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Solstice and conjunction

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   Clouds to the SW obscure view of the conjunction Yesterday evening between 4 and 6 pm we might have seen a rare stellar event: the extraordinary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. The last time the planets were this close from our viewpoint on Earth was almost 400 hundred years ago on 16 July 1623. It is thought to be the Star of Bethlehem.  Jupiter and Saturn 21 Dec 2020 by E. Piotrowski via twitter But no conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Clew Bay tonight. Clouds to the SW were not moving at all. Moon in a haze. Next time it will happen is 800 years from now.  This time in 2010, we were experiencing a big freeze in Mayo. We had spent the winter of 2009-2010, which was even worse by all accounts, in the Caribbean having sailed off in 2009, just a year after arriving in Ireland. It's not very cold this year and, in fact, lots of flowers are blooming and buds budding.  Yet, we have turned the corner on the solstice and, though Newgrange was closed to the public, the OPW live-

What a year in Atlantic hurricanes!

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Zeta making landfall on the Yucatan peninsula As post-tropical cyclone Epsilon heads toward Iceland and we get socked with abysmal weather -- heavy rain, hail, sleet, lightning and thunder, gale-force winds and 10-metre waves -- while the Yucatan gets hammered by Zeta, the 27th named storm of one of the busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, I thought it would be good to examine the season so far, even though it doesn't end until November 30. Projected path of Zeta after the second landfall Zeta made first landfall late Monday just north of the ancient Mayan city of Tulum with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph just 20 days after Delta, a category 4 hurricane, hit them in October. It's the third named storm in one month to make landfall in Quintana Roo!  Zeta made landfall again in Louisiana as a category 2 hurricane which would make it the 5th named storm to hit that coast this year.  It’s the 11th hurricane of the season. An average season has six hurricanes and 12 name

Christmas gifts for sailors in 2020

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We've secured our RLNI Christmas cards and will soon be sending them out for the first time in years. Coronavirus has put a hold on so many things in our lives. I've been researching and buying gifts online and having them delivered direct because we won't be able to visit personally any time soon. So I thought I might resurrect the Top Ten Gifts for Sailors again this year. I haven't done it for a few years but this one seems like an exception. So here goes... 1. Here's a most unusual one...Monumental Maritimers Cathy Shelbourne, of Sea Shell Communications, has created a deck of playing cards telling tall tales about colourful characters. In normal times, she travels the world as an enrichment speaker aboard cruise ships, giving talks on maritime heroes and brazen buccaneers. During the coronavirus pandemic, she has put her knowledge, and collection of photos of maritime characters, to good use. Her newly-launched pack of cards is illustrated by major players in t

30-metre monster wave recorded off Irish coast

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The remnants of Hurricane Epsilon were stirring up the seas last night. The M6 buoy off the west coast recorded one of the highest waves ever seen anywhere in the world -- 30 metres or 98.4 ft.   The wind has been blowing steadily for hours. Blowing 40 kts gusting 55 kts since 10 am. It's now 5 pm.  As I drove to Alex's mum's house with groceries and meals today, her inlet had white-capped rollers breaking over the road and depositing rocks on it. I was hurrying to get home before the road went under at the high tide. The video is of our inlet. Much more subdued, but no view of Croagh Patrick today. And not raining at the moment. So much flooding everywhere.  It's going to be a long winter.  'The tide is high but I'm holdin' on I'm gonna be your number one...'

Sailing as a means to coping with a pandemic

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As Ireland tonight goes to level 5 lockdown, we will once again face a strange new world, straying no more than 5 km from home, inviting no visitors to house or garden, and limiting social interactions outside of home. Once again, the numbers of coronavirus infections are climbing, instilling fear of infection, fear of isolation, and fear of dying. Mostly, it's the fear of the unknown.  But I believe that being sailors helps to overcome such challenges. As distance sailors having set off across oceans, the great unknown the first time around, we have faced isolation for long periods and known that eventually, we reach the other side. We have faced storms and learned that they all eventually pass. We have survived when others have not, but we didn't let it stop us from taking off.  Sailing can help us keep things in perspective, perhaps enduring more along the way. It can help us cope with extreme physical and mental challenges. Facing the approaching storm, with skies darkening

What's making the whales angry?

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Orcinus orca  While working the Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) pandemic response in the Atlantic, we had multiple reports of whales being struck by boats crossing from the Caribbean to Europe. One report, however,  was instead about whales attacking a boat. The yacht was transitting from Portugal to La Linea when orcas repeatedly rammed the vessel and spun it around 180 degrees. Every time they tried to resume course, they were rammed again, almost like the whales wanted them to leave. After the boat remained motionless for a period, the whales finally swam away. Although the sailors noted some damage to their steering, they were able to safely enter the port. Since then, numerous reports have appeared from the Straits of Gibraltar to the NW corner of Spain. Others weren't so lucky. Scientists can’t explain why killer whales are interacting with sailboats off the coast of Galicia and Portugal. Researchers say it is very unusual for orcas to show aggressive behaviour and ram into boats.

Atlantic cyclones appear again

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After a couple of weeks of benign weather in the Atlantic, we now have TS Gamma and three other disturbances that may still develop.   What a season it has been. TS Arthur  formed off North Carolina on the 16th of May. Arthur’s formation prior to the official start of the hurricane season marked the sixth consecutive year of at least one named storm forming prior to 1 June. TS Bertha was a short-lived storm on 27-28 May.  I wonder if that's a first -- that two named storms form before the official season. The genesis of Tropical Storm Bertha was not well anticipated and so South Carolina didn't get much warning.  The season got off to such an early and active start that NOAA issued an update to the hurricane season forecast in August. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season with a record-setting nine named storms prior to August has the potential to be one of the busiest on record. " Historically , only two named storms form on average by early August, and the ninth named stor