Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Goodbye and Fair Winds Don Anderson

Don Anderson
Obituary Picture via
Orange County Register
I have a huge soft spot for Don Anderson and I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing. He has been our mainstay weather guru throughout our cruising s/v Tao over the past 5 years. I actually have a little guilt as well, because I am angry. Our time with him was not finished. I was actually not-so-patiently awaiting a reply e-mail from him regarding general weather routing in the next month from Hawaii to the South Pacific when I found out. I know he does not like contact via e-mail, but we are currently preparing to leave and in a harbor that is too noisy for good reception so were trying to set up a time to be able to bug him via HF radio with his beam antenna pointed our way. Rather solitary out here in Hawaii, without the cruiser connectivity (as Don had warned us, this is not considered a good cruising ground and after spending a year here we think it deserves more of a chance, though most cruisers don't give it the time), we did not hear of his passing right away. Luckily, before we sent a second e-mail, we heard the disturbing news when talking with Midnight Blue, cruising friends from Mexico, who had heard via the PacSea net. And I am angry still, because after this season’s cruise we had special plans to stop in Oxnard to present him with a bottle of scotch, give him a hug, and talk story with him about what a huge impact he has had on our lives.

Chris and I finally threw off the dock lines from Berkeley, CA in November of 2008. We slowly moved down the California Coast toward Mexico and unfortunately did not know about Don until we were way downwind of Ventura. If we had known him yet, we would surely have made it a priority to stop in and say hello. We slowly made our way down the Outside of the Baja and found one of the nets he forecasted on. As we neared Scorpion Bay, where we hoped to set the hook and surf for a few days we finally got up the courage to ask for a weather fill. He was happy to report (we were to find that the bigger the storm, the more excited he was to report on it) that a big low was coming down, and winds were going to be from the south all the way down to our intended anchorage. His advice, he would not be caught in there! We took his advice and continued on to the protection of Bahia Santa Maria. The southerlies did not end up making it quite that far south, yet we were grateful to have had his fill, were content with our conservative decision, and happily hunkered down from the strong northerly flow that set in. From then on, we listened to Don religiously. He provided us relief and knowledge and education (about both weather and radios) from there on.

Through our first season in the Sea of Cortez in 2009, we were entertained as we listened to his weather reports and learned about squash zones, northers, coromuels, adiabatic winds, and iCom 802 clipping. Then he talked us through a second season in 2010 which included several unexpectedly motorless long distance passages as well as us being early season cruisers in the Northern Sea of Cortez where he patiently explained to us what Elefantes were the morning after we had encountered a blessedly small one, forecast Chubascos as they began to menace, and the promontory effect, of which he often spoke, suddenly became clear. Most of our time in the Sea of Cortez we tended to be away from the bulk of cruisers, so we frequently chimed into nets for weather fills in “off the beaten track” areas. Don was always willing to provide us fills and often times we got way more than we asked for. We trusted his advice all the more as over and over again his predictions were spot on. Then in 2011 we decided to jump from Mexico to Hawaii. Without fail, Don was there standing watch before the Amigo Net every morning of our 26-day passage (except Sundays) logging our track, ushering us in the right direction, allaying our fears of hurricanes, and providing us special weather routing. One morning when I questioned him about squalls we were seeing he replied "South of 22-deg N, you are in the tropics, my darling, squalls are everywhere and are impossible to forecast. You forecast them with your eyes and your radar. They always travel NE to SW and you will see an increase in local winds of 5 to 10-knots". Yup, this was exactly what we saw (though we don't have radar). Lovingly, get used to it, was written between the lines. He further educated us about trade winds, channelized winds, and warned us about the channels between the islands as we approached Hawaii.

We were unable to reach him via radio through the noise once we landed in Hawaii but were able to thank him via e-mail and expected we would have more contact once leaving the Hawaiian Islands. We are profoundly distressed to imagine never hearing his soothing voice discussing weather over the radio waves again. We learned so much from him and feel lucky to have known him at all. Thank you Don, for the tireless service that you provided the cruising community, we are forever grateful.

For an excellent tribute to Don Anderson, check out Just a Minute's blog.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the heads up. Amazing dude...in many ways...and a true character. I will remember him fondly.


    Aboard Murre
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