As I mentioned earlier I’ve come a long way in comprehending my weather data and how to interpret it. There are three major mistakes I was making.
Number one is that knots are higher than mph. 1 kt = 1.15078 mph. 44 kts equals 50 mph so 22 kts would equal 25 mph. That doesn’t factor into the equation very much as you can see until you reach the higher wind speeds.
Second was that whenever you see a wind forecasts calling for a certain range it doesn’t include gusts. At lower wind speeds generally gusts may only be 5-8 kts or mph. Once again at the lower wind speeds this doesn’t have as big of an effect. At higher wind speeds gusts tend to be in the 10-15 range. The night of the “Big Blow” according to the color bar I was expecting 30 kts at the most, but as I’ve stated we hit 44 and over 40 3 other times.
Looking back When I left Ensenada on January 1, I was only looking at 2 models and I was seeing 25 kts and thinking “oh I’ve seen 25 mph numerous times but it was 25 kts and with the gusts factored in I saw 37 kts. Toss very confused seas into the equation with 4 meter swells at one point and being a complete noob, darkness, the wind literally screaming and it is a ride you’ll not soon forget. I assure you I will never make that mistake again. I’m sure I’ll get surprised by Mother and her fickle Nature from time to time in the future but I know I dramatically reduce the risk of dealing with her wrath with my new found knowledge. Having access to highly complex data and understanding it will help me minimize the risk of being surprised. I’ve read a lot of history on early sailors and know the early Spanish explorers sailed through this area extensively. How difficult it must have been not having access to information that we take for granted today and how dangerous a life that must have been.
Thirdly and probably most importantly is I’m primarily using a service called Predict Wind for my weather data when I’m no longer able to get internet and only able to get weather from my satellite service. It gives me 4 weather models that don’t always match up. My initial train of thought was that if 3 said good conditions and 1 said bad I would toss out the bad one. On the “Big Blow” 3 of them were initially calling for for calm benign conditions and only one of them was still predicting the extreme conditions that we experienced that night and I felt a real breakthrough because I based my decision on the worst case scenario model and will continue to do so in the future. Below are the 4 different models showing each prediction for just after peak peak wind speed for where I was. Note that three are showing about 10 kts and only one says 30 kts. San Evaristo is where the arrow is as was Desi and me. Note the timestamp is the same in all 4 models. The law of averages failed miserably in this situation.
On my way headed back south to La Paz I had a similar situation where 3 of the models were showing mild conditions and one was showing 15-20 kts which with gust could equate to worse yet as I mentioned above. When I got to Ensenada El Cardonal which I had thought would give me good protection, all models were saying it should be calm yet I was seeing 15-18 kts or better out of the east. Even with all this data, the wind doesn’t always cooperate and has a mind of it’s own somewhat like the female gender I suppose. The wind did eventually do what the one model was calling for but it turned out being 15-20 knots blowing from the southwest funneling right into the bay instead of from the west creating some pretty good swells. Swell isn’t good because it can cause your anchor to unlodge. I have a snubber (shock absorber) I attach after I’ve set the anchor to absorb the motion not pull directly on the anchor. My anchor weighs 55 lbs and is rated for a boat up to 50′. I’m 38′ and since I have all chain standard technique is to let out a 5:1 ratio for the depth you’re anchored in. At San Evaristo I was in 20′ of water and I had 120′ of chain out which is a 6:1 ratio. I’ve got 5/16″ HD chain and it weighs about 1.5 lbs/ft so I had about 230 lbs out.
I still had a rocky night at El Cardonal but thankfully which much lower winds. Once again Desi held tough. I was up quite a bit all the same because I still think it’s prudent to err to the side of caution. I did go to sleep a couple of times feeling more confident in my ground tackle based on riding out 44 kts the week before. It was supposed to die down around 11:30 am and was slacking off around 10:30 when I headed out from El Cardonal for La Paz and had some great sailing for about 1 1/2 hrs. It did die as predicted around 11:30 and I dropped the sails and motored the rest of the way into La Paz.
Numerous people told me that they had been down here for a long time and never experienced anything like the wind at San Evaristo that day so as George says I’ve been getting my baptism by fire. It was one crazy night I’m here to tell you. It actually died down a couple of hours Tuesday just after daybreak and I went down below and just shook my head and thought wow, what an experience I had just lived through! I’m not sure I can put into words what my feelings really are during these intense weather conditions. Anxious for it to pass and for the wind to die down surely! I know one constant thought is “Ok would you please just DIE down!!!” I’m not trying to be macho but fear really hasn’t been a factor. You are in a situation where you have no choice but to ride it out and hopefully be prepared and have a plan if something does go wrong. Fear isn’t an emotion that’s going to do you any good in these situations. You just have to deal with the situation as it comes. Key learning for me is understanding how to prevent things from going wrong in the first place. I’ve made some big mistakes and been lucky but I’m learning and a large part of that has been self taught and these past experiences have boosted my confidence tremendously which is something I really needed. Peace!