January 20, 2007
Goodbye to Cartagena
The jerry jugs are full and the tanks are loaded. The lockers are crammed with food and spares. It is once again time to set sail for a new destination--if we can get a decent weather window.
This time of year is tough in the southwest Caribbean. The forecast is calling for 25- to 30-knot winds and big seas north of 10 north, and 15-20 with 7- to 9-foot seas south of 10 north. That's about as good as it gets in the winter, so we'll be shoving off in the morning for a short trip to the Rosario Islands, then a 170-mile run to the San Blas the next couple of days.
Hopefully, it will be just one night at sea and hopefully conditions will improve as we get further south. Many ask what we are using for weather forecasts down here. I find the NOAA weather fax charts (24, 48, and 72 hours) very useful, and I also get the offshore waters text forecast for the SW North Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. I occasionally glance at the virtual buoy predictions on buoyweather.com, but I think they are interpolating finer results than the data warrants.
Others use weather routers and listen to weather nets on the SSB, but again these sources tend to micro-interpret the weather to greater detail than is possible with the data available. I think most cruisers agonize over the weather more than is necessary, and they have lost the ability to think for themselves. Get a decent forecast for the beginning of the trip, avoid any predicted severe weather, and don't trust any forecast more than three days out--it is nothing more than wishful thinking.