Bruce’s Brief: Storm Arcing away from the Coast, Small Boat PSSR and early South Straits Preview

Certainly another interesting day out there and real fun for the weather geeks. As we said yesterday, this looked like just another winter weather storm, slightly elevated wind speeds but not as strong as the TV and radio folks would like to have us believe. As I write, the barometer here as well as in the Straits, and along the coast has started to go up which should indicate that this low-pressure system has started to arc away from the coast. In some cases rising rapidly which can be as bad as falling rapidly so we’ll watch those stations. The coastal buffer zone once again is helping to diminish wind speeds over the interior of Western Washington. Note the chart for Cape Elizabeth, which I will try to update before sending this out. I’ve also included the Langley Hill Doppler radar image because you can really see where the low-pressure is centered off our coast, especially if you run the “Reflectivity Loop.” It is clearly moving away from the coast.

As you can see from the surface charts everything is pointing towards a post frontal kind of weekend. I think given the option I probably wouldn’t head out this afternoon and instead just get the boat ready to go tomorrow, late morning. For the north, central, and south Sound expect 15-25 knots for south-southwesterly until mid to late afternoon. Before going anywhere, check the station reports on your VHF. Remember that the definition of heavy weather is the point at which you don’t feel comfortable with you, your crew or your vessel being able to handle the conditions. No harm in just spending a comfortable weekend at the dock getting caught up on boat chores or reading those owner’s manuals.

By Sunday things will ease off in the Sound however along the coast we’ll start to feel the effects of yet another low-pressure system headed our way. Check the 48 hour surface chart. More lows are out there however they are starting to weaken and as we saw this week, the closer they get to our coastal buffer zone, the weaker they become. There is some hope for better weather after all. The downside is in the 500MB charts which have the jet stream well to the south of us which is actually going to allow more moisture into California and keep us cooler and wetter than normal.

For PSSR at Shilshole, the boats and crews that like breezy conditions are going to love Saturday. The challenge will be where CYC sets the start-finish line. That’s because even though the conditions are post-frontal, in other words, a southwesterly flow over the Sound, you will still have a very localized southeasterly coming out of the Ship Canal. This challenge will be compounded by stronger shifts to the southwest as the day goes on and the breeze starts to ease. Very tactical and challenging racing for sure.

I had a request from my friend Peter Salusbury up in Vancouver to gaze deeply into the crystal ball to see what conditions we may have for the best long distance race in the Pacific Northwest, South Straits of Georgia which will be starting on Friday, the 14th of April. Needless to say, if it had started today it would have been quite a thrash but then again we’ve come to expect this of that race. While the 11 April chart continues to show what appears to be an unrelenting string of low-pressure systems out there, they are really starting to weaken, except for that monster 972MB low on the International Dateline. It, however, is not moving our way so at this point conditions are looking relatively benign. Doesn’t mean you can slack off in your safety preparation, however. I’ve included the Navy charts for Friday and Saturday next weekend. I’ll have a special South Straits forecast on Thursday with a weekend post on Friday.

Have a safe and fun weekend!


Bruce has raced and cruised the Pacific Northwest his entire life. He earned a Bachelor's of Science from the University of Washington in Biological Oceanography and learned meteorology "to keep from getting kicked around on the race course." Bruce spent nearly two decades as Associate Publisher for Northwest Yachting Magazine, retiring in mid-2015, and was the chairman of the board of trustees for the Northwest Marine Trade Association in 2014. (photo of Bruce driving Playstation is a bit dated, but cool)

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