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Old 22-05-2013, 18:20   #1
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Avoiding bad weather

I've seen it mentioned many times on this forum, something to the effect that only an idiot runs into bad weather on passage, because with modern technology and forecasting, it can nearly always be avoided. Of course I've always thought that was nonsense, and just reading Fatty Goodlander's latest tome, I throw his thoughts into the ether for further discussion:

"This concept -- never having to go through storms if you are clever and have the right equipement -- is ... wrong. While it is true that we have much better weather forecasting than we used to, storms still exist and, if you sail long and far enough, you will encounter one. We go through, on average, about four or five gales per year, only one of which is uncomfortable."
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Old 22-05-2013, 18:31   #2
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

storms happen. especially in many areas in certain seasons ...and then in those seasons more than other seasons--just pick the season for sailing where you intend to head and do it.....
there are seasonal storms in june-oct in eastern pacific, south of baja, and the other tropical areas have seasonal storms.
florida has seasonal storms. sail 60 miles off florida and you are ok. no storms. go figger--they are local and seasonal.

larger storms are predicted and predictable. you can easily avoid em as they are seen well in advance of any landfall, and from forming stages until they die they are tracked.

prefrontal winds are fun to sail if you have some heavy weather experience and a heavy displacement cruiser. i love them....fun sailing.
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Old 22-05-2013, 19:53   #3
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

On my last trip the noaa radio said10 to 15 I thought but was 10 to 50 so you will encounter some.marc
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Old 22-05-2013, 20:18   #4
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

In an eleven year circumnavigation, we encountered winds to fifty knots on only three occasions. Such is the luck of those who sail in the trade winds outside of hurricane season.
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Old 22-05-2013, 20:32   #5
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

A gale you know about and are ready for is one thing. A gale you don't know about and that takes you by surprise is something else entirely. Still, stacking the odds in your favor is easy to do and makes everyone onboard happier and safer. Storms also kick the crap out of the boat and even if you do everything right can wreak havoc on fittings and things stored below.

We're doing our Pacific crossing next year; thousands of miles of ocean that takes weeks to cross and if there's a low pressure front that moves through that's just the way it is.
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Old 22-05-2013, 20:39   #6
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It's all a tad luck. I left L.I. NY on a good forecast and just snuck between some very local very bad I to cells that were not forecast. I was very unhappy trying to figure out where the 70 knot severe weather was heading up the Delaware. Coastal I love the garmin weather radar. These kind if apps are great within connectivity.
Up in havre de grace we got a tornado warning from the town pa. Believe me there was not enough time for us to get off the boat we just hung on tell the cell passed. Not much to be done for that.
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Old 22-05-2013, 20:39   #7
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

Quote:
Originally Posted by sneuman View Post
I've seen it mentioned many times on this forum, something to the effect that only an idiot runs into bad weather on passage, because with modern technology and forecasting, it can nearly always be avoided. Of course I've always thought that was nonsense, and just reading Fatty Goodlander's latest tome, I throw his thoughts into the ether for further discussion:

"This concept -- never having to go through storms if you are clever and have the right equipement -- is ... wrong. While it is true that we have much better weather forecasting than we used to, storms still exist and, if you sail long and far enough, you will encounter one. We go through, on average, about four or five gales per year, only one of which is uncomfortable."

Picking a good weather window increases your odds but does not completely eliminate the risk of a bang-up storm where I am. Two nights ago a good quarter of the state had a doozy, far bigger than the weather forecast would have predicted. Two years ago this Sunday we had a so-called "pop-up" thunderstorm that nearly killed the guy whose boat was in the slip next to mine. He had little warning and was knocked off the cabin top by a gust while reefing his sail. He had wrapped his tether around the mast to shorten it, so by the time his legs were over the side the tether started to pull him back.

I was on shore for that storm and it was quite a fierce one, and ... not forecast.

It happens.
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Old 22-05-2013, 20:40   #8
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

Some seasons in this part of the world, you can go for months without a weather pattern complicated enough to throw the forecasts out.

Occasionally, in the same season another year, you'll go for just about as long with complication being the default, and the forecasts will be honoured more in the breach than in their observance.

A major skill, I reckon, is to assess the forecasts for the area you're in, AND the adjacent areas, to make a call on how reliable their prognosis is likely to be.

A trivial example: Here in NZ, if the forecasts for multiple weather regions which normally have their own detailed description get bundled together, that's an indication of a large, simple system. And the reliability of forecasts is GREATLY improved under such conditions.

Sometimes you can virtually rule out certain contingencies at certain times, if you've spent a few years in an area, from knowing the general pattern of systems.

What I often want to know with certainty is not so much what WILL happen as what CAN'T happen.

For instance, if I'm in the Tasman Sea, I want to know there's virtually NIL prospect of a long-duration westerly sector strong gale or storm for the duration of my transit close inshore on the west coast of any of NZ's three main islands. If I know that's not going to happen, I don't much care what does.

OTOH, rounding Puysegur Point into Foveaux Strait, I want to know there's NIL prospect of S sector wind, at virtually any strength, for as long as it would take to get into the gullet. I would rather have 60+NW than 15 knot S or SW.
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Old 22-05-2013, 20:41   #9
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

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In an eleven year circumnavigation, we encountered winds to fifty knots on only three occasions. Such is the luck of those who sail in the trade winds outside of hurricane season.

Off the coasts of Florida you can have a fierce storm at any time of year, and we can have storms that rival tropical storms in ferocity although of course they aren't as big.

Anyne who denies that is sailing foolishly around Florida.
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Old 22-05-2013, 20:42   #10
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

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Originally Posted by sabray View Post
It's all a tad luck. I left L.I. NY on a good forecast and just snuck between some very local very bad I to cells that were not forecast. I was very unhappy trying to figure out where the 70 knot severe weather was heading up the Delaware. Coastal I love the garmin weather radar. These kind if apps are great within connectivity.
Up in havre de grace we got a tornado warning from the town pa. Believe me there was not enough time for us to get off the boat we just hung on tell the cell passed. Not much to be done for that.

That's a scary thought. I believe a waterspout formed essentially over my boat once. I don't know what else could have caused it to spin 720 or more ...
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Old 22-05-2013, 21:41   #11
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

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We go through, on average, about four or five gales per year, only one of which is uncomfortable."
Gales are one thing, storms are another. Far easier to plan passages where you'll never see storms than where you'll never see gales.
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Old 22-05-2013, 21:45   #12
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

If you want to avoid bad weather, get married. I told Wonderblond last night that I wanted to sail to Drake's Bay for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. At dinner tonight she reported that they recorded winds of 57 knots there today.

Now we're talking Plan B.
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Old 22-05-2013, 21:55   #13
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A3 day forecast is pretty good. A 5 day forecast is a good guess. Beyond that its all fun. In US I read forecast discussion for sense of how confident they are.
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Old 23-05-2013, 01:36   #14
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

Bob McDavitt, New Zealand's weather guru, puts it very succinctly in the beginning of every 'Bobgram': Weather is a mixture of patterns and chaos . . .

I find his weekly 'Weathergrams' to be interesting reading as he can explain weather better than anyone I've met. Even if you're not cruising in the South Pacific, I highly recommend them Services

If you're coastal cruising near a First World nation, you should have more than enough weather information to avoid any surprises. However, if you're making long distance, blue water passages, there is the element of risk that you could face heavy weather despite the most knowledgeable advice you might find.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 23-05-2013, 01:36   #15
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

Yes, we are all going to experience some bad weather from time to time, but largely I agree with what Maxing out has to say.


On one occasion last season the forecast showed a big increase in wind around lunch time that day, so we decided to stay put in the harbour and wait a day or so for the worst of it to pass before heading off to our next destination. A number of boats headed out late morning, two of which returned to the harbour an hour or two later with torn sails and/or damage to their boats. When I quietly (and very politely) asked about the forecast of the strong winds, they said they hadn’t really checked the forecast. I’m sure they have good stories about getting the crap kicked out of them that day, but one may ask if they should have even been in that position, when the weather information is at your fingertips?
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