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#203248 - 06/11/10 09:49 AM Re: 16-year-old solo sailor Abby Sunderland in destres [Re: James_Van_Artsdalen]
MostlyHarmless Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/03/09
Posts: 982
Loc: Norway
Originally Posted By: James_Van_Artsdalen
That same AP report says that a boat about 30 hours away is encountering 40' seas(!). What kind and quality of weather forecasting is available to private interests that far out to sea?



The general caveat in forecasting services is that they are totally dependent on input data. Large stretches of the globe are virtually without any surface or air observations. Services in those regions are not as good as services in observation-rich areas. Satellite data improves this situation somewhat, but not entirely. I don't know the observation network in the area she's in, so I won't comment on that.


That being said, the quality of top-of-the-line weather and wave forecasts is really very good. I've been a weather forecaster for 4 years doing pin-point forecasting for the offshore industry, so this is something I know. The main trouble is the cost, not the quality of data.


Obstacle 1: You need computer and data communication equipment that will be reliable on a tiny sailboat. Those are expensive.

Obstacle 2: The results from #1 will have very limited bandwidth. You need a service provider that will feed you high-quality forecast data in a very compact form, suitable for download equipment such as a sat.phone modem for display on your on-board computer - and provides that service at a price you can afford.

All this exist, but quality equipment and services within those constraints will cost you. Dearly.


The computer-and-meteorology savvy can hack together their own forecasting service, extracting data from public available sources and assemble their own collection of products and data. All for free, except for the cost of data transfer. It's not hard if you know what you're looking for. But such "services" will be fragile - what if your techie friend at land has a flu the day you're in the middle of a storm? Or if the original data sources changes their format so the program you've ran for 6 months suddenly stops working? Surfing the web for weather maps on a iridium data modem on a small boat in high seas is NOT a viable plan B.


I know data from many American global models are available in the public domain, but I have never used them, so I can't vouch for their quality, availability or if they provide sufficient detail. Generally speaking, I have no reason to believe they won't do a good job for the purpose at hand, it's just that I haven't checked.


My favourite weather forecasting model is ECMWF weather + wave models, which are global high resolution, so location doesn't really matter. Trouble is, that model is being run by European contries for Medium range Weather Forecasting. For political and economic reasons, access to ECMWF data for short range (1-3 days) is somewhat complicated and/or expensive. Often, a limited area (regional) model is preffered if available, not really because you can provode more detail but because you can update it with fresh observations a lot quicker than the ECMWF model.


EDIT: Obviously, as James_Van_Artsdalen states below, the simplest solution is just to have someone at home to volunteer for daily studying the availabe info and communicate their recommendations.


Edited by MostlyHarmless (06/11/10 05:13 PM)
Edit Reason: Added simplistic solution

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#203250 - 06/11/10 10:39 AM Re: 16-year-old solo sailor Abby Sunderland in destres [Re: MostlyHarmless]
roberttheiii Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 02/13/09
Posts: 343
Loc: Connecticut, USA
A couple opinions:

Some sixteen year olds are plenty mature enough to sail around the world solo. Plenty of more experienced sailors than Abby have ended up capsized/demasted/dead in the southern ocean, and for that matter, in Long Island Sound, a relative joke compared to the southern seas.

Furthermore, in the circles I sail in people often say you haven't sailed much until you've dropped at least one rig! So cheers to Abby. That said, she should have rescue insurance to compensate the Australian gov't, the French fishing vessel, etc.

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#203251 - 06/11/10 11:27 AM Re: 16-year-old solo sailor Abby Sunderland in destres [Re: roberttheiii]
James_Van_Artsdalen Offline
Addict

Registered: 09/13/07
Posts: 449
Loc: Texas
That boat is apparently very well equipped (note that *two* PLBs were activated and a *third* automatic unit did not go off!) and she was updating an Internet blog at sea.

Considering her frequent communications with home base I'd be tempted to do the weather analysis there. You could probably find a real meteorologist to volunteer to help too.

She had to stop in Cape town when both navigation units failed and she could no longer use parts from each to keep one running, so this was no longer a solo-non-stop record thing, but rather a finish-what-you-start thing.

Her college entrance applications are going to be just a bit more impressive than the other kid's applications that list burger flipping etc as their summer job!

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#203252 - 06/11/10 11:36 AM Re: 16-year-old solo sailor Abby Sunderland in destres [Re: roberttheiii]
Erik_B Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 08/10/07
Posts: 315
Loc: Somewhere in my own little wor...
glad she was found safe and sound. older hands have gotten in much deeper(forgive the pun) in less severe circumstances.

there seems to be a pattern here: only if a person needs rescue do people start in on how "they shouldn't have been out there alone" or "at that age they're not ready" etc. even when, as in this case, the person WAS prepared, kept their wits, and knew when it was time to call for help.
_________________________
Originally Posted By: scafool
Camping teaches us what things we can live without.


Originally Posted By: ironraven
...Shopping appeals to the soul of the hunter-gatherer.

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#203253 - 06/11/10 11:44 AM Re: 16-year-old solo sailor Abby Sunderland in destres [Re: James_Van_Artsdalen]
billvann Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 05/10/01
Posts: 780
Loc: NE Illinois, USA (42:19:08N 08...
Originally Posted By: James_Van_Artsdalen
One AP report says the boat lost its mast. Whatever did that probably doesn't make using a hand-held satellite phone on the deck very appealing, and she probably lost most other antennae with the mast.

That same AP report says that a boat about 30 hours away is encountering 40' seas(!). What kind and quality of weather forecasting is available to private interests that far out to sea?


She also lost power when water goy into her engine. That wouldn't effect a handheld sat phone. Even if she had one she may have decided it was safer to stay inside instead of attempting a call on deck with such bad weather.

I'm curious to see what her emergecy supplies look like. This would have been the time you want to hire someone like Doug to review and advise on your kits.
_________________________
Willie Vannerson
McHenry, IL

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#203257 - 06/11/10 01:07 PM Re: 16-year-old solo sailor Abby Sunderland in destres [Re: James_Van_Artsdalen]
speedemon Offline
Journeyman

Registered: 04/13/10
Posts: 98
Originally Posted By: James_Van_Artsdalen
That argument makes no sense to me. Are you trying to say that there is some specific act or decision a 16 yo is fundamentally incapable of? What specific act is it?

Experience is a more important point I think. And not many adults, not even those who have made around-the-world sailing trips, would be immune from problems that come from being in 20' seas in a 40' boat for several days in a row.
This isn't the place, nor is there room enough to explain how the human brain develops. There are plenty of articles all over regarding the subject. Long story short, complex decision making capability isn't at full capacity until you're grown. Doesn't really matter whether it makes sense to you or not.

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#203262 - 06/11/10 03:39 PM Re: 16-year-old solo sailor Abby Sunderland in destres [Re: speedemon]
desolation Offline
Journeyman

Registered: 01/21/10
Posts: 60
Loc: Sonoma County, CA
It makes me sea sick just thinking about being confined to a cabin in 40-foot seas. Urp...

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#203266 - 06/11/10 03:58 PM Re: 16-year-old solo sailor Abby Sunderland in destres [Re: speedemon]
MostlyHarmless Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/03/09
Posts: 982
Loc: Norway
Originally Posted By: speedemon
This isn't the place, nor is there room enough to explain how the human brain develops. There are plenty of articles all over regarding the subject. Long story short, complex decision making capability isn't at full capacity until you're grown. Doesn't really matter whether it makes sense to you or not.


Relevant here is not the indisputable fact that the brain develops until you're 20-something.

The relevant question is: Is this particular 16 year old mature enough, experienced enough and though enough to undertake such an expedition?


Edited by MostlyHarmless (06/11/10 04:00 PM)

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#203269 - 06/11/10 05:32 PM Re: 16-year-old solo sailor Abby Sunderland in des [Re: MostlyHarmless]
Arney Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 2485
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: MostlyHarmless
The relevant question is: Is this particular 16 year old mature enough, experienced enough and though enough to undertake such an expedition?

Well said.

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#203276 - 06/11/10 06:21 PM Re: 16-year-old solo sailor Abby Sunderland in des [Re: Arney]
James_Van_Artsdalen Offline
Addict

Registered: 09/13/07
Posts: 449
Loc: Texas
Her brother completed an around-the-world solo a year or so ago, and her entire family has been doing this sort of thing her entire life. She spent 2+ years preparing for this trip.

She managed to repair the engine, got the water out of it, and had it running again. In those sea conditions the satellite phone can't have been very useful so it's likely she gets full credit for the repair, made in a 40' boat in 30'+ seas... She's also done other repairs (nav system etc) so I'm betting her 2+ years preparation were not wasted. It seems likely that it was loss of the mast that put an end to the journey and not some repairable situation.

The trip was going to end in August or September so it's likely waiting a day or two for rescue is not a problem in supplies.

PS. I was wrong about the satellite phone earlier: it's not a handheld but rather had the antenna on the mast.

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