BUT! If you are new to the area, some local knowledge will be very helpful. Read on….

Weather in the northern part of Monterey bay can be summed up in this way: “Santa Cruz and Capitola are very well protected from normal summer coastal weather. The least wind and waves are close to land. As you move away from land, you will see more wind and waves. If a change to the pattern occurs, whatever that change is will probably stick around for 3-5 days”.

That’s the short version. The long version is … longer.  Most (but not all) summer days on the northern part of Monterey bay follow a basic pattern:

  • In the morning there will be very little if any wind. If there’s going to be fog, it’ll be thickest during this time of day. The fog will burn off throughout the morning – usually by 11:00am or so it’ll be gone. Winds will be light and variable.  If you like calm winds and seas, this is definitely the time to get on the water!
  • Sometime around noon, winds will begin to be noticed as the daily northwesterly flow down the coast builds and begins to wrap around the northern corner of the bay. As this builds, you will notice that distinct “wind lines” appear across the water, with winds and waves being more brisk and steep as you go farther out. Closer to land in the north part of the bay these winds appear to be westerly as they wrap around Santa Cruz point. These winds are even more significantly blocked in Capitola by Pleasure Point, so Capitola is usually warmer and less windy. As you go farther out, the winds take on more of their “true” northwesterly character and increase. Day sailors particularly enjoy this as it allows them to select the amount of wind they wish to sail in – from light winds to a stiff breeze and more, all within a span of 0-10 miles from shore.
  • Toward the latter half of the afternoon, the winds that have been wrapping around Santa Cruz point will begin to subside, and there will be a period of relative calm and some warming.
  • After this period of calm, an easterly breeze will begin to fill in as the high pressure that built up inland from the day’s heating begins to “deflate”. This easterly breeze is usually blows between 12 and 20 mph and the water becomes choppy near shore. Occasionally it’ll be stronger. Often there is substantial cooling as the easterly builds. Santa Cruz is somewhat protected from the afternoon easterly by Pleasure Point.
  • The easterly breeze will begin to slacken through the night. By 9-10pm it’ll have slackened considerably, and it’s almost always done blowing by midnight.
  • From midnight on a layer of fog may move in from the ocean – if it does, by morning there will be fog and calm again, and the cycle will repeat.

So – that is the general pattern. But it’s always a good idea to check the weather before you go out, just to be sure nature doesn’t have some surprise in store for you. This page is a good place to check – just bear in mind that any wind and waves forecast to come from any northerly direction will very likely be much lighter because of the local sheltering (this is true but to a lesser extent for fully westerly winds). If you’re going to stay close to shore, the area forecast is often a better indicator of what you’ll see.

If you’re going to be fishing, you may find our sea surface temperature and tide charts useful as well. Some people swear by them.