Meteorologist Dr Simon Keeling’s guide to help you find the fair weather of the world for your chosen charter
Charter weather – when to sail where
Often thought benign, with reliable sea breezes widespread from April to late October, but the Med can bite. Watch for spring and autumn lows, sitting for a week or so in central or eastern areas particularly. Generally only one major low each season, but it can bring several days of bad weather.
- West Coast USA
From June to December hurricanes, usually slower-moving than Atlantic ones, can meander in, especially close to Mexico and southern California. Expect high pressure off the Californian coast during summer and strong sea breezes due to the intense land heating. Pacific swell can be very significant.
- East Coast USA
Hurricanes are especially virulent August to November, possibly earlier, moving up from the Caribbean and along the coast before often crossing the Atlantic towards Europe. April and May offer south to southwest winds to blow the sailor back to Bermuda, the Azores and eventually to Europe.
- Atlantic Islands
The Azores high can be the sailor’s best friend, but an enemy too! The high builds further north with the summer sun. Crossing eastwards from the USA, the perfect position and timing is in May and June. Crossing westwards, the southern edge of the high in autumn and early winter creates the trade winds.
Hurricanes are the major factor, rattling in off the Atlantic from August to December. Crossing westwards, late November and December are best, trade winds are favourable and the storm risk relatively low. Beware easterly waves, and troughs that can bring heavy showers and gusts, often at night.
Year-round humidity means heavy, tropical downpours and squalls. The rainy season lasts from November to April and cyclones, though rare, are possible across the area. A drier season from May to October coincides with the southeasterly trade winds. The Marquesas tend to get fewer squally showers.
Cyclone season is November to April, with more intense storms towards the end. These storms mostly affect the northwest, but can hit anywhere on the north coast. New Zealand, being a little further south than its continental neighbour, experiences some of its best weather through November and April, but sea breezes can be significant.
- South Indian Ocean
Cyclone season is November to May, peaking in January. They tend to die inland, but watch out for a cyclone redeveloping as it crosses northern Madagascar. Mid-April to mid-November is the best time for ocean cruisers to take advantage of the prevailing southeasterly trade winds.
- North Indian Ocean
Southwest Monsoon hits southern India early June and passes north in July, the trade winds ‘hook’ then become southwesterly as the monsoon arrives. Extreme summer heat over land means intense sea breezes. Either side of the monsoon winds can be strong with gales and squalls.
- South China Sea
In summer southwesterly monsoon winds bring lots of rain, then winds reverse becoming northeasterly in winter. Intense landmass heating can cause strong sea breezes. Also beware of violent squally showers and gusts anytime, but especially in the southern South China Sea.