In your opinion, what's the worst type of weather at sea and why?

Hello All,

   In your opinion, what's the worst type of weather at sea and why?   How did you deal with it?

   All cool stories and all insight is welcome.  Uncool sea stories welcome as well. 




It was a dark and stormy night…:wink:


You can always tell the new guys from the old salts when a bad storm is approaching. The new guys say “cool this’ gonna be fun” the old salts say “awe shit, here we go again”


Do deepwater companies nowadays leave ship routing up to the Captain, or is there a dispatch office that helps with relaying real-time weather information?


Most major shipping companies (offshore too) employ a weather routing service. One example is [Applied Weather](" target="_blank" title="Applied Weather) based out of California but there are many others. The weather routing service usually emails the ship with it’s suggested route and calls via Inmarst-B if conditions are changing rapidy or the ship is heading into trouble.

In addition each company employs a Marine Superintendent who, among other things, monitors weather and communicates dangers to the vessels.

In all cases (and as a matter of law) the Captain makes the final decision. The only caveat is that if a captain gets the ship in trouble by disregarding the suggestions he risks getting fired. Alternatively if he is too cautious and moves the vessel too far off course (or leaves an offshore location too soon) the company might also fire him.

Like all matters, what happens all depends on the Captain. Some will follow shore-side advice to the tea while others will largely ignore it and do their own weather routing.

My least favorite weather at sea has got to be sand/dust storms in the Arabian Gulf. It’s already hot, visibility is zero, high seas, and every breath you can taste the sand and dust. Yecchhhh…


Thanks for the info on weather routing, that’s a cool topic, and I’m sure it’s useful to have another resource for seeing the weather picture. From my experience in a different career, fuel and weather have given me the few gray hairs that I have so far. Running out of fuel = bad, running into weather = also bad. The more weather information the better. A site I loved to use to give myself a good meat and potatoes weather brief for pre-flights = which usually told me everything I needed to know prior to talking with the Navy or FAA weather guessers. Getting in-flight updates via VHF/UHF is somewhat tedious and time consuming in many facets of aviation, but the airlines have it down pat with datalink that gives information from the airplanes that are, say, 20-40 minutes ahead of you or less. XM satellite weather, real time, displayed over a moving map (ECDIS or ECS) is the way to go, I think. If you couple that with a radar overlay, then you have a great situational awareness tool showing you all you need to keep safe. Ok, that’s a sweeping generalization, but it’s in the ballpark. :slight_smile:


Whoa, never would have guessed dust storms as a problem, but now that you mention it, that would be a less than perfect combination: wind, waves, heat, sweat, and dust sticking to you. I used to hate the damn heat and haze in the gulf. Good times.




After 49 years at sea including 20 years as Master, I have to say that the worst weather I experienced was the sudden onset of hurricane force winds during mistral conditions in the west Mediterranean.

Wow--the famous [b]Mistral [/b]wind, of Patrick O'Brien fame!  I've only read about it in his books.  49 Years!  Very impressive, and I'm sure you have forgotten more about the sea than I will ever know!  Not knowing much about the Mistral, I found the following: 

After some quick research, I found that the Mistral is a katabatic wind, or downslope wind.  A similar if timely example is the Santa Ana wind, causing all the problems in Socal right now.  The synopsis of some good online sites is that cold mountain air spills over the edge of a give mountain pushed by a high or low pressure system (depending on the continent).  Due to gravity, it accelerates downward building in speed (usually due to a restriction such as a valley) and so is a dense air, high speed , mountain gravity wind.  The air can heat up as it descends, so it's not just a cold air mass, but heats up adiabatically as it descends due to increasing atmospheric pressure.  With the Mistral, the air accelerates as it goes downhill through the Rhone valley.  It then spills into the Western Med at teriffic speed.

Thanks for telling us about the Mistral, are you familiar with the Levanter as well?  I've read of that too in some of the O'Brien books, all of these Mediterranean winds are sort of nebulous to me.  Take care, and thanks again.



Worst weather at sea? Flat calm. B-O-R-I-N-G!!



It has to be fog, any time any place, anywhere. The levels of concentration go sky high and you don’y realise how draining it is until you stop. It’s bad news any time but try Dover / Calias in 100m vis on a fast craft.


I think this might be a good place to ask a question that’s been with me for years.

I used to work with a guy who lived on a sailboat in San Diego. As you might guess from that, he was a hardcore sailboater. One day he was talking with some other people, and I overheard him describing how he and his shipmate had been caught in what I believe was a weather condition he called being “In Irons”.

I never got the chance to ask him what “In Irons” means. Anyone here know?


“in Irons” means the captain can not make a decision based on seamanship because the ship is hindered in such a way by the tow or gear that is has become impossible to command the tug.


The last guest is correct about tugs but with sailboats it’s different. A sailboat always has to travel at an angle to the wind… they can’t go directly into it. Coming across the wind is called “tacking” and is preceded by the command “ready about”. If you tack too slowly through the turn (low speed of rotation) you can (due to the pointed shape of a boat) get caught with the wind right in front of you. This renders your sails useless so you start drifting backwards with no ability to steer.


<p> &nbsp; </p> <p> Steaming through heavy pack ice in a snow storm. Visibility is zilch and icebergs and </p> <p> growlers look just like pack on the radar. At night and running of the wind vertigo </p> <p> can kick in and then it gets interesting. </p>