Atlantic along the Tropic of Cancer.1 Fronts arise in response to some disturbance or force aloft. The appearance of a front is usually accompanied by a drop in atmospheric pressure. The pressure drop can be gradual or rapid; if it is rapid and prolonged, the resulting storm will be severe.

Meanwhile, the entire system generally moves in an easterly direction, driven by the prevailing winds. Rain and strong winds can occur at the interface between the two fronts but also can occur elsewhere. For example, the most important weather with a traveling low-pressure system is the warm sector to the south and east of the low, where the rising air and typically strong south-southwest winds contain the most active showers and thunderstorms. Such storms are sometimes called extratropical cyclones since they have the characteristic rotating motion of a cyclone, but being outside tropical waters lack the driving force of the warm water “heat engine” that creates a true hurricane.2


One of my heroes is Brad Van Liew. Brad is modest, unassuming, and one of the handful of people in the world who have sailed around the world alone in a small boat. He is probably the most talented sailor I know. Consequently, I knew I had to go to Charleston—his home base—and talk to him about storms and waves for this book. A word about Brad: He started sailing at age 5; beginning at age 12 he went to Newport, Rhode Island, during the summers to work on boats for his uncle. As a teenager, he gained sailing experience by working as a crew member during the Newport to Bermuda race, the Newport to Annapolis race, and other offshore regattas. He is also an experienced aircraft pilot, with multiengine, instrument, and instructor’s ratings. For several years after he graduated from the University of Southern California, he operated an aircraft charter service.

Brad first considered taking part in the Around the World Alone Race in 1990, while still in college. He took leave from the university during his junior year and tried to raise the money to get a boat and enter the race, but he was unable to get the financial backing he needed. In 1996, 28 years old and now married to Meaghan, he decided to try

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement