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Old 22-01-2014, 08:02   #31
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

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Originally Posted by boatman61 View Post
I have heard off and about the guy over the years but have never used him.. or anyone else for that matter.. mainly as I did not have an appropriate radio.. but also coz I do my own.
Pilot Charts, seasonal averages and good observation of sky and sea can give one enough info for most in season crossings..
For me this is all past of the sailing experience.. getting regular instructions would spoil the fun.. especially as I'm someone who hates being told what to do...
Just to be clear on this, Boatman, Herb never told people what to do. He outlined his "macro" view of the weather ahead, around and behind, but as it was based largely on self-reporting yachts at sea, the validity of his forecasts and suggested routing was just that: suggested. He was always very clear that the decision on CTS was that of the skipper of the boat actually out there.

Of course, the fact that Herb had an unusually high ratio of accurate calls meant skippers might ignore his suggestions at their peril, but them's the breaks!

I recall specifically one incident where we were having 30-40 knots and only 50 and 75 NM away from our track, well-founded boats (Swan 53s) in the Caribbean 1500 were having 50 knots or higher, which was leading to parting stays, etc. Now, part of that is easily attributable to the fact that we were on delivery and clearly looking for the easiest, least damaging conditions, and that they were racing, but it was very education listening to Herb speak differently to us and to the racers, who were clearly a bit more balls-out in intent and indifference to discomfort.

Of course, if you have the ability to contact boats ahead and behind you (and AIS can help to a certain extent here), you can query them directly as to their weather conditions and that will likely refine your own weather-based decisions once offshore.
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Old 22-01-2014, 08:02   #32
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

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I can't yet answer that because frankly I had some faint hope that Herb would still be out there when we pushed off, so I haven't examined the "pro" services.

And I would turn that around: What confidence could I reasonably be expected to have in such a service? It's still my decision to "go/no go" as skipper, but there's a bit of a risk in my mind to having too much confidence in a "pro" weather router because you've paid for the service than to trust one's own abilities to forecast, which of course take into account (very) local conditions, state of boat, crew, rig and abilities and so on.

I think what I'm saying is that if I'm wrong for free, I have a chance of improvement. If I farm out the forecasting function, I might still get a pasting and yet learn little and be out $500.

If you can read a hydrological chart, you can read a weather chart, in my view. And perhaps should. I'm with Boatman on this one.
But I think if you do your best to hone your own knowledge, and gather the primary data yourself, PLUS have professional routing, then you are reducing your risks dramatically. I would prefer not to gamble with weather in risky latitudes (I might not spend the money for the East-West trade winds part). And I know for sure that even if I study hard, I will not in one year reach a professional level in weather. Proper weather routing is what makes the entire difference between a smooth, safe passage, and getting into a potential big mess -- I would not mess around with that, gamble with that, and I would not economize on it, either. That's my personal opinion. I've got a large, sturdy boat and a lot of experience in fairly heavy conditions, but I really do not want to be in a big storm in the middle of the Atlantic, and I think with proper weather routing and proper weather window choice, there is really no reason to find yourself in one. As far as I'm concerned, there is hardly anything more important than good weather routing.
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Old 22-01-2014, 08:30   #33
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pirate Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

As I said.. I'd heard about Herb.. and only good things about what he did for cruisers..
However we're now into paid 'experts'.. having spent many years plying the English Channel and bouncing around in 6's and 7+'s when the forecast was for 3-4's.. I learnt in the 'School of Rock n Roll'... its one thing to sit in an office looking at computer projections but its those sneaky little buga's which don't show in the big picture that knock one over..
As to calling ships.. I do when one is in range.. some answer and are always very helpful..
others ignore the.. "Southbound blue hulled motor vessel.. this is the sailing vessel on your port quarter about 5 miles.. do you receive..? Over"
I do use all available means.. but prefer the ones in my immediate surroundings as they're more relevant than the opinion of someone at a desk 2000 odd miles away..
But... each to their own..
I'll do a 'Frankie...'
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Old 22-01-2014, 08:32   #34
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

Lots of good opinions on this thread.

I would like to share my personal experience with Chris Parker. I signed up for his $25 per call personalized briefing service. You can call via satphone or SSB and are billed in arrears via credit card. I have an average command of weather interpretation and am setup to receive numerous sources via SSB, weatherfax, and email so I didn't necessarily need or want to receive daily briefings. Unfortunately, things went unexpectedly south for me several days into my trip. Just one example of the value of his service was when predicted I would be in for a very squally day and called to get his opinion. He advised that I could avoid a good deal of it by altering course slightly and would hit the worst bits at around 17:00. His advice turned out to be spot on and the worst squalls arrived around 16:45. With this info in hand I was able to rest during the day and be better prepared for the nasty bits. Chris can't change the weather for you but his insights into the micro effects of weather are extremely helpful and I will certainly leverage his service again.
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Old 22-01-2014, 09:18   #35
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

Well he DID give advice such as head in X direction to avoid Y weather. He did not provide weather routing services.
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Old 22-01-2014, 10:28   #36
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

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Originally Posted by rockDAWG View Post
If cruising is a full time job and with the weather support info on the net, I would rather learn how to read weather chart and forecast myself. If Chris Parker could learn this, there is no reason we can't learn the art of weather forecast.

Nothing against him making an honest living, I prefer self reliance.

how soon will your book on weather in the caribbean be out?
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Old 22-01-2014, 10:31   #37
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

I believe it's a case of 'the greater the available information, the better the ultimate decision'.

I think that all (or certainly the vast majority) of seasoned cruisers develop a keen sense of weather, consciously or otherwise. We begin to understand better the movement of the barometer, as well as the signs from the sky and motion of the waves.

What is difficult, yet becoming somewhat easier due to all the mod cons, is determining the 5-7 days out and beyond aberrant weather patterns that can really spoil your day.

Prior to the broadcast availability of data such as Gribs, "big picture" weather data forecasts were the bailiwick of high frequency Portsmouth radio or the BBC. A weatherfax was a piece of gold. Some of the older forum members may remember Morse weather information. It was during these times that the information of a deepening low, 400 miles SW of your location, could be a truly critical piece of information.

I will utilize every scrap of available information to make as an informed decision as possible regarding passages. In fact, this week I have sent some weather data suggestions to a friend who is currently traveling from Canaries to the Caribbean.

While I applaud the sense of self reliance being championed here, to not avail oneself of every advantage possible is simply foolhardy, and that also includes hailing that big vessel on the horizon for advice. By the way, US Navy vessels have also been helpful, when approached politely.

Just trying to tamp down some of the machismo starting to appear here. Be safe. Use Chris Parker or another router if at all possible. And most importantly, don't allow peer pressure or schedules to override personal judgement.

Just my opinion
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Old 22-01-2014, 10:41   #38
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pirate Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

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Originally Posted by redsky49 View Post
Just trying to tamp down some of the machismo starting to appear here. Be safe. Use Chris Parker or another router if at all possible. And most importantly, don't allow peer pressure or schedules to override personal judgement.

Just my opinion
No Machismo here.. but that's just my opinion..
As I said.. each to their own..
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Old 22-01-2014, 11:50   #39
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

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Anyone have any thoughts?
A couple..

* you have better local data then a weather router. Assuming the boat has access to wfax and local gribs in addition you have accurate local pressure changes, wind speed and sea state. Which is a lot. And I suspect synoptics and gribs are what a land based forecaster will be mostly using anyway - anyone know what else?

*why throw away an opportunity to stand on your own feet and polish your weather craft? You'll never know if you could have done fine on your own without someone pointing your boat for you. I've never done an offshore passage of weather help but doing in on your own, you do tend to pay a lot off attention, waiting for the front to come through and ready for the wind shift as it does, very connected and aware with the part of the world you're in.
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Old 22-01-2014, 12:19   #40
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

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But I think if you do your best to hone your own knowledge, and gather the primary data yourself, PLUS have professional routing, then you are reducing your risks dramatically. I would prefer not to gamble with weather in risky latitudes (I might not spend the money for the East-West trade winds part). And I know for sure that even if I study hard, I will not in one year reach a professional level in weather. Proper weather routing is what makes the entire difference between a smooth, safe passage, and getting into a potential big mess -- I would not mess around with that, gamble with that, and I would not economize on it, either. That's my personal opinion. I've got a large, sturdy boat and a lot of experience in fairly heavy conditions, but I really do not want to be in a big storm in the middle of the Atlantic, and I think with proper weather routing and proper weather window choice, there is really no reason to find yourself in one. As far as I'm concerned, there is hardly anything more important than good weather routing.
I think if I were travelling out of season, I'd be more flexible on this point...but then my boat can heave to better than most, and this may reflect my current point of view.

The fact is that crossing the ocean takes weeks, and that weather can easily overtake you. You can't avoid a storm that didn't exist once you're 1,400 NM offshore, nor can that be forecast except as a pilot-chart probablity (and that's getting less accurate of late as well). So I would rather not try to avoid the unavoidable and simply accept that the odds are good that I'll get slapped on a long passage, and try to just keep an eye on the big picture. There's resources galore and it's increasingly easy to get at them.

I would make an exception were I travelling in convoy, because then you are obliged to consider the slowest and the least experienced people...and one presumes the costs of customized weather would be spread over several vessels! I would also make an exception were we to go from Patagonia to the Antarctic Peninsula; the absences of viable "outs" would make me want to go very much belt and suspenders.
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Old 22-01-2014, 12:26   #41
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

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A couple..

* you have better local data then a weather router. Assuming the boat has access to wfax and local gribs in addition you have accurate local pressure changes, wind speed and sea state. Which is a lot. And I suspect synoptics and gribs are what a land based forecaster will be mostly using anyway - anyone know what else?

*why throw away an opportunity to stand on your own feet and polish your weather craft? You'll never know if you could have done fine on your own without someone pointing your boat for you. I've never done an offshore passage of weather help but doing in on your own, you do tend to pay a lot off attention, waiting for the front to come through and ready for the wind shift as it does, very connected and aware with the part of the world you're in.
This reflects my experience to this point. I would never be so doctrinaire as to say "I'll never pay for a weather router/custom forecaster", but I have an interest and some training in the subject and feel that I can suss out my own situation. I would certainly like to try. I rarely get "jumped" on land because I've always had a bit of a sense of barometric changes: approaching storms, even under the horizon, "smell" a bit to me. Which no doubt contributes to my feeling that I could manage, and if not, safely heave to and let it pass. And if not, well...I'll leave a case of single malt for the memorial service!
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Old 22-01-2014, 12:43   #42
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

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Originally Posted by redsky49 View Post
Just trying to tamp down some of the machismo starting to appear here. Be safe. Use Chris Parker or another router if at all possible.

Just my opinion
Well, I am firmly with Boatman like two bivalves sucking a rock. If one wants to cross oceans they should know the weather.
Its not machismo its that hoary word i hate: seamanship.


Ahhhrrrrrrrgggggggh! God, Seamanship! now I'll have to learn to tie a double overhead sheep shank with pike!




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Old 22-01-2014, 12:55   #43
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

For the most part my experience is that you get to pick the weather on the day you leave and after that all bets are off and you should be able to deal with whatever shows up. Watch the clouds and your barometer and you will often get notice of things to come. Sure a good weather man can sometimes reroute you but its more luck than good management at typical sailboat speeds.
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Old 22-01-2014, 13:10   #44
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pirate Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

Going East.. follow the winds North and East..
Going West.. follow them South and West..
Its the old slingshot technique..
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Old 22-01-2014, 13:29   #45
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Re: Herb Hilenberg : any follow-up ?

"For the most part my experience is that you get to pick the weather on the day you leave and after that all bets are off..."

True more often than not.
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