Good Sources for Short-term Wind Predictions in Santa Monica Bay

Roger Janeway

Member II
Christian recently provided a helpful overview of the general seasonal variation in wind in another forum, but I would like to know whether any sailors in the Santa Monica Bay recommend any particular sources for predictions. I am familiar with the regular afternoon westerly we get in the summer, so it's possible that my problem getting a reasonably accurate forecast is confined to these shifty winter conditions. I accept that the answer might be that there is no answer.

I'm most focused on the accuracy of predictions about 18-24 hours ahead of the mid-day or afternoon time one wants to sail, because that's when your friends would like to be notified. But even morning predictions for later the same day would be great.

I have been using PredictWind, Windfinder, Windy, and SailFlow. If the prediction is for 10kt or more, I don't care about the details and will go sailing. But often it seems the predictions are for 5-6 kt but when one actually goes down and takes a look, there's fine sailing at 8-12 kt. The knot difference is small, but the sailing difference is big.

Windfinder gives me the readings from the anemometer atop the UCLA Marina boathouse, but often its predictions for that same spot are significantly off from its actual real-time measurements (even when the "prediction" is for now!)

Predictwind has lately been frequently predicting nearly calm conditions outside Marina del Rey, when reality gives you 8+ knots.

On the flip side, the Coast Guard's recent small craft advisories and some of the wind predictions during Santa Ana events have kept me home, but when I examine the actual wind in real time, it's not bad at all and could have been a great day of sailing.

Is the only answer to move to the Marina and look out at the water to decide whether you want to sail? That seems expensive. I am only 10 miles inland, but the palm trees in Midcity LA are not reliable indicators of ocean conditions.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
when I examine the actual wind in real time, it's not bad at all and could have been a great day of sailing.

That's been my experience, too. So I go and it usually works out. Only once did we have to retreat, and that was when five guests arrived at the boat in a downpour. We went to dinner instead. They had all said but the forecast is for rain, heavy rain! and of course I had said, do you not think that I, possessed of so much experience both of heaven and of earth, would lead you mortals wrong?
 

Tom Metzger

Sustaining Partner
I am only 10 miles inland, but the palm trees in Midcity LA are not reliable indicators of ocean conditions.
Only ten miles? Hop on your bike and go (I assume that's the fastest way Midcity LA). BTW, it's warm, so who gives a sh*t if there is wind? As one great man once wrote, maybe more than once, "The difference between a sailboat and a power boat? On a powerboat you rush to get somewhere. On a sailboat, you're already there."

This from the perception of someone who boats in the frozen northeast. :eek:
 

Roger Janeway

Member II
. . . On a sailboat, you're already there."
I like that sentiment but when there's no wind I don't want to be there.

I grew up trying to catch extremely light bursts of wind on very flat water -- Long Island Sound, Cape Cod, Penobscot Bay -- and that can be fun, but it's less fun when there's an ocean swell slatting your boat around.

But I am certainly not complaining about having to choose on a winter day in Los Angeles between sailing and skiing.

We have a well-deserved bad reputation for traffic, but mid-day it's 20 minutes to the Marina by car, and 40 by bike. Returning home in afternoon traffic, it's 40 minutes by either method, but one method is a lot warmer.
 

bgary

Advanced Beginner
Blogs Author
I have been using PredictWind, Windfinder, Windy, and SailFlow.
I'm not in Santa Monica Bay, but.... overall, I've had good results from an app called "weathertrack". (it's available in the Apple app-store, I assume so in the android app-stores as well)

In essence it allows you to download a grib file for an area you specify - you can select from a catalog, or define an area using an interactive map, zooming in or out as suits your need.

When you've downloaded the grib, you can view predictions for wind, surface pressure, precipitation, cloud cover, air temp, probably some other stuff

Here's a screen-shot of the predicted wind for tomorrow afternoon...and a second one showing a more "zoomed in" view.

IMG_1145.jpgIMG_1146.jpg

$.02
Bruce
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
Any micro-forecast is up to the skipper. No product can offer accurate prediction of the area three square miles off the Marina breakwater. But on the whole it is the predictable 5-10 knots in winter, absent a front or Santa Ana.

Of course, the "10 knots" may come only between 3:11 p.m. and 4:39 p.m.

You sort of have to be there, as bad jokes say.
 
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Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
Not really. Point Fermin--Cabrillo Beach--is the windiest place around when the sun is out (and where I used to have to drive to find a windsurfing breeze). It's a wind funnel that bears little relation to Marina del Rey. LAX is more like it, as adjacent to the MDR breakwater.

But I hardly check the weather here. There usually isn't any, unless the norm is upset by a Santa Ana condition or a winter front moving through.

I stilI have stacks of notebooks from when I lived in the East, recording temps and wind shifts and race results in a fanatical attempt to understand patterns of local cause and effect and fend off Stu Walker, who was a walking encyclopedia of gradients, microbursts and thunderstorm steering factors. It was fun, and you could always blame being on the wrong side of the race course to a misinterpretation never to be committed again.

Here? I just go. What can go wrong?
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Anywhere surfers gather, they seem to refer to a web site called Magicseaweed.com.
I like it for planning near-shore deliveries up and down the WA coast. It shows, with nice graphics, the predicted swell height and wind speeds. Given that we are more interested in sea state than wind, per se, this is quite helpful.
Their opening page seems focused on SoCal (well, duh!). :)
You all might want to check it out.
 

goldenstate

Member III
Blogs Author
I have been using Windy extensively. It may create an excess of confidence with a rainbow of interpolated different vectors and strengths projected nearly a week out.

For about 24-36 hours out, it seems fairly reliable. YMMV.
 

gabriel

Member III
Not really. Point Fermin--Cabrillo Beach--is the windiest place around when the sun is out (and where I used to have to drive to find a windsurfing breeze). It's a wind funnel that bears little relation to Marina del Rey. LAX is more like it, as adjacent to the MDR breakwater.
LAX vs Fermin wind comparison:

been no more than a 3 knot difference between the two for a few weeks now.
 
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Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
I appreciate the need for some kind of prediction when driving a long way to a boat in Marina del Rey. MDR is "captured" by Santa Monica Bay. The wind howls at Point Conception to the north, and accelerates past Point Vicente and Fermin in the Catalina Channel. But MDR is nestled against the shoreline mountains, and air tends to be trapped there., whereas at Pt. Fermin it can escape "around the corner" to rush into the interior valleys, especially when they are heated by summer sun.

In winter, as now, there is "no weather" unless a front comes through, or a Santa Ana wind from the eastern desert. The land doesn't heat up enough for a sea breeze. The marine weather reports typically say 5-10 knots, which even when accurate is misleading. Six knots isn't a sailing breeze. The 10 knots may come, but only between 4:40 and 5 p.m. Even so, it's pleasant and usually warm and very little like Chicago.

In winter, really windy days--Small Craft Warnings-- are accurately forecast, but few. Santa Anas, when it's gusting 50 knots at my house in Pacific Palisades, often show the bay flat. We can sail those Santa Anas, since the breeze is reversed and even if gusty there are no waves.

So, winter is what it is. Actually, in most sailing locations, winter means light winds between storms. Thermal activity is much reduced.

But spring is coming. Our windiest months by far are April and May. Good time to test gear and crews. Weather forecasts do work in spring.

In summer, the days are remarkably reliable. No wind in morning. Land heats, and by 1 p.m. starts building to 15 knots in the afternoon. Predictable because MDR lives in a high pressure world, a meteorological bubble of high pressure. It never rains. There are no thunderstorms. There aren't even any clouds, most days.

IN summer, the only planning wrinkle is the marine layer: effectively, a fog that can entirely obscure the beach and limit or prohibit sailing in MDR. It can come quickly or not at all, although weather predictions get it fairly right, at least as a potentiality. Each summer I am stopped a few times by fog, and haven;t found a way to anticipate it.

It's common in summer to see lines of cars packed with kids and beach umbrellas on the 10 Freeway, bound west from blazing interior temperatures of 110F. As they approach the Pacific Coast Highway what awaits is a wall of gray, and once on the sand the sky is forboding overcast and the air temperature 65F.

Still, MDR is a sort of paradise. No current, no rocks, clean water, Catalina 30 miles away. It is a light wind zone relative to locations outside the corners of Santa Monica Bay.
 

gabriel

Member III
Christian I respectfully disagree with you. i see the point you’re trying to make but I don’t believe the PV peninsula (1200’) or Catalina island (2000’) are high enough or massive enough to create such an immense difference between the two sides. Like I said, you can compare sensor readings year long and they are generally within a few knots of each other even during our prevailing winds.

what I do agree with is that needing to know the condition before heading out is pretty pointless here in SoCal: we live in a Mediterranean climate which are one the most stable climates on earth, the summer weather being the same day in day out. Personally the only reason I’ve ever looked at the wind speed is to know if there even is ANY wind at all.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Observing this discussion from way up here where the days are rainy and it's 40 degrees this time of year.. is like hearing some angels quibble over which part of Heaven is slightly more perfect!
:cool:
 

Alan Gomes

Sustaining Member
Observing this discussion from way up here where the days are rainy and it's 40 degrees this time of year.. is like hearing some angels quibble over which part of Heaven is slightly more perfect!
:cool:
Ya know, what would *really* make it perfect is if we had more great cruising destinations like you PNW types have! Catalina is fine but gets a bit old, and the other islands are not as accessible. But yeah, the year round sailing weather is pretty great.
 
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