Friday, January 22, 2010

The Name

Suppose you have some athletic sort of boat, a 505 or a Melges 20 or a big fast racer/cruiser like a J133, and you're in need of a name. You leaf through a nautical dictionary or maybe the weather section of Bowditch and come upon . . . Katabatic.

Rhyming with "acrobatic", a katabatic wind is a gravity wind. Just as water runs downhill, so does cold, heavy air run down through warm, light air. These winds, sometimes referred to as "drainage flows", occur worldwide where mountains meet the sea.

A huge icefield lies behind the mountains of southeast Alaska, and glaciers fed by the icefield run to the sea. Prolonged high pressure causes very cold and hence heavy air to pool on the icefield, until some shift in wind or change in pressure tips the cooled air down the glaciers, where the air accelerates by gravity to speeds which may exceed 100 knots. That's a katabatic wind, and when it suddenly hits tidewater it's a force to be reckoned with. As one would expect with such a spectacular breeze, there are myriad local names, including williwaw (Alaska), mistral (western Mediterranean), pampero (Argentina) and bora (eastern Med).

You've found your name.

The Coast Guard has a site that allows one to search for federally documented vessels by name. I just searched, and found one Katabatic, recently documented. Just last year there were none, but there's room for another.
"Never mind the mistral, we're playing!"

1 comment:

  1. I just looked up Lealea and was gratified to find only one other documented vessel with the same name, a 63 foot commercial fishing boat whose document expired in 2008, also home ported in Honolulu. I doubt we will run into another Lealea in our travels.


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