May 15, 2011

It’s always October here

SOMEONE COMMENTING the other day on the weather in my home town said: “It’s always October in Bellingham.”

It’s true. We’ve had record wet and cold weather this whole season. Not since last October have I been tempted to go sailing

However, one should not be gloomy. The wonderful thing about Bellingham weather is that it’s easy to choose a vacation destination. Anywhere you go, anywhere, it’s better than Bellingham.

I mean, if you lived in Florida or Hawaii or the Virgin Islands where would you go on vacation? What would there be to look forward to?

But we in Bellingham, why, we have the whole wide world open to us.

I mean, last year we found ourselves in Westport, an undistinguished, humdrum little fishing town down the coast a bit, a place you wouldn’t normally recommend for a holiday, not even to your mother-in-law.

One afternoon while we were there, peeking at the dripping town sights out of our hooded slickers, the town experienced what we later learned is called a “sun-break.”

For the sake of my fellow Bellingham readers who may never have seen this phenomenon, let me explain what happened. Our attention was drawn to a small hole that appeared in the heavens overhead, the center of which assumed a color we Bellinghamsters don’t normally associate with the sky. To our astonishment it was blue, matching the color of our fingers back home when we’re out sailing. From this azure ring in the sky a harsh yellow beam of light splashed down, dazzling our eyes. The buildings suddenly had shadows and sharp edges, and wisps of steam started rising from roads and sidewalks. You can imagine our alarm. My wife, who thought it might be an alien invasion, wanted to call 911, but as luck would have it a police cruiser came along the road and we flagged it down.

The officer was very nice. He explained that everything was quite normal. “This kind of thing often happens in mid-summer in Westport,” he said, “and it is nothing to worry about. It will go away of its own accord in five minutes.”

And he was proved right. The blue hole disappeared as quickly as it had come, and we were once more covered by comforting gray nimbus clouds leaking rain as they scurried north to Bellingham.

Once we had calmed down, we decided to write a letter to the local council, urging them to erect a large sign on the outskirts of the town, warning vacation visitors about this phenomenon called “sun-breaks,” lest they, too, should be taken aback and alarmed as we were. People like us need to be prepared well in advance for such unusual and disturbing weather behavior.

Today’s Thought
The rain, it falls upon the just
And on the unjust fella —
But mainly on the just because
The unjust stole the just’s umbrella.
— Anon.

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #199
With displacement hulls it pays to tack downwind in light or medium weather. In heavy weather there’s no advantage over running dead downwind. Sailing 20 degrees off the wind and then 20 degrees back to the rhumb line, adds about 6 percent to the distance covered. But you only have to increase your speed by more than 6 percent (by keeping the jib filled, for example), say from 4 knots to 4.25 knots, to get there sooner.

“Okay buster, we’re going to have to lock you up for the night.”
“But officer, what’s the charge?”
“No charge, sir, it’s all part of the service.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Herb n Laura said...

Hey! we are from Florida and are taking a vacation in Bellingham, so there! All this natural AC, sweltering heat from May to November is not missed at all. Sailing on the Pearson 424 ketch, Far From Turtle.

David Browne said...

The coldest I have ever been was crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca in July: sunny skies, great wind, but dear lord it was COLD.