|The Humbug spreads his wings|
You call this the future?? HA!! Where are the rocket packs? Where are the disintegration rays? Where are the floating cities? I mean LOOK at this! We still have WEATHER?! Give me a break!!
-- From Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
The 'Wiz': I Can't Come Back, I Don't Know How It Works!
SCENE: The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz drifts heavenward in his hot air balloon, prematurely released by his assistants. Dorothy, arriving late for her ride home, implores him to come back!
“I can’t come back,” he replies, “I don’t know how it works!”
Sailing engine free is kinda like that.
In our case, we have a fair handle on how our vessel / balloon works. Its operation and more importantly its limitations. Yet we set forth into the unknown, with never more than our best guess at time spent underway to our destination.
We don’t understand Weather. And among ‘we’ I include the Great and Powerful Wizards.
One year, we sailed a whole September to go a measly hunnit and fiddy miles. That’s two long but easy days' sailing with a decent, fair wind.
Every day of that month, the weather reports were virtually perfect in their mirror image error. Predicted blow low; it would blow high, and the reverse. Fair winds promised, head winds delivered, or none. Rain; shine. Clear; fog. You name it. If they’d predicted ‘no Oobleck today’, we’d have been up to our Cubbins in it! [Dr. Seuss -- Bartholemew and the Oobleck]
The next summer, we met one of NOAA’s house wizards (NOAA attempts to predict weather in our parts). Trying to be sympathetic, Anke allowed as how ‘it must be hard to predict weather in Southeast (Alaska).
His reply? “No. Why? We’ve got models!”
In a day when satellites view weather systems from on high… when super computers crunch data in their super conductive teeth… when fluid dynamics enable undreamt of flights of fact vs. fancy… it’s still hard to beat a handful of weather wisdom sayings and a look to wind’ard.
This is not to disparage the wizards. Hubris is (when present) their humbuggery… certainty in their predictions and models not unhumbled by the surprise of rain in their face.
Weather is chaotic, a science and awareness born in meteorology. That famous butterfly, fluttering its wings in Beijing can indeed cause a whoofin’ headwind on our nose.
Chaos is only ever partially tamed by rules-of-thumb. And then, be sure of surprises.
Meanwhile, vast forces push and pull at one another. They fractalize into turbulent sworls along their intersections. Wind, water, land and cloud, tango in passionate beauty. Trading partners and cutting in. Sometimes fierce and violent. Sometimes soft as a Lover’s caress.
We look up in awe, sail on as best we can, and reef sooner than later.
PS. As I write, we hang in a lee that turns out not to be, in winds that are blowing opposite the forecast with triple the speed (about eight times the force). Nothing serious (yet), but it sets ya thinkin’.