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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Weather. It was always “weathering” in the South Pacific Ocean at 36 degrees South Latitude. We had stiff southerly breezes, a big lump, and a secondary swell from some unknown storm in a faraway region. Typically you lived life hanging on, bracing on the shower wall while bathing, sliding down the companionway wall to reach the galley, or clutching the sea rail on the edge of the galley table. Hanging on was second nature. I served spaghetti one night and a quick jerky roll slid the entire meal off our plates.

We forecasted our own weather. Our Furuno weather fax machine was programmed to print several pictures a day which included the 24 hour surface, the 48 hour surface, the 96 hour surface forecasts as well as sea direction and height. This was in the early 1990’s, hence technology onboard our vessel did not have satellite internet or images that today we take for granted. We did get a scroll of interpretations drawn on top of a crude map which showed Lat/Long and the outlines of islands and continents. The low and high pressure systems were delineated and their direction and speed given. Forecasting our own weather was a daily ritual and we were right nearly 50 % of the time!

We had some help from an amateur radio operator on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. He was Arnold, ZK1DB. His goal was to give accurate weather forecasts to the cruising fleet of sail boaters heading from the Marquesas westward through Polynesia. He helped out with search & rescue also. With an office at the airport, he was privy to the latest bulletins and locations of the typhoons which swoop across Polynesia every summer. We listened to Arnold on the 20 meter maritime net and sometimes called him to check in. We were usually too far south to be useful, but we did offer some on the spot weather checks.

Of course the WFOA fleet net gave weather updates only when it was going bad to worse. The skippers talked weather or “WX” as we abbreviated it. Our friend Tony, alias “Shamrock” would grunt as his boat bucked into a nasty wave. It literally took the air out of his lungs. You could hear it weathering if it blew over 40 knots. The rigging would hum and a loose line slapping against the mast would drive you nuts, especially if you were nodding off in your bunk. The waves slapped the sides of the boat and the sound of flying spray on the hull and portholes was like being hit with shotgun pellets. My at sea philosophy was that our bad weather day earned us an equal and opposite wonderful day, in the near future. Our trolling days in the South Pacific changed that ratio a little. We had crummy seas , grey skies, and marginal fishing for three solid weeks before some sunshine dried us out. As the skipper always said, "No whining or're on for the duration."

Here is a typical WX picture which is much like the ones from which we forecasted our daily weather.

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