Written by Peter Teuten
It seems a long way off, but before we even think about unwrapping the new windlass that Santa so thoughtfully left under the tree, it’s time to think about the trek north to savor the joys of boating in the Northeast during the summer.
If the next thing you expected to read was “just jump on board and go,” then my mission is still much undone! Maybe charge the PLB, update the charts, test the electronics and set sail … not so fast sailor.
A winter spent tooling around the Florida coastline with an occasional jaunt to the Bahamas is surely a good test of seaworthiness for you and your boat. But here up north we have lots of challenges that Florida and its environs are largely spared.
This brings me to my favorite subject — the weather! Late in January there were a number of rather nasty fronts that made their way down from Canada and the Midwest and wreaked havoc from the Carolinas all the way to Maine. This was not Sandy (a northerly tracking Hurricane) or a classic Nor’ easter, but good old-fashioned frontal air masses. Even in January there were thunderstorms up and down the coast, but “so what?” you may say, after all Florida pretty much invented the thunderstorm.
This is where it gets rather interesting. There are actually two very distinct types of thunderstorms, one of which was invented up North. It’s called the steady state thunderstorm and is quite different from the air-mass thunderstorms that are prevalent in the Deep South. A steady state thunderstorm produces not only line squalls and high winds, but also wind shear — the scourge of boaters and aviators alike. They are called “steady state” because they have a habit of lasting much longer than air-mass thunderstorms. Throw in the tendency for stronger updrafts than air-mass storms, and the recipe for disaster is complete for the unsuspecting or unprepared boater away from home territory.
Do you need to be a weather geek to know this? Not at all. It’s all there on the Internet and available to anyone (NOAA and its subsidiary sites are a great and authoritative source — noaa.gov ) or purchase a subscription to Sirius Marine Weather. So next time you see those darkening clouds, think what might be hiding beyond. The storms that last a few minutes in Florida and leave so suddenly are most likely to be the storms that seem to leave but somehow stick around. They throw up gusty quartering winds and angry seas and turn from warm rain into frigid sideways torrents up here in the North.
But then you did your homework and are safely in port wishing well of those who weren’t so well prepared, while listening to all the anxious calls on ch. 16!
Peter Teuten has more than 34 years experience in the insurance and risk management fields in a number of diverse operational,management and ownership roles.He is a regular speaker at industry conferences and contributes to multiple global publications.