Monthly Archives: April 2020

Weather Whys (Part II)

These weather observations from the West Penobscot Bay Buoy bear out what I was trying to describe in yesterday’s blog. You can pretty clearly see how conditions build on the incoming tide and crest and wane on the outgoing tide. Low tide today was at 1030 last night. By that time you can see that things are cooling off, quite literally. The peak winds peak temperature, and the lowest reading on the barometer (meaning the lightest, warmest air) coincide quite nicely. By 4 AM this morning clouds were breaking up. Now we have clear skies and the promise of clearer weather this week. Time to head to the boat and get painting.

If you want to learn more about the weather here along the Maine coast join us for any sailing trip but take a close look at our Sailing and Seamanship course with weather diva Capt Jane Ahfeld of the Wooden Boat School.

Weather Whys

There is a phenomenon here along the Maine coast that I have observed over and over again. Weather comes with the tides. When I say weather I mean weather for which adequate clothing is a challenge. As they say, there is no such thing as bad weather. Just a bad choice of clothing. Take that with a grain of salt from the guy whose favorite summer challenge is to wear shorts from the first day we leave the dock to the day we take the sails off.

“A bone in her teeth” Image by Neal Parent

Today’s forecast for Penobscot Bay includes a storm warning with wind gusts up to 55 knots. I should explain: knots means nautical miles per hour. A nautical mile is about 6,076 feet; about 15% longer than a land mile. That same wind measured onland would be 63 miles an hour. Strong enough to blow the melted butter off a biscuit! Hurricane force winds start at 64 knots. Thank goodness we won’t have a hurricane in Maine today. Actually we seldom do have hurricanes here because of the Gulf of Maine’s cold water temperatures.

See how the wind is predicted to crest at 6 PM?

So the part of all of this that fascinates me is how the weather along the Maine coast moves with the tides. Take a look at the hourly forecast for Camden. It is readily apparent that the peak of the rain and wind occurs at about 6 o’clock tonite. Guess what time the high tide is?

From 8:00 o’clock this morning.

The peak of today’s “weather” and the high tide coincide quite closely. Were it not for daylight saving time (DST) the synchronicity would be even more apparent. Evidently, the weather doesn’t observe DST.

I can’t tell you how often this happens. Like all the time. In with the tide, out with the tide; meaning that most weather events here along the coast only last about 12 hours. The onshore breeze in the summer works the same way more often than not. If you had a birds-eye view of Penobscot Bay on a hot summer day (yes, we have days when the temperatures soar into the 70s) you could see the wind roll up the bay from Owls Head to Castine. Do you know how frustrating it is to be sitting becalmed for hours off the north end of North Haven and see a schooner “bringing the wind” with it blow by just as the wind line gets to you? I have had to start the yawl and burn dinosaur bones to push through the Oak I. Passage on more than one occasion. Hauling the yawl boat before you clear North Haven is sometimes a dicey proposition. Once up, no captain ever wants to put the yawl boat back down. No sooner do you put the boat down and then the wind is blowing 20. Sometimes just shaking the yawl boat falls can fool the wind into picking up.

So why does all of this work the way it does? I am no meteorologist but my best guess is water temperature. Every change of the tidal currents that flush water in and out of Penobscot Bay at 1-2 knots, depending on the phase of the moon and where you are in the bay, mixes things up. Cooler water and the air just above it from offshore gets carried into the bay on the tide. Warmer air aloft heads offshore to replace the cooler air being carried in in the tide. Warmer water inshore gets mixed with cooler water from offshore. Cooler water down deep mixes with warmer water near the surface (in the summer). Sometimes you can physically see the place where they meet.

And what creates the tides? The largest part is created by the gravitational pull of our moon. Do you suppose that the same gravitational force moves moisture, and the heat associated with it, that is stored in the atmosphere? The entire atmosphere is kinda like the ocean with currents circulating north and south, east and west, up and down. To think about it in 3-D is mind-boggling.

So I am going to leave this natural phenomenon right there. Again, I am not a scientist. I am only an observer and not an especially keen one at that. But I have seen these patterns repeat themselves so many times and yet it never ceases to amaze my child-like sense of wonder. I kinda like not knowing the full scientific explanation. I have amassed enough nickel knowledge to be dangerous. But there is still a lot in this world that goes on without any explanation whatsoever. Some things are best left to my favorite explanation… PFM (pure freakin’ magic).

Have a great day, Be well. Do good. And wash your hands when you’re finished.

Life in the Balance

I have photographed this piece of granite a thousand times. I captured this image on the last cruise of the 2019 season knowing for sure that the winter ice and cold temperatures would most likely roll this over the edge. I have been thinking this for the last 40 years since I first saw this rock.

I can’t be the only one who marvels at how precariously this rock is perched. There it is…seemingly all alone. And that is where this story gets interesting during these times of social distancing. We could quickly label this a glacial erratic but it isn’t really an erratic in the truest sense of the term. The boulder, while undoubtedly deposited during a period of glacial activity sometime before last Tuesday, is composed of the same granite as the surrounding landscape. Often the term erratic is used to describe glacially transported rocks of different composition than the surrounding landscape. There is an excellent example on the southeast side of Mark I off of Camden. I wish I had a picture of that to share. But don’t take my word for it. Come sailing so I can show it to you.

Fasten your seatbelts and hang with me for another moment. The beauty of the times we are living in is our ability to stay connected electronically. The challenge is to stay connected physically, emotionally, spiritually. Electronic communication is woefully inadequate as we strive for the fulfilling soul food of physical, emotional, and spiritual connection. It is all too easy to find ourselves feeling alone when in truth we are being supported by the very bedrock from which we derive our psychological existence. My heart aches when I think of how social distancing is making us feel isolated, maybe even unloved. Reaching out through email and text may be the best we can do for the moment. So I want you to print out my picture. When you look at this picture I want you to remember that you are loved and supported by the basic bedrock of your friends, family, and community.

So there you have it. If windjamming does nothing else, it allows me to unplug and take a moment to re-connect with the natural world. Ultimately I am actually re-connecting with my friends and neighbors. Friendships forged aboard the schooner while watching sunsets and bald eagles and beautiful scenery last a long time. So many of our guests keep coming back to see each other. They stay connected through the 51 weeks of the year they are not aboard. Take a moment today to shoot a very quick email or text or postcard to someone, anyone. Be the bedrock that supports the delicate balance in which we find ourselves living.

Have a great day. You are not alone. Be safe. Be well. Do good.