Friday, June 6, 2014

Clouds and the Arctic Circle

The last 5 days have been spent in class on the topic of meteorology. A subject that, if not applied correctly, can get you killed and at the very least, leave you wet and miserable.

We learned all about atmospheric pressure, what causes it, how clouds are formed, what they mean, where they go, how pressure systems move and why, how global systems change, what type of rain to expect based on wind temps and direction. We studied 24, 48 and 96 hour surface and forecast reports, plus 500mB charts as well. I now understand cold fronts, warm fronts, occluded fronts, troughs and ridges, monsoons, hurricanes, tradewinds, radiation and advection fog, dew points and more! A simple look around outside can now provide me with some basic understanding of what the next few hours are going to bring. Feeling wind in my face, while looking East in the northern hemisphere, has new meaning, as does a layer of high cirrus cloud cover and a rising barometer readings.

Being able to understand that winds twist around low pressure systems in a counter clockwise fashion, and clockwise in a high pressure system, provides information on where you might expect those winds to be later on in the day. A simple course change based on current winds can either make or break your next 24-48 hours.

Weather is extremely complex, yet extremely interesting and even more applicable to our lives and careers. There aren't many topics out there that can be applied to everyday life and your careers to the same intensity and applicability. Weather plays a part on our recreational lives, our daily commutes and whether or not we make it back into port on time, and alive.

The most interesting part to me, is that by being able to forecast and see where storm fronts are going to be in 3-4 days from now, you can keep your crew happy, your boat moving forward, and get to your destination on time or better yet, ahead of schedule. One little flaw In your predictions can easily put your lives at stake and cost your company a ton of money, or worse, the loss of lives.

It was a tough class, with an overwhelming amount of information, but all said and done, I learned a great deal and am thankful for the info. Meteorology and GMDSS within a one-month timeframe is a lot to swallow, but worth the effort, thanks to numerous hours spent at the library in the quiet room under the influence of copious amounts of caffeine. :-)

I'll remain in Seattle for the weekend and then do some simulator training on Monday before heading home for a few days to celebrate my beautiful daughter's 16th birthday. Next Friday, I depart for a Western Alaska trip that will take about 5-6 weeks. We will be hitting a handful of small communities in the North Bering sea after a stop in Dutch Harbor. I'll be sailing as the AB, and we'll have a few cadets onboard from Maine Maritime, one of which is cooking. I'm looking forward to not being "the cook" for the first time.

We are scheduled to hit Naknek, Dillingham, Bethel, Nome, Kotsebue and Dutch. Kotsebue is above the Arctic circle, so that'll be a first for this sailor and I'm looking forward to some Northern exposure! Might have to get a special tattoo after this trip... (Hi mom!). :-)

I'll write more during the trip, but I doubt I'll have much signal to upload blog posts very often. See ya'll soon!