Chris here... Kristen is down below kicking herself hard and is not a happy camper right now. We turned around and headed up to the Megadock but it turns out that they are having a billfishing tournament there this weekend and it's completely full. So, we pulled a 180 and went back down the Ashley River and up the Cooper River a little to the Charleston Harbor Marina. Kristen hasn't had much time on the wheel during docking over the past few months, so we decided to switch roles - her on the wheel and I would handle the lines. We approached the spot on the dock they gave us and the wind caught our stern a bit and shoved Pelican into the corner of the dock. Unfortunately, it turns out that there was a 1" bolt sticking out the side of the corner and it proceeded to run a footlong and 1/8" - 1/4" deep gouge into our gelcoat and fiberglass. So, after Kristen spent the last two weeks polishing our hull, we've managed to do significant damage to the side already. She's less upset about the gouge and more upset about the fact that we got the gouge after she just did so much work. I completely understand and I've been trying to tell her "It happens", but she's still kicking herself. Oh well, another day, another project. I think we'll try to fix it ourselves, although from what I understand gelcoat is not easy stuff to work with and color matching can be tough. We'll get it though. In the meantime, we're gonna hang out here for the day and try for Beaufort again tomorrow when the weather clears up.
By the way, I received a couple of e-mails from people saying there are other weather sources than Chris Parker. I thought I would share the ones we use so others don't have to hunt for them. In addition to Chris Parker, we primarily use three other weather sources - Passageweather.com, SailFlow.com and the National Weather Service. We also sometimes download the information in a special format called GRIB. Passageweather.com has a good interface and will show wave height forecasts in addition to the wind forecast. SailFlow.com, if you click on the wind prediction link, will give you several different weather models to pick from to see what the wind is going to be like, and it provides a fairly granular forecast. The National Weather Service is usually wrong, but we check them out anyway. Usually you can multiply their wave height prediction by two and you'll be close to what conditions will actually be like. If you're into GRIBs, you can download an OK GRIB display program at www.grib.us. If you have your own display program (we can display our data in our navigation software - Rosepoint Coastal Explorer) - you can download the latest GRIB data at ftp://polar.ncep.noaa.gov/pub/waves/latest_run/. All of the GRIB information (wind, wave heights, etc.) can be downloaded directly by clicking this link. The last two sources we tend to use, if we want to see cloud cover, infrared imagery, or historical wind speeds in storms are at http://wwwghcc.msfc.nasa.gov/GOES/ and http://manati.orbit.nesdis.noaa.gov/quikscat/ (EDIT 12/23/2010: Quickscat has been deprecated. Euro ASCAT is the closest replacement: http://manati.orbit.nesdis.noaa.gov/datasets/ASCATData.php)
In general, however, we'll look at all of this stuff and then speak to Chris Parker. He's been watching the areas we're in for many years and knows what storms and winds tend to do. In other words, he is a vast storehouse of local knowledge that doesn't necessarily show itself on weather charts. This will often give us the specific information we need to know in order to get out of an area when all of the other weather products show generic information, or to stay in port when the same thing happens. We make our own assessment, but it's nice to have someone backing us up.