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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Squall Activity

Sailing with squalls is something that we don't have to deal with in the Pacific Northwest and is something completely new to us!  From a meteorological perspective they are thermal convective activity that builds in the afternoon and evening, diminishing by morning.  The intensity and direction of squalls is determined by the lower-level trade winds (the dominant force) coupled by the upper-level wind direction (typically indicated by the 500 millibar weather report).

The first set of squalls that hit us were unusually intense and hit us pretty hard with the winds quickly rising from 20 knots to 35 knots.  If you timed things correctly you could get out in front of the squall and jibe around, staying in front.  Unfortunately for most of the squalls that we encountered we were heading in a different direction and got only one pass through.

The difficulty with squalls is that you have to make sure that you don't get caught on the back side (where there is little or no wind), and that you keep the appropriate sail up.  If you time things right you can also get a free shower in the process.