Weather forecast tools save lives

Published on November 3rd, 2022

Sadly, it happens all the time. People head offshore, unprepared and/or unaware of approaching storms, and go missing. US Coast Guard assets get stretched, at times dangerously, before the search is suspended. Modern forecast tools save lives when used. George Day shared this report in the Cruising Compass:

I woke up early Sunday morning early aboard Bob Osborn’s Aerodyne 47 Pandora and began studying the GRIB weather charts for the North Atlantic on my phone. On Monday, we and about 120 other boats in the Fall Salty Dawg Caribbean Rally were planning to depart for Antigua and the Bahamas in two fleets.

For the last three days our weather guru Chris Parker had been showing us in Zoom briefings how the paths to Bermuda, Antigua, and the Bahamas were being affected by two large troughs, one near Bermuda and one emerging from the eastern Caribbean. In essence, our weather windows to the Caribbean were steadily closing and the window for the Bahamas was getting smaller daily.

I had the sense that our departure for Antigua was in jeopardy. When Bob got up, he let fly the idea that we might want to change our plan and sail to the Bahamas since the route to Antigua involved gale force headwinds for at least half of the trip.

Bob, who is the president of the SDSA, conferred with the SDSA board and quickly decided to hold an unscheduled skipper’s meeting to discuss the weather problem and to let the fleet know that we were delaying our departure to wait for a better window to get east and south.

In a Salty Dawg rally, there is no fixed start date; each skipper makes that decision on their own, with our full support. In the end this week, 32 boats set sail, 30 to the Bahamas and two to Bermuda. Another group of about 20 headed down the Intracoastal Waterway to Beaufort, NC to stage there for the next open window.

Pandora remains in Hampton, VA while we wait. In the meantime, crews are getting together for happy hours, potluck dinners, and general fun times together. A VHF radio morning net has been started and weather briefings are scheduled. This year’s gang of Salty Dawgs are a great group, and we all know we’ll get through this together while we patiently wait for our weather windows to open again.

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