I took this picture of us on Monday night, when we went out to the pier head to see what the weather was doing – it was blowing a gale.
I remember the feeling being weathered in the Yealm, the increasing feeling of cabin fever, as the world you occupy shrinks, and you begin to try and micromanage the weather forecasts. In the Yealm we only had the report at the Harbour Master’s office and the VHF transmission. Here we have all the data that we could wish for; the internet connection gives information overload… And potentially conflicting views; weather forecasting is no exact science after all. The Irish Met Office, apparently, include gusts in their wind forecasting, whereas UK Met Office don’t…. So are you really comparing like-with-like? (Myself, I like to see the synoptics, giving the isobars and the frontal systems, checking over to see what actual buoy readings are giving…)
Pete and I begin from the position of being sailors with difference experiences, and I think, tolerances. Of the two of us, I will always be the one who is more cautious. In matters of the elements, I take them even more seriously…. I am very wary of the power of the wind and the sea. The forecast on Sunday/Monday was perhaps the worst that we’ve seen, with the mention of Force 11, which is several shades above a gale. The forecasts since Monday have been less severe, however, they’ve still contained strong wind warnings and gale warnings. I made the point to Pete the other day that given a strong wind warning, with a mere mention of a gale, then I wouldn’t be heading out. Not here, not at home, not anywhere. To get caught out would be another matter, but I am never going to be someone who chases the thrill of riding with the big winds…. let alone the big seas. The trouble comes, when you start to see an improved forecast, when does it become ‘not so bad’? Pete today talked about analysing a forecast across a region (the Irish Sea, after all is a fairly large body of water), and taking action to go if the predominantly bad stuff was at the other end of the forecast range. That kind of makes sense. He also said that we should note our relative comfort levels in different winds – since sailing downwind in stronger winds is more comfortable that sailing into wind, that’s true. That’s easy. I don’t like anything over moderate as a sea-state (and strong winds generally worsens the sea-state). I don’t do fairground rides for fun, so why would my approach to sailing be any different?
It is a really difficult call to know when the weather is ‘good enough’ after a prolonged period of miserable and vile weather. Pete is worried that we will frighten ourselves into inaction. I am worried that I will frighten myself enough to never go sailing again. Somewhere in the middle of all possible forecasts, all possible scenarios and our respective positions is the solution…. The trouble is, I’m damned if I know where that is.