So It Begins....

Rob Temple
So It Begins....

As of 11 p.m. Thursday (just as I finished writing this), subtropical storm Ana was officially recognized.  

Its projected path brings it ashore in South Carolina Sunday and takes it past us to the west on Monday. The local forecasts don't predict any winds for us above 25 knots, but when tropical and/or subtropical systems are afoot, the outlook can always change rapidly with little notice. Stay tuned!

The 2015 tropical cyclone season has arrived almost a month ahead of it’s “official” itinerary. I got the first hint of its arrival over a week ago when a certain old pirate from Pittsburgh (by way of the Florida Keys) who inhabits a boat a couple of slips down from me asked me if I’d been watching the tropics.  I’m sure I gave him the same sheepish look I ordinarily reserve for sports fans who ask me what I thought of  “The Game” Saturday.

“Yeah, buddy!  That was some game!”

“Tropics?” I finally said.  “What about the tropics?”

“Call me ‘Chicken Little’ if you want to,” he said, “But I don’t like the look of that system forming in the southern Bahamas.”

This is Capt. Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) from The Caine Mutiny. Don't feel bad if you didn't get the reference; the editor didn't, either.
This is Capt. Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) from The Caine Mutiny. Don't feel bad if you didn't get the reference; the editor didn't, either.

Okay, so I went home and checked all my online weather sources: National Weather Service, Weather Channel,,  Nothing.  Nada.  Ne rien.  No mention of any “systems.”  So I started thinking of Capt. Queeg and his silver balls. Keep a weather eye on that guy….

Then, by golly, three days later all the weather sites are abuzz with speculations that the hurricane season is about to break new records for arriving early and not only that… drum roll, please… the first storm appears to be heading straight for the N.C. Outer Banks!

I’m sorry, but after messing about in boats for half a century, I can’t help but start to take these storms personally.  For years I’ve advised my friends:  “If you want to dodge a hurricane, just find out where I am and go somewhere else.” 

Meteorology is a remarkable science. And I have no doubt that it is a science (which is what prevents me from sacrificing one of my children or pets as a burnt offering to the angry gods). But I’m simultaneously amazed at: (a) how forecasters can be wrong 80% of the time and still have a job and (b) how often they are right on the money with their predictions.

When I first started trying to eke out an existence from sailboat charters many years ago, a wise old Georgia shrimper advised me not to place too much confidence in the weather man.

 “If he can’t drown you,” he warned, “he’ll starve you!”

I painfully recalled those words today as I stood on the shore and watched a beautiful, clear sunset over a remarkably navigable sound. I’d cancelled a large sailing charter because the morning’s forecast had assured me there was a 100% chance of rain during the time I’d planned to be sailing and the wind was also expected to be higher than is comfortable. 

Several years ago my good friend Karen called me up when a hurricane was brewing far out in the Atlantic between Africa and the Caribbean. 

“Rob,” she said, “What do you think this storm is going to do?  Should we be worried?”

And then it occurred to me that this was not the first storm she’d consulted me on. In fact, a regular part of my hurricane preparation routine had long been fielding questions from Karen about the projected path. 

“Jeez, Karen,” I said, “Why do you always ask me about the weather? You can tune in the forecast as easily as I can.”

“Well,” she explained, “in my receptionist job at a local hotel, I always get calls from anxious prospective guests when a storm is forming.  They ask me if it’s safe to assume their vacation will not be ruined by the hurricane and I always tell them, ‘I have a friend who’s a sea captain and he always knows what to expect. Call back tomorrow and I’ll tell you what he thinks.’”

“Good grief!” I said, “You’re not talking about me are you?  I’m a “sea” captain only in the sense that George W. Bush (then President) was a “C” student at Yale. You need an “A” or at least a “B” captain!"

But, strangely enough, I say this only partially tongue-in-cheek. Frequently in  the years I’ve lived on the island, I’ve heard one or another of the regular waterfront guys casually observe, “Heard it’s going to blow here in a coupla days, buck.”  When I check the weather media at these times there’s no mention. My local sources are always vague and they don’t like to be pinned down or quoted, but in my experience they’ve never been wrong!

Roy Parsons used to tell me that when the land crabs cross the road or the blue crabs crawl up a piling out of the water, expect a storm.

How ‘bout them tropics, buck? 

Yeah buddy!




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