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West Coastal Cruise Weather Planning, Part 2

On Friday, Mitchell Andrus asked Latitude Nation what forecasting tools they used to plan a coastal cruise. As he and his partner and first mate Quincey Cummings were in Santa Barbara and planning their trip north, back to the Bay, Mitchell found a coupon for 15 days of premium service from Weather Routing Incorporated, or WRI.  

I signed up for WRI immediately and told them about my planned trip with dates and potential stop options. They asked for our yacht’s polar charts (predicted sailing speed at different wind angle and force) and if I had and wind or sea-state limits for them to weigh against our route.

We decided on our plan using the same method used for the trip south. I wrote an itinerary and sent it via email to WRI. They immediately replied; “We’ve noted your plan, when would you like your first forecast from us?” We were planning to leave Santa Barbara for Santa Cruz Island on a Tuesday afternoon; the following night, we would set sail for Conception and head north, on the beginning of another Santa Ana. I responded to WRI that I would like the report Tuesday morning.

Here’s a snapshot of the West Coast (and greater Pacific) from this morning via windy.com. Sailing north up the coast of California can be a crap shoot of conditions.
© 2019 windy.com

I received two very detailed emails, one with a route on a chart and a description of our itinerary with the key words “Your route is valid.” Then, they break it down with why they agree, complete with examples of the high- and low-pressure locations. Following that is a spreadsheet with predictions for your estimated location and the conditions there every few hours. The spreadsheet has data for wind speed and direction, swell height and direction, temperatures, and cloud cover. The second email contained a Meteogram (graphic info) of the same info compiled on the previous spreadsheet and a NOAA Pacific Ocean Surface Analysis. They did say we should expect motoring most of the way and relatively easy seas around the Point. I asked them to send forecasts every morning until we arrived home. I figured we’d have pretty good cell data reception motoring parallel with the coast between five and 15 miles off.

I was right; we had access to our phones, as we would on land, for most of the trip. I regret to admit I spent too much time on Instagram on that passage! We continued to check the free weather apps every few hours and found them to be pretty accurate with light winds right on the nose — not enough to sail offshore for. The first morning, after we’d rounded the Point, we received another very detailed email with our location updated on WRI’s chart via our AIS signal checked through our MMSI. They really were keeping an eye on us.

Quincey Cummings and Mitchell Andrus have been putting some serious miles on their Kelly Peterson 46 Esprit in the last year.
© 2019 Q+M Travels

By the afternoon of the first 24 hours out of the islands, we were pretty tired of motoring. I looked out as far as the free forecasts on our apps would provide and saw good strong southerlies predicted for four days out. We’d never been to Monterey by boat, and thought a few days at anchor there could be a lot of fun. We could finish the last leg of the sail wing on wing. You know the saying, “Good weather comes to those with time.”

I sent this idea to WRI, a team of professional meteorologists (which I’m not) and they responded with, “We do not advise. Our recommendation is just to continue on to San Francisco as we don’t see any significant benefits to stopping as we don’t see any S’ly winds for quite a while. If you did decide to stop, you could resume on the 28th with more offshore winds to start.” So, on to San Francisco we pressed with our 30-year-old marinized Volkswagen diesel nicknamed “the Little Engine that Does.” We did have to get back to work, sooner rather than later.

We sailed under the Gate with the asymmetrical chute on a sunny and warm Friday, October 25, 49 hours after leaving Santa Cruz Island. We did have about nine hours of glorious beam reaching along the way (WRI predicted this and noted it on our route plan). You may recall the weather that ravaged the Bay on the 26th and 27th? We just missed it. Saturday morning WRI sent me an email saying they registered we had made it back to our marina.

Esprit sails back under the Golden Gate Bridge in late October after a jaunt in the Channel Islands.
© 2019 Q+M Travels

The trip was 14 days and just over 700 nautical miles. We used all the modern tools we had access to, all for free. If we had been going farther afield, I would have acquired a satellite communication device so we could get all that same information offshore. Though, I don’t know which service — between PredictWind or WRI — I would pay for.

Do any of you have a similar experience? Or do you pay for a service that you couldn’t do without?

1 Comment

  1. Ben 2 years ago

    Mitch, this is really helpful. Love these kinds of informative posts. Thanks!

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