You may now that we are at Highbourne Cay Marina. Top of the Exumas. Waiting out some bad weather. We haven’t told you about this place yet, but wanted to give an update on where we are at and our plans.
We spend a lot of time looking at (obsessing, really) about weather. Especially now that we have left the friendly confines of the coastal areas in ‘Merica. Turns out that weather has things like: ’wind,’ which produces ‘waves’ (which are bad); ‘rain’ which produces ‘thunder’ (which is ‘bad’); and ‘sun’ which we see, but very rarely of late.
Earlier in our trip we looked a day or two out for the weather. If you are rivers or canals, wind/rain don’t matter so much. They make it uncomfortable, but short of a sharknado or hurricane, there isn’t a lot to slow you down. When we made big crossings (the Atlantic, Lake Ontario, Great Lakes), we did look a couple of days out.
But now? We are freaks. And we aren’t alone. When you get a bunch of boaters together in one place, one of the main topics that all of us talk about is weather. How this year really stinks for weather, when will the cold fronts stop, when will the wind moderate, when can we cross, what app we use, what the models show–the list is long. And a bit nauseating. And since weather always changes, it always is fresh and new!
We look 3-5 days out at weather. And further, but beyond three days is really some voodoo magic. We have a ton of apps (windy, wind finder, sail flow, PredictWind, Weatherunderground (affectionately referred to as wooooo)). All of which use the same underlying data models and all of which produce slightly (or greatly) different forecasts. We also get a daily email from a weather-dude named Chris Parker and listen to his daily broadcasts from Florida. AND we listen to anything broadcast locally.
And for the past 4-6 weeks the weather patterns have been mostly the same. Cold front comes in with big north winds. And hangs out for 4-8 days. Blowing big, big. Whipping up waves. Frigid cold (‘frigid’ is perhaps an overstatement. Bahamas cold…60s and 70s) weather. Then there are 1-3 days of actual weather in which sane people will make way to their next destination.1
And we have been maximizing those small windows. We moved to Bimini then to Great Harbour Cay and sat. Then moved to east side of Berry Islands and waited. Then here to Highbourne Cay where we have been sitting for six days waiting out big big blow. And yesterday (Sunday, 28 Jan), the winds moderated to 20-25 knots from the East and today they were supposed to drop down to 15 knots from SE, then will pick back up tomorrow (30 Jan) and blow for another two days before we have a stretch of good weather.
Our decision making has been pretty good up until now. We have maximized our movement windows and minimized our ‘getting a$$ kicked’ window by finding holes into which we can climb and stay out of the wind/waves. We aren’t on a schedule so no real reason to make our selves miserable!
But we are try to learn and get better at this boating thing and we did make a mistake this week. We looked at the winds and decided that today (Monday, 29 Jan) would be a better day to leave and go south to Highbourne Cay. It is about 20ish miles and there are mooring balls there that we would pick up and ride out the next storm over the upcoming 2-3 days. Sunday the winds were from the East, but a little faster than we wanted. Today they winds were supposed to moderate (that is a ‘weather word’ and I like to sprinkle those around to sound smart) and turn SE. The direction frankly stinks, but we figured if the winds were a bit slower, we would have a better trip to the next island.
Poor logic. Poor, poor logic. Rookies. Newbies. We stink.
Yesterday boats were flying out of this areas like 12 year olds running away from school work (did you pick that one up AJ???). 25ish knot winds were apparently nothing. And we should have gone as well. The waves were not great but not worse than what we have seen and definitely much smaller on the west side of the Exumas, we had the reef in our main sail already and we could have scooted south really, really fast.
Then when we got up this morning, it turns out that the wind has not really moderated (see if you can insert it into your conversations today!) and continues to blow 20+ knots. And it is more S than SE. Which means our plan to head south would be a long, hard beat into the wind. We could burn lots of gas and get no place fast. Or we could shoot waayyy west, running with the wind, then tack back to our destination . At least 36 miles. And when we came back into the wind our speed would be very.very.slow.
Jan and I have a go/no-go discussion before we head out on our daily trip. Most of these are pretty short. 95% are GO! 5% are ‘Hell no!’. This particular go/no-go discussion started at 0630 with weather report. Then we looked at the waves at 0700. And watched a cat leave at 0800, turn south, not make any headway and finally turn to the NE and head, we presume, to Nassau. That was good enough. Back to the marina office. We are staying for a couple more days and budget be damned!
1 There are some ‘salty’ sailors out here who appear to have a bit of the Honey Badger in them when it comes to weather. As in, they don’t give a crap. And there are charter boats out here as well. And they may give a crap, but they have a week with the boat and have to get it back on time AND cram in as much stuff as they can in that week. So they tend to be WAY less risk averse than we are. For example, on Friday, 1/26, the winds were blowing at 30 knots from the East/Southeast(ish). And gusting higher. First of three days of big blow. Which is why we are sitting in a marina. But on Friday morning not one but THREE boats headed out into the wild. First was a catamaran that had to be back in Nassau on Friday to return the boat. They left bright and early, put a bit of their foresail up and FLEW towards Nassau. Bouncing all the way. Second was a 42 foot Jeanneau which also had to be back in Nassau. Small sail out and whoosh! Last was a 37 foot Jeanneau which was also a charter boat, but they were on the beginning of their week. We talked to the crew yesterday (super nice and super YOUNG people) when they came back to the marina at the end of their week. They didn’t want to be stuck here for half of the time that they had the boat. So they left and headed SE. Into the wind. For a very, very, very long day. They made it to their destination and had a great week, but we who have no schedule thought they were crazy or brave or a combination of both!