Bareboat Cruising: Weather and the Sailing Environment

Before you leave the charter dock, check the weather prediction for the next few days. Local weather stations will carry up-to-date information. Rapid and/or large barometric pressure movements usually indicate major changes in the weather.

East Coast
East Coast weather patterns change constantly as the continental land mass reconfigures passing weather fronts. Cool Canadian highs mix with warm, moist air from the south to create towering cumulus clouds which can become thunderstorms in the warmer months. Cold fronts move unpredictably but are usually followed by puffy and shifty northwesterlies. Early summer fog is common along New England’s shores, particularly in the warm days of May and June.

West Coast
West Coast weather forms over the Pacific Ocean. Winter storms track across the ocean and bring rain. From April through October, a huge, relatively stationary offshore high pressure system, called the Pacific High, provides sunny weather and steady westerly breezes. Coastal areas experience regular sea breezes as the land heats up and the air flows from the sea to the land. Those areas adjacent to warm inland valleys frequently experience very strong afternoon winds and fog during the summer. Strong westerlies sometimes counter tidal currents and create unusually short and choppy waves such as can be found on San Francisco Bay. Winter cold fronts over the desert cause strong easterlies, called Santa Anas, which can extend many miles offshore in Southern California.

Island Weather
In the tropics, where large land masses are scarce, trade winds predominate. Usually lighter in the morning, these winds peak at around 20 knots in the evening. Puffy, flat-bottomed clouds scud across the brilliant blue sky. Close to the equator, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) features light winds, squalls, and warm, overcast weather. The Caribbean’s easterly Christmas winds may bring some wind velocities up to 30 knots. Spring features lighter breezes and dry weather.

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