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Darwinism in Weather

Mobile, Alabama, USA – I almost forgot about the „waiting“ ahead of a passage. A constant mixture of feelings between „should I go or better wait“. Monitoring weather patterns helps to make this decision by giving a feeling of what is to expect out there. My first leg from here on will be straight to Cuba. Five to six days on a south south easterly heading until I round Dry Tortuga and then turn a little more easterly for Havana. The challenging Parts will be on these last two days passing the Straights of Florida. Pushed by the beginning Gulf Current, and slowed down in a probably choppy sea as the current flows against prevailing easterly Winds.

Clouds opening after a strong Front passed the Bahamas. Alan Cay, 2011
Clearing sky after the pass of cold front in The Bahamas

From now on the days start with forecasts on HF radio nets and reading fax charts. Checking long term predictions is vital prior to departure: First, to pick a day to leave, second to develop a feeling of how weather works along the next part of the trip. A friend of mine once said: „Patient sailors always have favorable wind.“ Evolving to this patient sailor requires to know about weather behavior. Wind shifts that are to be expected as fronts arrive will affect the planned route and to know about them is the key to a handsome passage.

[quote align=“right“ color=“#999999″]The weather was now quite fine and the Beagle was ready to set sail on 26 December. Unfortunately, the opportunity was lost due to the entire crew being either missing or drunk from the festivities of the night before (for Christmas). (from www.aboutdarwin.com)[/quote] Surprisingly, doing this preparation always reminds me of Charles Darwin. I read his memories when I left England for the Azores in 2010. And according to his book it took some frustrating month before HMS Beagle Captain Robert FitzRoy saw a window coming to head out on a cold morning three days after Christmas in 1831. For me I hope the departure will not take that long.

And since forecasts and satellite images help in finding such a window it currently seems there is one opening late thursday or early friday after the pass of a cold front. Ahead of it all forecast are reading like a simple command: Stay where you are, develop patience.

Forecast Mobile Bay, Offshore
Tempting conditions for today and tomorrow but not after that

Winds from south-east to south up to 22 knots are expected in Mobile Bay, slightly more in open water. The direction the wind is coming from is exactly where I am about to go. This means breaking free from a lee-shore though shallow Mobile Bay‘s nasty chop for the first 8 hours of my trip just to beat agains seas forecasted up to nine feet (three meters) for the next 100 Miles.

So everything is on „wait“ and while I gained a little extra time in the US, my time frame for Cuba shortens. But that is just what you get if you put yourself on a boat and on a schedule. – Time to evolve a little more until Friday when hopefully happens what monitoring weather patterns turned out to normally happen: The clockwise turn I already know from my winter The Bahamas: Within one day the wind will turn westerly and continue to turn until east. Picking the middle of the turn will push me out into open water and on my way to Cuba.