Monday May 02 northbound approaching the Sacramento Reef
There is a cliché directed at meteorologists: they have the only career where you can be wrong 50% of the time and still keep your job. They use a combination data, maps, art, science, intuition, black magic and luck to make their predictions. Often they would be more accurate if they just looked out the window. Statistically they can make a fairly accurate 3-day prediction and take their best guess at weather out 5 days. For example, the predictions we so carefully coveted only a day and a half ago in Turtle Bay called for gradually improving weather each day.
But their predictions have proven unrecognizable — no better than “looking out the window”.
I am jogged from my catatonic state of semi-awakedness at 0800. s/v Unleashed is ever so gradually coming into sight behind me. She has weather information from their weatherman to share with me and over the next half hour we search for the lesser of the weather evils. Their information is that this afternoon the winds will pick up to 20 knots from the NW. Depending upon the height and period of the waves (prediction unknown we could slow to one knot and have a tortuous seesawing ride. There are few coves and thus escape routes in the area.
The San Carlos Bay option:
We can change course 90 degrees to starboard run 8 miles toward shore and arrive in San Carlos Bay in a couple of hours — well before the winds pick up. But the guidebook is unenthusiastic about the protection and holding ground there. And we might be able to leave after midnight, or we might be pinned there for several days. This choice is safe, but lengthens our route and cuts off travel progress early in the day.
The Sailing Option
Sail close-hauled to use the 10 knots of wind directly on the nose. RD does not point well, and she needs about 15 knots of wind to maintain 5 knots forward. That would make her velocity made good (VMG) an unappealing 3 knots or less.
The Motorsail Option
Same as above except add the motor. RD points closer to the wind while motorsailing and can sip fuel while getting her power from the wind. Maybe our VMG might be 4 knots.
The Motor Option:
Point RD directly west of the killer Sacramento Reef
Note: Never make a waypoint on top of a buoy, lighthouse, reef or obstruction — only in the nearby safe water. I’ve adjusted the waypoint well clear to the west of the reef.
We burn the most fuel with this option and likely get the most uncomfortable but tolerable ride. The current sea state allows us to make 5 knots of headway, so we can make it adjacent to the reef shortly after noon. Winds will gradually build but the but the afternoon blow should not arrive until 4pm. And once past the reef we can run to the shelter at san Quentin – or possibly continue north.
I’m out of options to consider. The best choice won’t be found with the perfection of my logic. All reasoned choices are based upon a set of assumptions; failure to examine the validity of the assumptions leads to some result between “oops” and disaster. The best choice is made more illusive because the wild card is weather and how the sea state develops. In summary, the odds of a successful choice are somewhere between playing Russian roulette and gaming at the roulette wheel.
After a discussion of our options on the radio: Unleashed chooses to sail toward the Sacramento Reef and RD and I choose to motor directly there.
So there you have it readers. So we’ll have to make the best choice we can, at the time we need to make it, with the information we have. And an error in a single critical assumption (over which we have scant information and no control) will make our logical conclusion worthless. It’s not quite playing Russian roulette , but more like closing your eyes and throwing a dart at the board. But we can make the most conservative of our choices. And then suck it up and live with it.
It’s one pm and I am adjacent to Sacramento Reef. So far it was a good bet; the winds have held steady at 15 knots and the sea state is unchanged from this morning. So here is the second round of betting:
If the winds and sea state pick up substantially and my speed slows to a knot or thereabouts then the nearest choice is the wide bite at Punta Baja — about 10 miles from the Sacramento Reef. I can be there in two hours. The smart money may be on the traditional afternoon blow. I can arrive in Punta Baja about the time it is scheduled to arrive. If however the blow does not materialize I can continue on for 35 miles to Bahia San Quinton.
My buddy boat Unleashed has chosen the former option. And I am waiting and watching. Then I change course for Punta Arena and finally spend a relaxing afternoon in the arms of RD. at anchor in sunshine. — followed by dinner and a movie and bed .
Tuesday May 03
I awake at 5 am to another failed weather prediction. For the first time since I can remember there is no sunrise and warming of the cabin. Color today gray. There is a low overcast and the outside temperature is just below 60 degrees F. — a low I have not seen in nearly a year. The winds are 10 knots on the north and the seas are flat and sloppy. So I make coffee, do my engine checks and up-anchor and set out for San Quinton. Winds are 10 knots on the nose; there are no noticeable swells, and the seas are sloppy. I’ve been at this so long that rollie slop is comfortable. The only downside is it slows our speed about one knot, and I have to pee more often. Good enough to go.