4/16/2012 – WX and getting smarter

San Evaristo – Day 2

(note: for those who were wondering, the outboard motor was NOT on the dinghy when she sank on our trip over here the other day. So far, we’ve never left the motor on while towing it and after that little incident, we never will.)

Pat, over at http://www.bumfuzzle.com, made a remark the other day that made me stop and think. He mentioned that they’re gettng ready to cross over to Baja from Mazatlan and are watching for a weather window. He went on to say that, what with all the weather info available today and what with the crossing only being 200 miles, he didn’t understand why anyone got whomped and yet so many seem to.

Before I go on, let me say that, nlike a lot of cruisers, I like Pat. Lulu and I met him and Ali and their daughter Ouest (Lowe hadn’t been born yet) and shared a pizza and beers aboard their boat when they were moored in the delta area near Sacramento, California when we were on our way south. Lots of cruisers write them off as “know-it-all trust-fund-kids” of which they are neither. Pat and Ali completed a circumnavigation of the globe a few years back and no one can take that away from them although many on the internet cruising forums have tried. So, anyway, what Pat said got me thinking.

We do have many weather sources available to us. When we’re connected to the internet, I have at least 5 different sites that I check out, one of which I even pay for so I can get their premium package. Away from the internet, I have 2 sources that I use via the HF radio’s e-mail capabilities and a couple of spoken word forecasts that I can get if and when I can get a good connection to one of the nets. Of course, with Don Anderson’s passing, these voice predictions have been cut by 1/3. So, it’s not too hard to get a prediction of winds and waves for about 3 days out at any time. So why do we get smacked?

First off, the main reason anyone gets smacked, or at least anyone who’s watching the weather, is that predictions are just that, predictions (how I miss my italics!). Just because “they” say the wind will be 10-15 knots out of the SSW and the seas will be 3-5′ out of the SE with 14 second periods 2 days from now doesn’t mean they actually will be. If weather prediction was easy, everyone would be doing it. And if it was that definite, all the predictions would be the same. They aren’t. So reason #1: predictions aren’t always right.

Reason #2 is that, although all of us cruisers need to know something about weather, we all don’t. I can look at pressure charts and see the gradients and know that close together means windy. That’s about it for my weather expertise. Other than that, I look at the wind speeds and directions along with wave heights and directions and hope they’re right.

Reason #3, and this one just finally hit me the other day, is that we don’t know how what we’re reading relates to us. I’ve looked at wind and wave predictions for years without really knowing how what I was reading would effect us when we were out there in it. I know that, according to an old salt I met, if the wave height in feet equals the period between waves in seconds, you’re going to have a very uncomfortable ride. But how big do waves have to be to be too big? Hard to say since, once you’re out there it’s really hard to judge their heights accurately. I mean, like, REALLY hard. However, based on comparing weather info to what we’ve experienced recently, we’ve come up with some new guidelines for interpreting the weather predictions for ourselves.

Wind speed and direction: I’m pretty comfortable sailing the boat in 10-15 knot winds without reefing the sails. Certainly we can reef, but if we can avoid going out in conditions that require it, all the better. So, if time is not an issue, we’ll wait for periods where wind predictions are 10-15 knots or less. But if that 10-15 knot wind is coming from the direction we want to travel (on our nose), then we just might stay put because we either have to take the long route by tacking back and forth across our rhum line or motor directly into the wind which will waste fuel.

As far as wave heights go, we know what we DON’T like. Coming across the Sea from Mazatlan to Los Muertos, the seas were supposedly 5-8′, 14 seconds apart. And we didn’t like them at all. For one thing, 14 seconds??? Not the way I count. A lot closer to the dreaded 8 seconds than 14. Matter of fact, I’m not sure how “they” count them because I don’t think we’ve ever counted as long a period as was predicted. At any rate, if we see predictions of 5-8′, we’ll pass.

Here’s part of yesterday’s HF radio e-mail from SolMateSantiago:

SUNDAY – NW 11-14, Seas SSW 4-7 feet @ 16sec
SUNDAY NIGHT – NNW 11-16, Seas SSW 4-7 feet @ 15sec

LONG-TERM SEA OF CORTEZ
MONDAY – Southern Half NNW 11-16, Seas SSW 4-7 feet @ 15sec
TUESDAY – Southern Half NW 9-13, Seas SSW 4-7 feet @ 14sec
WEDNESDAY – Southern Half WNW 6-9, Seas SSW 3-6 feet @ 13sec THURSDAY – Southern Half WNW 5-7, Seas SSW 3-5 feet @ 12sec
FRIDAY – Southern Half WNW 4-6, Seas S 3-6 feet @ 16sec

As you can see, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday fall within our parameters, barely. Except that the wind direction is right from where we’re going. And, looking out at the Sea from the safety of our anchorage yesterday, it looked pretty darn choppy out there. Tuesday, things start to abate a little, Wednesday looks even better as we might have winds we can use. So, we decided to stay put Sunday (yesterday) and today. We might take off this evening as, if yesterday was any indication, after a blustery day, it was dead calm all night and by the time the winds started up Tuesday, we’d practically be at our destination. However, we still may wait until Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Our plan is to do a straight 20-22 hour run to Puerto Escondido to make up for the extra day or two (or three) we stayed here at San Evaristo. Of course, you’re looking at a weather report that is a few days old. I’ll get a fresh one when I upload this blog entry and see what things look like then.

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About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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4 Responses to 4/16/2012 – WX and getting smarter

  1. MWhite:LittleCunningPlan says:

    You make good points about predictions, and then being able to apply those predictions to your own direction, boat, and personal comfort. On our Cal, we love winds in the 20 knot range, as long as they are coming from the right direction, and are not in opposition to the current. That’s a bid deal around here, especially at the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Current opposing wind can get very nasty and make some places impassable. That’s where your experience with your own boat comes in. Good post, Steve.

    • sryoder says:

      Thanks Melissa. Also, there’s a big difference between sailing for 10 hours to get somewhere as opposed to going out for a few hours of fun sailing not going anywhere in particular. When we were bashing along at 5+ knots under sail on our way to San Evaristo, it was really fun. But, I wouldn’t have particularly wanted to do it for 10 hours. No place really comfortable to sit for a long spell when heeled 15-20 degrees.

  2. Paul Rae says:

    “At any rate, if we see predictions of 5-8′, we’ll pass”. It’s nice to have that choice with coastal sailing. When making passage across an ocean, forecasts are really only good for about 5 days out, so we often get more than we bargain for. For us with some of our passages, 12 ft is quite normal. Good luck with your journeys .

  3. Dani says:

    All I can think of when I read this post is our Defeat last year with 3 ft waves 1 second apart.

    Pass the Ginger Lulu

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