Monday, August 27, 2007

Listening to NOAA - 8/17/07 (catch-up #1)

From time to time, I have been known to refer to myself as a fairly conservative paddler. I'm not talking politically, of course, I'm talking about taking precautions to keep myself & anyone I'm feeling responsible for safe & comfortable on the water. I always have extra food, plenty of water, on long trips I like to carry some money (in fact when I was guiding on the Hudson I almost always had a twenty in my PFD, I called it my NYC emergency kit), have an idea of where & how I'm going to get off the water & home if things turn bad, all that good stuff.

One of the things I do pretty religiously is keep an eye on the forecast when I'm planning a trip. There are 3 sites I tend to use for this - Weather Underground, (I actually started using Weather Underground at home because for some unknown reason suddenly decided one day that my default setting here at home was "allergy forecast" & now all it gives me is the pollen count), and the NOAA marine forecast for "MONTAUK POINT NEW YORK TO SANDY HOOK NEW JERSEY OUT 20 NM OFFSHORE INCLUDING LONG ISLAND SOUND...LONG ISLAND BAYS AND NEW YORK HARBOR ANZ338-280730-
/O.ROU.KOKX.MA.F.0000.000000T0000Z-000000T0000Z/NEW YORK HARBOR-." - that being the forecast that covers my little corner of the saltwater world (and then some).

I listen to the forecasts with an eye to the sort of trip I'm planning. Sometimes it just gives me a clue as to what gear to take (e.g., a jacket, or at least a space blanket!). Sometimes I'll adjust my plans - change direction, change distance, whatever I think will keep the conditions, if they are going to be challenging, to at least be a good & fun version of challenging, not a well-this-is-turning-into-a-boring-kind-of-slog challenging or god forbid a scary kind of challenging (although sometimes that's the kind I've learn the most from, it's also the kind that I've been known to kick myself over for years, even if everybody came out of it just fine, and I try to avoid those situations in the first place).

With this dinghy sailing business going on, I'm now looking very eagerly for light winds on Thursday evenings except on the first week or two of any given month. Like right now the forecast for Thursday is saying: THU SW WINDS AROUND 5 KT. WAVES 1 FT OR LESS. And I'm going "Hmmm..."

Cause for that being that I would really really really like to get out on a dinghy again, and a Thursday evening with light air in the later portion of the month is my best bet! That's the night that the Sailing Committee meets at 5 to go sailing. I've been judged competent to sail with the group in my own boat in light conditions.
The 5:00 time is what makes the front end of a month not work so well - I'm in finance & every new month brings a month-end close, can't really head out at 4 to go sailing. But week before last, we were done with the close, we'd been working like crazy people finalizing some divisional budget stuff but had finished that, and I felt like with all the extra hours getting out at 4 would probably be OK especially if I showed up early. Boss agreed. Yay!

Well, up until Wednesday, conditions looked PERFECT. 5-10 kts from the SW. I knew the Laser sailors were probably sighing with frustration over how BORING the racing was going to be, but I was just psyched! Woohoo! Goin' sailing!

Got to work early. Threw myself into work with a will. Knocked of a few items then finally thought to look at the forecast. And, hey. That's not what it said the day before...

With a bit of a sigh, I fired off an email to Holly the Sailing Chair -


I think that I will still come out to the club this afternoon, I have permission to leave around 4, but that sounds a little challenging for a beginner. I'll be ready to paddle instead.

That afternoon, I got called into a training session for a system that's being rolled out. No notice, and it took an hour. It was a good session & the new system sounds promising, but I'd had other plans for that hour...

oh well. I decided to give up on the sailing. After all, conditions sounded a bit much for my novice ability, and I didn't want to slow down the racers, and that way I could finish the work I'd planned - then I'd go for a good workout paddle. Yeah, that would be better.

So that's what I did.

I got to the club just as the sailors were returning. I walked down to the dock to say "Hi! Boy, am I ever glad I paid attention to the marine forecast & changed my plans completely - I don't think I could've handled this at all!"

And Holly the Sailing Chair starting laughing. "You listened to NOAA? You silly! We were looking when we were launching & saying 'Where's Bonnie?'"

Yep...the wind may possible have been blowing 10-15 with gusts up to 20 SOMEWHERE in the forecast area - like 20 nautical miles offshore from Montauk Point - but in Canarsie --

there wasn't enough wind to blow a Kleenex six inches!

And apparently out on the bay it was just the perfect amount of breeze for a novice to practice, practice, practice.

Oh well.

When life hands you light air, and you missed your chance to sail...

there are other ways to have fun with the conditions you got!

Did a good hard paddle out to the Gil Hodges bridge & back. That's somewhere around 8 miles, in somewhere a little under 2 hours - it felt great.

Except for the part I managed to drop my boat on my foot while I was putting it away - that ski is just so darned slippery when it's wet.

Once it was back on the rack, I stopped by my little garden & picked a cherry tomato. It tasted so good I proceeded to eat ALL the rest of the ripe ones. Snarf snarf snarf. Yum yum. What a nice way to finish off a paddle.

Fortunately there's lots more on the way - they seem to be coming in sets. Kinda like waves. I'm in a cherry tomato lull right now.

And I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Thursday (sorry, all you sailors)!

p.s. - OK, in the interest of not leading people astray - I do have to add in a couple of excerpts from comments I made last night:

1. For this one time that I listened to the forecast & missed out on something that would've been fun because conditions weren't quite as vehement as the forecast called for, I can think of a dozen times that I've curtailed or cancelled my boating plans because the forecast had gone on beyond fun, and ended up congratulating myself on a good call as I looked out the window at lashing trees, sheets of rain, and flashes of lightning. There's some special quality to the coziness of being snuggled up with a good book & a cup of something hot in that case. Smugly snug? Snugly smug? Whichever - it's nice.

2. Holly laughed at me because I was being totally sarcastic when I said it was so lucky I hadn't put myself out there in such dramatic conditions when in fact the basin was glassy calm. But then she got serious & said that the fact is, because Jamaica Bay is such a sheltered section of our forecast area, you can usually take whatever the forecast is & subtract 5 knots. I knew that the waves in Jamaica Bay were never as big as the marine forecast calls for, and it makes total sense to me that you can apply the same sort of rule of thumb to the windspeed - Holly's version is just the sailor's perspective on that piece of local knowledge.

I'm definitely still learning my new area - even though I've been there almost a year (wow, time flies)!

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