Good question. We have been hanging around Bermuda for just about one month now. It took a good two weeks for us to even start thinking about getting back out onto the open seas and now that we feel ready, we are waiting for damn near perfect weather.
So, what ARE we waiting for?
Our ideal conditions would be 10-15 knots out of the east-northeast with seas less than 6 feet and very little risk of squalls. Is that too much to ask for?! Probably. But we are hoping that we can get reasonably close. We know that the weather forecast will differ from the actual conditions, but here’s the deal – we at least want the forecast to predict what we want.
This passage is about 840 miles south. We passage plan at 5 knots – so that makes this a seven day trip sailing 24 hours a day. Weather predictions for a week out are somewhat of a crap shoot. Our forecaster, Chris Parker, gives indications on how confident he is of the forecast he gives. This is based on how consistent and aligned the different weather models (GFS and EURO for examples) are. This is great because while the forecasts are always PRECISE, they are not always ACCURATE. From Chris and from GRIB files, we get numbers that tell us that it will be blowing 23 knots with gusts to 30 in St. Georges Harbor five days from now down to the minute. This is a PRECISE forecast, but five days out the ACCURACY of those numbers may not be great. What’s nice about Chris’ forecasts is that he gives us an indication of the confidence in the ACCURACY of those PRECISE numbers. The confidence is a function of the models consistency with itself over the past several runs (GFS runs 4 times a day), the amount of inter-model agreement (are the GFS and EURO models predicting the same weather?), and his intuition. This is another data point that we can use to make our decision. We prefer to make a move on GOOD forecast that has a high CONFIDENCE in its ACCURACY.
With the GFS running every six hours we keep a close eye on what it looks like and where it is changing wildly, and compare it with what Chris is telling us in his forecast. We thought that we had a window to leave last Thursday, December 5th. We had been watching it for two weeks and it looked juicy! (Logan’s best descriptor) Then last Monday the trade winds changed from being benign to blowing and blowing strong by the time we would get to them. The difficulty of this whole dance is balancing the spatial and temporal dimensions — when will we be where and what will the weather be like when we are there. We called our weather guy, Chris Parker, on Tuesday to get his opinion. He said it looked like a great time to leave Bermuda and then as we headed south the winds and seas would pick up…a lot. After we got off the phone we looked at the weather again and saw 2 days of great sailing, followed by 5 days of winds blowing 25 knots and seas 8-10 feet with squalls gusting 5-10 additional knots. The famous Christmas Winds that we had heard about in Georgetown were impacting us. We both got an uneasy feeling. We spent two hours trying to talk ourselves into leaving when we finally said no – this is not our window. Two weeks of build up brought to an abrupt halt in two hours.
Then we have this scary question, are we ready? Will we ever be ready? To be completely honest, our last passage scared us pretty good and we don’t want to be in that position (or close to it!) again if we can avoid it. So if those “perfect conditions” present themselves, will we have the courage to pick up anchor, exit St. George’s Harbor and turn right into the North Atlantic Ocean? We definitely think and feel like we will, but I guess only time will answer that one.
And there are a million other questions floating around. Should we hire a third crew? What if we finally get what we are looking for, but it’s too late in the season? (We are still planning to make it back to Houston before the next hurricane season.) Should we be concerned about these winter storms that Bermudians keep warning us about? There are other boats leaving, should we go too?
So as we hang out here and enjoy this cool country, we are constantly keeping a watch on weather patterns and getting jerked around emotionally about our upcoming passage. We want to set off for those lush green islands with turquoise bays and warm waters that we see on our friends’ blogs (Terrapin!) that made it down.
Here are our latest pictures of Bermuda adventures. Christmas is huge here and we have been hitting up every celebration possible