risk).
NOAA is 'ok', but you'll miss a lot of good sailing if you exclusively use NOAA (and all the websites that are based on NOAA data/forecasts) as your 'weather source', especially during the equinoctial changes during March and November.
You can listen to CarribWx (Mon—Sat) by using a good portable SW radio receiver(w/USB-LSB-AM function) and a good external antenna wire aligned to receive from central FL or 'vertically straight up'. The transmission times and frequencies are on the MarinHF/AMe Weather Center - Bahamas & Caribbean Marine Weather Services website.

Hint: most boats making passage from the Caribbean to 'back north' at this time ... usually wait until at least the beginning of April through the 2nd week of April when the majority of 'equinoctials' are very far north.

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