Weather Risk Assessment 120 Miles from Bermuda

1900 EDT – 120 miles from Bermuda, the Dashews discuss the issue of risk assessment in weather analysis.

1900 EDT – 30’22″N – 64’13″W. 120 miles to Bermuda – we’ve spoken with Bermuda Harbor Radio to verify the position of the sea buoy (it is about 1/8 mile off from the chart) and that the leading lights through Town Cut and other buoys are OK.

We’ve been close reaching all day – true wind angle around 60 to 65 degrees, wind between 10 and 14 knots, boat speed between 10.5 and 12.5 knots. Ballast in and ballast out as wind goes up and down.

The sky has become totally overcast – so it is safe to say weather is on its way. Still no huge problem forecast, just a normal gale. But the ingredients are here for a real storm which is why we’re still heading for Bermuda, rather than making direct for Norfolk.

This whole issue of risk assessment is at the heart of our approach to weather forecasting and analysis. There are often situations where the risks of a real blow are too low for the professionals to comment on – but they are high enough for those of us on small boats to want to avoid. It’s like the risk of a drunk driver being on the road with you. If someone tells you that there is a one in 20 chance you will encounter a drunk driver weaving back and forth, do you take the same route, go somewhere else, or just stay put? That’s what the boats around here are facing.

Right now the forecast says 25-35 from the NE – which means maybe gusts to 45. No big deal, albeit somewhat uncomfortable. But anytime you have a subtropical low generating this sort of weather – with the possibility of it getting additional energy from the higher latitudes in the form of dry, cool air, or from the tropics in the form of warm, moist air – you have to give the risk factors a lot of respect. Besides, there are probably some friends at anchor in Bermuda – it is a great place to boat-watch this time of year with all sorts of traffic coming and going.

Water temperature is down to 73F – eight degrees F in the last 36 hours, and we are using blankets to sleep, and warmer clothes on watch. You can bet we’ll have on some long sleeves and pants for the approach to Bermuda.

Speaking of which, coming at the island from the south or southeast, the island is pretty much steep to, and gives a good radar return. From the East Coast, on the other hand, there is a huge area of reef to skirt. The procedure is to call Bermuda Harbor Radio on 16, then switch to 27 to give them your details. They are very helpful with conning boats through the buoys leading into the harbor, if you have not been here before. The one thing we would not do is approach Town Cut at night – in strong easterly weather – where it is a lee shore. One mistake and you are on the reefs. However, we expect to have moderate conditions – but we’ll still slow down so we arrive after sunup.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 5, 2001)

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