Friday, February 14, 2014

The Cold Front Polka

For all of you northerners who are suffering through dreadful winter storms and bone chilling cold, take heart in knowing that here in the central Bahamas, we are also affected by the cold fronts that are plowing across your terrain.  Here is a piece of Chris Parker’s weather synopsis from January 24, 2014: LO marches thru SE Canada and presses narrowing RIDGE S-ward to 30N/65W-26N/77W-FLKeys, with N@0-10 across RIDGE in N Bahamas/SFL / surging WSW wind N of RIDGE (including extreme N
Bahamas/CrossingNroute) / FrontalTROF persists near T&C, maintaining
NE wind/squalls SE Bahamas / C Bahamas sees some moderation to NNE-NE

Canada...Ridge…Squalls….Surging Wind…Trof.  Stop it, Canada.  I don’t want any more marching winds from you.

It is not unusual to get 2 or 3 cold fronts a month from the north, or “Blows” as the locals call them, throughout the Bahamas.   (Cold used loosely here; temps drop to the high 70’s F) We take heed when it looks like one is coming, since it pushes out friendly easterly Trade winds, replacing them with strong west and north winds, who send their accompanying beefy bodyguard squalls in advance.   We have a great anchor and can tolerate quite rolly sea swells but we are all vulnerable to westerlies or northers because there are very few places we can tuck into in the Exumas.  Since this chain of islands runs from North East to Southwest with deep ocean on the east banks and the shallow Bahama Banks waters on the east, land formations offer very few bays or “holes” to hide in.  We have never felt unsafe, just uncomfortable with the movement the messy waters bring. Anchoring next to a small, low lying island that blocks the western winds and seas can help. 

Last week when forecasts said “storm of the season”, we decided to try an anchorage our sister PDQ boat Good Trade and new friend, Mario-from-Montreal on a nice Bavaria monohull, recommended.   It is a narrow channel tucked between Big Major and Little Major Spot Islands that block those kinds of winds.  Our “Location” link on the left side bar of this blog will show our SPOT for a few more days.  By the time we arrived 2 days before the system, 15 boats were anchored in the area and we were tightly packed in the small space, watching several more boats subsequently squeeze in.  It was a boat-ballet, albeit a less-than-pretty one, as boats wove through the anchorage, trying to find a space, anchoring, pulling up again because they weren’t happy with holding or space, moving back out to wider, more exposed spaces again or elbowing in again.

The first night of the front, Craig set his alarm to get up every 2 hours, primarily to make sure our anchor held as well as those of our neighbours.   Boats drifted around one another in improv pirouettes in the tug of war between the wind and the current.   Usually we all swing the same way but the wind/current stand off confuses everything, pushing boats to within feet of one another.  That night, we could see lights on most of the boats as we all watched the “squalls of up to 40 knots” circle all around us with lightening fireworks.  We were all ready for the big blows from the dramatic cumulonimbus cloud towers lit up by the full moon, but nothing came.  We watched all night as storm after storm flew by but not one stopped over us.  The next day, radio reports from neighbouring islands reported winds up to 60 knots, boats dragging, and very tired sailors.  Our little channel remained almost flat calm for no apparent reason.   Other than feeling like we were in high-density housing, we were glad we had lucked out with this Big Little Major Spot.   

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