Set Fair for Sailing

Set Fair for Sailing

‘‘WEATHER, n. The climate of an hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned.’

Ambrose Bierce: The Devil’s Dictionary 1911

The weather has, and always will be, a topic of discussion that ranks high in general importance. After all, weather is something we are all constantly subjected to, and as a way to kick off a conversation with acquaintances old and new it can’t be beat. Of course, apart from general discomfort or planning for outdoors activities, these days most humans are pretty much protected from the elements and their grumbles are normally related to pastimes that are denied through an inclement spell. Golfing and hiking in mid-winter rain or beach breaks in a howling southeaster are not for the weak spirited.

If you are a farmer or a sailor, of course, the topic is a lot more significant than a conversational icebreaker. And that’s the category that Waterfront Charters falls under; weather, to us, is all important. Fortunately we live in the 21st century, so the science of weather forecasting has become extremely accurate, but it wasn’t that long ago that weathermen and women were the butt of many a joke – predictions about sunny weekends often came to rather damp conclusions, with grumbling families and soaked sportspeople cursing the hapless individuals who had read out the incorrect prophecies.

Forecasting has been around for millennia, but it was only in the 18th century that genuine progress was made. Prior to that the weather forecasts were based on historical information and astrological signs. Shamans and priests were the recognised experts, and each ancient culture had their varied ways of trying to predict the weather patterns. As agriculture spread and grew, it became more and more important that crops were planted at the correct time of year; cuneiform inscriptions on tablets from the Babylonian era dating as far back as the 19th century BCE reflect on various elements of rain, thunder and cloud types. Ancient Indian Upanishads – Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy – contain mentions of clouds and seasons and their effect too.

The word ‘meteorology’ as the study of weather was first used by Aristotle, who wrote a treatise actually called Meteorology. It’s meaning in Greek was ‘the study of things high in the sky’, which explains the unconnected phenomena of meteors themselves. Considering it was written in 350 BCE, it is a remarkable work on the subject and includes the first known treatise on the hydrological cycle, one of the most important aspects of climate variables. (This cycle is recognised in this century as a vital indicator of climate change, a subject that should be close to the hearts of every human.) Following on Aristotle at around 300 BCE, Greek scientist Theophrastus wrote a treatise on weather forecasting called ‘The Book of Signs.’ In this current day and age when computer and smart phone weather apps go out of date a few weeks after they are written, it’s interesting to note that Theophrastus’ work remained the benchmark for weather prediction for almost 2000 years. It’s been around longer than the Bible.

As time progressed the need to know and understand weather patterns grew, and the wise men of each era started realising that there was a lot more to weather patterns than seasonal changes. The climatic zone system became known in 25 CE, the work of a Roman geographer with the delightful name of Pomponius Mela. The application of meteorology to agriculture was studied in the 9th century by Persian polymath Abu Al-Dinawari; visual signs like rainbows and the atmospheric refraction of light were examined by various people over the centuries, including Roman mathematician Ptolemy, St Albert the Great, a German Dominican Friar, and Roger Bacon, the 13th century English philosopher. Instruments such as rain gauges, anemometers, thermometers and barometers were invented and built over this period, and slowly (very slowly) man started getting a better handle on the patterns and vagaries of weather as we know it. Of course, once intrepid adventurers started setting off to explore continents and the wide oceans it was realised that weather was not just a local phenomenon: mountains and geographical features played a part in regional weather, but the wind, the storms, the pressure increases and decreases, were all spawned far away on our planet and moved in great waves. Known these day as Spatial Scales, weather forecasting is broken down into scales of days to hours, and Global Scale Meteorology covers weather from the tropics to the poles.

The advent of satellites has been the great solver of weather puzzles, of course. During WWII and up until the late 60’s, weather forecasts that affected the lives of thousands of participants in various frightening endeavours (think D-Day) were based on radio reports from offshore ships and distant weather stations. Now with multiple eyes in space and computer programs that can muscle through billions of bits of information each second, the guesswork is reduced to an absolute minimum. And this makes us very happy: at Waterfront Charters our primary concern has always been safety for our guests, with comfort and fun following close behind.

We operate 365 days a year from the V&A Waterfront, but we don’t say ‘come hell or high water’. Our expert skippers will always ensure that each and every cruise is enjoyable; if we have to cancel any trip due to inclement weather, all pre-booked vouchers can be exchanged for another suitable date. We can’t control Mother Nature, but we can make sure that she doesn’t have the last word. Fortunately, the 21st century has given us the tools to plan ahead, reducing this likelihood to a minimum. When booking, check out our handy weather forecast to set your minds at ease. We look forward to many more happy, safe cruises with guests old and new under balmy skies.