Saturday, November 13, 2010

OK, Who Forgot to Knock on Wood?

The fans are deployed, power and water lines in place, and the crews are hired and ready.

Cue Mother Nature!

Alas, there's been nothing but the sound of crickets these past two nights.

Way back on Tuesday morning, the Sun shone brightly on a fresh blanket of snow across the Basin's Ski Resorts. Temperatures in the wake of the cold front favored around-the-clock snowmaking, setting hearts in Resort Marketing Departments aflutter.

By Tuesday afternoon, those fluttering hearts became a Reno Newspaper Story announced by a Tweet.

Snowmaking ran overnight Wednesday, then the mercury climbed out of range and the waiting began.

Fast Forward to Friday night/Saturday morning, and temps for snowmaking are still MIA.

My lightning tour of the webcams and PWS's showed the story...close, but no cigar...oh, and toss in some freshening Easterly Winds and it's not a pretty picture.

Reno's AFD spent some time discussing the winds before promising cloud cover and inversions for later in the week. I guess the fluttering has been replaced by the Maalox Moment.

Thanksgiving is twelve days out...Bay Area WeatherCasters are saying the next chance of rain will be next weekend.

At the Ancestral Digs, I've been enjoying my Dungeness Crab Diet while planning the Ancestral Digs Thanksgiving.

After the last of the pumpkin pie and turkey sandwiches are gone...I'll start waiting and anticipating with all the other groomers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

America's Cup: On the Horizon in San Francisco Bay?

After Wednesday's glorious fall day on Tomales Bay, Thursday's aches and pains were muted by an update on the campaign to bring the 34th America's Cup Regatta to San Francisco Bay in 2013. The Marin Independent Journal's Sailing Columnist, Michelle Slade posted the good news to her blog Wednesday an update on The City's quest to host the Cup.

After crab brunch, I set about checking the remote weather world for both the Crabbing Grounds of Tomales Bay, and the High Sierra Ski Resorts.

Snowmaking temps fled the mountains with the sunrise.

On Tomales Bay, the winds took the day off.

Mammoth Mountain joined Boreal as California's second resort to open.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tomales Bay Crab Fest

What a great trip to Tomales Bay!

Like "real" fishermen, SturgeUrge and I awoke well before dawn, made a thermos of French Roast, and set out in search of the Bounty of the Sea. Set out in this case means an hour and forty-five minutes on California freeways and highways with the F/V SturgeUgre in tow.

We arrived at the Miller Park Boat Ramp on Tomales Bay about 7:45AM, and were motoring onto Tomales Bay right at 8AM. The morning was glorious...sunny, with the barest hint of a breeze from the NNW, the hills have all turned green with newly sprouted grass from the Fall rains.

Hog Island from the North
We crossed the Bay just to the South of Hog Island, and set our first pot by 8:15AM. We set our second pot 10 minutes later and set about trying to catch some bait to hunt halibut with.

After a half an hour fighting huge patches of eel grass, and not getting so much as a nibble from the baitfish, we returned to the first pot  for a look-see...

SturgeUrge slid the boat along side the pot's buoy, and I grabbed the buoy line with the gaff. Handing off the gaff, I started pulling the line and directing Urge on where to steer... neutral or in gear...I've got the line in the pulley...the pot's right under us...I've got the pot's the pot bridal...Lots of crab!

The first pot had a dozen crab in it, after about a 45 minute soak. Six Dungeness Crabs and six Red Rock Crabs. Three of the dungees went back overboard to grow bigger, and the small reds went back too. Every crab Wednesday was a crabbers in California waters may retain crab of both sexes, but most sport crabbers release the females...they are the future of the resource after all!

We enjoyed a pretty relaxing morning. We drifted the edges of the eel grass patches between pulls, trying to jig up some live halibut bait, but the drift wasn't right.

We got into a routine of pulling and resetting every half an hour. When we pulled a pot of mostly reds, or not as full of crab as we'd like, we'd leapfrog our other pot and move closer to the ocean. Most of the day we were 3-4 miles from the Pacific Ocean proper. Tomales Bay empties into Outer Bodega Bay, and that opens to the Pacific.

Every time we pulled, we took a minute to estimate and record the time, wind speed and direction. I recorded the data so I could compare our observations to the two nearby PWS's I'd found online.

We gave up on the live bait quest, and drifted for halibut with frozen anchovies...without a bite. The wind began to freshen after 10AM, and really started to blow around noon.

We weren't the only folks out crabbing Wednesday. The Bay was covered with crab pot buoys. Four or five boats were pulling and setting in the same general area. Our pots continued to come up with keeper crabs every pull, but the first pulls of the day were the most bountiful.

Finally we moved both pots well towards Bodega Bay, and made lunch. The winds were now up to 10-15 MPH, making pulling the pots and tending the pot lines a little more interesting than we'd like. The F/V SturgeUrge has tall sides...a lot of windage, and it weather-vanes easily...we ended up pirouetting around the pot line once or twice. We moved the pots into the slight protection of some coves, and still boated crabs.

We decided to leapfrog all the way back South of Hog Island for the last set of the day. We were recording winds now 15-20MPH. I said: "Time to break out the "Victory At Sea" music".

We were glad we were doing our last sets...I had the "Popeye Arms" thing hands were starting to lock in the claw position...and a crab got a good pinch in on us both...we were getting tired and a little careless (when handling the crab anyway)

During the last set, we counted and culled the crabs in the livewell...they were quite frisky...a big Red Crab grabbed Urge's hand in that fleshy spot between his thumb and forfinger, and he almost tore the crab in half ripping it loose. (his crush wound wouldn't start bleeding for more than two minutes) Then a commercial size dungee grabbed my thumb, and I instantly winged him off. He had me at the base of the thumbnail, and I got a small cut on the thumbprint side. This morning, I can see a black blood blister under the nail.

I finished the count and cull. We retained 14 Dungees and six of the biggest Reds. We retrieved the boat without drama, made it ship-shape for towing, and were on the road by 2:45PM Even at the ramp, the wind was merciless...and we were tired of it pushing us around. It was great to get our boots off, our street shoes on, and into the Tow Rig's comfortable cocoon.

Back at the SturgeUrge Compound, SturgeUgre steamed the crabs, and I ran downtown for some fresh salad greens, a loaf of sourdough, and a nice chardonnay. A classic crab feed...there's nothing like it. Personally, I like Dungeness Crab more than Maine Lobster. When cooked the crab count went up by two Reds...we were more tired and beat up out on Tomales Bay than we realized.

While the crab were cooling in the kitchen sink full of ice water, I surfed the net and compared the PWS data to our observations. The Bodega Bay PWS was pretty representative of the conditions we observed five of so miles down the Bay. The Victory At Sea winds were 18MPH

The nearby Point Reyes PWS wasn't recording it's data Wednesday so we'll have to try again next time out.

On the drive home, we decided to forgo the halibut fishing when the days are this short. We'll ad two pots to the arsenal, so we can just set the string of pots, and motor back to the beginning of the string and start pulling and resetting. We'd do the same number of pulls, but we wouldn't be killing time so we' get in, get our crab, and get out earlier.

If the weather holds, we'll test the concept next Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Challenges

The latest cold front has blown through, and my world is drying out a little. A busy week ahead with the promise of some Dungeness Crab fishing on tap.

Sunday morning I heard a traffic bulletin on a Sacramento radio station citing the messy conditions over Interstate 80's Donner Pass. As luck would have it, I was actually on the CHP's Traffic Incident Website wondering when chain controls would go up given the spate of spinouts and rollovers that littered the highway between 8:30AM and 9:30AM. The Kingvale webcam showed rain, but Boreal's images featured snow and lower visibility. Controls went up for a short time around 10AM.

Sunday Morning's 9:43 view
Sunday evening was lots of fun! I stayed in and  followed weather and road conditions like a ball game, leading up to the 11 O'Clock Newscasts. By 11PM the cold front was just a memory in the Valleys, but the TV WeatherFolks were overjoyed to have something wet and white to report. Up top over the High Sierra passes, the webcams showed the lingering snowfall. (I love that the Media is making heavy use of long before they start sponsoring HD webcams?) Chain controls were up for the second time Sunday.

Monday Morning Roundup
I woke up well before sunrise Monday (I'm no fan of Daylight Savings Time, sorry 'bout that Ben Franklin) I listened to some radio weather and traffic before I toured my suite of High Sierra websites. I caught weathercasts from Oakland and Sacramento on's all over but the shouting...the WeatherDudes I watched all teased "a chance of rain Tuesday", but a look at the AFD's says it'll pass us to the North.

@borealmtn showed up in my Twitter feed to announce their Tuesday Reopening. I looked at their webcam and the Groomers are already out pushing the new snow around. Nice to see the snowmaking fan blowing snow.

The cold air behind the front should hang in all week making for favorable snowmaking conditions. When I saw the fan pumping the man-made I looked at the neighboring PWS's, and the temps should warm to shutdown territory before noon.

I see that the storm closed the first mountain pass for the Winter. Hwy89 through Lassen National Park is closed for the season with 27 inches on the road near Lake Helen.

SturgeUrge called this morning, it's still sloppy wet at the SturgeUrge Compound so our construction project will be on the back burner for a day or two...I reminded Urge that Dungeness Crabs don't care if it's wet out...we're gonna try to get out to Tomales Bay permitting.

OK, Crab Fishing is ON for Wednesday! We're gonna have to get up at the crack of night to get over to Tomales Bay in time to hit the optimal tidal currents for success. I picked up two pounds of squid bait and moved my crab pots over to the Compound...we'll do some more work Tuesday afternoon before we prep and load up the boat.

I spent some time prospecting online for some relevant PWS's for Tomales Bay...I ended up resigning myself to the fact that the sparse population up there is going to make for some big-time extrapolation for real-time weather data. No matter, I'll record my observations each time we set a pot, and compare my observations to the two nearest remote stations...nothing too fancy at this juncture. Estimated windspeed, direction and time are all I'll need.

Buoyed by my PWS Tomales research, I surfed back up to Boreal and Donner Summit. Things are looking up and they'll be looking good Tuesday when they reopen at noon.

Boreal's fans are pumping the man-made big time! A look at Sugar Bowl's webcam shows they have their fans blowing snow too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's Raining All Over the World

Saturday morning I watched Formula One Qualifying LIVE from Sao Paulo Brazil. It was raining at the beginning of the first Session, leaving the track to develop a Dry Line as Qualifying continued and the speeds rose and rose. Exciting stuff with only one race next weekend to decide the Driver's World Championship. None of the contenders grabbed the Pole Position...that went to a first time Pole Sitter, Nico Hulkenberg in the Williams FW32

Rain is coming to visit the Inland Valley sometime after we turn back the clocks an hour, and turn in Saturday night.

Thunder showers developed south of Interstate 80 Saturday afternoon before the main system comes into the High Sierra Sunday. The system is warm and wet. Most of the forecast 1.5 inches of possible precipitation will fall as rain below 7000 ft. Most of the moisture is out ahead of the front. When the front passes the cold dry air will lower the freezing level a bunch, but there won't be much snowfall.

The good news is the temps will stay below seasonal norms throughout the rest of the week...probably cool enough for a few hours of snowmaking overnight too.

Sunday 10:00AM Update
It's raining across the Inland Valley, and up to Kingvale on I-80. Boreal's webcam shows the wet snow is sticking at 7227ft El.

Still no chain controls on I-80, though down Kirkwood way they are up on Hwy88. It shouldn't be long for I-80 though, a look at the California Highway Patrol's Traffic Incident Website shows several spinouts and a couple of rollovers atop Donner Summit.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil the Formula One race was contested under sunny skies.