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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another windy day

We were all set for a MAJOR blow here in Newport yesterday.  NWS (National Weather Service) was predicting gusts to 60 knots while some of the folks on the docks were saying they'd heard we were going to get gusts up to 90 miles per hour.  All day I kept tuning in to the NWS weather station to hear if things had been updated but 60 knot gusts are as high as they ever predicted.  Just before I went to bed last night, I found out where they were getting their 90 mph predictions: off the stupid local radio stations.  Now I've been aware for quite awhile that the so-called "news" on radio and TV tends to be somewhat overblown, but come on!  If they aren't using information from NWS to make their predictions, what are they doing, just making up whatever sounds spectacular?  Trouble is, after listening to these sources over the years, I've gotten a skewed idea of what various conditions should feel like.  25-30 knot winds should just seem like a fresh breeze if you base things on what the TV/Radio weathermen tell you.

Awhile ago, we bought a Kestrel wind monitor so we could start getting a feel for what various wind speeds feel like.  Putting names to faces, so to speak.  I was so disappointed the first couple of times I used it because, even though it seemed to me like it was blowing pretty darn hard (what I would have estimated as 20-25 knots), I couldn't get the wind gauge to read much over 12-13 knots except during the gusts when it might almost reach 20.

Yesterday we were predicted to get 30-35 knot winds with gusts to 50 (later amended to 60) knots.  I checked the NWS site today. They have weather stations along the coast and one is about a mile from where we're moored.  It's sitting on a sandy knoll above South Beach where the south jetty starts.  So the weather there is going to be very similar to here although the weather station's wind speeds will probably be a bit higher.  The weather station readings are recorded hourly and posted to the internet.  So here's how yesterday shaped up:


11177:00 am  SW1518

11176:00 am  S1823

11175:00 am  S1921

11174:00 am  SW1922

11173:00 am  SSW2330

11172:00 am  SSW2124

11171:00 am  SW2325

111712:00 am  WSW2125

111611:00 pm  SSW4048

111610:00 pm  S2734

11169:00 pm  S3241

11168:00 pm  S4252

11167:00 pm  S3136

11166:00 pm  S3850

11165:00 pm  S3139

11164:00 pm  S3337

11163:00 pm  S2935

11162:00 pm  S3341

11161:00 pm  S3540

111612:00 pm  S3241

111611:00 am  S2933

111610:00 am  S2935

11169:00 am  S3038

11168:00 am  S2934

What does it all mean?  Well, it flat blew yesterday.  Just before I went to bed, a gust came through and heeled the boat 10 degrees to port. And held her there for a few seconds.  Probably would have heeled further but the mooring lines on the starboard side held her.  This is in a protected (well, sort of) harbor.  At times, as I was walking up the dock or across the parking lot, I had to stop and plant myself with both feet to keep from losing my footing.  The boats in the marina were all dancing in their slips.  Tarps were blown off.  Canvas covers were unsnapped by the wind.  I mean it blew!  But look at the recorded wind speeds.  Mostly in the mid-30s (as predicted).  A few excursions over 40 knots but the highest gusts recorded were 50 and 52 knots.  Since 1 knot = 1.15 mph, that's recorded gusts of 57.5 to 60 mph.  A far cry from 90 mph.

So, big deal, what's my point?  My point is, take your TV and Radio weather predictions with several grains of salt.  They seem to cater to the portion of our brain that wants to be able to say we suffered.  Think about it.  When you're talking about the weather with your co-workers, don't you usually relate the report you heard that had the most dire prediction?  When it's cold and 2 weathermen say it's going to get down to 20 and one says it's going to get down to 15, which one do you repeat?  Same thing when it's hot.  We're suffering from weather inflation and as a consequence, when I'm reading my sailing magazines and the writer talks about sailing in 15-20 knots of wind, I have the idea that this is just a gentle breeze.  It's not.  15-20 knots is a fairly stout wind if my Kestrel is to be believed. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Blew like a sonofagun yesterday

The weather predictions over here on the coast seem to be a lot more accurate than they were in the valley.  For instance, yesterday's prediction called for a 100% chance of rain and 25-30 mph winds slacking off after 6:00 PM.  Well, it didn't rain too much until about 3:30 and then it just opened up and poured.  The wind blew like crazy starting about noon-ish.  It blew 23-32 knots (26.5 - 36.8 mph) with gusts to 41 knots (47 mph).  And then, at 6:30 PM, it was like a switch was flipped.  The wind dropped to a more normal 5-10 knots and the rain slowed down to the occasional smattering.  It blew a few times during the night but all-in-all not so much.  While it was blowing, it was pretty exciting.  The boat rolled and pitched pretty good alongside the dock.  One dock box was blown apart, a few sets of boat steps blew over and I had to fish a couple of crab traps out of the water this morning.

A precursor of what's to come in the next few months.

The vultures are circling but it's not what you think

Fellow children of the 50s and 60s, we've been duped!  All those TV shows we watched where Palladin or Festus or someone was crawling across the desert after the bad guys had pulled some underhanded trick were giving us misinformation.  I'm not talking about the "water in the heart of the cactus" deal.  I fully expect to be able to open a cactus when I'm dying of thirst in the desert and pull out what appears to be a baggy of fresh water.  No, I'm talking about the vultures.  You know, they show the vultures flying around in circles above our hero just waiting for him to die.  The implication being that they could smell death and the their sense of smell was so acute that, once they started to circle, it meant sure death.  Well, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where I'm volunteering,  is now home to 2 new turkey vultures.  Since we are expected to be able to pass on a little info about the aquariums residents to visitors, the "Bird Department" put on a little enrichment session the other night.  Here are some of the things I learned about vultures:

Our vultures were rescued from a teenager in the midwest who took the chicks out of a nest.  This is, of course, quite illegal and once his folks found out about it, they called the authorities who called a raptor rescue group.  The chicks had already been imprinted by their exposure to humans and so, could never be returned to the wild as they lack the necessary survival skills.  The Aquarium is their new permanent home.

They are brother and sister named Ichabod and Olive and are about 18 months old.  Turkey vultures in captivity live 25-30 years.

They cannot smell impending death.  They can, however, smell dead stuff up to a mile away.  They are one of only two species of birds that can smell.  Their "noses" are built in such a way that they can also tell from which direction the smell is coming.  When you see them circling in the air, they are simply riding the updrafts, looking for food (things that have already dies, not Marshall Dillon on his last legs).  They also can be just playing or gliding around because it's fun.

They are nature's cleaners.  They can eat diseased animals and, because of the strength of their stomach acids will discharge non-diseased poop. Their urine has a high strength uric acid component and they urinate on their legs to kill the pathogens that might be present due to standing in dead carcasses.  Of course, they probably don't know they're doing this.  They just know the pee feels nice and cool on their legs and feet.

They've been known to gorge themselves when the opportunity affords.  To the point where they're too heavy to take flight right away.  They can, however, puke up what they ate to lighten their loads if necessary.  They also puke on themselves if they get too stressed.  When you come across some roadkill with a bunch of vultures lunching on it, slow down!  These guys are not crows and can't take off as quickly to avoid getting smacked as crows can.  And you don't want a 6 lb. vulture with a 6' wingspan coming through your windshield.

The Cherokee Nation calls the "Peace Eagles" because they are as big as eagles but never kill anything.  Given a choice, they prefer fresher rather than older dead meat and prefer dead vegetarians to dead carnivores.

They're family-oriented: live together and share a roost tree; monogamous; and will share a carcass with each other.

Have been recorded flying between 15 and 45 miles per hour.

A group of vultures is called a "venue".  A large group of flying vultures is called a "kettle".

Why does an aquarium have vultures?  Because, although technically not shore birds or even sea birds, they do live around the coast and are frequently spotted on the beach dining on dead seagulls so they're part of the overall aquatic/estuarial environment.  And besides, we had a space where a previous Plover display was.  The Plovers didn't work out very well.

So, turkey vultures are my new favorite bird. Well, not for eating.  That honor goes to the actual turkey.