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ISS-RapidScat? Finding the hidden cycles of wind from space

Posted on Sunday Sep 21, 2014

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In attempt to take my mind off current events, I'm going to geek out and talk about something exciting to me, RapidScat.  First off, RapidScat isn't something an animal does on the run.  It refers to scatterometry where radio waves are scattered on the surface of something then the result is measured.  In this case, scattering microwaves on the ocean reveals the wind direction and strength at the surface.

Back in 2009 the old QuickScat satellite antennas stopped rotating.  This means that it stopped sending data consistently back to Earth.  Well, most of the ocean is not monitored with surface instruments and QuickScat was absolutely the best space based tool for measuring the winds in critical places where dangerous winds can form (think hurricanes or Tehuantepec).

So in 2009 the ocean wind forecast accuracy took a punch to the gut and NASA scrambled to find a way to fix it.  In just too years they cobbled together a great idea.  They took QuickScat gear and found a way to mount it to the ISS and the ISS-RapidScat was born.


The RapidScat system launched today, 9/21/14 (along with the much hyped 3-d printer).  Soon this instrument, the first pointed at the Earth from the ISS, will be spewing data to help calibrate and measure winds in all those remote parts of the world that are critical to sailors and people who model world-wide weather (NOAA).

We can expect to finally get highly accurate data on katabatic, thermal and storm generated winds.  With this new accuracy NOAA is going to start a new study of the diurnal and semi-diurnal winds in the open ocean.  Something many sailors experience but hard to believe.  Thermal winds in the middle of the ocean?!  Where's the land to heat it up?

It is well know from buoy observations that winds in the tropics can exhibit strong diurnal and semi-diurnal cycles, forced by solar heating or tidal effects respectively (Deser and Smith, 1998; Dai and Deser, 1999; Ueyama and Deser, 2008). In the tropical Pacific, semi-diurnal variations account for 68% of the mean daily variance of the zonal wind component, while diurnal variations account for 82% of the mean daily variance of the meridional wind component (Deser and Smith, 1998). These cyclic processes are known to be important in influencing the diurnal cycle of cloud formation and precipitation in the tropics, a key component of the Earth's water and energy cycles.

RapidScat will collect data over the course of years and this will be used to look at daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly wind patterns.  Surprisingly this has never been done before and sailors rely on "Pilot Charts" which are averages from ships traveling the ocean averaged over decades.  RapidScat will measure the entire planet every 2 days instead of just a point.  It will reveal many hidden patterns of weather and winds.

This will be a revolution in understanding wind patterns and hopefully we can all through out those old Pilot Charts and update them with a much more accurate understanding of surface winds.

Further reading:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-223
https://winds.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/RapidScat/

Oahu, Sunsets, Life

Posted on Saturday Sep 20, 2014

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Overdue for updates...I know.  Now that Sherrell has fully recovered from her broken knee we've been doing more hiking and biking.  I've started playing some basketball, which I haven't done in probably 20 years and it makes me feel old and very sore.  But hopefully it will get easier.

One of our family members is succumbing to cancer after a long battle and Sherrell traveled back to the mainland to be there.  Unfortunately, we can't both go because someone has to tend the boat and watch our kitty.  During my alone time here I took some photos of where the boat is.


I've also been working on some of the little projects that require a lot of disruption...new plumbing and electrical stuff.  It's a lot easier to make big messes if there is one less person tripping over everything.  She'll be back next week just in time to see how clean everything is.

I'm sad I can't be there to help out, but it's good Sherrell was able to make it.  I find it hard not to second guess the treatments or the options.  That is the thing. You never get used to it, the idea of someone being gone. Just when you think it's reconciled, accepted, someone points it out to you, and it just hits you all over again.

Hurricanes Suck -- Odile included

Posted on Saturday Sep 20, 2014

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Here in Hawaii we were pretty lucky.  Normally these tropical revolving storms weaken before they hit the islands, assuming the rare case happens when they make it all the way out here.  However, Mexico is often not so lucky.

September was always the month that made us most nervous in Mexico.  Hurricanes forming in the Gulf of Mexico tend to follow a retrograde path back into Mexico.  And with the warm waters they rarely weaken.

It seems that Baja tends to play the role of a barrier island for much of northern Mexico.  This year Baja took a pounding.  I've been surprised at the lack of news coverage.  We know many people on boats in these areas and there's been a lot of damage including severe power outages.


 (© 2015 iTravelCabo.com)

(La Paz Airport.  © 2014 Merry Colins)

I don't know what the death toll will be once they fully restore communications and power, but we've already heard of several deaths from boaters who went down with their sinking boats.

There was widespread damage to the marina areas of Cabo, La Paz, Puerto Escondido and even San Carlos had some damage.

(© 2014 Jim Cochran)

During an El Nino year there are more storms and they tend to be more powerful.  In fact a followup storm Polo is headed just to the west of Baja right now.  Hopefully this keeps going west.

We hear there are around 50 boats that have been damaged in various areas and they have our sympathies.  Hopefully they're able to get their lives back on track along with all the locals who've had their homes damaged too.

The text at the end of this video translates to:
Southern Baja needs your help
The looting was done by those affected by the hurricane, people who had little and were left with nothing and by criminals who do not represent the honest people and workers around South Baja
Do not judge
Donate
Do it

Broken Bones and Building Boats

Posted on Monday Jul 7, 2014

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Since getting the boat listed we've been busy having fun.  We started hiking and biking.  All was good until Sherrell took a spill and landed on the edge of a curb right on her knee.  It turned into a cantaloupe and we took her to the ER (after she somehow managed to bike 1.5 miles back to the car).

Ouch!  Completely fractured patella (knee cap).  The image on the right is the ER and the one on the left (poor quality) after 5 weeks where it has fused to about 70%.  It took about 8 weeks and now Sherrell is back on the bike and building up her muscles again.

The tough part was we had to abandon our home immediately because she could not get on or off the boat at all.  So we rented a fully furnished vacation condo (with hot tub) down town.  It was actually about the same price as renting a run down 1 bedroom with no furniture.

Now we are back on the boat and have moved to another harbor.  We started a project to build ourselves a large rowing dinghy that we didn't mind getting dinged up because this harbor is a bit rough.  We didn't want Sarana's main dinghy to get banged up after all the work we did on it for listing the boat.

We started with plywood and some free plans off the internet.  Here's basic structure with floor, walls, transom and the stations in place.  Still needs the seams fiberglassed and the joints glued and filled.



And this is what it looked like after it was glassed and the temporary stations removed.  We just set the seat in there for the photo.  The darker color of the wood is due to the 3 coats of epoxy we rolled on it to seal the surfaces and the white you see is the epoxy fills to even out the edges for fiber glassing.


And here it is all painted with the hardware installed.


Rowing it is fun because it is so light!


Now we own 3 boats!  And I'm sure the people on the dock are glad the project is done...no more sounds of power tools and shop vacs!

Sarana is for sale

Posted on Thursday Apr 3, 2014

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Wow!  It's been a great ride, literately.  We gave it a lot of thought and we decided 11 years of living aboard and traveling can't be beat. There's really no way to top it.  Life however has conspired to push us in another direction and we decided perhaps we'll try to sell the boat here in Hawaii, a beautiful tropical spot that is central to all things in the Pacific.

Sarana looks great and is ready to sail!  Check out our photos and info that we put up on Yacht World.

The loss of Switchblade in Thailand

Posted on Sunday Dec 1, 2013

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I was busy procrastinating on the computer and went to sailinganarchy.com  to see if there were any interesting stories when I got punched in the gut by their main photo.


I immediately recognized Switchblade in the photo.  Not many boats are painted with the exact same paint as a Ferrari.  In hopes they saved the boat, I searched the internet for information.

This was when I learned the newest owners have been chartering the boat in Thailand for races.  And there were some nice photos and they had added some tacky sponsor stickers to the hull.


We had some great races on that boat.  But what happened?!   Is the boat ok?  Sherrell managed to track down the story.  Apparently a squall rolled through and brought a lot of large waves that in 10 minutes pushed all of Mike Downard's "Sail in Asia" sailing school boats, which included two the region's famous sailboats Switchblade and Tag.

From the sounds of it they were all anchored and the owner raced down to check on them only to find them all up on the beach.  Switchblade had the keel ripped off.  I have to warn you the next photo is distrubing.

 
It really brought me down.  We had a lot of fun on that boat and admittedly I hadn't thought about it for years until I was gut-punched by its loss.

What did you do on Thanksgiving and Black Friday?

Posted on Friday Nov 29, 2013

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This is the first time in many years we've been in the US for the holidays and I was totally perplexed by all this conversation about "Black Friday".  I kept reminding myself to check the stock market and see what everyone is talking about.  Then I saw a Daily Show where they were making fun of the "news" coverage of Black Friday and what stores were open...oh yeah, shopping.

We spent our holiday low-key as usual.  A sailboat was pulled off a reef last week and limped into the spot next to us with some bottom damage.  I spent Thanksgiving helping him and another guy prepare to extract his big spade rudder so he could repair it.  Then on Black Friday (stupid name if you ask me, perhaps accountants like the sound of it) we extracted it from his boat.

It's a big heavy rudder and naturally it leaves a big empty hole in the bottom, so it's a job you have to take your time with and be very careful.  There is a real chance you could hurt someone and/or sink the boat.

I'm happy to report it all went well -- no injuries no sunken boat -- and is off to get repaired.   Sherrell heard all the commotion while we were trying to keep the rudder under control and load it into the dinghy and snapped a couple photos.   Perhaps we'll use them for holiday cards.



What did you do on Thanksgiving and Black Friday?2

Posted on Friday Nov 29, 2013

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Words (240)

This is the first time we've been in the US for the holidays and I was totally perplexed by all this conversation about "Black Friday".  I kept reminding myself to check the stock market and see what everyone is talking about.  Then I saw a Daily Show where they were making fun of the "news" coverage of Black Friday and what stores were open...oh yeah, shopping.

We spent our holiday low-key as usual.  A sailboat was pulled off a reef last week and limped into the spot next to us with some bottom damage.  I spent Thanksgiving helping him and another guy prepare to extract his big spade rudder so he could repair it.  Then on Black Friday (stupid name if you ask me) we extracted it from his boat.

It's a big heavy rudder and naturally it leaves a big empty hole in the bottom, so it's a job you have to take your time with and be very careful.  There is a real chance you could hurt someone and/or sink the boat.

I'm happy to report it all went well -- no injuries no sunken boat -- and is off to get repaired.   Sherrell heard all the commotion while we were trying to keep the rudder under control and load it into the dinghy and snapped a couple photos.   Perhaps we'll use them for holiday cards.



Brewing Beer on a Boat

Posted on Saturday Nov 23, 2013

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Often on a boat there's too many things to fix.  Sometimes the only solution is procrastination.  A great way to do this is by making beer!  Something we've been trying to perfect for a while on our boat.  By no means whatsoever are we experts, but we have a system now that works for us, so I thought I'd share it.

I don't go into how to brew beer, but rather how to do it on a boat where space and water are a tough to compromise.   Give it a read.

People!

Posted on Thursday Nov 7, 2013

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This post contains a GPS location. Click here to see it on the map.

That was the first thing I noticed after rounding the famous Diamond Head point. There were people! After a month of touring the Hawaiian Islands we haven't seen any other cruising boats and we only met a handful of people. We came out of the ocean swell and wind to the leeward side of Oahu and BOOM! Parasailors, tour boats, sail boats, motor boats, submarines, surfers, kayaks, Coast Guard...it was like Maui times 10 or Molokai times 10 million.

photo of passing by Diamond Head to Waikiki and Honolulu
(photo of passing by Diamond Head to Waikiki and Honolulu)

We are still trying to get a med-moor style slip and get our paperwork approved, so they stuck us at a public loading dock. We should get a spot assigned soon. But it has been a long long time since we were in a real city with the boat...and we are really IN the city.