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.
You’re probably getting tired of me pontificating about how interesting the weather has been but yesterday was truly exceptional. The team at the National Weather Service Office at Sand Point deserves a hearty well done for doing an exceptional job yesterday by getting it exactly right with just the right amount of warnings and none of the drama, just the facts. It was great to go back and forth from the computer to window and watch this event unfold.
To quantify it, in the past five years we’ve had six warnings. Yesterday we had EIGHT! I’ve attached the Doppler Radar from 1535 yesterday afternoon and it was certainly colorful and if you look closely, there are three watch boxes. In addition, at one point in the early evening when the largest system was moving over Olympia, the Doppler was showing a rainfall rate of 20.57”/hour. Impressive. CYC Seattle did the right thing keeping the fleets off the water last night. Lightning can be a woefully unpredictable critter and it was simply not worth taking a chance.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re a powerboater), we’ll pay a post-frontal price this weekend. As you can see from this mornings chart, the front is just over us and off of San Fran we have, if you’re thinking about TransPac, a nicely developing Pacific High. It’s about medium strength, however, the real key is that it is starting to round up nicely. The rounder it is, the more stable it is. The bad news would be that if we were starting TransPac tomorrow, the first three days would be a real thrash. 30-40 knots of NNW as we leave the coast. That would really sort the fleet out in a hurry. I digress.
As I was about to say, in the usual scheme of things (if there is such a thing) in the Pacific Northwest, after frontal passage the first day the ridge of high-pressure establishes itself is the best day for wind from the north. As each day passes, the amount of breeze decreases. The problem for this weekend will be that persistent trough of low pressure over southern BC which will prevent a ridge of high pressure from developing.
For the sailors, this will mean a light and variable southerly for the start of the day. A northerly will develop however the timing of that will be tough as it will depend upon the amount of clearing we have over the area. The earlier the clearing, the sooner the land will start to warm and the sooner the breeze will start filling down the Sound. In the absence of a pressure gradient, it may come down with the flood tide, the Swihart Effect. So let’s look at the tides for the weekend, which will have a profound effect on the Race to the Straits.
Admiralty Inlet Tidal Current at Bush Point
0630 Max Ebb 2.92 knots
1248 Max Flood 1.4 knots
1848 Max Ebb 2.16 knots
0712 Max Ebb 3.12 knots
1336 Max Flood 1.75 knots
1942 Max ebb 2.17 knots
Since the RTS is a reverse start with handicaps applied at the start, the early starters on Saturday will have more positive tide but less wind. Since the northerly will fill down the west side of the Sound first, the key will be to simply use what wind there is to aim at Double Bluff, the first and only mark of the course. As you work your way to the north and you start running into flood, tend more to the west beach to get out of the tide. At Pt No Point it will be just go on across to Useless Bay and the mark at Double Bluff. The later in the day, the more wind you’ll have to deal with the flood.
The trade-off going north from Double Bluff will be to work the Whidbey Island back eddies before going across to Marrowstone where the ebb will be starting first. You would like to hit the Marrowstone shore so you can also be on the inside of the port tack lifts as you work your way towards the Marrowstone Light. After Marrowstone if you are in the ebb, watch the Cog and Sog and stay on the north side of the Midchannel Bank to stay in the ebb just don’t overstand the finish line by being swept too far to the west.
Sunday it looks like the later starters will have the advantage of both more wind and less tide. The early starters will have to fight the ebb at Marrowstone and then work their way across to the Whidbey Shore. It should be a nice sail back to the finish at Shilshole after Double Bluff remembering that the flood will start first on the west side of the Sound and be slightly stronger there. The wind will be fairly even across the Sound so the angles will be key, gybing on lifts, covering your competition and watching where the smart guys are going.
For the Lake sailors, the breeze may take a bit longer to fill at Lake Washington but it will get there. Since its Team Racing, it will be more about Team tactics than going the right way. One thing to watch for in the mornings on the Lake is that the breeze may start out from the west-northwest and from there it will clock to the north-northwest. A small change but you might be able to break a cover with it.
Have a great weekend and enjoy the improving weather.
Ed. Note: If you’ve never seen team racing, it’s amazing to watch, and you’ll be able to see it from shore at Sail Sand Point both Saturday and Sunday. Be impressed by the skills of our regional high school sailors. Also on Saturday 11-3 SSP hosts the Youth Sailing Open House put together by The Sailing Foundation.
If only we were racing today…..but we are not, so we might as well deal with it. It’s just difficult to look out at the Sound and see 8-knots from the north with a temperature of 55⁰F and not dream about racing or cruising in those conditions. OK, the wind chill is still around 46⁰F so it’s not exactly summer-like yet. It does, however, give us some hope for July 5th…….
The surface chart for today, 21 April, shows us the inevitable for this upcoming weekend. We’ve got both rain and wind headed towards us for both days and well into next week. As we said last week, the long range weather has us as being wetter and cooler than normal and with the jet stream staying well south of us, it is going to stay that way. Don’t kill the messenger.
The surface chart for tomorrow, 22 April, shows a moderately healthy front aimed right at us. The timing of frontal passage is still very unclear. The coastal buffer zone (CBZ) will once again have an impact on timing however it won’t be as dramatic as last weekend where it totally blocked the front and sent it off to the northwest and away from here. The key will be for you to check barometric pressure trends along the coast and inland reporting stations. It’s already starting to drop today so it will happen. After that, check the wind directions and wind velocities around the Sound, including the Washington State ferries on the Bainbridge and Edmonds-Kingston runs. The pre-frontal breeze will be southeasterly, while if the pressure is rising and the wind is out of the southwest, that would be post-frontal. It could, however, be a mixed bag as the front interacts with the CBZ. As per usual, expect stronger breeze along the coast and in the eastern Straits and the San Juan Islands.
That doesn’t necessarily mean light air in the race area off of Shilshole. It could mean 15-20 knots from the SSW in the morning backing off around midday to 5-15-knots from the south and then filling back in from the SW at 15-20-knots around mid-afternoon before slowly backing off towards sunset.
Sunday looks lighter however as the front has passed expect a more consistent onshore flow to develop over the course of the day which could have the breeze build slowly into the 15-20-knot range from the SW over the central and south Sound. The convergence zone will start in the north Sound around Port Townsend as strong westerly fills from Race Rocks to the East. The CZ will slowly work its way south to Edmonds and north Seattle by the early evening on Sunday.
Tidal Current at West Point
1124 Max Flood .82
1600 Max Ebb .3
1212 Max Flood .96
1648 Max Ebb .38
I have also included the graph of current velocity over time as it shows a distinctly non-sinusoidal curve so be aware especially with the flood being stronger than the ebb in a predominately southerly breeze situation. A little unusual so watch the COG and SOG.
Have a great weekend but be prepared for just about anything!
It was yet another impressive week of weather for the Pacific Northwest. Snow in the lowlands, and lots of snow in the mountains and in Whatcom County. We totally more than made up our rainfall deficient for the year. Having gone from 1.5 inches behind a week ago to almost 3 inches ahead today.
Then today we have 45 knots of southerly at West Point and that will last through the day and into the early evening before it starts to back off. As you can see from today’s surface chart we’ve got a moderate high pressure system off the coast (1024MB) with a dissipating low pressure system that has the isobars bunched over the Puget Sound hence the gale warnings for our waters. By tomorrow however that high pressure system will strengthen and move in over the Pacific Northwest giving us a brief respite from this never ending stream of wet frontal systems.
The weekend actually looks pretty good for sailing on Saturday, and great for power boating on Sunday with sunblock advisable for both days. Yes, SUNBLOCK! Actually, you should never leave the house without sunblock if you’re going on the water. Saturday you can expect 10-12 from the south in the morning for most of the central and south Sound with slightly more north of Pt. No Point and into the eastern Straits. As the days wears on you can expect the southerly to slowly back off in the central and south Sound with it becoming about 5 knots by late afternoon.
As you can see from the Sunday Surface Chart we will definitely be under a high pressure system with little wind in the Pacific Northwest, plenty of sun but not much breeze.
The really interesting chart is Valentine’s Day which is showing a pair of significant low pressure systems. The one(966MB) up in the Gulf of Alaska has a front that extends from 60N, 145W to 20N, 150E. WOW! The deeper low (960MB) off the north end of Vancouver Island doesn’t have a long front however both of these will be impacting our weather from Wednesday on into the next weekend. Keep an eye on this and if you have to do the delivery to Olympia for the Toliva Shoal Race, why not go this weekend? Just a thought.
Technically, we are now entering the wettest time of the winter with temperatures expected to be slightly below normal. Overall this means more snow in the mountains with some very brief periods of lowland snow, don’t expect any major lowland snow events. As far as precip goes we are about 1.5 inches behind for the year however we could easily make that up over the next five days.
What about this weekend? Luckily for boaters if you haven’t been to the Seattle Boat Show, you’ll have another chance Saturday (the last day), then on Sunday you may already have plans as is some football game. (Ed. Note, this supposed game on Sunday loses a lot of its luster without the Seahawks. Oh to have another shot at those Patriots.) Otherwise, you can expect occasional rain with occasional wind. No big blows for the inland waters at least for the next couple of days but then on Thursday Feb 9th it looks like another strong front will impact the coast and the San Juan Islands. We’ll be watching that.
The Sunday 5 Feb 500MB chart shows an interesting feature with the upper air coming out of the chilly Canadian interior and colliding with the jet stream (the 564 line) off the California coast before it is pushed to the east. This is a very wet scenario.
What a challenge this has been for the weather forecasters this week with none of the models coming into agreement about what is going to happen this weekend. The latest problem is that there is a new low pressure system that has formed off of the north end of Vancouver Island. It’s weak and not going to last very long, just long enough to make things interesting on Swiftsure. Its attached frontal system will drag across the NW on Saturday with the post frontal system taking a while to set up.
The good news is that we have an ebb tide for the start and a fairly good southeasterly breeze which will at least get us out of the starting area and through Race Passage at a fairly good clip. By 1100 to 1200 things will start to deteriorate as the front will have passed and the breeze ( what there is left of it) will start to get squirelly. Some models have it evaporating in the mid-Straits and staying that way until after midnight. One model has the wind evaporating at 1200 in the mid-Straits but then filling in from the west at 4-6 knots at around 1700 hours which would at least give you some light air beating out to the mark. Once you round the mark it will be a race to see who can get back down the Straits and into more wind. It won’t build from the west however the wind will increase in velocity the further down the Straits you get.
Then there are those pesky tides.
1228 Max Ebb 4.0 knots
1922 Max Flood 4.5 knots
0225 Max Ebb 4.1
0816 Max Flood .3 knots
1337 Max Ebb 3.5
2019 Max Flood 4.0
As I said, getting out won’t be a problem. It will be getting back that will be interesting with the combination of light air and LOTS of ebb. As you can see, on Sunday morning you have a very small window 0700 to 1000 hrs to get back before the ebb starts rolling again. The later you are coming down the Straits, the more wind you are likely to have so you can work the beach as you approach the Race and then just fight it out.
The keys to this year’s race will be making the most of the east-southeasterly at the start, then sailing rhumb line towards the mouth of the Straits. As the wind begins to clock in the mid-afternoon, work to the south of the rhumb line to be in a position to pick up the incoming westerly. It’s here that the real separation will occur in the fleet as the boats with the best drivers and the best trimmers will move to the front of the fleet. It won’t be easy but hard work will pay big dividends. Have the barber haulers ready and be prepared to go back and forth between the genoa (or wind seeker) and the kite. Weight to leeward or as we say, “All dogs in the house!” The night fighters will make out as trimming going downwind at night is tough. Navigators will have to keep you on the favored board and be using the 7×50 bino’s to keep you in the breeze.
Naviguessors will also have to be logging wind reports as well as the pressure readings to try and get a feel about just how fast the high pressure will be returning and with it, the westerly. Boats with the Starpath ultra sensitive barometer will benefit.
Be safe, have a great race and with any kind of luck I’ll have a post race summary for you on Tuesday.
Ed. Note: Thanks again Bruce. To our readers, please share the info and get people to visit the site! Thanks.
This is the start of SYC’s Tri-Island Series and it is once again going to be interesting. As you can see from the Saturday morning chart we have a weak ridge of high pressure that developed over the area today after a weak front passed through this morning. The rule for the Pacific Northwest is that the first day that ridge builds is going to be the best day for wind and sure enough, we’ll have small craft advisories in the Straits with the wind backing off after midnight. Since this isn’t a very strong high pressure system and it’s not very round you can expect it to be pushed around by the next low pressure system which shows up on the Sat PM chart. As the high shifts to the other side of the Cascades you can expect the northwesterly in the Sound become more northerly and northeasterly. This will cause that down slope compressional heating which brought us those record high temps earlier in the month.
What does this mean for the race? The tides really aren’t that bad as we’ll be starting in the weak flood of the day (.24knts in Admiralty) with the slack occurring at 1042 and going to the big ebb of the day which will help us get up the Sound, out of Admiralty and into the Straits.
TIDAL CURRENT for Admiralty Inlet
0942 .24 Flood
1512 2.13 Ebb
2200 1.8 Flood
0442 2.23 Ebb
1036 .56 Flood
The problem will be the light and variable winds in the morning which will persist until early afternoon with a northerly showing up at Pt. Townsend about noon and then working its way down the Sound by 1300-1400hrs. The key will be to make the most of the wind you have and then find the river of current that is running the strongest in the direction you want to go. When you can start to smell the pulp mill at Port Townsend, work to the west where there will be more wind and as you work up Marrowstone Island the port tack puffs will be lifts. You should still be in the ebb and from the Marrowstone Light it could be one long port tack all the way to Minor Island. If you find yourself on a course for the Pt. Partridge Light, or you find the true windspeed starting to drop, take a short hitch to the west to get back into what should be a building westerly, 15-20 knots by 1700 hrs which is the when the big boats should be at Smith Island.
Click on any image to enlarge.
The nice thing about running this race in spring is that the kelp hasn’t had time to reach any kind of length or become that keel grabbing forest that occurs in the late summer and early fall. Just remember, it can grow at a rate of 18” per day in ideal conditions. Regardless, give the west side of Smith plenty of room as there is a monster rock out there which is well marked on the charts and it is shallow with 3 and 4 fathom patches that are dotted with rocks.
The slack in Admiralty is at around 1900 hours which means you should have both flood tide and wind (8-12 knots) to take you back down the Sound. The reach from Smith Island back to Admiralty might include some two wheel reaching in 15-20 so make sure everyone is hiking hard and clipped in. If you can’t carry the kite, move the lead out to the rail and if you have a genoa staysail, get that up.
The run from Pt. Partridge back down Admiralty will probably be in a more northerly than northwesterly which will transition to a north-northeasterly as you get past Pt No Pt. The key on this leg will be to stay in the max flood and don’t get too far into corners. The breeze will probably stay out of the east-northest from Pt. No Pt back to the finish however you’ll want to have all eyes out of the boat and watching for holes as you get closer to Shilshole.
The big boats are projects to finish 0030 to 0200 hrs Sunday morning.
Ed. Note: Racers, be appreciative! Bruce can’t be on the race course this weekend and wrote this up anyway!
Zowie, what a day! Bruce (Hedrick) himself could not have even foretold the weather we experienced, with winds simultaneously from the north and south, dead spots and breezy spots in no apparent order, contrarian current over the entire course, and overcast to full on sunshine to boot! Wait a minute … that is EXACTLY what Bruce forecast for us. Has there ever been another human so capable of predicting a 100+ boat day of fun on the water?
And here are a few of Jan’s photos….don’t forget to go to her smugmug site and buy some:
Ed. Note: We’d love to hear from the Sloop Tavern YC or Frog Prints e! folks on just how much money was raised for my friends at Frog Prints e! The race results are here. If anybody would like to chime in with vignettes or photos, I’ll run ’em.
If you liked last weekend, you’ll love tomorrow. Once again, the models are diverging as we get closer to race time. Not unusual this time of the year as the weather in the Pacific is trying to transition from winter to summer.
The Pacific High is still well south of its summertime residence and storm systems are pushing it around and keeping it from becoming more round, stronger and more stable. See the 1700 Surface Forecast Chart.
The only real known forecasts with a high degree of accuracy are the tides and currents.
Tides for tomorrow are:
0803 Low 6.35 feet
1258 High 8.7 feet
1939 Low 1.02 feet
Currents at West Point:
1017 Flood .16 knots
1613 Ebb .71 knots
As you can see from the Surface Forecast Charts there is very little gradient over the Pacific Northwest. When you log the pressure readings at 1200 hours on Friday you find the following:
In other words not much. What’s interesting is that there has been a northerly all night and this morning over most of the race area even though the National Weather Service has been forecasting a southerly for the morning then changing over to a northerly in the afternoon with the same for tomorrow, sort of. The culprit here is the Swihart effect which says that in the absence of a pressure gradient over the Pacific NW and the presence of abundant sunshine causing heating of the concrete and blacktop jungle known as the City and surrounding environs of Seattle, combined with a flood tide, will initiate a northerly in the Sound. So with two days of beautiful, clear skies and temps near 70⁰ you’re getting plenty of heating. This will probably carry over to tomorrow, at least that’s what we’re hoping for. Regardless, you’ll still need to track the pressure gradients and the wind over the area, especially the ferry weather at Edmonds and Elliott Bay.
So if there is a northerly, how do we sail this race? The first item to check when you leave Shilshole and get out to the starting area is what is the flag doing at West Point. If it’s like this morning, you’ll notice a very slight shift to the NNE. When you start with a northerly, the first mark is Meadow Point so having to leave the mark to port always creates some interesting rounding problems especially for the deep draft vessels that would rather come in on port since the starboard tack approach can get you into some skinny water. Since there is a flood you’ll want to set with the pole to starboard and aim towards the mark at Blakely Rock. If you get slightly lifted as you get close to West Point, you might want to gybe to port. If there is a northeasterly at West Point there will be more wind under the bluff and you can hold that until you get lifted above Alki and your heading has you between Alki and Duwamish, then gybe back to starboard and aim at the Rock. Just don’t hit it….
On the way back from Blakely Rock put it on the wind on port tack and you’ll be heading towards the vicinity of Four Mile Rock. Tide may be slack or just starting to ebb so remember just how far out the shallow area goes from Four Mile to West Point. It almost always claims someone and with the ebb you’re going to be there for a while unless you get some help from the photoboat. Go in as close as you dare before tacking on to starboard. The puffs will be lifts and the person on the main and traveler will be working really hard to take advantage of each and every puff.
Once at West Point you’ll want to hold onto starboard tack to take you off the Point and stay in the ebb tide. Tacking too close to West Point will run you into the back eddy that sweeps along the north side of West Point. Tack to port when you stay outside of the restricted zone at the entrance to the Ship Canal. Then plan on one tack at the breakwater to make the finish.
This was the optimistic race forecast. On the other hand if it goes according to the forecast models and we start with a southerly that then clocks to a southwesterly and dies as we transition into a northerly in the later afternoon, it will be a matter of drag racing from puff to puff and sailing the shortest possible course. The big boats with tall rigs and code 0’s could have a real advantage on the reach/run back to Meadow Point. The next problem will be negotiating the rounding because the deep draft boats are going to have to tack immediately at Meadow Point because over the winter the sand bar has moved off the beach and there is now a bump to the north of the usual location of the bar.
It’s the last race of the Series and I could say that it’s going to be interesting. However, that is generally true every time you leave the dock to go sailing in the Spring in Puget Sound. What makes this more interesting than most days is the fact that the models have diverged instead of the usual converging the way they tend to as we get closer to the date in question. The reason for this can be seen in the Surface Forecast Charts for tonight and tomorrow. (Remember to subtract seven now to get from UTC to PDT.) As you can see, we have a weak area of high pressure to the east with an approaching front, tailing off of a weak and dissipating low pressure system centered off of southeast Alaska. That’s coming in off the Pacific with a weak high pressure system behind it.
The speed of this front has been inconsistent and generally speaking, weak frontal systems tend to slow as they get closer to the coast. As you can see, this cold front has been overrunning the warm front ahead of it creating an occluded front, very typical however when this occurs as the fronts approach the coast it makes it difficult to predict how fast the front will come onshore. Hence, the word interesting.
Tomorrow’s race will all come down to how we handle the highly variable conditions. Combined with the following tides at West Point:
0919 .9 Ebb
1548 .7 Flood
It will be challenging to say the least. Based upon this morning’s GRIB files we’ll probably have 3-5 knots from the SSE to start, with the wind slowly clocking around to SSW and 4-8 knots at 1330 before it starts to back and slowly build from the SSE and maybe getting up to 8-10 knots.
For the big boats that will mean finishing at 1500-1600 hrs, in other words right at max flood.
So in these variable conditions and a lot of sailing in anti-water it will be important to remember that the shortest possible course will be down the East side of the Sound. Keep a hand bearing compass handy to track how any defectors to the West might be doing. There will be a fair amount of current at West Point and there will tend to be less wind in Elliott Bay so holding port tack out from West Point will get you into less tide and should keep you in more breeze. It’s usually picking your way across Elliott Bay to Alki that can create both major gains and losses. From Alki south to TTP it will be a matter of finding the best breeze and trying to see if there’s a pattern to the oscillations.
The run home from TTP could be very interesting as one set of GRIBs has the wind around to 230-240⁰M at 6-8 knots which could mean Code O’s for the fast boats. The NAM GRIBS have the wind staying between 185⁰ and 200⁰M. Either way, trimmers and drivers are going to have to be working very hard. Since we’ll be fighting the flood all the way north, the temptation will be to stay east out of the flood while still sailing the polars and keeping the boat at targets. Ideally, you’d look for shifts to gybe back to the east to get out of the flood if you find yourself sailing in anti-water however if there has been any clearing during the day in the afternoon this will cause the wind to lift off the east shore so it may get light if you get in too close. Eyes out of the boat!
Click on any image to enlarge:
So in the morning get every extra ounce of non-essential gear off the boat, drain the water tanks and take only enough fuel to get safely home from TTP. It’s not an overnight race so don’t let the crew bring huge seabags with a change of clothes for every watch change and the post race party. Bring on board only what you are wearing and going to eat. Carefully log the pressure from your WX-VHF so you can track how fast the front is coming ashore. Before you leave the house check the Washington State Ferry Weather, the NDBC West Point(WPOW1) Plot of wind and pressure, and the NWS radar at Langley Hill to see if the front is showing up on the Doppler. During the race track the pressure changes and wind velocities at the stations north and west of West Point as the south-southeasterly will move south and build from that direction.
Remember also that it can get a little shallow at TTP so resist the temptation to cut it too close. If there was ever a place to make sure the crew is all on the same page, thinking three maneuvers ahead, and the driver and tactician are anticipating mark rounding situations, it’s at the rounding mark “C” at TTP. Don’t hesitate to talk it through, the foredeck will greatly appreciate a plan that you can stick to.