From novice crew to superyacht skipper, one of our biggest worries is getting caught out in bad weather. At some time in our sailing career we’re likely to find ourselves in conditions that we’d rather not be in. Let’s look at four of them today.

There are two main types of fog found at sea and around the coast, both are caused by air cooling until the dew point is reached.

Advection fog is the true sea fog which happens when warm moist air travels over cold water. Fog occurs when the air reaches its dew point; the point where the air can’t hold all of the water vapour it contains. It can last for long periods of time, often until there’s a change in the air mass.

Radiation fog is land fog (which often finds its way over estuaries and coastal waters) and is caused by the ground becoming so cold at night that the air above it cools, causing water vapour to condense. It burns off with heat so it’s likely to clear quicker than advection fog.

Here’s what to do if you find yourself in fog:

  • Know your position, mark it on a chart or plotter.
  • Turn on your navigation lights.
  • Slow down.
  • Post extra lookouts, move someone to the bow if possible and use every sense: sight, sound (listening), smell and any other means available!
  • Use the proper sound signals: here’s an overview of the US rules.
  • Have crew put on a lifejacket.
  • If you have radar, assign a skilled crew member to monitor it continuously.

📚 This rather old but useful article gives some more detailed advice.

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