Better Boating

Never Trust a Weather Forecast After a Hurricane!

A few weeks ago I did an updated post on the weather apps I use to safely navigate Buzzards Bay.

We just returned from 8 days on the boat beginning the morning after Hurricane Dorian passed near Provincetown and reached winds velocities that were just 15 MPH shy of a Category 1 Hurricane.

We don’t see too many hurricanes around these parts, which is why I probably forgot one of my old marine adages…

NEVER TRUST A WEATHER FORECAST AFTER A HURRICANE!

I wish I’d captured screenshots of the crap forecasts I’ve seen since Dorian left town, but I can tell you that having been on water for all 8 days after the near hurricane, I have seen some of the most extreme weather of the summer – both good and bad.

Tuesday – 3 Days After Dorian

We took a little 3 day cruise to Plymouth the day after Dorian went by. On Tuesday we ran home to Mattapoisett to load fuel and provisions before heading to Rhode Island for 5 days. The forecast was for a normal wind and wave day, but what we got was an absolutely flat calm ride all the way through Buzzards Bay…

Wednesday – 4 Days After Dorian

Our first stop in Rhody was the Newport Boat Show. We had booked a slip (Wednesday and Thursday) and had tickets for Thursday at The Newport Boat Show – neither were refundable. And the forecast for Wednesday was fairly benign on Tuesday night – 13 knots of wind in the morning.

Being a responsible skipper, I moved our departure from 9:30 to 9:00 AM. At 7:19 AM I checked the marine forecast and it had ticked up a bit, but an early morning run of 45 miles seemed like it’d still be fine…

The Good Ship and Crew complied with my earlier departure and we shoved off at 8:54 AM.

By the time I reached The Wildcat off of Westport, I was in the midst of seemingly endless miles of the most insane seas I’ve ever witnessed in Rhode Island Sound. Although the 6′ waves were fairly normal, they we very closely spaced – like Buzzards Bay Chop, and very confused in that they were coming from different directions.

I turned west at The Wildcat expecting to run downwind and got tossed violently from side to side by 45 degrees. I know the crew feared capsizing and for a moment, the thought crossed my mind…

I’ve run down RI Sound dozens of times and seen 30 knot winds and 10′ ocean rollers on 3-4 occasions. I’ve never experienced such fierce seas.

Friday – 6 Days After Dorian

On Friday we headed south to Watch Hill. Once again flat calm and we ran at 25 knots, listening to Jazz and reviewing menus for restaurants we hoped to visit. I call this ride “The 747” because that’s what it feels like…

Saturday – 7 Days After Dorian

The forecast for Saturday was near perfect. 5-7 knot winds from the south and we were headed north to Jamestown. As soon as I woke up I knew the forecast was once again dead wrong.

At 6:00 AM, flags were flapping out straight and the wind looked to be coming out of the Northeast – the direction we were heading!

I immediately called for an early departure and once again found choppy and insane seas as we turn north out of Stonington Connecticut…

The crew was having Deja Vu of Wednesday malaise, but to me it wasn’t quite as bad. The wind was the same and the waves were the same 6′ height, but they were a little further apart.

We did have one crew member get seasick and spend almost 2 hours in the head getting tossed around like a bouncing ball. We also had another thrown from her seat and bang into the oven. In terms of “casualties”, this was our worse trip ever.

Sunday – 8 Days After Dorian

And of course Sunday’s return to Mattapoisett from Jamestown was another Picture Perfect day…

I would add that Thursday (5 Days After Dorian) was our day at the Newport Boat Show. It was forecast to rain off and on all day – it didn’t. It poured in the morning and turned rather decent in the afternoon.

And this Monday (9 Days After Dorian) was forecast to be rainy and it turned out to be a beautiful, calm day – perfect for boating!

What The Hell Is Going On?

As I said, we don’t have anywhere near as many hurricanes around here as we did when I was a kid, but as I’ve observed going back to Bob and Gloria, it seems to take a month for the forecast models to settle down and get accurate again.

I did a little research on this, but didn’t find much written about it – most of what’s written is about Trump and Climate Change.

But I did find this…

America Has Gotten Bad at Predicting Weather – But There’s a Plan to Fix It

‘You don’t have to be a placid Californian cast into the merciless chaos machine that is the East Coast’s summer to bemoan humans’ inability to accurately predict when it will rain, and for how long. And the more you know about how weather forecasts work in the United States, the more annoyed and less patriotic you may become…”

This seems to be a lot of whining about how the Europeans devote more computer power to their models than we do. That may well be true, but as a guy who aced modeling and statistics in grad school, I’m not so sure.

Models need historical data to predict the future – the more the better. After watching thousands of cold fronts move from Ohio to Boston, you can get good at predicting what the next one will do.

But we’ve only had a dozen or so hurricanes come near us in the last 25 years and only Irene actually touched here. So what data do the modelers use to simulate the impact of a massive low pressure front passing 100 miles offshore on subsequent forecasts? They have none.

Be advised and beware that marine forecasts will seldom be accurate for the first few weeks after a hurricane passes by. I’d worry about forgetting this old adage except I know Mrs. Horne will remind me on a regular basis!

Dave

Categories: Better Boating

2 replies »

  1. I was at Newport show on Thursday as well. Morning rain chased away people so it was nicely uncrowded — I enjoyed the show.
    Agree that weather reports have been spectacularly WRONG recently.

    This weekend may be the last warm weekend of the season. I am planning to put my boat in the barn soon. When do you haul?

    Like

    • We have a great boat yard (Mattapoisett). We often leave her in the water when we head west and they haul her and put her in the barn.

      We leave just before Halloween. Looking forward to October boating.

      Like

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