Some Interesting Weather Links



I copied this weather forecast directly from the weather report for San Francisco Bay this morning.  You can pretty much copy and paste it into every day’s forecast between the middle of June and the middle of September, and you won’t be far off.  With that in mind, it won’t always be summer, and the forecasts will change.  Today might be a good time for you to start learning what tools are available and how to use them.  While putting together an email to send to an approaching Advanced Coastal Cruising class, I realized that the information in the message might be of interest to everyone.

These are some links that I use on a regular basis to assist me in deciding if weather conditions are good for sailing.  You will notice there is a definite lean towards “outside the gate,” however, the links and information can be used pretty much anywhere.  Some of these are already on the Tradewinds site, and you may have already found them.  Some of the other links are not.



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Sailing Trivia – POSH

Posh, an adjective describing stylish items or members of the upper class. A popular story derives the word as an acronym from “port out, starboard home”, referring to first class cabins shaded from the sun on outbound voyages east and homeward heading voyages west. The word’s actual etymology is unknown, but it may relate to Romani påš xåra (“half-penny”) or to Urdu safed-pōśh (one who wears “white robes”), a derogatory term for wealthy people.

The much-repeated tale is that ‘Posh’ derives from the ‘port out, starboard home’ legend supposedly printed on tickets of passengers on P&O (Peninsula and Orient) passenger vessels that travelled between UK and India in the days of the Raj. Another version has it that PO and SH were scrawled on the steamer trunks used on the voyages, by seamen when allocating cabins.

Britain and India are both in the northern hemisphere so the port (left-hand side) berths were mostly in the shade when travelling out (easterly) and the starboard ones when coming back. So the best and most expensive berths were POSH, hence the term. A very plausible and attractive explanation and it would be nice to be able to confirm it. The belief was widespread enough in 1968 for it to have been included in the lyrics of the song ‘Posh’ in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:

O the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me
First cabin and captain’s table regal company
Pardon the dust of the upper crust – fetch us a cup of tea
Port out, starboard home, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, posh

There is no evidence to confirm this story though and it appears to have been dreamed up retrospectively to match an existing meaning. Whoever thought it up must have been quite pleased with it, and it appeals to enough people to get repeated endlessly. It also panders to the popular craving for the employment of acronyms as the explanation of common phrases – golf (‘gentlemen only, ladies forbidden’), cop (‘constable on patrol’) etc. These are nonsense but they keep cropping up. It’s worth remembering that acronyms are a 20th century phenomenon and researchers are hard pressed to find any examples before the 1920s. The word acronym itself wasn’t coined until the 1940s. Any such explanation of older words, like ‘golf’, or indeed ‘posh’, is sure to be false.

P&O say they have never issued such tickets and, although many tickets from that era still exist, no ‘POSH’ ones have been found. These have the status of an etymological Holy Grail and occasionally someone claims to have seen one. Needless to say that hasn’t yet been backed up with any evidence. Mind you, even if this mode of travel were the source of the phrase, there’s no particular reason that tickets would have been stamped with POSH, so the absence of such tickets doesn’t prove anything. The same goes for the alleged chalking of POSH on steamer trunks. The evidence for this is even less likely ever to come to light. The finding of luggage from that period with the appropriate chalkmarks is hardly evidence, as the marks could have been added ten minutes previous to the find. We would need photographic evidence that could be dated to the period of the Raj – needless to say, no such photos have come to light. The lack of any citation of ‘port out, starboard home’ in any of the numerous letters and literary works that remain from the British Raj is a more convincing argument against that origin.

The true origin of ‘posh’ is uncertain. The term was used from the 1890s onward to mean a dandy. George and Weedon Grossmith’s The Diary of a Nobody, which began publication in serial form in the English satirical magazine Punch in 1888, has a character called Murray Posh, who is described as ‘a swell’. The book is a satire of the times and most of the character’s names are intended to match aspects of their personality, so it is quite probable that the Grossmiths used the name Posh with the meaning we currently know. The said Murray certainly looks posh enough.

By Tradewinds Instructor Ian Joseph

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Sailing Trivia – Tides

Tides (from low-German ‘tiet’ = ‘time’) are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth.

Most places in the ocean usually experience two high tides and two low tides each day (semi-diurnal tide), but some locations experience only one high and one low tide each day (diurnal tide). The times and amplitude of the tides at the coast are influenced by the alignment of the Sun and Moon, by the pattern of tides in the deep ocean and by the shape of the coastline and near-shore bathymetry

The semi-diurnal range (the difference in height between high and low waters over about half a day) varies in a two-week cycle. Approximately twice a month, around new moon and full moon when the Sun, Moon and Earth form a line (a condition known as syzygy) the tidal force due to the sun reinforces that due to the Moon. The tides range is then at its maximum: this is called the spring tide, or just springs. It is not named after the season but, like that word, derives from the meaning “jump, burst forth, rise”, as in a natural spring.

When the Moon is at first quarter or third quarter, the sun and Moon are separated by 90° when viewed from the Earth, and the solar tidal force partially cancels the Moon’s. At these points in the lunar cycle, the tides range is at its minimum: this is called the neap tide, or neaps (a word of uncertain origin).

Spring tides result in high waters that are higher than average, low waters that are lower than average, ‘slack water‘ time that is shorter than average and stronger tidal currents than average. Neaps result in less extreme tidal conditions. There is about a seven-day interval between springs and neaps.

-Ian Joseph, Tradewinds Instructor

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Skipper’s Tip – VHF

With approximately 59 VHF marine channels available to us there is often confusion as to what channels are to be used.  Hopefully this tip will clear some of the fog.

If the vessel has a VHF marine radio we are required to monitor channel 16.  Remember the Good Samaritan law where we are required to lend assistance to a vessel in distress?  This applies to distress messages heard over VHF as well as visual.  We also monitor 16 for navigational information & announcements.

Channel 16 is used for hailing and distress ONLY.  This means NO chit-chat and NO radio checks.  On 16 [pronounced “one six”] we can make distress calls for help, provide urgent navigational information, and make contact with another vessel.  After we make contact with another radio/person we must switch to a working channel to carry out the conversation.

Working channels available to us [pleasure vessels] are 68, 69, 70, and 71.  On these channels we can conduct boating information only.  A conversation such as “Joe order us a pizza and let’s go to the ball game tonight” is not an acceptable message as this does not directly relate to boating.  Also be aware channel 71 is sometimes used by Vessel Assist and tugs helping in ship movement.

A very useful channel is 14.  This is Vessel Traffic Service [VTS] for San Francisco bay inland.  Channel 12 is for VTS off shore.  This is useful to us for the tracking of commercial traffic movement.  Most all commercial vessels are required to check in with VTS prior to movement and as they pass certain waypoints.  With knowledge of vessel movement we can better access traffic that may be crossing our path and determining hazards.

An example for the use of channel 14 is when crossing the slot in fog.   If you  monitor 14 you will know if passenger ferries or ships are sharing the fog with you.

Channel 13 is used to communicate “bridge to bridge” .  This refers to ship’s bridge and not highway drawbridges. [ Some highway draw bridges monitor 13.]  This is useful if you need to communicate with a commercial vessel.  Use of this channel should  NOT be taken lightly and used ONLY in the event of an emergency or hazard to you or the other vessel.  Communications must be professional and concise.

An example of the use of 13 is if you lose power in a ship’s channel and there is commercial traffic bearing down on you, you could contact the Master on 13 to advise them of the situation.

Keep in mind that all communications on channels 13, 14, and 16 and some others are being recorded.

Submitted by Tradewinds Instructor Bill Yawn

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Flake Your Main – The Right Time and Place

Ask three sailors for the proper time and place to flake a main, and you are liable to get a confusing array of answers.  Even sailing instructors vary on the process and timing, however, basically there are two options.  1) flake the sail neatly as the main is lowered to save time at the dock during clean up, and 2) get the sail down as fast and safe as possible and clean up the flake at the dock. Often the method taught includes a decision making process.  If it’s calm, choose option 1.  If there are substantial wind and waves, option 2 is better.

During the time I have been sailing, I have personally witnessed only one actual crew overboard.  The cause?  Option 1!  During nearly windless conditions, the main was being lowered.  Three crew members were working on getting the sail neatly flaked while dousing.  The boat rolled one way while the boom swung the other and I heard myself yelling “man overboard” as I watched in slow motion the feet and legs of one of the crew disappearing from sight.  Everything worked out in this case.  The crew was in the water for less than five minutes.  We had warm dry clothes on board to change into, and there were no injuries other than to his pride.  It could have been much worse.

What is the best way to douse and flake a main?

  1. Get the motor started and head into the wind with just enough speed to have solid rudder control.
  2. One crew should be stationed forward of the mast, facing aft, left hand ready to guide the starboard side of the sail, right hand ready to guide the port side of the sail.
  3. As the halyard is lowered, the crew at the mast pulls a fold into the luff of the sail between the tack and the first sail slide.  The sail will let you know if the fold should go to port or starboard.  If, for example, the first fold goes to port, then pull a fold to starboard between the first and second slides, then back to port between slide two and three, repeating the port/starboard folding process all the way to the head.
  4. As the luff is being folded (more correctly, flaked), allow the leach to spill onto one side of the boom.
  5. Once the mainsail is all the way down, secure the boom.
  6. Now the crew working at the mast can move to the side of the boom the sail is spilled over and begin to quickly “roll” the sail “like a sleeping bag” until it is rolled onto the top of the boom.  Put on enough gaskets (the nautical term for sail ties) to secure the sail to the boom and head for the dock (or anchorage.)
  7. Once tied securely to a dock, flake the leach to match the luff and secure.

A some points to consider.  First, get the sail down as fast and safe as possible. Second, don’t expose any more crew than is necessary.  In many cases only one person on deck is needed.  Third, flake the sail nice and neat after return to the dock.

Following this process may prevent an embarrassing and potentially dangerous situation from happening on a boat over which you have responsibility.

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Reefing Under Sail

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to watch one of the Tradewinds boats from a distance “struggling” in 25 knot plus winds at the eastern entrance to Raccoon Straight.  My initial thought was that the boat was in trouble, so we started in that direction to lend assistance.  As we got closer, we realized the motor was running, the boat was head to wind, and the crew as struggling to get a reef in.  It wasn’t fun to watch.  Both sails were being trashed by the wind (we needed to restitch the jib UV cover the next day) and the resulting reef was very poorly set.  Watching it reminded me of one of my mentors as I was learning to sail who had a favorite saying … “If you can’t reef under sail, San Francisco Bay will eat your lunch, and you have no business sailing there!”

As an instructor teaching Bareboat and Advanced Coastal Cruising classes, I have come to realize the truth and wisdom in this statement, and sadly, how may sailors out there can’t do it when it is actually safer, easier, and much less noisy than turning on the motor and pulling up head to wind.

To put a reef in under sail, come close hauled, trim the jib, and release the main. While the main is released, the boat will heal less allowing you to comfortably ease the halyard and put in the reef.  Typically the reef tack is set first, followed by the reef outhaul, and then the halyard is adjusted.  It is truly as simple as that. The only challenge is understanding the exact process as it applies to different boats.  Some boats have two lines (tack and outhaul) for each reef.  Some have a single line that sets both tack and outhaul.  Some have a hook and ring at the tack.  Some boats are so simple as to have a roller furling main that just needs to be rolled up a bit.  Regardless of the set up, sail close hauled with the main released and reefing will be a snap.

What happens if you are sailing short handed and your crew is scared and not able to help.  It’s not quite as quick and efficient, however, try reefing while hove to.  Generally that can be accomplished without the help of an untrained crew member.

One final thought.  Remember the rules of the road.  Reef while on a starboard tack and you will generally be the stand on vessel.

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Does your automatic PFD really work?

Brandy & Matt:

I want to share an experience with you that you might want to pass along to other Tradewinds skippers and members.

In 2007, I bought an inflatable PFD because I was going offshore to help a friend move his Morgan 45 from Colon, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia.  I had been using a Type III vest while day-sailing on the Bay, but I upgraded to a Mustang automatic inflatable PFD.  Happily, over the past 5 years that I’ve been wearing my Mustang PFD, I’ve never had to rely on it.  But I’ve always wondered — would it really work in an emergency?  About a month ago, I happened to check the pull-date on the CO2 cartridge and realized that it was woefully out-of-date.  I went to the local West Marine and bought the replacement kit.  But still I wondered…

Yesterday evening, along with my sailing buddy Mike D., we tested our automatic PFDs in our backyard pool.  I’m happy to report that they worked!

Photo #1 is “the jump” from the side of the pool.  We wore t-shirts and swim shorts because that’s probably what we’ll be wearing when we go sailing in the BVI this fall.  We wanted the test situation to be sort of realistic.


                Photo #2 is the initial inflation.  I’m happy to report that it took only 2-3 seconds before I found myself in a rapidly inflating PFD.  You’ll notice that the right sides of both my PFD and Mike’s PFD are inflating first.  The inflating noise was surprisingly loud, as was the ripping sound of the velcro seams opening.  It all happened very fast — and that’s a good thing!


                By photo #3 you can see that our PFDs are fully inflated.  There was a lot of buoyancy, especially neck support.  That’s very reassuring.  Our noses and mouths were well above water level.


We quickly found the orange whistles that are permanently attached to the PFDs.  Also, I figured out how to turn on the strobe light pretty easily.  Mike discovered that he had never put batteries inside his strobe.  Oops…

What are the lessons that we learned and want to pass along to other Tradewinds skippers?

* DATES. Check the expiration dates on your PFD cartridges!  The pamphlet says to replace the CO2 cartridges every three years. (Note: This can vary by manufacturer & model)

* REPLACEMENTS. Buy a back-up kit.  If your PFD inflates while sailing (or in an emergency), you’ll want to rearm your PFD as soon as you’re back on board.  Keep the extra kit in your sailing bag.

* EQUIPMENT.  Inspect your unfolded PFD — find the manual pull tab, find (and use) the mouthpiece for re-inflating the PFD, test your strobe light.  Get comfortable with your equipment!

* STROBE.  Put batteries in your PFD’s strobe light!  As they say, “batteries not included…”  Probably put fresh batteries in your strobe light when you replace the CO2 cartridge.

* TRY IT. It was VERY reassuring to experience the PFD inflating so fast.  I hope that I never end up in the cold water of the Bay, but if I do then I know that my neck and head will be above the waterline within seconds.

Best wishes!                      – Peter D.

Brandy and Matt,

I would like to add one thing to Peter’s note….my pfd was a bit loose (the way I normally wear it for comfort!)…when it inflated, it pulled away from body a bit, so it actually forced my chin up and my head back. It was secure, but I think I had less mobility in my head/neck than Peter….picture 3 shows this if you look closely….

It was a good safety exercise….and a rush!  (Safety first, fun second!)


Mike D

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Control Your Jib Sheets

Summer is here!  Our typical summer wind patterns are filling in, with their associated positive and negative sides.  To the positive, the sailing has been phenomenal!  If you haven’t gotten out on the water, GO!

Cracked Panels

Here is a big negative.  In the past month we have needed to replace several clear plastic dodger window panels!  The cause is simple.  Not controlling jib sheets during tacking, crew overboard practice, reefing, and furling operations.  High winds and luffing jibs cause sheets to flail wildly.  When this happens, bad things result.  I personally have seen a broken nose, black eyes, split lips, lost eye glasses, and a number of broken dodger windows.  Here’s how to avoid all of these problems.

*Note from Matt: Don’t forget the missing dorade covers that disappear off the decks for the same reason! It’s also been the cause of bent/broken deck hatches in the past – the lazy sheet can get caught under the lip of a hatch and ends up getting lifted with all of the force of the wind in the jib on the next tack.

While tacking, take the jib sheet out of the winch cleat, but do not release the wraps immediately.  Start the tack and wait until the jib begins to back-wind slightly before releasing it.  Trim immediately on the opposite side and the sheet will not have a chance to flail.

When reefing or furling in high winds, DO NOT try to furl while on a close haul or close reach.  Instead, bear away to a deep broad reach.  Ease the main and allow it to blanket the jib.  The process of rolling the jib up will now be easier and won’t involve any flailing sheets.

*Note from Matt: This should be S.O.P.! Practice it every time you furl a sail. You know that point on a run when you are steering down wind and it’s hard to keep the jib full of wind because you turned downwind just a little too far? That’s the main blocking the wind – and it’s the perfect time to furl the jib. There’s almost no wind in it, it’s not flogging, it should roll up easily and neatly with minimal effort!

If you are doing crew overboard practice, furl the jib first (while on a broad reach,) and practice on main alone.  No flailing jib sheets!

As an added benefit, luffing jibs and flailing sheets are very noisy.  Loud noises on a sailboat result in uncomfortable and/or fearful crew.  Control those sheets and your crew is going to have a much better time.

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Docking & Communication

I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to observe a skipper trying to dock a 30 to 35 foot sailboat. I say trying because it took 4 missed approaches before number 5 finally worked, and even that one required a bit of help from a stranger on the dock.  What was the problem?  From where I stood, it appeared that the skipper didn’t know where he was in relation to the dock.  The result was a some very colorful “sailor talk”.  There were a couple of passengers on board that boat, who looked to be novices.  I hope they had a great sail that day, because it was obvious they were not very comfortable with the end to the day.

On another note, over the past 10 years, I have spent a lot of time in airports, and flying. I am always amazed at how the pilots “park” those great big aircraft within inches of where it needs to be.  This is especially significant when you realize  the pilot can not see the spot on the ground being aimed for.  How do they do it?  Easy … they have ground marshals … using a few very simple hand signals … guiding them in.

So, how does this relate to docking a sailboat?  When coming into a dock or a slip, I can rarely see my “end point”.  However, it’s very simple to have someone on the bow (braced safely) using hand signals to guide me in.  For example:

  • Right arm up and down … turn to the right
  • Left arm up and down … turn to the left
  • Arms (and hands) closing together over the head … getting closer and closer
  • Arms crossed over the head … you are there

Use these, or set up some signals of your own ahead of time, and the next time you are coming into a dock or slip give it a try.  The end result is less stress for all concerned, and anything that reduces stress is worth it!

-Submitted by Tradewinds Instructor Don Gilzean

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Am I Ready for the Next Class

As an instructor, I hear this question quite often.  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, because each of us is different.  We sail different amounts and do different exercises while sailing.  We learn at different speeds, and we have different backgrounds and goals.  There are however a few general guidelines to follow to help answer that question.

First, if you haven’t practiced, you probably are not ready!  I see this regularly.  A student passes Basic Coastal Cruising and immediately signs up for the Bareboat Cruising class scheduled for two months out, with every intention of getting out and practicing.  Unfortunately, “life happens,” and that person doesn’t make it out sailing.  Bareboat will not be a pleasant experience for anyone on the boat, least of all that student.  I know this because of having seen it as an instructor, and experiencing it myself.  I was that student who struggled in Bareboat due to lack of practice in appropriately sized boats.

So, what constitutes practice in appropriately sized boats?  Just going sailing will get you part of the way, however, to really get the most out of your practice sessions, set up some “exercises” to perform.  If your last class was Basic Coastal Cruising, sailing a 25 foot boat with an outboard is not going to prepare you for Bareboat.  Get out on a 27 to 34 foot boat with an inboard and practice the skills on it.  Take 30 minutes of your sailing day to do some docking and motoring drills.  While under sail, do a series of tacks and jibes.  Keep your tacks tight and controlled.  Turn from a close haul to a close haul.  Start practicing jibes from a broad reach to a broad reach, and as you improve tighten the turns up … deep broad reach to deep broad reach, run to run, and finally run to wing on wing and back.  Heave to a couple of times.  Put in and shake out a reef a couple of times.  Try putting in a reef close hauled on the jib alone, and another reef while hove to.  Finally do a couple of crew overboard drills every time you sail!

Do this process during a half dozen sails, while on an appropriately sized boat, and you will be ready for the best learning experience in the next class.

One final thought.  Don’t forget to practice the knots from all of your  prior classes. Knowing how to tie the proper knot in the proper circumstance is important, and may save your life someday.

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