Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Weather Blues

Current Location: Cape Greenville (Margaret Bay), Australia
Current Position: 11º57.45' S 143º12.38' E
Next Destination: Escape River, AU (en route to Darwin)

Weather. Sometimes I think it should be a four-letter word. I never used to feel that way. Actually, I never really paid much attention one-way or the other. Perhaps that’s because I grew up in Arizona and Southern California – extremely temperate climates. Okay, maybe it gets a wee-bit hot in Arizona, but it’s a dry heat (at least that’s one everyone always says to discount 120 F)!!! Well, let me tell you, there is no dismissing the weather when you are cruising. It seems that we live and breathe it. I honestly can’t recall a single day where we haven’t discussed the weather at least once! It’s crazy how much it affects our lives. The weather determines the “if, when, where”, and sometimes the “why” for us. It determines how long it takes us to get somewhere, and most the time how long we stay at a locale. It also has an extremely strong impact on our opinion of a place. Whenever we get feedback from other cruisers, we have to always ask, “What kind of weather did you have?” It’s amazing how an opinion of the same anchorage/island/port can vary from cruiser to cruiser -- and almost always it’s due to the weather. One group might experience island exploring on sunny days with flat calm nights. Three days later a different group might be in the same spot when the wind picks up, and BAM the anchorage is a rolling nightmare and the rain keeps them from going ashore. Ask, “did you like it” and you’ll get two hugely different takes on the place. It can be frustrating being so dependant on something that we have no control of, and worse, is terribly difficult to accurately predict.

Since cruising it seems that we may have also become a bit wimpy in our tolerance of weather ‘extremes’. We bitch that it’s freezing, donning on our entire fleece wardrobe and digging out the blankets, only to find that the temperature barely dipped below 70 F! Try calling home to the east coast family and complaining about the cold weather when they are buried under 10 feet of snow – you don’t get much sympathy! In our defense, you should know that in Darwin the crocodiles are starving because it’s to ‘cold’ for them to digest their food (now go to and see just how un-cold it is in Darwin). My favorite thing to point out when complaining about the cold is that we are supposed to be in the tropics, however that doesn’t stop me from whining when the weather turns hot! Then we find ourselves lethargically lying in the cockpit, unable to function for fear of melting (and the temperature no where near the west coast family’s 120F). Oh, and don’t even get me started on rain. So okay, perhaps it’s a bit true that we have become wimpish with the respect to the weather. But I don’t think we are as bad as it might sound. As I continuously point out to Chris, we are exposed to the elements. It’s not like living in a house or driving around in a car. We can’t just turn on the heat or air and wait a few minutes. There is no reprieve. Rain doesn’t make for a cozy day reading a book, it makes for a wet, soggy cockpit (and sometimes severe cases of cabin-fever), and god-forbid you have to actually be sailing while it’s raining … how fun do you think it is to sit watch soaking wet?

Since Great Kepple Island (back around May 7th), the weather has dominated our lives more so than normal. In those seven weeks, I honestly think we’ve had less than twelve sunny days (and that’s counting the partly sunny one’s as well). Our tans are fading under the thick layer of clouds that seem to continuously move overhead. The last two weeks (at least) have been wet, sometimes pouring down, sometimes thick layers of mist, both of which ruin visibility. It’s gotten so bad, that if either us sees even the tiniest patch of blue, we start jumping up and down, screaming, “Blue, Blue, Blue”! The wind taunts us by dying one day and blowing 20-30 kts the next (although truth be told, we’ve had more windy days than not). One day we covered 83 nautical miles, averaging over 7kts (boat speed), while the next we barely made 50 n.m., averaging 5.1kts, just making the anchorage by sunset. It’s frustrating, and sometimes depressing, but, as Chris pointed out to me the other day, it could be worse -- we could be working!!!

UPDATE: We actually wrote the above BLOG on June 27th, but for one reason or another we didn’t get around to posting it until today (July 5th). As we want to keep the BLOGs “in the moment”, we didn’t want to re-write or change the above … instead here is a brief update. Since the 27th, we have traveled around the top of Australia and are now in Darwin, having arrived July 4th. Amazingly enough we’ve had at least a bit (and sometimes a full sky) of sun during those 7 days! We are thrilled (and of course happy). The wind was still been fluky (shifting and varying in strength), turning our usual lazy day sails into “work”, albeit this type of work has a terrific pay off! Funny though, yesterday as we were walking about, Chris said to me, “Damn it’s hot here”!

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