January 22, 2010

A Visit From the Christ Child

It looks like it’s shaping up to be a strong El Nino year, which means, among other things, that the weather is a bit unpredictable and that this year’s trade winds may fail. If you live in California you’re getting the brunt of El Nino, the Christ Child—the jet stream, which normally passes over B.C. and Alaska, has moved way south and the lows are coming fast and furious over California and the northern Baja.

As cruising sailors our lives are linked in a very direct way to the weather—every move we make is a response to weather faxes and forecasts. We watch isobars the way some people watch football. We move when the forecast says to move. But still, we’re caught off guard sometimes. El Nino’s are like that, they bring weather that no one quite expects.

Right now we’re hunkered down off the little village of Magdelena with wind shuddering through our rigging and the first rain in months washing away layers of accumulated dust and grime. Around us are four other cruising boats, beyond that are nine big fishing boats—the kind that almost never leave the fishing grounds. On shore it’s quiet, the little village is still and dark while we wait for the oh, so, rare rains to pass.

Outside the safety of our harbour is the kind of weather you expect up in B.C., 20' waves, gale force wind and driving rain. But as the boat rocks in the wind waves we stay inside--cozy and warm, sipping hot chocolate and eating popcorn and imagining that a faraway winter has come for a (hopefully) brief visit.


Karen said...

Oy. Yeah, we're not looking forward to our departure in a few weeks, but hopefully there will be a nice break in the storms for us! Just curious - I'm sure you're getting SSB faxes/GRIBS, but are there any other weather sites you check? We've been looking at passageweather, magic seaweed, etc. but are always asking around for new resources. What have you found to be the most reliable and easy to decipher?

Diane, Evan, Maia and Charlie the cat said...

Hi Karen,
You've covered the ones we're using.For the CA coast NOAA of course. In fact we're still getting NOAA's offshore forcasts - they don't cover the coast down here but do go out a ways. Nothing has been predicting more than 3-4 days out with a lot of accuracy - I'm guessing El Nino is throwing off the models. We also plan to use Don Anderson on Sonrisa net. Are you planning to harbour hop?

K said...

Good to know. Well, we have our own agenda but we'll see what the weather has in store and what our friends (who are accompanying us) think about everything. We've researched the various harbors down the coast but aren't sure exactly how the trip will go. We are going to be VERY careful, though, and follow the weather closely. I've been trying to find more information on what additional effects El Nino will have on us down the coast and in Mexico, but everything I've come across has been pretty wishy-washy. So, we are watching your progress with appreciating your posts!