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.
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.
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.
While the sales folks at the radio and TV stations want to scare us with dire forecasts, this looks to be just another strong winter storm that will thrash the coastal waters. As you can see from the surface charts our Coastal Buffer Zone will once again do a pretty good job of keeping the strongest breezes offshore and along the coast by driving that 973MB low-pressure system to the NNW when it starts to interact with the coast.
That’s not saying the winds will be light over the Sound. By tomorrow afternoon expect winds 25-30 knots with gusts to 40 over the central and south Sound. The San Juans and coastal waters could see 30-35 knots with gusts near 50. For the central and south Sound expect the breeze to start dropping by 1700 to 1800 hrs tomorrow afternoon. The breeze will last into the early morning hours of Saturday in the San Juans, Gulf Islands, and Coastal areas.
The real problem will be that with all the rain we’ve had this will be enough wind to bring down some more trees and cause some landslides as well as power outages.
If you’ve had the boat out recently it is probably a good idea to add the extra winter mooring lines and additional fenders sometime tomorrow morning.
We’ll have another update for you tomorrow around noon. (Ed. note, we’re all lucky Bruce is keeping tabs on this for us and keeping his head while many of those in the media may be losing theirs….)
Have we had enough rain yet? Apparently not as we are currently sitting at the 6th wettest February ever and there’s a ways to go before the end of the month. All we need is about 2 more inches of rain to be the wettest and that could happen this coming week.
As you can see from the current surface chart there’s not much happening over the Pacific Northwest however California is going to take another major hit this weekend. We will feel some of the residual from that system starting on Saturday afternoon and some moisture will make it up to the Sound. It still won’t bring much wind with it. Unfortunately, the models are pretty much in agreement that it’s going to be light most of the day on Saturday. The problem will be that the wind offshore with be northerly with no gradient over the Sound. As the day goes on, the wind offshore will become more westerly, still light as in 10 knots or less. And then there will be some flow through the Chehalis Gap and into the South Sound. As the wind offshore backs around to the southwest that will bring more of a southerly component to the wind over the south Sound, still probably 10 knots or less.
The good news is that the tide will be with the Toliva Shoal Race fleet and there are plenty of options for the race committee to shorten the course at any number of marks along the way. Besides, the gracious hospitality back in Olympia is not to be missed especially after the race.
Tides for Dana Passage:
0712 Flood 1.14 knots
1342 Ebb 1.96 knots
2024 Flood 1.25 knots
As usual, getting out of Budd Inlet will be challenging. The key will be to be near the starting line, and not be swept over with the ebb which will probably start early because of all the runoff from this week’s rain. Then find a lane of clear air and aim down the course trying to find the axis of the current while staying in the puff. If it’s 0 gusting to ½ knot don’t let too many people accumulate in the stern which increases the wetted surface area and slows the boat down. You’ll also want to be rigged for reaching with barber haulers and flying the drifter or wind seeker. Trimmers will definitely earn their keep tomorrow.
From Boston Harbor to Itsami Ledge don’t get too close to the south side of Dana Passage. The southerly breeze or what there is of it, will be coming over the land and not touch down on the water until ¼ to ½ way off the beach. Watch the smart people in front of you in the classes that started ahead and track who goes where and how they’re doing. Not always easy but worthwhile if you can make it work.
There will be a lot of water coming out of the Nisqually Flats and that can sometimes create a current that flows to the northwest from Lyle Point to Treble Point on Anderson Island so watch your COG and SOG after Buoy “3” and before your turn to go north to Toliva Shoal. You will also be able to see this current as it will be distinctly brown, muddy water on top of the saltwater of the Sound. Also track which way the eddies are spinning on tide lines to make sure you are on the fast side.
As you can see from the Sunday surface chart another front is headed our way and that will per usual manifest itself as a southeasterly in the northern part of Admiralty Inlet and the eastern end of the Straits gradually working its way back down the Sound by mid Sunday afternoon. If you’re cruising up north this weekend, thinking about being in the Straits, track the wind reports before you head out as it could be cranking on Sunday.
By next Tuesday we will have a lot more rain as two frontal systems line up and take aim at us. Could also get a bit breezy. Looking at the 500MB Charts you can see why we’re going to be watching that 950 MB low in mid-Pacific. That is a significant storm that could impact our region by next weekend.
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.