Boaters’ Weather

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The weather is turning back to the cool, partly sunny skies with daytime highs along the coast in the upper 60s and low 70s.  This week the fog was so thick in layers that NOAA issued a hazardous weather outlook statement. Therefore, watch for patchy fog this weekend.

The Pacific swells will be a mixed set that might be a little bumpy especially in the afternoons when the winds pick up.  For the weekend, we should see a solid 3-foot west swell with a 2 foot south-southwest swell creating the rougher ride conditions.

Sailors can expect afternoon winds from the west blowing around 8 to 10 knots, predicted to die down in the evenings.  Last week, I mentioned that Santa Ana winds are warm and dry – but why? When there is a high-pressure system east of the mountains, toward, for example Nevada, and a low-pressure system off our coast, the winds will blow high- to low-pressure, hence the northerly or easterly direction.

Now comes the interesting part. Most people think that the winds are heated by blowing over the hot desert, but that is wrong. The winds become dry as they rise in elevation to blow over the cooler mountaintops. When the air cools, it cannot hold as much water vapor, known as humidity, thus, the winds become dryer.  Then, the winds become heated when the air gets compressed as it comes down our side of the mountains to sea level.  Can we have cool Santa Ana winds?  Sure, but that is another story.

The swells will decrease, with mid-San Pedro Channel about 1 foot as the low pressure system leaves the area, so it will be like a pond on the ocean.  Wind waves will be 1 foot and if the Santa Ana winds arrive then expect the wind waves to increase four-fold.  The ocean water temperatures will remain in the mid-60s – the Dana Point buoy was reading 66 degrees this week.

As always, with an eye to the north, boaters off Point Conception will experience west-northwest swells of 5 to 7 feet, but strong northwest winds will trigger gale warnings and create combined seas to 10 feet and single-digit intervals.

Enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend, and always check the sea and weather conditions before you leave the dock.


Safe Voyages,

Mike Whitehead, Capt.

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