We are in the middle of a 5 day patch of windy weather here in the Keys. A front of some kind moved in and the winds have kicked up to 20 to 25 knots and gusty. Seas have also increased to 5 to 8 feet out beyond the reef line. For those living on land, all this is meaningless. A few things might blow around in the back yard but other than that it’s just a windy weekend. For those of us living on the water, it’s a bit different.
If your living quarters are floating or even if you make your living on the water, you are always keeping an eye on the weather. When the winds and seas kick up like they are doing this weekend, then you have to take some extra precautions. Most likely, especially with a boat the size of the Fritter, staying safe in port is the best option. Trying to go out in these kinds of heavy seas and winds is not just dangerous, it’s stupid too. I’ve seen more than a few vessels head out in weather like this, charters, fisherman, etc. simply because they don’t want to lose out on the money they would make. If they are taking out passengers they may well get paid, but there will be many an unhappy customer hanging over the side or just trying to hang on. But, money is money. It does keep the Coast Guard busy though.
The Coast Guard and the National Weather service do rank windy conditions similar to the way hurricanes are ranked. You have the mild “Small craft should exercise caution”, which means if you are in a smaller boat, or don’t have a lot of sailing experience, then stay close to shore or on land. The next is a, “Small Craft Advisory”. This means most small vessels need to stay in port or someplace safe. Unless you have a larger vessel capable of handling the rough conditions and a lot of sailing experience, then you have no need to be out there. That is the current warning we have in place for the winds that are blowing this weekend. Then there is the, “Small Craft Warning”. Usually in association with a tropical storm or really severe weather. This means that unless you have U.S.N. on the side of your vessel, your ass better be high and dry on land. Then of course there is the worst warning of all, the classic, “Here, hold my beer and watch this!” warning. This is when some idiot thinks they are capable of defeating nature, the ocean, and Darwin. Most of the time they will lose out to all three…and deservedly so.
For those smart enough to stay in port, weather like this still has an effect, depending on where you are docked and from where the wind is coming from. You need to check and reset all your dock lines, tie down anything that may flap a bit too much or blow overboard…like my bicycle, and generally be ready to replace or retie something if it comes loose. A lot of times weather systems like this one are accompanied by higher than usual tides, as is also happening right now. That also means you might have to adjust some lines and keep an eye on things.
But, you will be happy to know the Fritter is handling this current weather just fine. In fact, it’s kind of pleasant out. The winds have knocked the heat down a bit and I am able to open up the hatches and let some breeze through, while shutting off the ac. The winds are also blowing out of the northeast. Since I have a new neighbor with a really high houseboat sitting on my east side, all the main wind is blocked by her boat. So while I am rocking a little bit, the main force of the wind is not having any ill effects.
This will be the typical weather pattern from now until the spring. Winter in the Keys means a steady stream of cold fronts coming in with very brief periods of thunderstorms followed by a few days of windy weather and mild temperatures. Maybe once or twice we might get a real cold front that will drop the temps into the 40’s but they are extremely rare. For most of the winter it will be clear skies, lots of sunshine, and comfortable temperatures.
Enjoy your winter storm warnings.