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.
What a difference a day will make. Today in the Straits is a very nice, light westerly of 5-10-knots with the air temp at 55⁰F. By this time tomorrow, it will be a very different scenario. As you can see from the surface charts we definitely have a front coming towards us and the only question will be when will it pass over the race course. Which right now is projected to be between 1000hrs and 1300hrs. If you’re a fast boat and can make it across to Victoria before 1000hrs that will be a great thing because the post frontal breeze in the Straits is going to make that crossing nothing to take lightly.
From a tidal current perspective, this is just about perfect with a moderate ebb really starting roll around 0400 hrs at Pt. Wilson. With the start at 0500 hrs, all Teams should be well on their way into the Straits with the next slack at 1025. The other good news is that the pre-frontal breeze will be southeasterly at Pt Townsend and will be in the 10-15 knots range. By mid-Straits at 0700-0900 you could have 15-25 knots from the southeast.
If you’re wearing your Garmin Quatix watch, at around 0900 start watching the barometric pressure to be bottoming out. The wind will drop and start to get flukey while the puffs start coming in from the west. If you’re in the mid-Straits or near the ½ way point, that will be your signal to batten down the hatches because it’s about to get gnarley.
How gnarly? By 1200 hours you could be in 25-30 knots of westerly and in the middle of the Straits there is nowhere to hide. This breeze will start to back off around 2000 hrs becoming 15 knots from the west by 2300 hours and then just sort of go away by 0200 hours Friday morning. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be out there on a paddleboard or small rowboat when the westerly first fills down the Straits, so plan accordingly.
By that I mean if you are making 5-knots or less, think about the going the great circle route inside of Protection Island and up behind Dungeness Spit and then wait for the breeze to drop before you go across. Remember also that with this breeze the wind chill will be in the upper 30’s and low 40’s so don’t ignore the possibility of hypothermia.
After Swiftsure, this week certainly went by fast and now we’re racing again tomorrow. No wonder the Mrs isn’t exactly pleased. I guess I might be a bit behind on my lawn and garden maintenance program… I don’t know why however I think tomorrow on the water, any water, will still be a lot more fun than getting dirty in the garden.
Speaking of Swiftsure, last weekend was certainly proof that when there is little to no gradient just about anything can happen. This weekend in the Straits will be much different as we’ll have an onshore flow and as the ridge of high pressure builds on Sunday by the evening it will be really cranking from the west.
For the last of the Tri-Island Series, not so much. There will be wind, and there will be the sunshine so it will still be a great day on the water. Just don’t forget the sunblock before you leave the house! The other plus is the tides which will be favorable and there won’t be much of them.
Tidal Currents at West Point
1036 Max Flood .71 knots
1500 Max Ebb .17 knots
The first gun is supposed to be around 0900 hours however if you look at the surface charts you’ll notice the remains of a trough moving to the east and unfortunately that will leave a large gap in the pressure gradient. This will result in a light downslope, drainage breeze from the east in the morning. With some clearing and no gradient, this could be the perfect set-up for the Swihart Effect which says the northerly will start down the Sound once the flood tide gets rolling. If the clearing continues, look for the northerly to continue to build through the day.
As is typical for the Blake Island Race, you can pick your poison deciding which way you are going to go around the Island. In almost all cases it’s best to leave the Island to starboard especially when you have a flood tide. This is because of the ebb that continues to roll up Colvos and the back side of the Island. The flood may not get all the way to the bottom of the Island, however, there will be more wind on the east side of the Island.
If the breeze is northerly in the starting area, you’ll probably do a starboard set just don’t go west too long. Before the start watch the flag at the West Point lighthouse and if it’s showing any easterly at all plan a gybe to port to be at the West Point Buoy. If on port you’re aiming at Alki, hold that gybe until you get lifted to Spuds Fish and Chips, then gybe and aim at the Island. Just don’t get too close to the Island especially at the south end. See the picture. If you swing wide enough at the south end you’ll carry the northerly into the light zone. Just be ready to smoothly transition into what little breeze there will be on the backside of the Island. Headsail up, in the starboard groove, spinnaker down, all without changing course and hopefully without slowing much.
Since you’ll be swept along with the ebb up the backside of the Island, sail the favored tack, usually starboard and don’t get too close to the Island. By the same token don’t too far over to the Manchester shore as it will get light in there as well. Work your way up to Bainbridge Island since the current tends to set from west to east along that south shore. Once you get to Restoration hold on to port tack. If you are aimed at Four Mile Rock, just keep going right up to Magnolia Bluff. If you end up being headed below(east of) Four Mile, take a short hitch until you can once again be above Four Mile. Really watch your depth sounder coming into there as it gets very shallow, very quickly. If the breeze has built as you’ve come across you’ll want to do your tack change here going from the light #1 to the heavy #1going from port to starboard tack. You should be right under the Bluff and it will be puffy so the mainsheet/ traveler person is going to be working very hard to keep the boat on its feet.
Once you clear West Point hold on to starboard tack until you can lay the entrance to the Ship Canal. Of course, this also depends on where the finish line is located. You’d like to get close to the entrance so it will be easier to call the tack to the finish, finishing on starboard and probably in more breeze than the boats on the outside. There will also be a nice push from the current coming out of the Ship Canal.
Be safe, use lots of sunblock, and have a great time.
What a week it has been in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Tuesday saw a steady 40 at Race Rocks and Smith Island had a gust to 59. Yikes. That is not fun sailing, that is survival or better yet, just stay at the dock and don’t put yourself or your vessel in harms way. How things can change. Yesterday, for the delivery up to Victoria, it was for the most part a mill pond across the Straits with even a light, warm easterly in places.
As usual, the most predictable part of this weekend will be the tidal currents in Race Passage and they won’t be insignificant.
Tidal Current Race Passage
0749 Max Ebb 6.7 knots
1436 Max Flood 6.1 knots
2146 Max Ebb 4.9 knots
0253 Max Flood 1.8 knots
0843 Max Ebb 6.6 knots
1527 Max Flood 5.9 knots
2042 Max Ebb 5.0 knots
Kudos to the Race Committee for changing the start order because the JdF and Flattery fleets are going to need all the help they can get to make it to the Race before the flood starts. As you can see from the surface charts there is simply no gradient over the Pacific Northwest, nor will there be until later this coming week. We are caught between two relatively weak high pressure systems and with the jet stream (see 500MB charts) well north of us, there’s nothing to move this situation along.
This is also reflected in the fact that the models used for forecasting are not very much in agreement especially after tomorrow afternoon. This is where being your own weather forecaster will be helpful and that’s going to start by logging the pressure readings, wind direction and wind strength over the race course. This mornings readings showed the pressure at Forks at 1015.1 with the pressure at Bellingham at 1015.5 which tells us a couple of things. 1. The wind will be light in the Straits and from the east, never a very stable situation. And 2, sure enough 2 knots from the East at Race Rocks, 2 knots from WNW at Sheringham, and 4 knots from ESE at the JA Buoy at the mouth of the Straits. As the land masses heat up over the course of the day, this will draw a westerly down the Straits with the most wind (15-20 knots) being in the eastern part of the Straits, Race Rocks to Smith Island. This pattern may repeat itself tomorrow. Generally speaking, the first day of this pattern is the best chance of good breeze. Each day in succession, the breeze will fill later and not be as strong.
Most models show light air over the starting area tomorrow morning which will make getting through the Race before the flood starts at 1130-1200hrs a challenge. The flood starts first on the Vancouver Island side so if you get through the Race with the last of the ebb, get to the US side as fast as you can. If the pattern holds, we’ll start in a drainage or downslope ENE which will probably be less than 5 knots. Clearly with all that ebb tide you will not want to swept over the start line early as getting back might be next to impossible.
The other part about getting to the US side of the Straits is that when the westerly does fill, it comes down the US side first, with Canadian side staying light. Two of the models show the westerly filling between 1500-1800 hrs. This will make this a long race.
How long you might ask? If we run the GFS model for Crossfire, certainly one of the fastest boats out there, it shows them completing the Hein Bank course in 42 hours. Don’t kill the messenger……
Around the rest of the Northwest it will simply be a great weekend to be on the water so load the family, the BBQ, and enjoy yourselves.
Ed. Note: Bruce is giving a weather presentation at 16:30 this afternoon. We’re trying to find the location right now, when we do we’ll update this post. UPDATE: The in-person brief at 16:30 is at the Strathcona Hotel!
It’s going to be a great weekend to have a power boat……unfortunately we are right in a changeover point from our long cold, wet weather to a more reasonable late spring. The problem is still that pesky upper-level low-pressure system that, because of a meandering jet stream (see the 500MB Charts), isn’t going anywhere very quickly. As a result, there will be large gaps in the pressure gradient with a thermal northerly not filling in until late in the afternoon on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday there is a good chance of a more reasonable northerly starting at around 1000 to 1100 hrs and continuing most of the day. Perhaps 10-12 knots at the most.
If the J/24 Nationals Race Committee is willing to keep you out there until 1600-1700 hours Friday and Saturday, there could be a reasonable amount of breeze, 10-15 knots. If there is more clearing earlier in the day, it might fill down a bit earlier. Not holding my breath.
I wish I had better news for the sailors, however, if you’re a powerboater, it’s going to be pretty great just about everywhere except for Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon. In the Eastern end of the Straits from Sheringham to Smith Island, you could see 25-35 knots of westerly as it funnels down.
Enjoy what sun there might be and the fact that as the jet stream continues north, it will get warmer.
It certainly won’t exactly be the nicest of weekends but Sunday will be the better of the two days. The problem is a very persistent upper-level low-pressure system which is just not moving very much and will keep cool, unstable air coming ashore all weekend. Take a look at the attached Langley Doppler from this afternoon and then compare it to tomorrow morning before you head out.
For now, check the current surface chart and the current 500MB chart to get a feel for what is actually going on. As you can see from tomorrow’s chart, the surface gradient will have opened up and the remains of a weakened frontal system will be approaching the coast. The really cool feature about that chart is the Pacific High which is looking very summer like. About the right pressure, 1040 MB, and in very much the right place. The only problem may be that this is a little early in the summer cycle for this to be occurring. If however, Comanche were starting TransPac tomorrow, she would absolutely blitz the record. We’ll see.
The models have come together nicely for tomorrow so we’ll roll the dice and put this out there. As always, check all your resources before you leave the house tomorrow morning. Cool, unstable air coming ashore doesn’t make for a tremendously accurate forecast.
0800 Max ebb .43 knots
1606 Max flood 1.14 knots
Narrows north end
1118 Max ebb 3.98 knots
1654 Max flood 3.95 knots
There should be enough wind to allow the Vashon Island Race to start on time which is about an hour after max ebb, we still need to remember that the ebb will extend because of the amount of rain today and what will be flowing out of the Duwamish. There will probably still be a localized SE breeze at Shilshole, however at West Point it will probably be time to think about getting to the west anticipating a shift to the WSW as the day goes on.
As usual, in these conditions, it may get a bit fluky from the north end of Vashon to Pt. Robinson where, if we’re lucky, the WSW will finally start to build to 8-12 knots. You’ll want to be careful to not get too close to the Vashon shore as the wind will be coming over the Island and may not touch down until well offshore. At the bottom end of the Island stay out a ways to avoid the eastward flowing current that pretty much always run there. Get into the ebb up Colvos Passage and don’t get too close to either shore. Drivers and spinnaker trimmers will be working very hard all the way up Colvos. This will not be “Miller time”.
From the north end of Colvos to West Point, the wind will probably back from the SW to the S so you’ll need to anticipate the gybe and your approach to the finish. Watch gybing in north of West Point as this can get light from West Point to the Ship Canal.
For those of you going cruising this weekend, no real major issues of too much breeze except in the eastern end of the Straits and the San Juan Islands in the early Sunday morning hours when you should be at anchor. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of scope out and plenty of room to swing.
Have a great weekend and do something nice for mom!