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Old 12-09-2020, 08:40   #1
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Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

If you can take all the time you want, and are not on a schedule for arrival, can you avoid storms?

I haven't yet sailed but am doing research, including here. It still seems that this is not a settled question.

I see and read often that modern forecasting can predict the weather 3 or 4 days ahead. Yet, there are stories of experienced operators getting caught in severe, damaging, and dangerous storms.

I understand some people must stick to a deadline, and proceed even if the weather is bad, for example John Kretschmer delivering a boat found himself in Force 13 and 11 storms with 30 foot waves. He says it is exhilarating. I want none of that. If I can't avoid storms, I'm not sure I want to traverse oceans.

So, my question is, if you can take all the time you want, can access the best weather data, and are not on a schedule for arrival, can you avoid storms?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Jim
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Old 12-09-2020, 08:48   #2
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

You're going to run into weather, period. Especially if you're planning on being at sea for long passages.

Of course not having a deadline, all the time in the world to wait for a weather window, good weather prediction, you can lower the chances of running into weather significantly.
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Old 12-09-2020, 08:59   #3
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

Well, I definitely would not want to be responsible for killing someone's dream of sailing, but realistically I believe you already know the answer. Weather forecasting has improved greatly, but we all know sometimes the weather itself just doesn't listen to the forecast.
2015, Mobile Bay, AL, USA, the 57th Dauphin Island Regatta was hit with 70+ mph winds, waves over 10ft (depth of bay 6-8ft) and the loss of life was tragic. No storm even close to that magnitude was forecast.
Weather happens.
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Old 12-09-2020, 09:03   #4
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

You can mostly avoid storms. To me people who tell proud stories of being “caught” in a F13 storm are fools. There is no reason to be caught by any major weather event nowadays on a trip f less than 3 days.

In 10 years and 4 years full time cruising i have been got “caught” once in F7-8 for 3 days crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Afterward I told myself how stupid I was for letting myself be in that due to a schedule.

Btw storms, wind, and waves are like fish, they get bigger with the telling.
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Old 12-09-2020, 10:07   #5
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

SV/Adeline, thank you for the post and example.

As a newbie sailor I wanted to learn from this example so I looked it up. Below is a link to the Coast Guard report on the incident which is very informative and educational, or at least a reminder or cautionary tale.

https://www.wkrg.com/mobile-county/c...atta-disaster/
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Old 12-09-2020, 11:14   #6
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

There were thunderstorm warnings out and if you ever have sailed that area you would know that when they blow in from the Gulf and hit the Mobile River/Bay that it gets "dicey". This was really a localized storm and they happen and I wouldn't consider them the same as weather/trip planning based on schedules and weather forecasts.

That may just be me. Everyone gets hit with these local storms with winds suddenly into 30s+. This one was just very strong.
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Old 12-09-2020, 11:21   #7
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

Sailorboy for the win here. He’s spot on.
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Old 12-09-2020, 11:46   #8
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

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Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
There were thunderstorm warnings out and if you ever have sailed that area you would know that when they blow in from the Gulf and hit the Mobile River/Bay that it gets "dicey". This was really a localized storm and they happen and I wouldn't consider them the same as weather/trip planning based on schedules and weather forecasts.

That may just be me. Everyone gets hit with these local storms with winds suddenly into 30s+. This one was just very strong.
Very true, in fact afternoon thunderstorms are literally predicted as a possibility almost every day, and rarely do 30+ materialize. This one had 70+, recorded at 80 at mid bay (I believe that was the location)
Absolutely nothing like that was forecast or predicted. It was later reported that if that cell had been a fraction north or south, it would have essentially been a nothingburger. As it traveled the topography and conditions were perfect to funnel the forces into an impressive straight line event.
Weather cannot be forecast with absolute accuracy. Weather Happens
Being localized is irrelevant, if you are in that area. We lived it, we received our forecast from the very same wkrg.com that was referenced above, nothing in that forecast would have kept me (or obvious the 150 or so boats) off the bay that day.
You tube it, many sailboats had on board cameras and seeing how fast it rolled in is chilling. Several of the videos reflect that the time from "look at that cloud" to $%*&^% was a matter of seconds for some, some had only minutes.
The whole point, crossing oceans on a 3-4 day forecast.. which ocean is that? Weather Happens, anyone crossing oceans should plan for the best, but be prepared for the worst.
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Old 12-09-2020, 11:48   #9
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

Thanks Sailorboy. I'm specifically talking about crossing the Atlantic, on the way to cruise around the Mediterranean, or maybe someday, the Pacific. So that might be different than a three day trip....would that change your answer?

Thanks for all your help.


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You can mostly avoid storms. To me people who tell proud stories of being “caught” in a F13 storm are fools. There is no reason to be caught by any major weather event nowadays on a trip f less than 3 days.

In 10 years and 4 years full time cruising i have been got “caught” once in F7-8 for 3 days crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Afterward I told myself how stupid I was for letting myself be in that due to a schedule.

Btw storms, wind, and waves are like fish, they get bigger with the telling.
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Old 12-09-2020, 11:50   #10
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

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...I understand some people must stick to a deadline, and proceed even if the weather is bad, for example John Kretschmer delivering a boat found himself in Force 13 and 11 storms with 30 foot waves. He says it is exhilarating. I want none of that. If I can't avoid storms, I'm not sure I want to traverse oceans.

So, my question is, if you can take all the time you want, can access the best weather data, and are not on a schedule for arrival, can you avoid storms?
With respect to weather and dying, I'd suggest looking at the big picture. Ask the question "do people who die because of weather events get caught off guard, or, do those who die push there luck...and am I better than everyone else who said they wouldn't push there luck but did so and died anyway."

The point is, to heck with unavoidable storms in the middle of the ocean. If you are like me and everyone else, we're more likely to die when we knew things were dicey and we did it anyway...even when we are not pushing deadlines. This applies to near-shore events where the back of our mind relies on the Coast Guard fairy to save us, and it applies to everyday activities on land.

I'm not a thrill-seeker and I don't flirt with death, but I worry more about spending my last days squirting in a diaper than I do about white squalls and rogue waves/storms. It's been said a million times, but a seaworthy boat can handle more than it's crew...99.99% of the time anyway. Same thing applies to your car going through an intersection.
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Old 12-09-2020, 12:41   #11
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

Thanks Singularity, you've expressed something I thought about when pondering this issue, but didn't know how to express without bending the question a bit.

I guess I should have said "in the limit"...that is, in the domain of what is possible and what's not, can you avoid storms?

So what I want to first establish is CAN you?

Your point seems to mean, WILL you?

Well that's on me, I guess, not the inherent nature of sailing oceans. Hesitancy about oceanic sailing because of unavoidable storms seems different that because I know myself too well. Perhaps I should not discuss my history on motorcycles the last 50 years :-).

But I think your point is very important because I think that the percentage of reasonable people who would not push their luck is quite small.

Quote:
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With respect to weather and dying, I'd suggest looking at the big picture. Ask the question "do people who die because of weather events get caught off guard, or, do those who die push there luck...and am I better than everyone else who said they wouldn't push there luck but did so and died anyway."

The point is, to heck with unavoidable storms in the middle of the ocean. If you are like me and everyone else, we're more likely to die when we knew things were dicey and we did it anyway...even when we are not pushing deadlines. This applies to near-shore events where the back of our mind relies on the Coast Guard fairy to save us, and it applies to everyday activities on land.

I'm not a thrill-seeker and I don't flirt with death, but I worry more about spending my last days squirting in a diaper than I do about white squalls and rogue waves/storms. It's been said a million times, but a seaworthy boat can handle more than it's crew...99.99% of the time anyway. Same thing applies to your car going through an intersection.
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Old 12-09-2020, 13:09   #12
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

How long will it take to cross (the U name it) ocean?


How long are weather forecasts valid for? How often do they change meaningfully over, say, twice that period?


What are the traditional wind patterns for where you are traveling and in what direction? (They have books about this stuff)


The difference between the first and the second would be a period of risk, ameliorated by the third.
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Old 12-09-2020, 13:57   #13
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

Thanks Stu.

Let's say it's a 10 day crossing across the Atlantic (I have no idea how long it takes to cross the Atlantic, but just for example).

When you start, you can see ahead for 3-4 days.

Every day, you again see ahead for 3-4 days.

Given this, can you see a big storm coming and then have time to move out of its way?


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How long will it take to cross (the U name it) ocean?


How long are weather forecasts valid for? How often do they change meaningfully over, say, twice that period?


What are the traditional wind patterns for where you are traveling and in what direction? (They have books about this stuff)


The difference between the first and the second would be a period of risk, ameliorated by the third.
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Old 12-09-2020, 14:27   #14
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

Disclaimer, I hope to cross oceans some day so I keep an eye out for these threads of information but I have no actual experience. You would do better to listen to the responses to my post if there are any than my post itself.

My understanding is that you are more likely to encounter destructive events like the one above close to land. The channeling/funneling effects accelerate the air and the land mass encourages local storms.

Away from land the high and low pressure systems are allowed to interact with less interference.... almost and there are less surprises so prediction is more accurate. Water temperature and cloud cover also play their part to reduce accuracy.

I intend to use a land based weather guy for crossings until I am confident without one. I feel I will be more comfortable crossing oceans than parking in a marina.

Have you watched the latest La Vagabond video where they were caught out, not because the wind but the direction of the swell limited their options to handle the wind and comfort in the boat. He talks openly about it, it's worth a look.

P.S. I'm not saying this reduces the big storm events at sea just that they are more predictable and can be seen further ahead. Also some months back La Vagabond crossed at the wrong time with a tight schedule. They took Gretta the global warming girl, but they also took Nicky ? an expert in weather routing and dodged and weaved across trying to stay out of the worst of it. That was probably 6 months ago....ish?
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Old 12-09-2020, 14:46   #15
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Re: Fourth question: Can you avoid bad storms?

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Thanks Stu.



Let's say it's a 10 day crossing across the Atlantic (I have no idea how long it takes to cross the Atlantic, but just for example).



When you start, you can see ahead for 3-4 days.



Every day, you again see ahead for 3-4 days.



Given this, can you see a big storm coming and then have time to move out of its way?

That sounds like a video game. Storms don’t move in straight lines nor at fixed speeds and they can be very large - just review some of the large hurricane tracks and look at the sizes of the uncertainty of their projected paths. You can decide to move in some avoiding direction at 5 or 6 knots, then the storm track changes and it comes at you at 20 knots.

You can plan to minimise the risks of meeting any storms through planning, as was discussed earlier. Certain times of years (often called hurricane season) have higher probability of storms, certain routes (Northern Atlantic in winter) have higher probability of storms, etc. Add in weather forecasts and you should be able to reduce the probability that you will experience a large storm to virtually zero for any particular route.

An example where ongoing very detailed weather analysis was used to avoid worse weather was used in the recent La Vagabonde delivery trip across the Atlantic - a shore-based router and several weather experts helped guide the boat around the various storm systems that they encountered, though they still got pasted a few times. However, that level of shore-based help is very expensive and not feasible for most cruisers most of the time.

It is possible to hire the services of a shore-based router for a particular passage, and typically you will have a couple of updates per day and a few days notice of worse weather. But, squalls and other very localised strong wind events due to fronts will happen anywhere and anytime, even within a large area forecast.

Part of your preparation is getting yourself and your boat ready to handle rougher conditions.
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