How Do You Put the Weather Together?

All signs were pointing to a windy day.

It was Friday, August, 23, and the fog in Marin gushed over the foothills of Mount Tam, the trees shook furiously, and the air was chilly and bit at the skin. Days before, predicted higher-than normal winds on the 23rd for the East Bay.

There was another factor in how I was putting the day together: Exactly one week prior, and at the conclusion of several days of hotter-than-normal temperatures in the Bay, there was a blow. “It’s a marine surge,” a fellow windsurfer at Point Isabel said matter-of-factly.

These components represented my general process for making a call on the weather: Watch the elements, check a basic (and free) forecast, and, if possible, incorporate some kind of precedent or trend.

Berkeley Marina (looking toward Emeryville) on Sunday, August 18. Photos, of course, rarely do justice to a dynamic sea state — it was actually blowing between 25 and 30 this evening. This windy weekend was prefaced by several days of hot, stagnant weather before the seabreeze returned with vigor.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Latitude Nation, a question: How do you put the weather together? What tools do you use? What forecasts do you follow? Do you feel the weather out? Do you watch the fog, clouds, texture of the water, etc., to get a sense of what’s what?

On this question, perhaps more than any other, we would like to know what you think (a link will be provided below). Please go into as much detail as you can muster.

Do you actively try to expand your weather knowledge and learn new terms, techniques and technology? Are you big into apps and weather-forecasting sites? If so, which ones, how often do you check them, and how exclusively do you rely on them? How often are you right — or wrong — in your predictions?

Or, do you just sail when you want to sail, the weather be damned?

More breeze in Berkeley on the weekend of August 18.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Sure enough, my prediction — or educated guess/divination/prognostication — about the 23rd was right*. It was nuking, almost as windy as Point Isabel ever gets. (*The wind actually died as soon as I went out. I drove to another spot and re-rigged; the wind died almost immediately, again.)

A few windsurfers kept talking about the “weird eddy” just offshore that was cranking out the big breezes. I’m vaguely familiar with the concept of an eddy, but more familiar with the idea that sailors sometimes need phenomena to explain the weather to themselves. Just like me, other people piece their predictions together — even if the details differ (my knowledge is, admittedly, very elementary). On any given day, I feel like most experienced sailors pretty much have a 50/50 chance of predicting the conditions. Most windsurfers use a popular app which includes a daily forecast as well as conditions in real time. I swear, they say that the forecast is dead wrong more often than not.

Maybe I’ll incorporate “marine surges” and “eddies” into my weather vocabulary, but I follow my own program because it’s what works for me. At times, I actively avoid listening to other people because everyone’s opinion tends to be both absolute and disparate, which kind of messes up my mojo if I pay too much attention.  In nearly 50 days of sailing this season, I’ve only been ‘skunked’, or not able to sail, for four days — which, for me, is a remarkably good ratio. I would love to say it’s my superior weather knowledge, but I’m sure I’ve just been super lucky, and maybe, have had a good attitude — I readily accept that there will be good days and bad, and that any day at the water is a good one.

My own program also means minimal technology. For me, feeling out the conditions is the whole reason and purpose for sailing — to observe, listen, learn, and expand knowledge and experience.

“Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them.”
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

So, seriously, Nation, we want to hear your deepest thoughts about your relationship with the weather. You can email us here, or comment below.


  1. Avatar
    Ron Witzel 10 months ago

    Hope that Latitude 38 Nation can provide a simple, accurate weather forecast methodology for the diverse sailing areas of The Bay.

    I find that available forecasts for a specific area of The Bay are widely inconsistent.

    We sail mostly in San Pablo Bay down to Angel Island and Raccoon Straits, and there doesn’t seem to be any consistency among —

    San Francisco Sailing Weather, the general SF Bay forecast,

    The Weather Channel for a single numeric hourly wind forecast “trending conditions” in a metro locale,

    SailFlow’s free forecast,

    and point forecasts such as —

    –NOAA’s National Weather Forecast –Tabular Weather Forecast,
    — NOAA’s Marine Map Point Forecast

    However, for our Marin YC Laser Regatta on 9/8/19 the NOAA forecast was for
    8kts from ENE @ 4pm
    16kts NNW@ 5pm
    Which proved to be quite accurate…(hoping those skilled NOAA forecasters don’t get fired for telling the public that Hurricane Dorian wasn’t going to hit Arkansas…)

  2. Avatar
    Dana Smith 10 months ago

    Predict Wind, the Coast Guard app that shows the wind speed on the buoys.

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