By Jack Klang
During the height of the summer season, most cruising sailors are usually well-prepared. As the fall colors appear however, cooler weather and different sailing patterns often prevail. Don’t be caught off-guard during this season of quick weather changes. Prepare for the unexpected and enjoy some great fall sailing.
Fog is common
Expect morning fog. Yesterday’s humidity condenses into opaque droplets, hindering visibility. Fog usually dissipates around mid-morning, when heat from the sun converts the moisture back to humidity. Make sure you’re prepared for reduced visibility. Coping with fog without radar will be covered in a future post.
Cooler air descending over water still warm from the summer sunshine can cause squalls to pop up. Keep an eye to the sky for local storms, and check weather predictions. The barometer is also a good indication that weather changes lie ahead.
Your regular crew may be unavailable during fall months, meaning you may be sailing solo more often. It’s tempting to use autopilot so you can tend to other tasks, but if you go overboard, there is no one available to rescue you. Hypothermia sets in quickly in cooler temps. Make sure you’re ready for all situations, especially if the worst should happen and you find yourself in the water.
Check frequently for boat traffic
Boat traffic is generally lighter this time of year, but here are some important reminders. Vessels approaching you head-on will close the distance at a combined rate of your speed plus theirs. Crossing vessels may or may not know (or heed) the Rules of the Road. If you observe a crossing vessel, note its relative angle to your boat. If a subsequent sighting shows the vessel at the same relative angle, a collision course exists and someone must give way. Vessels overtaking you must generally give way; however in shipping lanes and for vessels with limited maneuverability, you should be prepared to alter course. In many cases large commercial vessels may not even see you.
Don’t be caught off-guard during this season of quick weather changes. Prepare for the
unexpected and enjoy some great fall sailing. Courtesy photo.
Approaching a harbor or marine facility
Don’t be surprised if the dockhands are not at the ready when you pull into port; many of them have returned to college classrooms. Have your bow and stern lines ready, including a trusty spring line attached amidship that you can deploy from your helm position.
At the end of the season, many of us in northern regions will be preparing for haul-out. In our hurry it is easy to become lax. Lines left uncoiled on the deck or in the cockpit are trip hazards. Toolboxes, winterizing fluids, and other equipment at the ready also have the potential to hinder our moves. In all seasons and at all times, a tidy boat is a safe boat.
Cooler weather and shorter days don’t need to keep you off the water. Be aware of fall’s unique challenges and make the most of your boat for as long as possible.
About the Author
Jack Klang is a Cruising Consultant for Quantum Sail Design Group. He has shared his vast experience with thousands of sailors through his seminars, a syndicated newspaper column, magazine feature articles, television and movie appearances. He is the author of “Cruising with Quantum” a series of how-to articles covering all aspects of sailboat cruising as well as an instructional video. Jack is recognized as one of the country’s five best sailing speakers, appearing at boat shows across the country. For the past five decades, Jack has sailed the Great Lakes, Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. He earned his first Coast Guard captain’s license at age 18 and has logged over 30,000 miles under sail as a cruiser, ASA instructor, charter captain and delivery skipper. Contact Jack at captjack1(at)charter.net.