Tag Archives: wind

Getting a Handle on Weather

The pattern of marine weather is predictable and the agencies that monitor weather do a good job of providing up-to-date information to help mariners make informed decisions. However, sometimes predicted systems behave differently once they make landfall and you are left to your own devices to interpret the weather.

Strong wind alarm on the VION weather station

The electronic weather station made by Vion is a handy tool to have on board to help you make those decisions. We have the Easy Meteo model which has a lot of features packed into one compact unit including moon phases and warnings for frost, wind and storms. A secondary sensor comes with a detachable cover and can be placed outside.

This past winter, we have seen the strong wind alarm and the storm risk alarm more times than we would care to. As with all things on a boat, you don’t want to rely on just one source for your information, but we find the Vion weather an accurate indicator of approaching weather.

Storms – Part One

We frequently get asked what it’s like on the boat when there’s a storm. We are quite used to the motion of the boat in heavy winds, but the sound of the wind whining through the rigging will keep me up at night. My husband is able to sleep through the storms and perhaps it is because he knows that I will be wide awake, should the unthinkable happen – a line breaks on our boat or on a neighbouring boat. We have experienced both situations during storms.

When we lived in Deep Bay, we had to contend with Qualicum winds – a gap wind phenonmena that would see winds  increase from 5 knots to 35-40 in the span of 15 minutes. The force of the wind would sometimes cause a finger (and any boat attached to it) to break loose from the main dock. Ever since, we always attach a line to the main dock.

A storm was forecasted for that December day, but the intensity of the storm was greatly underestimated. As I drove south from Courtenay towards the marina, the storm strengthened and the highway was littered with limbs from trees and power lines, slowing traffic down to 30 kms/hour.

I came upon an old man and his dog pinned in the cab of his pick-up truck under a large Douglas Fir tree. He was unhurt, but unable to get out of the vehicle. Cell reception was poor in this area so I promised to call emergency services when I got to the marina.

I stood in the phone booth in complete darkness as the power had been long out while Deep Bay received the full fury of the storm. The walls of the phone booth pulsed with each gust of wind as I reported the accident to the RCMP. Turning my attention to the 150′ pier I had to walk down, I heard the unmistakable sound of a sail whipping wildly in the wind. Someone’s roller furling had come undone.

In the darkness, the reflection of multiple flashlights on the sail lit up the dock and I could see the silhouettes of 5 men trying to control the unfurled sail.  One man was holding onto the sheet as the sail shredded. Without warning, he was suddenly picked up and dropped back onto the deck, jolting his spine and injuring his back.

The wind was so strong that you had to crouch down on your knees with each gust in order not to be blown off your feet and risk falling off the dock. The rain blown by these strong winds was so hard that it hurt your face and you had to turn your head to the side as you walked.

Our boat was no refuge from the storm, heeled over in her slip further than we have ever sailed her. We stayed like this for at least an hour at a 30-degree heel. I seriously considered abandoning ship for safer ground, but there was too much work to be done; all hell was breaking loose on the docks.

The storm raged for another 4 hours and the half-dozen liveaboards spent that time adding extra lines to fingers that had broken away from the main dock ( fingers that had been attached by eight 1 inch bolts, sheared off).  We tied down dinghies on the bows of boats. Some were bouncing up and down so violently that it was too dangerous and we had to leave them. We tied down mainsails that had lost their canvas covers – shredded and unrecoverable. Added lines where lines had snapped.

As the storm weakened, we returned to our boats – exhausted yet exhilarated by our shared experience of helping each other. The next morning revealed the extent of the damage. Two boats were lost that night. Trees were knocked down on the only access road to the marina. Crews were so busy that it took five days to restore power to the area. Luckily we were self sufficient on the boat and weathered these days far more comfortably than our land-based neighbours.

Although this was December on Vancouver Island and there was no snow on the ground, snow plows were put into service to remove the fallen trees and branches that covered the highways making them impassable.

Chaz, the lighthouse keeper from Chrome Island Lighthouse arrived the following day with an incredible tale of his experience during the height of the storm. He had checked on the boat shed and found himself trapped by the wind- unable to make his way back to the house. He watched helplessly as the large timbers that made up the helicopter landing pad, became detached and flew off the island like they were matchsticks. Eventually, he was able to time his movement with the lulls in the gusts and arrived safely back at the house. But once inside, the walls of the house were moving with each gust and he took refuge in the kitchen. In his 25+ years of being a lighthouse keeper, these were the worst winds that he had ever been in.

This storm took everyone by surprise and it took a few days for the stories to come in. Two different pilots spotted water spouts in the Strait of Georgia just before dark. In the end, it was surmised that one of the water spouts touched Chrome Island and carried onto Hornby Island where it did considerable damage. Further south, a swath of old growth trees in Stanley Park in Vancouver were levelled. Gusts were recorded at 177 kms/hour – 95.57 knots!

I have no pictures of this storm as the worst of it happened in complete darkness.  I do have the following image from the Comox Valley Echo.  This was a humbling experience made brighter by the comfort that the liveaboard community came together to work as a team. This has been my experience with my fellow liveaboards. There is a strong sense of community and family.

Dust bin

OK, I admit it. I am not Martha Stewart.  I do plug in our little Dirt Devil on a regular basis and each time, I marvel at the amount of dust on our boat.

We live surrounded by salt water. I suppose this is obvious when you write about living on a sailboat, but I am trying to make a point here. Where is all this dust coming from? We used to live on an acre of land and never had as much dust as we do on this boat. What gives?

This is what Wikipedia has to say about the topic: “Particles in the atmosphere arise from various sources such as soil dust lifted up by wind, volcanic eruptions, and pollution. Dust in homes, offices, and other human environments contains small amounts of plant pollen, human and animal hairs, textile fibers, paper fibres, minerals from outdoor soil, and many other materials which may be found in the local environment.

Bingo. It must be the wind. We have lots of wind here on the edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Wikipedia continues to list all the different kinds of dust: domestic, atmospheric, road and even cosmic dust – dust in outer space! However, the following sentence caught my attention: “In addition, if enough minute particles are dispersed within the air in a given area (such as flour or coal dust), under certain circumstances can cause an explosion hazard.”  Wow, now the dust is attacking us! I think I just found my inspiration to step up my cleaning routine.

Dusty propane sniffer

Kapha with Vata Rising

I am a terrible sailor. I hate the wind. When it is blowing a gale at the dock and the boat is heeled over in her slip, it makes me cranky.

Perhaps you can relate to this? You may have noticed other tendencies that seem to be part of who you are. Maybe you like spicy foods and hate sweets? Maybe you always like to be active, but have very little endurance for long hikes? Are you a calm, easy going-person or are you quick to anger?

Welcome to the world of Ayurveda – a method of explaining our constitutional tendencies by dosha: Vata, Kapha and Pitta. You are born with a predominant dosha, but usually we are a combination of two doshas. Your good health is determined by how closely you live your life in balance with your dosha type. Disharmony and illness are a result of making choices that do not support your dosha.

There are numerous Ayurvedic questionnaires that you can take to help you determine your dosha. I was first introduced to this Indian system through Deepak Chopra’s book, “Perfect Health”.  The questionnaire helps you determine your dosha and then suggestions are made for foods and activities that will help keep your dosha type in balance.

As a Kapha, I am averse to dampness – a condition also addressed in Chinese medicine. Living on a sailboat in Canada is not the best environment for a Kapha. To keep myself in balance, I dress warm, eat hot foods in the winter months as opposed to raw, cold foods and need to exercise regularly.  Applying sesame oil to my skin before showering and then washing it off also warms me up. Kaphas need their sleep.  If you needed an excuse to sleep in, you are welcome.

My secondary dosha, Vata is aggravated by too much wind. It pulls me down into an unbalanced state quickly. As long as I keep my Kapha nature balanced, I am able to deal with the wind. If I have not been taking care of myself, I will end up as a  short-tempered, easy-to-gain-weight, insomniac. Nice.

I like the philosophy behind Ayurvedic principles because it addresses our unique constitutions – a concept that Western medicine has trouble grasping.  I challenge you to take an Ayurvedic questionnaire and find out your inner dosha. You will be surprised to see that many of your preferences for food and exercise as well as, personality traits can be explained by your dosha.