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Vol 49 | Num 6 | Jun 5, 2024

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Ship to Shore

Article by Capt. Steve Katz

Weather or Not

Two weeks ago, the De Gallant, a steel hulled 90-foot sailing schooner, sank 20 miles north of Great Iguana, the southernmost island in The Bahamas. Six survivors were hoisted to safety and transported to Coast Guard Air Station Miami in Opa Locka, Florida, reportedly in good health, however, two crew members are unaccounted for and presumed dead.

How does a ship over 100 years old, with successful voyages around the world, suddenly sink 20 miles from land in the Bahamas? Weather!

As reported by the ship’s owner, Blue Schooner, they indicate “The first information we have indicates an unforeseen meteorological phenomenon, extremely sudden and violent when the ship was underway in mild conditions. This would have led to its capsizing and then its loss at a depth of more than 2,000 meters, ”Most of us have been out in a boat when uncomfortable weather conditions negatively affected the trip. Usually, we end up wet from rain or spray, and a slower voyage due to wind and waves and not an offshore sinking”.

There seems to have been two problems with the De Gallant; one, they were prepared for light breezes during the overnight hours and two, their weather information did not include the squall potential. Based on their experience and the ship’s history, it seems that if they were prepared for the dangerous weather, they would have all survived, including the ship.

What could the crew of the De Gallant have done differently and how can other boaters do the same? Have multiple and accurate weather forecasts and personalized forecasts when needed.

For most boaters and anglers, fishing on inland and near coastal water in the USA benefits from the free and extremely detailed marine weather forecasts provided by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA is a US scientific and regulatory agency charged with forecasting weather, monitoring oceanic and atmospheric conditions, charting the seas, conducting deep-sea exploration, and managing fishing and protection of marine mammals and endangered species in the US exclusive economic zone. The agency is part of the United States Department of Commerce and is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland. Additionally, the National Weather Service (NWS) is tasked with providing weather forecasts, warnings of hazardous weather, and other weather-related products to organizations and the public for the purposes of protection, safety, and general information.
NOAA works to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. Their work supports severe weather preparedness, and international shipping. With nearly 4,900 employees in 122 weather forecast offices, 13 river forecast centers, 9 national centers, and other support offices around the country, NWS provides a national infrastructure to gather and process weather data.

Detailed marine forecasts are available for most inland and near shore waters where many boats travel and fish within the USA. NOAA, or NWS provide numerous ways to receive a marine weather forecast, the easiest is the VHF weather radio, the forecast reception is available in most areas on one of the 10 marine weather channels built-into modern maritime VHF radios. NOAA also provides weather data and forecasts via the internet on the NOAA and associated websites and through apps on smartphones etc. Some of the App’s are third party apps that obtain their weather data directly from NOAA and package it for their audience.

Many coastal boaters rely on the local TV stations and broadcast channels for land-based weather and forecasts, which often include marine related weather, though these are not often as detailed as the information obtained directly from NOAA/NWS.

SiriusXM offers marine weather service via satellite to an on-board weather receiver, including regularly updated forecast available on your chartplotter while offshore. This is a great source of information when you are out of VHF or cellular data range.

For some captains who are heading out on a longer voyage or traveling in waters not covered by NOAA, a subscription to independent weather services that include forecasts and routings.

These businesses often provide an aggerated forecast based on numerous sources, including buoy weather, government agencies, satellite imagery and reports from nearby weather stations and vessels in the forecast area. Often, these independent companies can provide a more accurate and detailed forecast for a specific area, due to their specialized data collection and analysis. Combined with fishing data, this can help assure a captain that they are headed out for a smooth and successful trip.

The next level of weather service is a weather routing service, these companies provide a specific forecast that covers your vessels intended route. This type of service is often used during voyages outside of the USA and for multi day voyages, especially traveling across long stretches of open water. These agencies even give detailed travel recommendations, including routes, courses and ports recommended for your specific vessel and schedule.

As an example of a weather router forecast, The “unexpected” weather event that sunk the De Gallant was forecasted by an American weather router, Chris Parker, and he will tell you that the potential for violent weather was not only foreseen, but a crucial part of his forecasts to amateur mariners passing through the same area in days and hours leading up to the loss of De Gallant at 4 a.m. on Tuesday.

Parker said he went out of his way to warn his clients—and indeed anyone with access to a single-sideband radio—that danger was in the air.

There are many weather resources available to boaters, with today’s resources there should be no unexpected weather when heading out on the boat. §

Coastal Fisherman Merch
CF Merch



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