Hurricane Season

We are now full swing into hurricane season and we are sitting here on Rode Trip with our fingers crossed that none come our way. So far in the 2012 season there have been 9 named storms, but none have come anywhere near us. Here is the national weather service map of the storm tracks so far this year.

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We rely entirely upon the national hurricane center for storm predictions. Usually they are very good and the information is easily accessible online at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/. The forecast is usually updated twice a day, and more frequently if it appears that the storm is deviating from the track that was previously forecast. We have been checking in on this webpage every morning for the past 3 weeks, and recently there has started to be a lot more activity. There is a lot of historical data about hurricanes and their tracks available here for anyone who really likes statistics. When we made our cruising plans we made them with hurricane season in mind. We knew that we wanted to be In the Chesapeake bay or farther north until the middle of October. The average “worst” day for hurricanes is September 10th, and then the activity will start to decrease.

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I am pretty sure they name hurricanes because they develop their own personalities and try their hardest to do the unexpected! However over time the national hurricane center has also determined what the usual storm paths are.

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So for being on the northern part of the east coast the tracks of the storms in October are more likely to come our way, but there are way fewer tropical storms. Stephanie and I have not been on Rode Trip for a named storm and we hope that we can continue to avoid this experience. Rode Trip did sit out tropical storm on Mikes mooring in a protected portion of the Piscataqua river in Portsmouth, NH. We headed out before the storm and added extra mooring lines, and drove by in our car to check that everything looked alright. It turned out that Irene went inland before reaching Portsmouth and ended up being a little less dramatic in New Hampshire than the predictions.

If we find ourselves in the path of a hurricane this year it will be a much more difficult decision as to what to do. Since we will have several days warning there are several options for hurricane avoidance, in order of severity and expense.

1. If we think that the storm is going to dissipate, or will just effect us without really hitting us then we will probably look for a very good anchorage and sit tight on Rode Trip.
2. If it looks like we are going to be in for a “small” hurricane we will look for a well protected marina with very large moorings, and stay with the boat.
3. If it looks like we are going to be hit with a “medium” hurricane then we will look for a very well protected mooring for Rode Trip, double up the mooring lines, check with our insurance company install an extra bilge pump and find a nice comfy hotel room to sit out the storm in.
4. If it looks like we are going to be hit with a “major” hurricane then we will try to find a marina to pull Rode Trip out of the water, and we can catch a bus to a hotel in a safer location.

We are hoping that a little luck o the irish rubbed off on us at the Celtic music festival and we don’t have any named storms heading our way!

Jewell Island, Maine to 5 Islands, Maine via Seguin Island

This morning (6/29) we arose early to try to make a big jump down the coast. Before we could leave though we had a couple of projects that needed to be completed. We have been having some problems with the battery that we use to run all of our cabin niceties. Fortunately we had a spare and we dug it out and swapped the new battery into the engine room.

Even after eating breakfast and installing the new battery we were still able to haul up the anchor at 0730. We used our anchor windlass for the first time, after I couldn’t just pull the anchor out of the sticky mud on the bottom of Cocktail Cove. Maybe that is what the guide book meant when they said some people just can’t bring themselves to leave….. A short motor around the north end of the island and then we raised sail. We then proceeded to sit in essentially the same place for the next hour…..but we were underway. Eventually the wind built in and we headed down the coast. In order to allow our new battery to charge via the solar panel we left the chartplotter off today and used the paper charts while taking visual sights on many of the available aids to navigation.

After rounding Cape Small we headed for the inside of Seguin Island. This may have been a mistake. At first everything was going well, the wind was behind us, and we were making good time. A little while later the waves were getting larger and we were starting to bang around a little bit. We decided that it would be a good idea to stop and check out the lighthouse on Sequin Island, we had heard that it was definitely worth a stop. Here is the lighthouse about the time we decided to head over for a visit.

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The current then continued to build and we were soon sailing almost as fast as we could just to stay in the same spot. A quick 1 hour sail ended up taking us over 3 hours through confused seas (waves from multiple directions) to reach Seguin Island. The first mate did a fantastic job of steering in these difficult conditions.

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We cut between Seguin Island and Ellingwood rock, and headed into the cove. This is by far the smallest and least sheltered place we have stopped so far. There were waves breaking inside the cove! We ended up on a mooring near an Outward Bound boat.

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After a wonderful time on Seguin we headed up the Sheepscot river for 5 Island Harbor. We sailed with the current for about an hour and then as the tide changed we decided to fire up the diesel and motor the remaining 3 miles into the harbor. We arrived to find a wonderful little harbor that seems to be packed full of boats. Shortly after we arrived a thunderstorm passed just north of us. Glad it missed us!

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A successful day of sailing!

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Weather Windows

Rodetrip is still in Portsmouth. We had an anticipated departure of this morning to start heading for Portland, ME but the weather had other plans. The National Weather Service calmly describes our current weather as a low pressure system heading gradually out over the gulf of Maine. For us that means that we are getting bands of thunderstorms, spaced throughout the day. We decided that even though we are ready to head north, we aren’t in a big hurry to go running headlong into thunderstorms.

A low pressure system also will bring with it a counterclockwise flow. This means that if the low pressure is just offshore from us, then the wind is coming out of the North. Since we want to go North having the wind come from that direction is not very helpful. Shown below is a wind map that I downloaded from PocketGrib, the newest app addition to the iPad.

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Each arrow on this map indicates a predicted wind direction and speed. The O’s a little offshore and partway between Portsmouth and Portland indicate that there is NO predicted wind. That does not make for fast sailing. Anywhere that wind is predicted, an arrow appears on the map. Each arrow has a “tail” on it, each half flag that is on the back of a wind arrow represents 5 knots of windspeed. Here are some example wind indicators.

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After looking at the wind arrows on today’s weather map we decided that fighting through a calm and a headwind while standing in the rain and dodging lightning sounded like less fun than waiting on the mooring for one more night and heading north tomorrow. I expect there will be lots of times that we will end up waiting for an appropriate weather window before we set off on a passage. Here is tomorrow’s wind map it looks a lot better!

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