Wind, and How it Affects your Boat

August 1, 2013   A few weeks back we discussed how current can affect power boats, as well as sailboats  ( See article HERE ) and now it's time to review WIND and it's affect on your boat. Every boat is affected by the wind, depending on their projected area and that area's location (high far forward due to a large sweeping bow, big enclosed cockpit aft, large cabin and flybridge amidships, etc).  Thus every boat reacts differently to wind while maneuvering, while underway and when anchored. First let's see what the wind is now and what the forecast wind will be over the weekend.   The best web site to visit is SailFlow Put in your zipcode and hold on - the amount of information will "blow you away" (sorry).  Though geared for sailors, the information is very useful to ANY boater. Remember a "North Wind" is blowing FROM the North.   Sample detailed wind snapshot for 8/1/13  SailFlow Data                       Click on a local station to get the current and 5 day forecast with almost more information that you can process at one time. see the local area at Once you know the direction and wind strength, you can start planning your boat maneuvers. Generally, the wind blowing on your boat will affect the bow more (less underwater resistance & more projected surface area). This has the tendency to blow your bow downwind almost as if anchored from the stern.  This action is called "weathervaning" and is a good safe position to assume while waiting for a bridge or for space at a gas dock when the wind is gusty. Be careful doing this with an outboard and low cut transom, you could ship blue water.  It's usually much easier to sit in one spot this way than to trying to fight your bow into the wind for an extended period, try it next time you are out.  You have to plan on this happening when you maneuver and to compensate for it. When backing into a slip, start with the bow a little further into the wind than you usually would so you'll be straight in line when the wind blows the bow down.   If it's really bad, pull in bow first and be safe, you can always reverse the boat when the wind has abated (and everyone on the dock watching has gone home)  As a matter of courtesy (it will happen to you)  go over and lend a hand to your neighbor docking. (remember that they need help, NOT coaching) With a large flying bridge and centered house structure, the boat may blow more sideways (to leeward) than bow downwind.  This is great for docking when the wind is blowing you into the dock, but will require special maneuvers when trying to leave a dock and there are boats ahead and astern. Remember when maneuvering that when the boat is going forward, the pivot point is 1/3 of the way aft from the bow. When backing, the pivot point is THE PROPELLER  !   You can try experimenting at a store with shopping carts....  Turn the cart around and push from the front.  It steers just like a boat !  Think of the pressure you apply with your hands as prop thrust:   Centered = Center helm (rudder or outboard)   from the right side = right helm, etc.   It will make you think of how your prop thrust (or thrust vector) affects your boat. (It will also make folks in the store think you mad..) Once you have the handling down, add wind to the mix and it all comes together.  It takes practice, but the ability to handle your boat in every weather condition is a skill to be proud of.   By Captain Rick Delfosse  203-216-7800 Rick is a Coast Guard captain, National Safe Boating Council close-quarters boat-handling and open water boat handling instructor, Connecticut and New York certified safe boating instructor and a US Sailing-certified instructor.   He also conducts on-the-water courses and classroom seminars on coastal cruising and boating skills. The owner of a 43-foot pilothouse cutter and an Aquasport powerboat, he has extensive cruising and one-design, coastal and offshore racing experience.   windy day   .    

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