Monday, March 15, 2010

Weather Service in the Far Dockominiums

The alarm intruded on my peaceful half sleep injecting its tinny but insistent rudeness into a very pleasant not quite daydream. 0615 and someone had to tune the SSB into the Caribbean Weather Centre. We live by the weather on Meredith as does every other sailing couple.

Chris Parker operates a semiformal weather briefing service, broadcasting weather reports and vessel specific weather briefings six days a week on a series of SSB frequencies. For the Bahamas and Caribbean we tune to his 0630 broadcast on 4045 mhz.

Usually Chris comes on air about 0645. Following his synopsis of the weather we tune in the Universal Navtex frequency of 518 khz andn grab the NOAA Navtex broadcast out of Miami at 0700.

Just as soon as we have grabbed the Navtex we get back on 4045. The fun on the Caribbean Weather Centre starts when Chris finishes his synopsis.

Chris makes his living, or at least part of it, by providing specific weather briefings for various sailboats making their way around the Caribbean. For the very reasonable fee of $200 per season Chris will give your vessel a series of briefings in which he predicts wind and sea state, recommends good days for embarking and attempts gently to dissuade the overly optimistic or downright stupid from setting off when it is ill advised.

Having sailed the Caribbean extensively and the Bahamas intensively Chris knows all of the place names, geo specific quirks of weather and ocean current. A very knowledgeable and helpful guy. Everyone catches his broadcast.

But not just for the weather.

Having paid their $200 most boaters never call Chris for a briefing. They listen carefully to the synopsis, look at their charts and plan their passage. However. There are the Others. I will let Vic the Newf describe one of the classic situations:

Caller 1: "Good morning Chris. We are on Dumbass 1. I want to move from North Bimini to South Bimini this afternoon. Can you give me the winds and sea state for the passage?". [now it measures about 10 nm between these two spots. What can the skipper of this vessel possibly need to know that cannot be observed from the cockpit? Why the hell does he need a weather briefing?]

Caller 2 (following immediately after): "Good morning Chris. This is Dumbass 2. We want to take our boat from South Bimini to North Bimini sometime about 2 p.m. What kind of wind can we expect?"

Caller 8 ( this guy overslept and missed not only the synopsis but also the answers to Dumbass 1 and 2 which were broadcast 5 minutes earlier):"Chris. This is the Big Dumbass. We have guests flying into Bimini this afternoon and wanted to take them on a pleasure cruise when they arrive. What can we expect by way of weather?"

At this point I am throwing pens at the bulkheads in pent up frustration. I want to hit some of these clueless twits just to release the pent up tensions. Over on Joana, Princess Diane turns her SSB off. She gets so angry she sometimes refuses to listen to the weather and makes husband Wanker Wade listen on headphones.

Marilyn the Right, who is married to Vic the Newf and resembles no person you have known better than Marg Delahantey on This Hour Has Twenty Minutes fumes and hisses while Vic mutters away at the "idjots of the airwaves".

The Budget Committee loves it. To her this is Divine Comedy. She tells me it is like the old days when people would crowd around the radio listening to the Happy Gang on CBC or Jack Benny in the USA.

However it does have serious overtones. Here what we actually heard about 2 weeks ago while enroute to Royal Island:

The synopsis from Chris: "a strong cold front will move across the Bahama Banks late this afternoon. Winds will be 25 to 30 knots with gusts to 40 and maybe higher.. The front is expected to move east onto the banks just after dark and will be very strong. Conditions will be rough."

The Call: "Good Morning Chris. This is Deathwish IV. We are leaving Bimini late this morning and want to anchor on the Banks this evening. We will carry on to Nassau tomorrow. What can we expect with respect to wind and seastate tomorrow morning."

Now most of you will know the Little Bahama Banks is an enormous stone bank which carries depths from 5 to 15 feet. On the Banks you appear to be in mid ocean - no land in sight - just thousands of hectares of salt water. But the banks are shallow.

So - no protection from wind or wave. Solid rock bottom. Shallow. Huge fetch so the wind will generate enormous waves in no time at all.

This halfwit intends to anchor on the banks.

We know a boat that did this in these conditions. With is his wife and two subteen daughters. About 3 a.m. the anchor windlass was torn from his deck in furious waves. It left a big hole in the foredeck and the boat barely made it to Nassau in one piece.

The skipper of Deathwish IV is too stupid to sail. Someone needs to stop him. Fast. Of course in doing this the dumbass will survive to pollute the gene pool. The job falls to Chris Parker.

Chris Parker is always calm and polite. The fifth request for the same routing information is met with the same calm, polite informative response. But he has a tell. When Chris Parker is really fed up he begins his radio reply with "Sure......".

When Chris Parker is driven to use the word "sure" I am vindicated. Like Catholic expiation of sin Chris Parker has taken from me the accumulated frustration of aural stupidity. He bears it himself and in the process has released a knot of tension from my psyche.

I know Dumbass IV has really gone too far. Chris not only uses the word "sure" he stumbles in the delivery of his advice.

Even the politest man in the universe has had enough.

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