“Please wait,” my computer told me, “the meeting host will let you in soon.” OK, I was 15 minutes early, but I needed to make sure I had time to dig up the correct link to the online seminar. Online seminars are a far cry from the real thing. Back in the old days, pre-COVID, half the value of an in-person event was the pre- and post-event schmooze with all the other participants. This loss seemed especially poignant for this pre-race seminar: no chance to work the room for crew prospects, gear exchange, or back-channel gossip with the other skippers and navigators.
The invitation to join the meeting appeared soon enough, and I clicked in to discover a surprise substitution: Lee Helm, naval architecture graduate student and accomplished offshore navigator, was the meeting host and principal lecturer. “Welcome aboard, Max!” she greeted me. “You’re the first one in.”
“I grew up in New York,” I explained. “and ‘New York Time’ means ‘show up for everything 10 minutes early.'”
“Max, un-mute your mic! Lower left, on the microphone icon!”
“Right, sorry,” I mumbled as I clicked the little microphone icon with the red slash through it to turn on my sound. “Lee, are you one of the speakers today? What happened to the famous meteorologist listed on the seminar invitation?”
“He had to cancel,” Lee explained. “Had to fly off to advise on some big race in Europe.”
“I’m not surprised you’re in the seminar organizer’s Rolodex,” I said.
“Whatever a ‘Rolodex’ is,” she answered. “Anyway, this gives me a chance to, like, tear up the syllabus on weather tactics they gave me. The best weather briefing for racing to Hawaii is already online, by Stan Honey. Don’t mind the poor production values — I mean, it looks like it was shot with a handheld camera by one of the attendees — but the content is the best you’ll find anywhere on the subject. I’m sending people there for weather strategy. That’s like, the cool thing about online classes. You can watch a lecture given by the best in the biz, and the local teacher’s role changes to providing individual help with the homework. It’s the Khan Academy concept of ‘flipping the classroom.'”
“Then what’s your plan for today?” I asked.
Routing software tutorial,” Lee answered. “By the end of the session, you will have downloaded and installed your very own weather routing optimization program, loaded a GRIB file, and calculated the fastest route to Hawaii, based on the latest wind forecast, for a boat similar to yours.”
“I tried to use one of those routing programs once,” I confessed. “It’s either a very steep learning curve, or I’m pretty dense. The user manual was almost no help — I could never get the thing to define the ‘active route.'”
Continue reading in February’s Latitude 38 magazine.