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CANCELLED: (registrants will be contacted) Vancouver - 2017 - Practical Offshore Weather
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This Saturday and Sunday course will provide helpful instruction on weather forecasting basics, coastal and offshore weather threats, passage planning resources and tools, offshore communication and how to access and use weather forecasting information when at sea.

2017-11-18 to 2017-11-19
When: Saturday, November 18 & Sunday November 19, 2017
From 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Where: Granville Island Hotel
1253 Johnston Street
Vancouver, British Columbia  V6H 3R9
Presenter: Norm Cooper
Contact: Shannon Rae

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Vancouver  -  Practical Offshore Weather & Passage Planning  

Weekend Course  -  November 18 & 19, 2017

Granville Island Hotel, Vancouver

Purpose & Benefits:

To prepare for an offshore passage the prudent mariner plans the departure date for the most favourable weather conditions and then constantly monitors the developing weather situation to avoid threats or at least to avoid being surprised by their arrival.  There is a great deal of forecasting information available in advance of departure.  Most of this information is also available at sea, as well as email guidance from professional weather routing services.  This allows those with limited weather expertise to make safe and comfortable ocean passages while learning as they go. 

This course will provide helpful instruction on weather forecasting basics, coastal and offshore weather threats, passage planning resources and tools, offshore communication and how to access and use weather forecasting information when at sea.   

The course is being offered on a weekend this year so those from out of town can attend.

Course Content: 

The course will be presented over two full days, starting with an introduction to weather systems and ending with actual offshore voyage scenarios involving changing conditions and threatening weather.  The course is divided into 5 modules:

Module I  -  Weather System Overview


A review of the key components of weather systems and their development and movement in the northern and southern hemisphere so you have a basic understand forecasting data that is available to you.  This is just the important stuff you really need to know.


Module 2  -  Weather Threats


To avoid bad weather you need to know what threats exist, how to recognize then and how to avoid them or, if not an option, manage the threat.  We will look at land effects, convergence zones, tropical squalls, deep lows, frontal systems and squash zones.  Quite a bit of time will be spent on tropical squall management including squall dynamics and the use of radar for assessing path, intensity and risk.  We will talk about boat prep and sailing strategies.


Module 3  -  Passage Planning


We will look at the standard tools available for route planning.  Included will be the use of paper and electronic pilot charts.  We will run scenarios for various routes options and various months to make decisions on best passage timing for wind strength and direction.  Experienced voyagers like John Neal still use professional weather routers for major passages.  We will look at 3 different routers, their services, their work product as delivered to your boat and their costs.


Module 4  -  Getting Weather Data at Sea


Once at sea you will want to receive weather data on a regular basis.  Learn how to do this with your laptop and your SSB radio or sat phone, and the pros and cons of each.  Learn how to download a weather fax.  Learn how to get text forecasts and warnings.  Learn how to order GRIB files using SailMail.  You will want to subscribe to big picture and macro GRIBS.  Learn how to set up the subscriptions.  You will also want to know where your boat will be in three days relative to the forecast.  Learn how to use SailMail to easily project your boat course and position onto graphical GRIB forecasts.


Module 5  -  Putting It All Together


In this final session we will re-experience a couple of interesting voyages of Sarah Jean II where there were serious weather challenges.  We will look at planned routes, weather data, the threats, our concerns, data received from professional weather routers, the decisions made, new routes and the outcomes.   When done you should feel more confident about planning your voyage and understanding the weather situation around you and your boat.


Norm Cooper is NOT a meteorologist.  But he is an experienced offshore voyager who has safely completed a 25,000 mile trip across the South Pacific to New Zealand and back with his wife, Beth.  During this three year voyage the highest sustained winds experienced were about 35 knots.  Storm sails, while always ready to hoist, were never needed or used.  While some of this can be attributed to good fortune, planning and use of modern forecasting tools and third party expertise were critical in the avoidance of bad weather.  Norm is a certified ISPA sailing instructor.  He and his wife, Beth, operate Ocean Forest Voyaging, a boutique offshore sailing school.  This weather course was first offered in October 2014 and received very positive feedback from the attendees.


Classroom sessions with PowerPoint presentations, discussion and review questions.


Norm will bring a variety of weather and passage planning books for students to look at.  He will also demonstrate various navigation, route planning and communication computer programs.  All of the course modules are done in PowerPoint slides.  They will be available for download from the Internet following the course.  Some route planning and weather books will be available for purchase at the course.

Dates & Times:

Saturday, November 18       8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Sunday, November 19         8:30 am - 4:30 pm


Granville Island Hotel  -  east end of Granville Island

1253 Johnston Street

Vancouver, BC

V6H 3R9

Course will be held in the False Creek & Alder Bay Rooms

Coffee & Lunch:

Coffee and lunch are not included, to keep costs down.  Please bring your own morning cup of java.  Lunch is available at the numerous nearby cafes or at the Granville Island Market.  The hotel restaurant is offering a 15% discount.  Sorry, but no bag lunches allowed in the meeting room. Hotel policy.


Pay parking is available at the lot located to the southwest of the hotel.  The cost is $15 per day.  Note that free parking on Granville Island is only for 3 hours.  Tickets are quite common!


BCA Members  -  $99/person

Non-members  -  $125/person

Special Hotel Rate:

If coming from out of town you may want to enjoy the convenience and great ambiance of the Granville Island Hotel.  BCA has a special room rate for this event of $169.  Limited space.  Contact the hotel and ask for the Bluewater Cruising Association weekend course room rate.


There will be a $15 charge in the event a student withdraws before the first session.

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