Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico

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Thursday
Feb202014

dodging the el nino bullet

An "El Nino event" (in the ENSO) is basically the term for the Pacific getting warmer than normal near South America. When that water gets warmer, things change. The water temperature is always changing but during an El Nino event it changes so much that more dramatic weather impacts are felt. More moisture comes into South America. Australia can experience drought conditions. Cyclones can range farther and pack more punch. The trade winds weaken, or even reverse. 

That last aspect there has had me a bit worried for the last week ever since a client prediction center said there's a 75% of an El Nino event happening in 2014. In a worst case scenario that would mean you're sitting in the middle of the ocean with no wind: a bad place to be.

Fortunately though if you look at the data and forecast models, the general consensus is that if an El Nino event occurs in 2014 it will be around the time that we're hoping to already be out of the trade winds, although there is certainly an El Nino impact on New Zealand which we'll take into consideration. 

It's also worth pointing out that NOAA, which is no slouch, will only issue El Nino warnings six months in advance of increased likelihood and they have not (as of now) done so. They have however indicated that some models are suggesting El Nino activity, although they point out that those models might just be responding to normal seasonal variation. 

For those of you looking for some absolute truths, realize that climate models are built by software developers and as a software developer I assure you that we are generally a lazy and error prone bunch.

On a personal note, I've really enjoyed getting to know the weather. It's one of several aspects to sailing that really helps ground you to the world we live on. At a micro level you're paying attention to wind direction, but at a zoomed out macro level things like global warming (seasonal, man made, or natural) really do have a material impact on our plans. I've never had that kind of connection before. 

In our previous land life bad weather was this thing that while inconvenient was rarely a truly life threatening event but here on the big blue ocean it's different. Taking the time to learn about the weather and to care about meteorology can be the difference between happy and well timed passages versus bobbing around with no wind or getting the crap kicked out of you. Both happen anyway, but you can avoid those extremes as much as possible by making smart weather decisions.

Know your boat and know the weather, and nine times out of ten you'll be zipping along happy as a clam. 

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