"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." -Andre Gide

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sailing Forecasts, or lack there of!

Last week, I wrote about the difficulties I have with finding decent sailing forecasts to help plan or determine if I should go out to sail. Today's sailing adventure was a prime example.

For the first time in a month, the swells have gotten below 10 ft and I was a little exited to get off the surf board and onto the boat. Even though the swell had been tolerable, the winds for the last two days were gusting up to 50 Mph. Way more than I want to deal with!  But always the optimist, I keep thinking any day now it will be perfect. And waking up this morning, I knew today was that day.

The surf forecasts on http://www.surfline.com/ were for 4-5 feet at 12 seconds. Swell is good, now onto wind. http://www.weather.com/ listed the wind at 10-15 Mph.  Bingo, I am on!  But before I left, I decided to look at the bouy reports themselves, it showed a gradualy increasing 12 ft swell at 20 seconds. Not great, but 20 seconds is long enough to make these Pacific rollers a non-issue. I also decided to check a surf spot on the way to the boat and the wind seemed lighter than 10 Mph and waves looked barely 4 ft. Once again, I am stoked and good to go.

So, I am on the boat heading out of the slip and I am calling some bros to come out and experience this perfect day with me. Then I notice the wind seems a lot more than 10 Mph. I would have actually guessed more than 20 Mph. No way this is going to ruin my perfect day!  I needed some practice reefing and handling in stronger winds anyways.  My first view of the harbor mouth is pretty calm but as I get closer I start to see the waves are a little bigger than 4-5. They actually look more like 8 -9 feet. Not perfect but I usually put my limit at 10 feet so I am still good to go.  I decide to get my sails ready before I get out of the breakwater's protection. I unfurl the jib but only to about 40% original size and imediately take off hitting the boat's top speed, so I skip the Main altogether. A gentlemen I met at a bar said he owned a 1969 Coronado 25 and it handled better in heavy wind with Jib alone, so I decided to put it to the test.

Moments later, I have almost reached the breakwater at the harbor entrance and a swell comes in that is bigger than the 8 feet I saw earlier. These were more like 11-12 feet. Morro Bay's harbor is notorious for having large waves in the harbor mouth and they usually calm down about a half mile out. I charge on. The swells are making it slow going and just outside the harbor another set comes through bigger than the last. The first two waves were bit of a rush but the third wave of the set was 16 feet or larger and looked like it was going to crash right on the bow. Not having a lifeline yet, I wraped the jib sheet (rope from the front sail) around my arm, griped the tiller tighter and crouched down bracing for impact while thinking "is this auto-inflat life vest going to blow up if I am hit by a wave?". I hit the bottom of the wave trough and started to climb the wave. Yep about 16 feet, the 25 foot boat easily fit on the face of the wave. (waves are measured from the midline up, so the total face of the wave was about 30 feet.) The wave never broke and I easily made it over. Being by myself I decided to head in and declared my perfect day officially a bust.

What did I learn?  First, I should have checked the NOAA automated reports on the VHF radio, they probably would have given a clearer picture of the actual conditions.  I also needed to pay more attention to the bouy's live feeds than surfline's report which is specifically for near shore predictions.  I knew this, but I really wanted to go so wasn't going to let a bouy rain on my parade.

Next, I need to get a lifeline. A lifeline is just a rope that ties you to somewhere secure on the boat like the mast. It keeps you from going overboard. I had this as a lower priority item on my purchase/project list because I didn't really envision sailing by myself that often. I don't really want to, but I have come to the conclusion that I will solo sail from time to time.

Finally, I need to find a frakk'n better way to get surf forecasts at home so I can avoid these type of let downs. The day was a bust, but at least fitting in the Battlestar Galacticaism means I can end the day with a smile.

Over and out.

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