Want to extend your stay at sea? Well, we have some tips for that! What to pay attention to and what you need to be careful with - we'll talk about this in today's material.
Pleasures of winter yachting
Autumn and winter trips to the sea can bring a lot of positive emotions. What are the benefits of winter yachting? One of the main ones is the lack of a flea market in marinas and a whole flotilla of racers who insist that you give way.
It will not be superfluous to mention the variety of weather. Almost any taste and color! Yes, you can be accompanied by cold and wind, but calm days are no less rare.
Winter yachting has its own difficulties, this is an indisputable fact. But do not forget that with the necessary skills and equipment, yachting in the cold season can be turned into an entertaining and enjoyable activity.
Weather in winter
In order to enjoy and safely cruise in the cold season, you need to understand the weather and its laws. There are several major problems that sailors and yachtsmen face on a regular basis. Among them, the most common are cold air, low water temperatures and fog. And frontal depressions (they are also Arctic cyclones).
Depending on the yachting season (autumn, winter, spring), the frequency and severity of these problems varies. In any case, you must always be ready for them.
The change of seasons on our planet is possible due to a change in the tilt of the axis relative to the Sun. Purely visually from the surface of the Earth, it looks like the Sun rises higher in summer (about 23 degrees) in summer and drops lower by the same 23 degrees in winter. At the same time, the temperature on the surface of the planet also changes.
When our luminary has passed the moment of the autumn equinox, then the cooling begins in the Northern Hemisphere of the planet. Along with it, frontal depressions also come - they are also Arctic cyclones.
These cyclones appear at the border of two different types of air masses - cold and dry polar air and warm, humid sea. It is at this border that two different weather fronts arise. The “warm” front of the Arctic cyclone will bring cloudy weather with drizzle and rain. At the same time, the “cold” front is more powerful and gusty. It will bring cumulonimbus clouds at high altitude. These clouds, in turn, will bring powerful thunderstorms and gusty winds.
Usually, at the end of the cold front, the strongest and most powerful winds follow. These winds can create difficulties for sailing ships due to their strength. Despite the possible difficulties, they are most often well predicted. If you decide to go to sea in late autumn or winter, then you should pay more attention to weather forecasts.
Sea temperature and its effect on waves
It's funny that the change in sea temperature is one of the most underestimated changes. This applies not only to local examples. The problem of underestimating the decrease in water temperature is ubiquitous.
Simon Rowell, a British meteorologist, explains: “The temperature difference between the poles and the equator increases dramatically during the winter months. This imbalance is a key factor and one of the reasons for the increased trade winds and more severe winter weather.”
It is interesting that in the summer a harmless windless day can turn into quite strong waves in the evening. At the same time, this situation is not typical in winter. A windless winter day will probably remain so until the next morning. Again, it is highly recommended to have an up-to-date weather forecast.
We also remind you that the sea temperature in October can still be quite warm (not for swimming). In February, it reaches its minimum. For this reason, in March-April, the sun can even bake on land, but the weather on land and in the sea are two different things. Most likely, going out to sea in early March, you will encounter all the delights of yachting in the cold season.
For this reason, we recommend not to be deceived by the gentle sun of early spring and remember that the water in March has not yet had time to warm up.
cold polar air
The insidiousness of the northern regions of Europe and America lies in the east winds. One old sea wolf once at the beginning of winter said with horror in his voice: "Beware of the east winds." And this is true.
When the Arctic cyclones replace each other, a temporary “lull” can occur in a small interval between them. It will be marked by a visually calm sea. But this can change very quickly.
If you are sailing somewhere in Scandinavia and the will of Poseidon sets up high pressure over it, then expect severe and evil winds. They can create serious problems.
One of the clearest examples of such winds is the so-called. "Beast of the East" This storm swept with all its might across Europe in 2018. It affected almost all of central, eastern and northern Europe. The consequences of the "Beast" are difficult to overestimate.
Fog is another serious and somehow overlooked problem. If the horizon is not visible from the cockpit of your yacht, then the actual visibility is hardly more than two nautical miles. Keep an eye on the Fog heading in the weather forecast just to be prepared.
Fog is unlikely in summer and early autumn, but does occur. However, the closer the winter, the higher the risk of fog.
In general, if you go a little deeper into the topic, then there are two types of fog. The first - it is also called "sea" fog - is advective. The second - it is also called "land" - radiation (there is no connection with radiation dangerous to humans).
Even though they are visually identical, it is necessary to be able to tell them apart because they have different effects on shipping. Radiation fog is most often a local phenomenon. It usually occurs in autumn. During this period, the surface of the earth heated during the day gives off heat and moisture to the air. Because of this, there is a morning fog familiar to everyone. It is especially often found in estuaries, rivers, lowlands.
Interestingly, this is a coastal phenomenon. It usually passes by 10-11 am. If such fog caught you in the marina, then it will safely disappear, it is worth moving a mile or two from the coast. Radiation fog is basically not the reason for the cancellation of access to the open sea.
Advective fog is more insidious. It usually occurs in early spring. At this time of the year, the sea temperature is at its lowest. Advective fog occupies a large area, sometimes more “dense”. Such a fog will not dissipate by noon, it will not be dispelled by the wind. The cruise will probably have to be postponed until better weather.
Sea fog is much more widespread, usually in the spring when sea temperatures are at their lowest.
Wind strength in northern latitudes is much higher. The wind will be much more severe to your sails than in the conventional Caribbean. Unfortunately, there is no unambiguous scientific explanation for such a “balance of forces” of the winds. Theories range from increased air density to much more complex hypotheses from the fields of geography and physics.
The only thing worth advising is to carefully monitor your sails, not to allow excessive load on them.
As you can already understand, winter weather is much more demanding on your sailing skills than summer weather. Your skills and knowledge must be verified, the crew must also match. The ideal team for a winter cruise can best be described as people who are ready to take decisive action in the most unpredictable situations.
Just reefing and giving sail is not enough. For really “efficient” sailing in harsh winter conditions, you also need to have more subtle sailing skills. Among these are the management of halyards, outrigger and quickdraws.
If suddenly you decide on such an experiment, then make sure that you know how to set storm sails. Just in case.
In addition, you will also need confident knowledge and skill in using various equipment. Yacht radar is a great example. Not only do you need to know how to use it, but also confidently interpret the result of his work. This can not only make it easier to get through a difficult section of the path, but also make the right decision when the situation starts to get out of hand.
What to pay attention to?
If, having read up to this point, you have not decided that winter yachting is not for you, then keep a short list of what to look for:
1. Rigging must be checked. Do not leave a gap at the risk of breaking the cable running or standing rigging. The rig must be in working condition, tested and reliable.
2. Assume you've already been taken by surprise. During the summer months, you can get caught in a storm or get wet. In winter, you need to be more careful about planning and preparing for an emergency. Ask yourself the question more often: “What if?” No, this should not sound like paranoia, but you need to be prepared.
3. Prepare the crew. Familiarize your crew not only with your idea of going somewhere, but also with what you can expect. If some member of the crew has not yet had experience in winter yachting, then remember that your team is only as strong as its weakest member. Do not hesitate to test out on quiet calm days near the coast. Show/teach/explain to your team what should and should not be done in a given situation. Resist the temptation to go out to sea unless everyone has experience sailing in cold conditions.
4. Plan your turns. Yes, yes, we wrote about the power of winter winds for a reason. Making a turn with a strong and cold wind is more difficult than in summer. Moreover, you will most likely have cold hands, which are much more difficult to manage than warm ones. Take note of this moment.
5. Quiet harbors. Have at least a few fallback options for where to go for cover. Marinas or ports must be within reach.
6. Monitor the condition of the crew. The crew must be rested and in good morale. Cold, hunger or seasickness will unsettle people an order of magnitude faster than it seems.
7. Limit. Everyone has their own limit. Yachting in the winter is a skill you learn, not a skill you are born with. Keep this in mind, understand what the limit (sound) you and your team have. This applies to both work on deck and leisure. Well, nowhere without the limits of your yacht.
8. Insurance. The situation is individual, but most likely the insurers will not be happy to hear your plans for the coming January. Consider this and adequately assess the risks, your skills, the skills of your team, the capabilities of the boat.
Yachting in winter is a great opportunity not only to test your skills, but also to see the usual beauty in winter colors. Remember that yachting is, first of all, about safe rest. And only in the second - about your skills and limits.
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