Our developing tropical storm behind us and the moving away of Sandy on the other side of North America, have created quite a bit of unstable weather here. The day started as forecast with sunny but hazy weather, but then by lunch time a long and wide band of rain started to come across us. Or better said, we were sailing into it. The deepening of the Pacific tropical low creates a westerly flow and in the Caribbean Basin, the weather patterns are trying to return to normal after Sandy has raced through it. As a result we saw heavy rain clouds appearing on the ships radar, and not much later in reality near the ship. In the beginning the navigator tried to steer around them, as the boundaries of each cloud where quite sharply defined but later on we had to give up as the clouds turned into one wide band of precipitation.
So we limited ourselves by trying to avoid the worst of it. For the junior navigators, this sailing around rain clouds is something that they have to get used to. Some come from cargo companies where this is not an issue, but here on the cruise ships it is part of the service to the guests. You can laugh about it, and they do that the first time, but if you get an upset cruise director on the bridge, because the rain spoiled his pumpkin carving party; then the light dawns quite quickly. Running a cruise ship is a rather different kettle of fish compared to a cargo ship. So we tried to day but there was too much rain all around and in the end we had to plough through until about 1800 hrs when we were passed the band of rain flowing from the Mexican main land. All ships activities had to be moved to the inside, but I was told that the impact on the pumpkin carving competition had been minimal.
In these dense rain showers the fishing boats are very had to see by eye and also by radar but our experience is that the fishermen, in their open boats, do not like the rain very much and tend to sail home to a safe and dry dock the moment the first dark clouds are gathering at the horizon. We only saw them coming back to open waters late in the evening.
All that moist air was slowly moving North Westwards towards tropical storm Rosa which is churning about 400 miles of the coast of Cabo San Lucas. There is a small tropical low right behind it and pushes it deeper into the Pacific Ocean.
Tropical Storm Rosa sitting as a white wheel at the end of a dense cloud (rain) band laying over middle america. (photo courtesy: WRI)
In the meantime I was wondering what was happening to the current. When passing Acapulco we suddenly had 2 knots against, meaning that would result in a delayed arrival in Huatalco. Right under Acapulco is an area where the current should be with us, but it took to 10.30 in the evening before we got something and then suddenly it went to 2 knots following. The engine that I had ordered extra on line, to make sure we would keep our ETA, could be switched off again. It looks like that the whole current system is topsy turvy at the moment. That makes it very hard to plan for average speeds to maintain. If you know that the currents are in synch with the predictions then you know when you go too slow for awhile, you will automatically catch up later when the current becomes more favorable. If you cannot do that, and can only react to the observations of the moment, the whole speed scheduling becomes a sort of gamble with the hope that you made the right bet.
In about 2 weeks, the weather should settle down to the regular winter pattern and then we should be able to plan for normal situations a bit better. In the mean time we just have to take it as it is. Tomorrow we are scheduled to arrive at the Huatalco pilot station at 0845. We are the only ship in and that means that I can park the ship anyway I like. So it will depend on what the 3rd officer lifesaving needs for his lifeboat & davit program. It should be mainly dry but mostly overcast which should make it a perfect day here, although in that overcast cloudy sky, there might be a rain shower left for the afternoon but it cannot be predicted whether it will make it over the mountain or not.