Category Archives: weather

being sailors

“All men will be sailors then Until the sea shall free them…”—Leonard Cohen

Stan, the man Stan, the Captain, the man, the legend“The ocean is the same everywhere beyond sight of land,” I heard from Captain Stan who is also rumored to be Neptune himself trying out this mortal life disguised as a sailor. I haven’t seen enough of her yet to know that or maybe the ocean has a face she keeps reserved only for the gods. Either way, I will believe it and will try to remember it any time I feel unsettled at sea. It must be comforting with a sense of inherent omniscience to find yourself without bearings, to be somewhere, nowhere, and everywhere. More practically comforting, I find knowing even the gods must bear witness to the ocean’s mighty moods without argument and are powerless but to weather their fortunes as sailors every day. Sometimes, you can even catch them cursing the tangled lines under their breath.

Beautiful day for a sail Beautiful day for a sailWe had an amazing voyage to Monterey Bay and back over a course of seven days and over 200 miles. It felt like we averaged 5 to 6 knots though I am sure we sailed for more than 40 hours total. We covered long tracks with marathon sails anywhere between 9 to 20 hours, rotating watch every couple of hours, grazing and recharging as best we could while underway. I had every intention of keeping a detailed log of the passage in my brand new notebook but I became distracted Foggy dawn at Half Moon Bay Foggy dawn at Half Moon Bayand too engrossed. As a novice, I was still finding my way about and not collected enough to assume any habit. So many practices and techniques to discover, discipline to muster, and skills to build. The habits will form in their own time.

Under the ever-watchful eye of Stan and his master instruction, we carried on beating, beaming, reaching, and running but mostly close-hauled, in high winds, low winds, and no winds at all. Always adjusting sails or cleaning up the lines, tacking to stay the course. Always on, trying to keep pace with the wind and moving in the groove.

So dramatic it's comical So dramatic it's comical We practiced navigation skills with regular fixes and learned to use charts and plot courses. We tested our balance and wits cooking fajitas at a 25 degree heel. We learned the science of sails, their trim, and how to find and move the centers of resistance. We tried out our sense for steering in the dark with only the stars and feel for the wind. We challenged our notions of loneliness and perceptions of space caught for hours without a horizon in fog thick as cotton balls. We rode in calm waters, in the chop, into 6′ swells, and finally home under the Golden Gate bridge with the soothing nudge of the following seas.

Somehow, we passed all of the tests.

Every day was a different life time I could have never imagined and every moment a magical affirmation of the course I have chosen.

I feel an addiction coming on.

Things discovered… Things to add to my learning agenda…
  • It’s all doable and a matter of a calculated risk
  • Insomnia comes in handy
  • Reintroduction to land is harder than I took more than a day to shake the daze and emerge from under the spell of the sea
  • Deli meat sandwiches never tasted so good
  • There is no silence at sea, not even at anchor or dock
  • As undesirable as it may be, sometimes you just need to make way with the motor on
  • Rainbows in the spray
  • Passage making is exhausting
  • Smile more
  • Reef early
  • Memorize the chart symbols
  • Always remember your bearings and how to get back to your dock
  • Build upper body strength
  • Use all your senses in the fog
  • Patent biodegradable cigarette filters
  • Make weather your religion
  • Find that practical balance between patience, dexterity, level of effort, precision, inherent margin of error, and educated guesswork when taking fixes and plotting courses

songsSuzanne — Leonard Cohen

watching the weather

The Super Moon escaped me last night behind the fog. I would have been disappointed were it not caused by another rare natural occurrence—the atmospheric river that is headed to the northern California coastline. What a concept to marvel…streams of moisture-rich air simply flowing through the atmosphere and with such timely arrival for my Offshore Heavy Weather class.

Atmospheric River, Northeast Pacific, June 2013
time lapse moisture reading of rare summer occurrence of an atmospheric river crossing the Pacific to Northern California coastline

Weather has always held my fascination. As a kid…it was the sheer power and clamor of storms and the endless dimensions of clouds that inspired awe and the basic science of building a wind vane or making rain with the lid of a pot that fulfilled my curiosity. In college…bored with the absence of dramatic weather in Southern California, it was the confluence of variables, the dynamics, and the apparent patterns that never  repeat exactly becoming mathematical, abstractions of chaos theory and loaded with all the fodder of philosophical connotations. In New Orleans…there were the almost daily summer thunderstorms where you could feel the air collapse under its own weight and turn into water right before your eyes. I stayed for Katrina partly because I believed whatever were to happen would happen and it would be alright but also to experience the scale of a hurricane. I doubt I will ever again breathe air as fresh as I did the morning after she passed through the city. Here in the San Francisco area…I miss the drama of storms but catching the mood of the bay and the rolling fog every day commuting across the Golden Gate Bridge has had its own magic and charm.

Despite all this I have never developed the habit or interest to checkout weather forecasts as part of my daily routines. It surprises me even to realize I have looked up weather forecasts no more than a handful of times so far this year. As a passing observation I generally figure some sort of weather every morning as I get dressed. Is it warmer or colder? Is it raining or not? Does it look like it might rain?  That has been the extent of what I needed to know to get through the day.

Now…I have a reason to nerd out on weather. It’s fundamental to sailing—to know the wind, where is it coming from, how strong, how long, to anticipate the storms building and moving across the oceans, the long range forecasts, the patterns, the anomalies…and add to it the rhythmic variables of the currents and tides. The scale and the systems just became exponential.

MARINE ZONE FORECAST: Waters from Pt. Arena to Pt. Piedras Blancas, CA
June 24, 2013


Mon: S winds 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft…becoming 3 to 5 ft in the afternoon. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Rain.
Mon Night: S winds 10 to 20 kt. Wind waves 2 to 4 ft. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Rain.
Tue: S winds 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Showers likely in the morning…then chance of showers in the afternoon.
Tue Night: S winds 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Chance of showers in the evening…then slight chance of showers after midnight.
Wed: W winds 10 kt. Wind waves 2 ft or less. W swell 5 to 7 ft and S 3 ft.
Thu: NW winds 15 to 25 kt. Wind waves 3 to 5 ft. NW swell 5 to 7 ft and S 3 ft. Patchy fog.
Fri: NW winds 15 to 25 kt. Wind waves 3 to 6 ft. NW swell 5 to 7 ft…increasing to 7 to 8 ft. S swell 3 ft. Patchy fog.


an orarian

what my wishes create
are small Italian voices
violins and the breeze
sketches by the seaside

while watching the weather



      Boots Of Spanish Leather — Bob Dylan