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Old 07-11-2003, 20:11   #1
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How much do you trust the weatherman?

Living near Melbourne where the sheltered waters of Pt Phillip and Westernport Bay open up into Bass Strait I spend quite a bit of time thinking about what a big jump it will be going from inshore to offshore sailing.

I'm currently reading about the 1998 Sydney to Hobart race where a wind warning went out to the fleet. A low pressure system was developing with winds anticipated to reach 30-40 knots.

The reality became 90 knot westerlies blowing into a 4 knot easterly current resulting in 60-80 foot white caps in Bass Strait.

One pic I saw was of a yacht that was still upright with its keel and rudder simultaneously visible from an aerial shot as it rode the crest of a wave. The white cap alone dwarfed the boat.

Makes me wonder how much one should rely on a weather forecast.
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Old 07-11-2003, 21:46   #2
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"Makes me wonder how much one should rely on a weather forecast."


Very little! Here, this morning, they said it was going to be a sunny weekend but cold. It's now 8PM and raining.

Every offshore sailor should learn how to read the weather themselves. That's what barometers, thermometers and humidity meters are for. They need to learn the cloud formations and how each one is affected by the weather and jet stream.

I don't think Magellan, Cook, Columbus or the Polynesians had any instruments to go by, just the clouds and the feel of the air.

One thing you do need to rely on is your vessel. Offshore vessels must be fit, I don't care who's good at predicting weather. A sick boat will go under in a major storm.

I know that the storms can get pretty nasty just north of Darwin. I was in one aboard ship in 1971. Our bow was 8 meters off the water and we had white water spraying over the bridge deck. I have a picture, I should post it.

Anyway, I'm sure a fair share of us here could tell some stories about that sudden weather front that came upon us unexpectedly and how we fared.

.,.,.,.,.,.,>>>>.,.,.,.,.,.,.,..>>>>>.,.,.,..,.,., _/)))
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Old 11-11-2003, 20:58   #3
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Now this was a ride!

This was in the S. China Sea.
Our bow was 24' off the water, and here we are nose diving thru the waves. Our ship was 400' long and weighed in at around 370,000 tons. We were being tossed around like a dinghy in the surf, but in slow motion. The ship was only 3 years old so it was in pretty good shape and able to take the storm without much damage. We were in port when we heard of the typhoon heading close by so we set to sea to get away from the docks and flying debree. The winds had been clocked at 160 mph at times so we knew we were in for it.
The waves bent one of the big gun mounts and some equipment got loose for awhile but we fared fairly well. The fun part was being able to take one step to get up or down 13 steps of a ladder.

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Old 28-11-2007, 19:26   #4
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Not much. I once ended up clawing my way off a lee shore in a full gale 8 hours after a forecast of a lovely sailing day. Makes me wonder how much one should rely on a weather forecast.[/quote]
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Old 28-11-2007, 20:13   #5
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I use the forecast as an elimination tool - whatever they forecast won't happen, but just about anything else could!
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Old 28-11-2007, 20:29   #6
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Take a metereology course at your local community college; worth its weight in gold.
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Old 28-11-2007, 22:53   #7
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Weather prediction in the PNW is iffy at best. The saying out here is if you don't like the weather wait an hour, it will change. Sunshine, calm weather and a 50 knot gale all within an hour with no prediction of any of these. I got caught in it. It was supposed to be overcast with a light drizzle. One has to be prepared for the unexpected.
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Old 29-11-2007, 01:18   #8
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An example of public servant stupidity finally being resolved in NZ (hopefully) Better forecasts tipped as weather agencies end feud - New Zealand news on Stuff.co.nz The criminal stupidity that this was allowed to occur in the first place should be punishable.
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Old 29-11-2007, 01:48   #9
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and it's our money they are paid.
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Old 29-11-2007, 06:26   #10
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Goes to show that you can complain about the weather, talk about the weather and in New Zealand even fight about the weather, anything but do something about the weather.LOL
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Old 29-11-2007, 13:51   #11
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Here in the States, the usual source of wx information is NOAA, a government agency, via the NOAA wx radio broadcasts. We often refer to "him" as "the know-a-nothing man" because the forecasts are so widely off the mark, so often.

But if you look at the larger picture, you get to figure out that under certain wider conditions (stalled fronts, occluded fronts, fronts from "here" versus "there") there are certain times the forecasts can be relied on, and other times when you just know there's too much going on, and they can't be trusted. Just listening to the wx radio, isn't enough.
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Old 30-11-2007, 17:55   #12
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I've been out in three gales in the last month when the forecast was was 20 max. One got to 60 knots and the other two to 50. At least they had the direction right.
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Old 30-11-2007, 18:32   #13
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To answer your question in realistic terms, you can predict the weather with about 80% accuracy for 2 days, 60% on the 3rd day and it goes down hill from there.

I sailed the Southern Ocean a lot. I found the Southern Ocean pretty predictible because you can see the low pressure systems comming like a row of airplanes waiting to land at your local international airport.

The tricky part comes when weather comes South off of the continent and interacts with an apraoching low pressure system. The Bass Straight is forever famous for unpredictible things happening for that very reason.

However, I have seen sailors, all over the world, sitting waiting for that "Perfect weather window", when they could be out sailing. A sailors worst enemy (IMO) is a bunch of other sailors standing around discussing the weather.

My favorite passage is Fiji/NZ. I have it down pat. I've made that passage 22 times. I see a severe cold front coming up from the Southern Ocean. I leave so that I will hit it about 2-3 days out. Everybody sits in the yacht club telling me I'm nuts. We get a pretty good lashing for about 12 hours (in the tropics....how bad can it be) then we have a brilliant trip all the way to Opua. 6 days of bliss. One day of not so nice.

The rest of the fleet leaves after the cold front passes and they get a good ass kicking about 300 miles from Opua, in the worst place that you ever want to get hit with a cold front. Usually 1 or 2 boats (or more) are lost or severely damaged each year in that area. Therefore, it gets a bad rap.

The problem isn't the forecasting. The problem is knowing that you are (most likely) going to have one bad day on a passage and selecting where you want that bad day to happen.

The Bass straight was kind to me, the one time that I sailed it. I am sure that it has more than it's share of bad days. It's just a matter of studying and plotting those lows and learning how they act when they interact with continental weather. It takes patient study and learning to draw your own weather charts. Don't depend on the opinion of others. Learn it yourself. I have come to the conclussion that sailors tend to poison each other's minds on this subject. For God's sake.......stay away from the "Drama stories" if you want to go cruising. You'll see enough drama of your own. Don't let other's drama effect your life.
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Old 25-01-2008, 14:13   #14
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Well, I usually use NOAA and observations from Intellicast and other sources, however not from the local weatherman on TV.

Amusingly the two professions where you can lie and get away with it:
-Weatherman and politicians.. people are suckers to believe both!
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Old 26-01-2008, 14:51   #15
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My dog does better weather forecasts than met service. When it rains he goes into his kennel. When it clears up he comes out. He is never wrong. Met service are never right
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