Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Things not mentioned

One of the few moments the rain slowed down enough for me to risk my
non-waterproof camera to sneak a picture.

Sunday was one of those days that never show up in the Cruiser magazines. Though Joaquin turned far out to sea another storm system battered the area with “1,000 year” rains. We spent the day kind of grimly holding on as Kintala shook, pitched, and groaned her way through a day of lashing rain and wind guests in the high 30s. At high tide the road into the marina was under water while waves washed over the higher of the fixed docks. The low fixed docks were under by several feet and the walkways to the floating docks did weird things, bouncing like diving boards and sticking up into the air. Getting off the boat was a chore, but we had to when the rising tide pulled the power cord completely taut. A few minutes later the flood waters shorted out all shore power in the area anyway.

The fuel cans were stored off of the boat for the storm. It took another jump to the dock to retrieve one so the Honda generator could get a tank full and be brought into play to keep the batteries charged. Even if the dark clouds and rain weren't rendering the sun inoperative, the solar array had been removed and stored below. By Sunday night yours truly was well and truly tired of the wind, rain, waves, and ride. Hurricane or no, the idea of having run off to hide in a hotel room was feeling like the option we should have taken.

Come Monday morning the boat was still dancing, but just a little. No rain fell. There were even a few shadows in the salon, something not seen for many a day. The air was dry and cool and a look at the NOAA sight showed Joaquin well to the east of and moving further and further away.

A short aside here; though NOAA was seriously worried about Joaquin making landfall in the US, European models always had the storm turning east. Still being a pilot at heart and having had a life-long relationship with weather and weather forecasts, I was curious as to why the difference. From what I can learn, NOAA's funding for climate research and forecasting is being reduced, leaving them working with outdated models and limited computer capabilities. Something that, frankly, sounds like lunacy. Nothing is more expensive in lives and property damage than being unprepared for large scale weather events. But America isn't even keeping up with the rest of the world when it comes to forecasting and research, let alone being on the leading edge. Lunacy indeed. Anyway...

What a difference today

A hurricane scare is much better than a hurricane hit. Come early Monday afternoon we started turning Kintala back into a sailboat. With the boom back up in the air, the anchor, dink motor, and solar panels remounted in their normal positions, and the bimini and dodger back up, boat life is slowly returning to something nearer to normal. Today the main sail was bent back on, halyards run to their normal places, and the cockpit is, once again, a cockpit. In the next day or so we will start repairs on the head sails. (We noticed some stitching and a few tears in the sunbrella when taking them down.) While Deb is running the Sailrite machine I may try to track down and fix some of the worst leaks that made themselves apparent over the last few days.

This is work that just has to be addressed. Putting damaged sails back up when heading out for a 2000 mile season is pretty poor seamanship, sure to lead to even more damage later. This has been a good place to ride out the storms, and we have friends here who are also working hard at getting back underway, so hanging around for a few more days to do things right isn't a bad thing at all. Still, the weather for the next week and more looks to be perfect for getting a move on. So, good place or not, it will chafe a bit, pinned here getting things done that need to be done, while the sun is shining and the winds blowing gently on a good point of sail.

That isn't in the cruising magazines either.


Mike said...

That's interesting what you mentioned about the NOAA weather forecasts not being up to par. Out of curiosity, what do you think is the best resource to use?



TJ said...

Mike, so far as I know most of the weather forecasting done in the US uses information gathered and discriminated by NOAA. (Though I suspect the military has some propitiatory souses of their own, sources unavailable to the civilian population. Whether or not those provide more accurate forecasts, if they really do exist, is anyone's guess.) That NOAA information is then utilized by different organizations using different models, algorithms, and historical references in order to tailor the forecasts for specific needs. We use GRIB files, NOAA's marine forecasts, and low altitude Prognostic Charts (those aimed mostly at the Aviation world) for the majority of our weather. Usually all three are much alike, especially in the 24 to 36 hour range. Deviations tend to build up as the time scale stretches out, and we put very little faith in 10 forecasts even if they all agree.

When there is a dispute between GRIBS, M/Fs, and Progs in the short term, my experience is that the Prog charts are the most likely to be the more accurate. They are also the least detailed but, having spent a career with Progs as a primary weather source, I can glean a lot of information from them. A good example is the Progs showing isobars packed close together suggesting winds speeds will be higher than the GRIBS or M/Fs sometimes state. I'll go with the Progs every time and have yet to feel like that was a wrong call. Progs are also very good at picturing the location and movement of cold fronts and dry lines. (Dry lines are where the thunderstorms often cook off, and are usually located well ahead of an advancing cold front.) There are mid and high level Progs as well, but that information is a bit more esoteric.

When there is a disagreement we go with the least favorable forecast even if one stands alone in reference to the other two. We tend to take the most conservative path given the least favorable forecast. Which is why, even though the European models suggested Joaquin would turn far out to sea, we prepped the boat and then got a hotel reservation far inland.
We have tried several different places to find reliable and easily understood information on the Gulf Stream. So far I haven't found one that strikes me as “the one” but the information is out there to be dug up.

As our last line of defense both Deb and I check weather independently of the other. If either of us doesn't like what we see we stay put or go find a place to hide. We still take our lumps but, so far, we feel like we are doing okay in the “don't take on the scary stuff” department.