Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wisdom or weeniedom?

In the aviation world there is this gonzo class of weather pilots. At the very top of the heap are those fortunate few who get to fly Herky-Birds in Hurricanes. Then there are the old school night-freight dogs; flying meant getting paid, not flying meant getting fired. Air ambulance drivers are up there as well, honking around in the uglies because someone (maybe a child) needs them to be there. Combat drivers who are going to get shot at anyway don't give much thought to tangling with Mother Nature. And then there is that "other", the last to touch down as the weather falls on its ass, the first to lift off when it picks up a little. I started out as a night-freight dog, spent my time as an air ambulance driver in the Rocky Mountains, and ended up as one of those "others". A black-as-sin instrument night flight ending with an ILS to brass knuckle minimums, ice shedding off the wings, is the part of flying I miss the most. Any weenie can drive the bus when the sun is shining and the winds are light, and I still regard a complete weather weenie in the cockpit with a bit of disdain.

The clock alarm trilled through the boat at 0600 this morning. We set it after spending much of last evening examining all of the weather information we could gather. An 0600 wake up would give us enough time to prep the boat for departure and get through the inlet a few hours before low tide. We set 0900 as the "anchor up" goal, leaving plenty of daylight for the 20 mile sail to Hope Town. It is time to get moving again; a feeling that stirs this cruiser's soul and can hardly be ignored.

Deb was listening to the latest weather she could find on the VHF while I sipped coffee, listened to the wind singing through the rigging, felt the boat sway and swing to its pressures, and tried to place it all in the big weather picture I work to keep current in my head, an old habit from my airplane driving days that still serves. Unfortunately my "big weather picture" is built on aviation habits, needs, and speeds; and doesn't serve as well as it once did. I have learned to be very careful with it, often doubting its veracity to sailing needs and speeds. (A boats seems a damned sight more vulnerable to the sea than an airplane to the sky, and can't get out of its own way if weather dictates running the other way. And, to be honest, my skills as a sailor are sorely lacking when compared to those I had as a pilot.)

There are only a few boats left in Treasure Cay, and Kintala is one of them. I am either one of the biggest weather weenies in the Abaco Islands this morning, or one of the few smart people around. Knowing which, would help me revise my "big weather picture" to a more useful model, but finding out exposes us to a spanking in 20 knot winds blowing sideways to 6 foot seas on a 7 second period. That's what the GRIB file, the most pessimistic of the weather sources we reviewed, suggested. (The 20 knots of wind don't bother me at all. The 6 foot seas on a 7 second period in water around 15 feet deep, with Kintala wallowing in the trough, is another matter.) The sound of the wind and the movement of the boat hint that the GRIB might be right.

I really, really, want to be moving again. I like moving. It is one of the reasons cruising fits me so well. And the thought of being one of sailing's worst weather weenies grinds at my old self. But we will not be moving today. I'm pretty sure a year from now (or maybe two) I will look back at entries like this one and be completely embarrassed by my weather weenieness. But for now I am still in full "weenie" mode, trying to figure out where on the graph between this boat and weather, true happiness can be found.

However, if there was anyone out on the Sea of Abaco today, and you don't mind helping out a weenie, what was it like out there?


S/V Veranda said...

Its supposed to be fun. Getting your butt whipped is NOT in the fun column. The sea state depended on point of sail. The guys going north looked to be having a good day. We motored straight into 2-3's for 3 1/2 miles to get to Hopetown We HAD to leave our anchorage or tonight would have been unpleasant. We're anchored by the lighthouse and its good. Tomorrow, we might have to move again. I dunno yet

S/V Island Bound said...

Sounds like your being a little hard on yourself. One of the differences between reckless youth and seasoned wisdom is knowing when to choose to be comfortable and enjoy being right where you are.

Latitude 43 said...

I think the longevity of weenies far exceeds the adventurous. Listen to your inner Veranda.