Sunday, July 3, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: about to start

I arrived in Hawaii on Monday June 19th, and now, two weeks later, I'm ready to start the trip back to Neah Bay. This has been a quick stopover.

The climate average data suggests that early July is a good time to leave Hawaii for the trip back to the mainland - this appears to be the time with the lowest probability of encountering a gale on my trip back. Of course climate data is the average of many years and decades of actual weather, and what I you will encounter on any given trip may vary widely from these long term averages. However, I feel like I'm ready to leave, and that's what I'm doing.

The trip to Neah Bay from where I am is roughly 3000nm, which should take somewhere over three weeks to complete. The last time I sailed this passage, I finished it in 21 days. I would be surprised if I was able to sail it any faster this time.

The big weather feature on this passage is the North Pacific High. The cliche is that in the summer, a large high pressure system develops and parks itself to the NE of Hawaii and just sits there. As winds circulate clockwise around the high, this generates the trade winds in Hawaii, and as I travel North the wind will generally be on my beam or behind, giving me a beautiful sail all the way to Neah Bay. The reality is quite different from this cliche however. The high is constantly being pushed around by the lows that move across the North Pacific, and the high will grow, shrink, move, morph into long ridges, spit into two, become stronger and weaker, join other highs which come in from the West and so on.

Leaving Hawaii, it is hard not to have 4 or 5 days of trade wind sailing - wind from between the E and NE - and make good progress North or slightly West of North, depending on the comfort level I choose. At that point you start to approach the region where you are probably close to the high and need to take its shape, size and position into account. There are several problems with this. A first problem is that weather forecasts are really only good for 3 or 4 days - so you can leave with a good high resolution forecast and a plan, but by the time you start to approach the high the actual situation may have changed. A second problem is that at the speeds I travel, compared to the size of the high and the speed it travels, it is difficult to plan any sort of tactical move to take advantage of movement you see in the high.

It looks at the moment like the high may initially stay to the NE of me and that I will have good sailing until Sunday July 10th - a week of good sailing. At that point the forecast is at 192 hours and is strongly into the region where what you are seeing is pretty random. Yesterdays forecast for this time region was quite different, the day before that was quite different again.

If I can get a week of good sailing, with a possibility of it continuing for the reminder of my passage, and do so at a time when the climate averages are suggesting there should be no strong weather systems in the area - that's pretty good!

I'm still at anchor and plan to leave in the next few hours. All well here!

1 comment:

  1. Safe journey! See you soon. We'll be circumnavigating Vancouver Island till early August.