Junior Weatherman Merit Badge

All those years listening to Dr. George Fishbeck and Johnny Mountain tell us about what the weather would be in the Los Angeles area must have caused me along with countless other want-to-be junior weathermen to have received a subliminal degree in weather prognostication. After all if they were right more than 50% of the time they were very good. Hell, with my subliminal weatherman degree I’ve got a shot at my Junior Weatherman Eagle Scout merit badge. Wahoo!

Preparing for the New Zealand to Fiji trip is one of the more daunting passages. Because it’s only 9-10 gays long or because it’s 9-10 days long. You see weather is very dynamic and constantly changes. Even from the multiple weather models available. Each has their individual algorithms that they use. I had to look up how to spell algorithm let alone know what it’s used for. I do know that it’s a fancy new age term for scientific mumbo jumbo or in layman’s term a calculator with lots of extra do dads and buttons. I just let the weather modeling people do their thing and then use them nine ways from Sunday for our passages.

Many hours of pouring over the models does cause you to see trends. You can see how a small weather depression on a chart suddenly starts sucking wind from a nearby high pressure system and bam! A low pressure system complete with storm force winds and rain is formed. Maybe even a tropical storm or cyclone/hurricane. It actually happens more than the average land dweller knows. Because the land surface is only about 1/4 of the surface area of earth where the other 3/4ths is covered by water. Sometimes looking at how the different systems are all lined up across the Southern Hemisphere from the southern India Ocean toward the southern tip of New Zealand is scary how many of them there are and how massive they become.

For the last five to six weeks I’ve been dwelling on weather. Sometimes with coffee and sometimes with a beer. It’s odd how the view with a beer has some thoughts like, “Hell Yea, we could make that. Watch this, hold my beer!” The coffee experience is a little more mature and realistic. Anyway, countless hours have been spent looking and analyzing our upcoming trip.

In fact, once we left Town Basin Marina and arrived at Marsden Cove Marina it was looking like we would possibly be leaving in short order. We had a possible weather window that was looking good. However, three days out of leaving the weather models started to display a trend. One of those possible low pressure phenomenons that suck up the outer rim of a high pressure system causing a squash zone. That’s not a field for a sporting event either. As it turned out it did develop and I am glad we held off our departure. One Captain we know that did leave on that window was blasted with 40-45 knots winds at the end of his trip. That’s a little more than the Dazzler crew wants to deal with out here.

About a week later a new window of opportunity was starting to develop. Keep in mind that weather is not a static animal. It is always moving and changing. What looks good today could not be good tomorrow. This new opportunity had some issues, but was nothing the crew of Dazzler couldn’t handle. It appeared that if we departed, we would have some light winds that would allow us to motor sail to the east a bit before turning north toward Fiji. And we would have about two to three days of sailing on a beam reach in 18-20 knot winds from a 90° true wind angle.

With an apparent wind angle of 55-65° depending on which factors you equate into the calculation. Closer to the angle of the wind than I or most sailors like. It can be a fast point of sail with the downside of being healed over in the 30° range. We have a hard enough time trying to walk on flat ground. Imagine doing everything while having your floor at a 30° tilt. Even brushing your teeth becomes more of a challenge because you have to calculate the angle from mouth to sink and hope your aim is on target. The water from the faucet even comes out an angle. Try to pour boiling water from your kettle into your coffee mug. Meddles to say, your brain has to make careful algorithmic equations factored in with a 30° coefficient of dangle. Not for the faint of heart.

Weather outside of three to four days can become problematic at best because of the dynamic issues with this beast. What looks good today may not in three days and vice versa. The weather models have improved drastically over the years, but short of owning a boat friendly Chrystal ball or having Madame Zelda on speed dial there is still a high probability factor for change.

We decided after a shake and throw of the bones sprinkled with a little fresh chicken blood that we would be checking out of the country and head toward Fiji.

Dazzler Has Left the Building

We cleared out with NZ Customs and we’re set to depart Monday around 1000 hours, Pacific Dazzler Time. All was happening as planned. The stars were aligned. The whole Dazzler crew was in their happy place including Grape Ape. Smiles abounded.

Knowing that we would be on a beam reach for a few days was acceptable. With one night of travel in the history books, the new downloaded weather indicated we may now be in for a few more days of the beam reach. Damn! Okay, we’re here now and those are the conditions we’ve been dealt so we decided to make the best of it. Into day two the winds increased into the high teens and the sea state increased its size to 3-4 meters at about 6-8 seconds.

Time for a sail change to make our life a little more comfortable. We double reefed the main, filled the staysail and used about half of the jib to pull us along through the water at a comfortable angle of heel. The recent weather indicated that we should start seeing the wind with a little more southerly component which would be nice if it happened that way.

With the next weather update, it looked like we were going to be in 26 knots of true wind in two days from the east. Wow! Not what I’d like to be in. So we decided to roll up the jib and reef in the staysail to slow our speed down to 3-4 knots during the evening. This went a long way to reducing our heel angle and would slow us down enough to perhaps avoid the stronger winds in our future. Basically, they’d have moved on by the time we get there. Hold on a minute. Honey? Where’s that chicken blood? I want to check the weather again.

Until our next underway weather update. Remember, fair winds and following seas. Because you never heard any sailor say, “Fresh winds and a Beam Reach to ya!” LOL


Captain Dan

P.S. Don’t forget to check out our “Where in the world is Dazzler” button on the right where you can track us across the ocean.

Author: Dan & Jilly

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