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How Do I Know If Sailing Conditions Are Safe to Set Sail?

Lake County Search and Rescue assists with a sailboat in distress near Wild Horse Island

No one wants the US Coast Guard or a Search and Rescue team to have to come to their rescue while out on the water! One of the best ways to avoid having to call for emergency help while out on the water is being well aware of the sailing conditions and their implications before you leave the dock. Here are a few key factors to consider to help you make an informed decision of whether to set sail or not. Lake County Search and Rescue assists with a sailboat in distress near Wild Horse Island

Know before you go

You should be well aware of the day’s forecast before you set sail. This involves more than just checking the general weather forecast. You’ll want something more in depth. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is one of the best places to get weather forecasts for sailing. You can find other options here

What conditions should I check before sailing?

Before sailing you’ll want to know the wind speeds, wind direction, temperature, incoming fronts, and low/high air pressure systems. These details will give you a great idea of sailing conditions for the day. High pressure systems generally bring the best sailing conditions, due to their atmospheric stability. 

Can I sail when it’s raining?

Rain alone usually isn’t enough to call it quits on a sail day. If the sun is out, the wind isn’t abnormally gusty, and there’s no sign of a thunderstorm— it’s probably still a great day to sail. However, you’ll still want to keep your eyes on the skies. If the winds start to pick up, dark clouds are making it your way, or the water is getting choppier than you’re comfortable with, it’s probably time to call it a day. 

Is it safe to sail if I see others out on the water?

It’s never a good idea to determine the safety of the sailing conditions based on what other people are doing. They could have much more experience than you do or be acting recklessly. You’ll want to come to an informed decision on your own before deciding to set sail. Only sail in the conditions you are trained and comfortable navigating in. 

What if I am on the fence about whether to sail or not?

Not sure if you are being overly cautious about the sailing conditions or the conditions really are beyond your skill level? There are a few things you can do. You can always call Go Sail Flathead Lake. The sailing staff is very informed about the weather and wind conditions and can give you more details about the forecast to help you make an informed decision. Secondly, consider taking ASA sailing courses. These courses will help you build confidence sailing in a variety of conditions and provide you with the know-how to determine which sailing conditions are safe for you to go out in.