It certainly appears that this will be the last great weekend of the summer so you better get out and enjoy it! And at least we don’t live in Florida or Texas. Plus, don’t forget that we are no where near done with hurricane season. Two active in the Pacific and potentially three in the Atlantic. What will be really interesting will be the beach erosion caused by Jose on the northern part of the Eastern Seaboard especially Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
For the Pacific Northwest the question will be if it’s going to rain on the Seahawks home opener on Sunday and if so when. Right now it looks like the pre-frontal wind will start early Sunday morning with the rain starting about noon and continuing until the game ends. Take your foulies.
For boaters there simply won’t be much wind on Saturday so go ahead and power south. That way on Sunday when the breeze fills in from the south-southeast you’ll have a downwind sail back to Seattle.
Also, if you’re a sailor it’s time to think about getting those cruising sails scheduled for maintenance this winter and getting your dock buddies organized to help you get the furling jib down and folded in advance of the first big blow of the winter.
At this point, all eyes are on Florida as we watch Irma move inexorably closer, currently projected to make landfall in the Upper Keys. 130 to 150mph winds and a 6’-10’ storm surge are going to absolutely devastate southern Florida. As I said a couple of weeks ago, this is a very interesting time of the year and when you can get three hurricanes (a Cat 5, a Cat 4 and a Cat2) in the Atlantic with the possibility of a fourth forming off of the Cape Verde Islands all at the same time, this can and should get your attention.
Our weather, on the other hand, is very benign with the possibility of a weak front coming ashore tomorrow. We finally have an onshore flow which should help clean-up the air and move the smoke to Eastern Washington. Unfortunately, there isn’t much moisture associated with the front so that isn’t going to help the fire situation.
For boaters, this will mean small craft advisories in the eastern Straits of JdF (Juan de Fuca) for westerlies tonight and then become a southeasterly on Saturday as the front approaches. For the most part, the winds will be less than 15 knots all weekend over the inland waters. The other interesting feature to note is the jet stream in the 500MB charts as it is now tending to move south. As it does this will allow more fronts into the Pacific Northwest. It’s been a great summer, however, I think we can agree that it’s time for some rain.
Well, the folks in Texas and Louisiana have certainly had enough weather probably for a lifetime. The bad news is that the European weather models are showing another 2-4″ of rain coming down Tuesday and Wednesday and then by the end of the week there’s the possibility of Hurricane Irma making a US landfall in the Gulf. YIKES! On top of that, the current administration Is going to cut funding to NOAA and FEMA while wiping out any mention of climate change. How is it we are getting 100 year, 200 year, 500 year and 800 year floods and storms every year now? Kurt is telling me to get back to weather in the Pacific NW now and save the politics for a happy hour discussion.
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In short, we are going to have a truly spectacular weekend with no rain on the horizon anywhere in the near future. For boaters this will be great except for the possibility of fog in the mornings. I’ve added the Western Washington Surface Conditions Chart so that you can do your own predictions for fog. I can tell you from personal experience that there was plenty of fog in Admiralty Inlet and the eastern end of the Straits this morning. No reason to go anywhere so why not soak the crab pots? We were rewarded with four gorgeous Dungeness. I digress. The red number above the wind arrow is the current temp while the blue number below the arrow is the dew point, the temp at which fog will form. The closer they are, the more likely you are to get fog.
As you can see from the surface charts, our weather is being dominated by a relatively weak ridge of high pressure extending from Hawaii to directly over us. In addition, there is second weak high pressure system directly east of us that will be bringing up warm air from a thermal low over the Central Valley of California. This will result in record temperatures for our area over the next 4-5 days. Great if you’re a boater, not so good if you’re thinking about camping. The other feature that will be present is a consistent offshore flow which will cause down slope compressional heating of the air mass. This also means there will be little wind coming down the Straits from the Pacific to cool us off and no small craft advisories in the eastern Straits.
Then if you check the upper air charts (500MB) there is no jet stream activity to move any of those low pressure systems you see out in the mid-Pacific towards us. If you like hot and dry, you’re going to love the next couple of weeks. If you’re a fire-fighter, not so much.
It’s getting to my favorite time of the year where the global weather picture starts getting really active especially in the zones where hurricanes start forming. Luckily, we don’t really have to worry about those up here. Instead, we just want to know what sort of weather we’ll have for the weekend (great) and if there’s going to be any rain (no). Then for the sailors who are racing starting tonight out of Anacortes on the Northern Century Race, they want to know if there will be wind (yes and no) or will a century be the amount of time needed to finish the race? Kidding!
As you can see from the surface charts we will have some nice weather for the weekend and for the eclipse on Monday. Just make sure you wear plenty of sunblock (always) and that you’ve got the right glasses or viewing equipment for you, your phone and your camera. And no, two pairs of sunglasses stacked on top of one another won’t cut it and the eclipse can do permanent damage to your retina and your cameras, so it’s no joke.
For boaters, the usual places will have plenty of wind. The eastern end of the Straits and the southern end of the Strait of Georgia. Gale warnings tonight in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and a Small Craft Advisory for the southern part of the Strait of Georgia from 2100 hours tonight until 1000 hours Saturday morning. Rig your jack lines before you leave the dock and get everyone into foulies and safety gear as the sun goes down. Make sure whoever is navigating knows precisely where you are when the sun goes down so there’s no confusion about the range and bearing to the mark and what the hazards are around you. It’s after you get south of Patos on the reach, beat, reach to Hein Bank that the wind will really begin to drop off and will pretty much stay that way until late Saturday afternoon in the San Juan Islands.
As usual, the tides will play a role in this race, with the strongest being Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. Remember also that the tides in Cattle Pass at the South end of San Juan Channel are double the velocities shown below.
1930 .91 Ebb
0018 .55 Flood
0712 2.8 Ebb
1400 1.89 Flood
Haro Straits, Turn Point Boundary Pass
0121 .37 Flood
0714 2.18 Ebb
1433 1.13 Flood
The general rule of thumb for the Northern Century is the sail the shortest possible course from the start to Pt. Roberts, which means leaving Guemes to port even though you might have the ebb with you out to Rosario Straits. The problem is that you will fight a stronger ebb than if you went closer to Lummi Island.
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By the time you get to Pt Roberts the breeze should be on and you should have an exciting close to beam reach back to the green buoy at the east end of Cabbage Island just north of Saturna. In the past, if you’re feeling lucky, you might try to cut the corner and aim towards San Juan Channel. The problem this year will be that this is where the breeze will die first and if you can’t make it out of Cattle Pass by 0900 hours Saturday morning, you could be anchored for about six hours because you can expect the wind to be light and variable from 0700 Saturday morning until it finally fills back down the Straits around 1500-1600 hours. To stay in the breeze you will probably be better off to sail outside of Stuart Island and go around Turn Point. The other problem is that if you go outside of Stuart the wind in Haro Straits will be light and from the south, southeast until you get south of Andrews Bay on San Juan Island where it finally clocks around to the west-southwest. At least there will be wind and less tide than if you tried to go the inside route.
Running the High-Resolution GRIBS with the polars that I have, I have Rage, Hamachi and LawnDart able to make that gate but just barely. Do you feel lucky?
From Hein Bank to the finish it will be a pretty straight forward run.
All in all, a very challenging race on some of the most beautiful water there is in the world.
Finally, our weather is definitely changing and going back to more normal conditions. We can say goodbye to the above normal temps, goodbye to the smoke and put the welcome mat out for some rain which will end our record dry spell. All good, well almost all good. There will be some problems associated with these changes, not really much for boaters but if you’re staying at home you should be aware. The first problem that occurs after such a long dry spell is that roads have now picked up a significant coating of oil and other petroleum products which when the rain comes will make them very slick. The second problem is the dust and other gunk that has accumulated on transformers and power poles can become conductive with rain causing power outages and even fires resulting from the short circuits. Perhaps the most significant problem will be the lightning that will be coming in with this trough of low pressure. There simply isn’t enough going to be enough rain to put out the fires that may be started by the lightning.
For boaters, we’ve already got southerlies over the inland waters and those will continue over the weekend until the post frontal northerly makes its way down the Sound on Sunday afternoon. Per usual the most wind will be in the central and eastern portion of the Strait of Juan de Fuca with gale warnings up for tonight and tomorrow afternoon. Still, no major reason to stay home. Summer is fading rapidly so why not get out and enjoy our waters. I have it from a very reliable source that the areas where it is legal to crab are producing some excellent catches.
We’ve all probably had enough weather this week with record high temperatures and all that smoke coming down from the wild fires in BC. Not much is going to change over the weekend as this thermally induced trough will remain over the Pacific NW for most of this weekend with the possibility of a weak onshore flow developing late tomorrow and continuing into early next week. Then by the end of next week we can expect more high temps as a weak high pressure system will be pushed into eastern BC and eastern Washington by a weak low pressure system. The folks returning from TransPac will continue to be frustrated by a weaker than normal Pacific High that simply is not getting any stronger or more stable.
In summary, it’s going to stay smokey over the Pacific NW with not much wind. The good news is that it’s going to be much cooler out on the water so why not head out and enjoy it. Lake Washington will be busy with SeaFair and plenty of emphasis patrols to make sure no one is having too much fun out there, BUI is no joke so be a smart boater.
Bruce is back! With forecasts! Now let’s get out there and cruise.
TransPac was great but nothing beats the Pacific Northwest in the summer when the weather is perfect here while the rest of the country is baking and getting overly soaked. Not much on tap around here in terms of weather to watch except the usual summertime suspects: the wind against the ebb tide going over the bars along the coast and the afternoons in the Strait of Juan de Fuca as the westerly fills down especially in the central to eastern part of the Strait.
What is strange is that weak group of low-pressure systems centered off of the Queen Charlottes. These are supported by a cut-off upper-level low that you see on today’s 500MB chart. This combination has the overall effect of keeping the Pacific High weak and unstable. This is actually good news as this will have the effect of keeping our temperatures from getting too warm. The other good news is that not much is going to change going forward. Overall, that means do more boating, get out and enjoy our incredible area.
Pretty much only good, no, great news for this weekend. Just in time for the official start of summer, we’re going to have 75+⁰F for today, 80+⁰F for Saturday and 90+⁰F for Sunday. No reason not to get out and enjoy our beautiful waters this weekend.
Plus there is plenty going on especially if you DON’T have a boat. You can go for free boat rides at Seas the Day at South Lake Union at 901 Fairview Ave N. If you do have a boat and just want to brush up on some boating skills, like docking, anchoring, technology, sail rigging, or knot tying there will be clinics on all this and more. Add in seminars on salmon fishing, crabbing, or chartering then add in perfect weather and you’ve got a great way to spend Saturday from 1100 to 1500. I know, too much to do and not nearly enough time. If you have any questions feel free to give them a call at 206-748-0012.
On all the inland waters expect perfect conditions just beware that while the air temperature may be warm, the water temp is still COLD and hypothermia is not out of the question. There won’t be a lot of wind, see the surface charts to see why.
What is really interesting is the 500MB charts and the Tropical Surface Charts. The jet stream is way north and undulating in a manner to suggest that when it straightens out, we’ll have another cutoff low over northern BC and SE Alaska. There is also a weak upper-level low off of southern California which is preventing the Pacific High from setting up where we’d like it for TransPac. A new feature this week showed up on the tropical surface charts and that would be the first of the tropical waves which usually precedes the formation of tropical cyclone development. By this time last year, we were already well into alphabet when it came to named storms. For those of you headed across the pond, this will bear watching.
The TransPac folks are also watching the late development of the Pacific High and not only is it out of place, it’s also weak and therefore easily pushed around by the low-pressure systems still coming across the Pacific. The result, if you were to start today, would be a very slow beat/reach away from the coast followed by a slow drag race to the Islands with very interesting squall activity if you’re taking the more northerly route. The trouble with this type of pattern is that you could get caught behind one of these squalls and lose six hours to a competitor just a couple of miles away. Scary stuff.
As we said yesterday, it’s a very complex picture and the models are not at all in agreement. As you can see from the surface charts, there isn’t much of a gradient. After tomorrow it doesn’t look much better, however one of the models has the Strait of Georgia getting nasty from 0100 hrs on Monday until 1200 on Monday. By nasty, I mean 25-30 knots from the west-northwest. Remember this is only one model.
The rest of the models still have it light for the start and staying that way until around 2300 hours tomorrow (Sunday) night when a light west-northwesterly will fill down Trincomali Channel first and then into the Straits. By 0200 hrs Monday this could build to 20 knots in the Straits before it starts to back off around 0800 hrs. As the next front approaches, the breeze will continue to drop before it gets really light and variable starting on late Tuesday afternoon.
By noon on Wednesday, as the front get closer, a light southeasterly will fill in over the race area.
So the question remains, which way to go when? For the rowers and paddleboarders, it’s still the shortest possible course. For the sailors, it’s going to be a question of when you get the breeze and when you are going to hit the tide gates. You will need to monitor the VHF and track the wind reports at Halibut Bank, Entrance Island, Ballenas, Sisters, and Sentry Shoals. After that, it’s going to get light and the tides at Seymour Narrows will be critical. Johnstone Strait won’t be horrible but the question will be if the rowers and paddleboarders can build enough of a lead getting around Cape Caution before the sailors get into the southeasterly in Queen Charlotte Sound. That southerly/southeasterly will likely carry everyone to Bella Bella and then to Ketchikan.
The Proving Grounds section of the R2AK was certainly that yesterday as the front passed over the course from Pt. Townsend to Victoria. If you were still out in the Straits when the post-frontal westerly filled in, you got hammered as the breeze built to 40+knots with gusts to near 50 knots. The front slowed as it hit the coast and was about 45 minutes to an hour later than we had expected however we tend to err on the side of caution especially when there are small vessels like paddleboards involved in an open water crossing where there will be nowhere to hide or duck into.
As you look at the surface charts for the weekend you see an evolving and complex weather picture, especially for the folks going to Ketchikan.The bad news for Leukemia Cup is that unless you’re willing to stay on the water until late Saturday afternoon, there isn’t going to be much wind. However, since it’s part of the Downtown Sailing Series and for a really important cause, who cares, plus you can use your engine to complete the course.
For the rest of Puget Sound, it’s not going to be much different. Light air, partly cloudy conditions, an occasional light rain squall, really more like the spring we never had. The only place where there will be wind will be the central and eastern Straits of Juan de Fuca and it will be cranking up there especially in the late afternoon.
As I mentioned, this is a complex weather picture that will provide the racers going to Alaska with some unique challenges and not of the high wind variety. The key to this is yet another pesky upper-level low-pressure system just off our coast and north of the jet stream which is keeping the Pacific High from setting up in its usual position. This could be the year that rowers and paddleboarders give the sailing crowd fits. There simply isn’t going to be a lot of wind for the first three to five days except for maybe a 12 hour period from midnight Sunday until noon on Monday and then pretty much only in the area from Campbell River south to the mid-Gulf Islands. In that time frame expect the breeze to be from the northwest in the 10-20-knot range. After that, it’s going to stay light as another weak frontal system lazily approaches coastal BC. By light, I mean 0 gusting to 5-knots from Campbell River to Port Hardy. As the front brushes the coast, the race course will start to see a light southeasterly on Thursday morning, 5-8-knots.
The start on Sunday will be a challenge for everyone because max ebb is one hour before the start with the slack before the flood being at around 1500 hours. There will also be very little breeze. The wind will fill down from the northwest in the early evening and when it does, there will be wind in Trincomali Channel. Sailors will then have to calculate if they can hit the flood at Porlier Pass to get out to the Strait of Georgia where the wind will be slightly stronger and last longer.
Of course, in a light air scenario, the key for the rowers and paddleboarders will be traveling the shortest possible course and hitting the tidal gates at the right time at Dodd Narrows and Seymour Narrows. If they can get through there and slam a tide door on the sailors they will be able to get all the way out Johnstone Strait fighting only the tide.
They will also have the ability to work the back eddies along the beach to avoid the worst of the tide. If they can do that and then get out and around Cape Caution in a southerly breeze for the rest of the trip past Bella Bella and onto Ketchikan, they could finally take one from the sailors.
I will try to get another update done late on Saturday because this weather picture is by no means stable.
Stay safe and have a great weekend.
Editor’s Note We are all very lucky to have Bruce’s analysis on the weather scene and guidance on the race course. While Bruce eagerly provides these Briefs on sailish.com, he is also available for more specific weather analysis and routing. You can learn more about Bruce here. Email him if you would like to see him tackle a particular weather issue here on sailish.com or tackle a weather challenge privately.