Thursday, January 16, 2014

On Watch...

When I lived on land I was an airplane driver. That put me in a closer relationship with the weather than most land dwellers. So when we decided to live on a boat I figured we had a leg up on the "getting along with the weather" front. I was only partially correct.

We are pretty comfortable with weather and float planning. Adding in tides and currents was a minor adjustment to my flight planning days. Speed over distance calculations work the same, it is just that the answers are so different. Twenty-six hours to go 110 miles is not a jet driver's answer. Flight planning means working the weather over a span of hours in distances of a thousand miles. Float planning means working weather over a span of days in distances of a hundred miles. Basically just a change of scale.

Living in the weather, on the other hand, has been a huge change of focus. For a land dweller the weather needs to get truly nasty before anyone really notices. (Except for TWC folks. They seem to get all giddy and breathless over a rain shower in TX.) Cold fronts, warm fronts, rain showers, light snow, even thunderstorms, all pass over the house or apartment building virtually unnoticed, particularly at night. I never gave that much thought until we moved onto the boat and headed out.

Back porch view
Front Porch View
We are anchored in Hollywood, FL. It is sunny and 67 degrees. All that the land dwellers will notice is that is isn't as warm as yesterday and the yard looks like it rained last night. It did rain last night. We had to jump out of the v-berth to close hatches and ports. As the wind ramped up we stayed up for a while to make sure all was secure. The wind shift marking the actual frontal passage swung our house 180°. What was the view out the front door is now the view out the back. It is past noon now. The pressure gradient is still passing through and the wind remains at and slightly above 20 kts. The boat is rocking and swinging and sailing around the anchor. We are completely aware of what the weather is doing. We are always completely aware of what the weather is doing.

As a pilot the weather was something I considered while making plans. On the boat the weather is pretty much my whole world. The metronome that sets the pace of my life clicks off the passing of cold fronts. Nearly everything we do is measured around the passing of the next one. When it is on us we don't much more than just sit and wait it out, hoping we are sitting in a good spot.

It is a total change of focus that was completely unexpected, one that I haven't quite made peace with yet. Every few days my world gets pushed around, rocked, rolled, and noisy. There is always some increase in possible problems. Sometimes that increase is minor, like today. Sometimes major, like Fishers Bay, Oriental, Charleston, and Vero Beach. (We just learned that the one that passed while we were in Vero Beach caught an experienced sailor in his 31 foot boat out in the Hawk channel. He was blown out to sea, battered by twelve foot waves, rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter, and lost his boat / home of ten years.)

For the life of me I don't remember anyone mentioning this relentless pounding of cold fronts as the primary background music for the cruiser life. Maybe it is just this time of the year? Maybe it is just this year? I don't know. But what I do know is this; people have been hurt, boats have been damaged and lost, and we have spent a lot of hours "on watch".


Unknown said...

I've been following and enjoying your blog for awhile now and wondered your interaction with the weather had changed given your previous occupation. I recently came across a website which you might be interested in.

Deb said...

Richard - that's an amazing website!

Unknown said...

Hope you find it useful. If you don't mind I'll check back with you at some time in the future to see how closely the forecasts match the reality. Safe travels