Launched mid morning thursday to beat the forecast’s increasing winds. The catch was, the winds had already increased. In addition, the cloud cover matched what was forecasted for later too. Conditions tell you about the forecast. In this case, the forecast was accurate but it was off time wise. In this case the storm forecasted to arrive this evening, could be expected sooner.
Weather forecasts are predictions of current & future weather. Every paddler needs to check the forecast before launching. But everyone complains about weather forecasts as being wrong so does one ignore forecasts?
Only at your own peril. There is the story of the two paddlers in a double at Pictured Rocks. They paddled into a major storm that was predicted several days ahead of time and were trapped by the rapid change in conditions. They were plucked off the cliffs by a US Coast Guard helicopter. I know a guide who had a group on the water during this time. No rescues needed there, he knew the forecast and stayed in a safe place.
A forecast is more than air temps, chance of rain, wind speed, wave height, etc., there is additional information. There are trends to expect – are the winds speeding up or slowing down, are they changing direction, etc. There is timing – when is the wind changing?
This morning I knew from the wind & cloud cover, the storm was arriving early. The rain started at 4pm instead of the forecasted 7pm. Can a paddler use this? You bet. Do you push on or hold up? Setup camp now to be ready for a storm arriving early, or push on to cover additional miles with a later arriving storm.
Having a forecast can help prevent a helicopter ride. Reading between the lines can help adjust paddling plans to any unforecasted weather changes.