Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Best Laid Plans

No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL
N 25 40 37 W 080 09 46

Grrrr. Boy am I mad at the weather bureau. Everything went fine yesterday until midnight. We were on the centerline of the Gulf Stream making 7.2 knots over the ground in only 12 knots SSE wind. Then around midnight we got hit with a front containing lots of thunderstorms. There was nothing like that in the forecast, just "isolated thunderstorms."

The wind shifted from 12 SSE to 25 NW. We scrambled to adjust the sails under a blinding downpour. For the rest of the night we experienced perhaps 10 thunderstorms, each accompanied by lots of rain, cloud-to-cloud lightning, and wind speed shifts from 5 knots to 25 knots. It all made for very uncomfortable conditions.

It also occurred to me that it was not a good idea to be out in the Gulf Stream with NW winds. Therefore I came about. Our new course carried us approximately toward the Biscayne Bay entrance channel and the ETA at the channel was about dawn. I therefore decided that we would put in to No Name Harbor and get some sleep.

Besides being shaken and wet, things weren't too bad. I reduced sail enough so that we were never overpowered. The monitor self-steering continued doing it's job. Most important, the waves became very choppy and irregular, but never got big or steep.

Around 0500 a ship approached on a converging course. I waited until he was 2 miles away then I began hailing him on the VHF radio. He never responded. I had to start the engine in a hurry, come about and scoot away from him to avoid a collision. Lest anyone believe that they can do coastal sailing without a sharp eye on watch, be warned. Potential collisions happen much more often than you might suspect. Also, my suspicion that ships operate at night on autopilot with no awake and alert person
on the bridge is reinforced. Beware.

This morning about 0700, just as we were entering the channel, the sky cleared up and the winds returned to SSE 10-15, which was the forecast. I could have, and perhaps should have, reversed my decision and headed back out to the Gulf Stream to continue toward Lake Work or Fort Pierce. The weather forecast for the next two days is light and variable winds so today might be the last window for a while. However, I was not disposed to have faith in weather forecasts at the moment, so here we are,
on Key Biscayne, within sight of Miami. The passage from Marathon, 110 nautical miles, 23 hours, not bad considering that adverse conditions.

We need to do better with marine weather forecasts. The NOAA free forecasts from our beloved government are wrong far too often. Does anybody have a good source to suggest? I need something that will send me information by text email, not a web-based service.

On another front, I have a voice mail today. The Staples computer repair station called to say that "our people have determined that your computer had a liquid spill", your computer will be returned unrepaired. Great. The only liquid spill that computer had was a year ago in the Gulf Of Mexico, when a wave splash hit the keyboard. That was repaired a year ago, but visible traces may remain. I'm pretty sure that there has been no subsequent spill, and that the problem with the screen was not associated
with last year's spill, but how do I prove it? The evidence of a past spill seems to shift the burden of proof to me. Damn.

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