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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Preventive maintenance or junk

We surveyed nearly all 290 yachts in the 2016 ARC transatlantic to find out what broke and how it was fixed; what worked and what didn't.

You cannot presume to be able to sail across an ocean without experiencing some problems or breakages with your equipment. We issued the 290 yachts sailing in the 2016 ARC and ARC+, transatlantic rallies with a survey to detail their breakages and solutions.

The first thing you notice from the results is that there were few empty columns for yachts without problems. In total, 167 yachts, or nearly 60 per cent of the fleet, had a breakage.

Problems are of course to be expected, but breakages can spoil voyages. One of the best ways to avoid them is to learn from others’ mistakes.

We collected all the data and questioned the skippers that had relevant issues to understand how they fixed them and the lessons they learnt.

  • The most common casualties were ripped sails and breakages caused by chafe – which, going on past feedback, is nothing new. But prudent seamanship, plus routine checks and maintenance will limit these.
  • A worrying number of yachts had problems and breakages with their vangs and gooseneck fittings – something we see time after time, so we have dedicated a large section of the results report to this.
  • There were also a number of steering problems, which we followed up on with the relevant skippers.
  • Ten toilet blockages or breakages reported
  • Eight watermaker malfunctions.
  • Ninety-three yachts suffered sail damage, 62 of which were ripped or damaged flying sails (spinnakers, gennakers or parasailors). The majority of damage was caused from the yacht being overpowered, or when hoisting, furling or dousing. Some skippers admitted that they were using old sails or that it happened during poor gybes.
  • Thirteen yachts had batten problems or breakages (mainly from flogging in light winds), which were replaced, removed or repaired. The simple message coming from the majority of these cases is to carry spares!
  • There were 68 reported rig problems or breakages – mostly broken halyards – with chafe being listed as the primary cause for over half.
  • There were multiple failures to preventers, blocks, and furling lines, again largely through chafe or overloading.

See the previous Yachting World ARC Surveys

Generator and battery problems on ARC 2016

Twenty-one yachts had problems with their generators. These mainly involved cooling issues, including coolant water, impellers, and salt or fresh water pumps.

A few changed impellers and filters to resolve the issues, but the majority had to switch to the main engine for power. The trend here showed a lack of routine maintenance.

Out of the 15 reported battery issues, the majority were charging problems put down to old batteries, which required more regular engine use to charge.

The starter battery exploded aboard the Ovni 365, Zigzag de Villeneuve, which skipper Mike Midgley put down to overcharging on a corroded terminal. They replaced the battery in Mindelo, which caused a delayed restart.

The crew aboard the Sweden 50 Scarabaus was unable to charge the batteries until they fashioned a new fan belt. The result was the loss of all fresh food.

Charles Chambers said that they were unable to charge the batteries aboard their Grand Soleil 50 Mk2 Betelgeuse. “We had to run the main engine continuously to maintain the boat’s systems, the battery charger overheated due to high demand when run off the generator and stopped working.” This resulted in a diversion to Cape Verde. “The boat does not have any wind, water or solar generation, which might have helped.”

Wind, water and solar power: how alternative energy has been transformed

Damage to booms, preventers, goosenecks and vangs on Atlantic crossing


The broken gooseneck bolt aboard the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 43 La Capitana

The broken gooseneck bolt aboard the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 43 La Capitana


Another serious issue we’ve seen many times on ARCs concerns poorly led or set-up preventers. This happened aboard a Maxi 1300, resulting in a broken boom. No more details were given, but this generally occurs when the preventer is led to the boom’s midsection rather than the end of the boom.

The Moody 425 Pierina, meanwhile, broke three preventers during crash gybes.

When the rivets of the gooseneck worked loose on the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 42i, Serenity, Roy Matheson used webbing straps for a temporary fix. He put the problem down to general wear and tear to his seven-year-old yacht, even if “it happened a lot earlier than it possibly should have.”

Matheson points to being caught in a storm for two days of slamming into waves on the way to Gran Canaria. And that, “during the first week of the ARC, there was a lot of light wind and the boom was swinging around a lot, causing stress on the gooseneck.”

Matheson now carries a large pop rivet gun with the correct rivet sizes to repair everything on board. He also now rigs a boom preventer in lights winds from any direction.

“I now have a more permanent setup to secure the boom at all times when at anchor or in a marina. In the past I would only secure the boom in severe, rolly conditions. This should help a lot to reduce long term stresses on the gooseneck and other parts.”

Tested: boom brakes and preventers, including Walder boom brake and Wichard Gyb’Easy

The gooseneck bolt broke aboard Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 43, La Capitana during the ARC+ disconnecting the boom. “I just noticed the boom hanging lose under the main sail,” Jan Lindroos reported. “Nothing alarming or special happened during that moment or just before. The grinding and wear and tear had somehow loosened the nut on the bolt and then the bolt dropped off its position.

“We lifted the boom back into its slot using the spinnaker halyard and tied the boom in position by means of rope as there was no suitable bolt or pin material (The original bolt was bent).”

Lindroos explained that the picture now shows the boom with a bolt in it, but that the whole boom end still needs to be changed and the mast connection looked into before their next crossing. He says the biggest take-home lesson is “to inspect critical points more often.”

Both the gooseneck and vang mast fittings broke aboard the 72ft Southern Wind Far II Kind. Heavy-duty ratchet straps were used as a temporary repair and the bolts needed to be retightened regularly. Skipper Will Glenn explained that the boom and vang had been removed prior to the ARC during rig survey work.


Vang repairs on Far II Kind – ARC yacht repairs at sea

Heavy-duty ratchet straps (a wise spare to carry) secure the vang on Far II Kind.

“The holes for bolts needed to be re-tapped or Helicoiled before putting the boom back on, but it turns out this was never done; therefore the bolts weren’t tight enough and pulled some threads out.”

Glenn said in hindsight they should have checked that the riggers did what was asked of them properly – and that they should have trialled the boat in stronger winds than the 7-8 knots they had post rig survey.

L.I.A. of Sweden, one of four new More 55s on the crossing, damaged their mast track and pole during an accidental gybe, which also damaged the vang. A rope vang was made up as a repair. Fredrik Olsson reports that they were using a preventer at the time. Heeling to windward one night, the spinnaker pole dipped in the water to windward, breaking its attachment point at the mast. “This also disabled the cable which runs on the outside of the vang.”

The goosenecks also failed on the Lagoon 450F Calypso 166, the Solaris One 42 Albatross and the Archambault A35 Argentum, the latter when the vang fixing came loose. All were successfully secured with Dyneema/Spectra.

The gooseneck bolt/pin came out aboard the Leopard 48 Jolly Dacha and the Nautitech 542 Hugo. The vang pin worked loose and the vang detached on the Beneteau Sense 50 Jayana and the vang mast fitting ripped off when it was over -tensioned aboard Reliant 49, Rogue Trader – once again Dyneema came to the rescue.

Video – installing and testing a rope preventer and boom brakes to safely manage accidental gybes

Steering problems on the ARC 2016

Problems with steering linkage give cause for concern. David Dabney had some valuable advice after the cable broke aboard his Chris White designed trimaran, Juniper, despite upgrading it from 5mm to 6mm before the ARC after noticing broken strands.

“The steering on Juniper is all exposed so the cables and sheaves can be observed at all times,” Dabney explained. “Twelve hours out from St Lucia I noticed the cable had broken strands so the emergency tiller was fitted. Six hours out the cable broke and we completed the rally with the tiller.

“The 6mm cable I fitted in Denmark lasted approximately 5,000 miles. In my opinion the quality of the stainless steel available is of a lesser quality than in previous times. Most 316 cable is manufactured in Korea despite being marketed as German steel.”

Rudder failure – 1500 miles to sail across the Atlantic without a rudder.

Talking to other skippers that have experienced cable failure they have gone over to Dyneema cables. We have now fitted sheathed Dyneema to Juniper that has lasted 500 miles from St Lucia to Puerto Rico.
“Will it get us home to Denmark? I will let you know.”

The steering cable broke on the Beneteau Oceanis 58 Boni Venti, which was put down to a combination of chafe “and the block not articulating”. The crew replaced the wire with Dyneema and it then worked fine.

The Baltic 51, Gatsby, also broke the pulley and cable to their steering system, which needed to be replaced in Cape Verde.

There were also a couple of sobering incidents with rudders. The crew of Endorphine II, a Bavaria 47 AC, found a leak in the rudder shaft, which they put down to wear and tear. They applied epoxy to the leak and were able to steer using the windvane rudder.

And in one of the most serious incidents, the outer casing of the rudder broke off aboard More 55 Lady Nor. They put the cause down to possibly striking a floating object. It took 20 hours to fabricate an aluminium sleeve from a floorboard.

The underwater video footage the crew sent is alarming, clearly showing the bare foam innards of the rudder and how they dived and strapped plywood around the rudder to secure it.

Deck and rig fittings

What would you do if hardware, hatches or fittings ripped out of the deck or rig? When the mainsheet track car broke on Harmony 38 Oginev, the crew was quick to jury rig solutions. Pavlin Nadvorni told us that the Lewmar car suffered metal fatigue (and that their 2005 boat is ‘not exactly spring chicken’). “However, we’d run a soft shackle as a security measure, so when the aluminium casting broke, the mainsail and the boom didn’t fly out of control.”

“We then made a stainless steel backing plate under the car with an off-the-shelf stainless steel 12mm ring bolt. When that started showing signs of dying on us, we replaced it with a 20mm thick D-shackle secured to the track with 20-30 wraps of 5mm Spectra. That kept us going for roughly 300-400 miles and we would just replace the chafed-through Spectra and keep going.”

Nadvorni says that fatigued hardware remains a chief concern – “even on a recent IMOCA 60 delivery in the South Pacific (3,500 miles) – so it is something to be expected even on a high-tech carbon fibre boat.”

The traveller car broke during a crash gybe aboard Oyster Reach, an Oyster 54. This was also then lashed with Spectra. Jose Roberto Arruda confirms they were using a preventer at the time. “The preventer helped to reduce the impact when the unexpected gybe occurred but the problem arose when the person on the helm tried to correct the route and gybed again in the other direction, which had no protection from the preventer.”

The lesson here he says is not to try to correct the route when a gybe occurs – “stay on the same side until you return control to the boat.”

The bowsprit pulled clean out of the deck aboard the Elan impression 434, Ocean Diamond 2 when it was overloaded, damaging the anchor stem, but they too managed to lash it using Dyneema.

The crew of Betelgeuse had more serious issues when the decklight set into the sail locker hatch on the foredeck of the Grand Soleil 50 tore out between Gran Canaria and Cape Verde in rough conditions. “The decklight is approximately 25cm x 60cm,” skipper Charles Chambers reported. “This left a large hole in the foredeck potentially allowing serious water ingress.”

“We were able to make a suitable blanking plate from a locker cover in the saloon. It was a perfect size and did not need cutting down and it even had a suitable hole for the locking bolt. We also managed to fit a seal all the way around the blanking plate by using a length of cockpit locker seal.” They successfully fitted the blanking plate and avoided serious water ingress despite the conditions.

The importance of carrying Dyneema for running repairs

X-562, teamgeist broke the connection between mainsheet and boom. Philipp Schubert says they tried replacing the four screws with Dyneema and attached that to the mainsheet, but that this chafed through the carbon of the boom in swell.

“The second solution was a big M12 screw with an eye-shaped female screw in which we put the mainsheet again. Fortunately it lasted for the rest of the crossing but had to be replaced in St Lucia because the screw had bent at least 5-10° from the pressure.”

The cause he cites as the banging of the sails in low winds and big swell while the preventer wasn’t tight enough. “We will really tighten the preventer in future.”


Teamgeist mainsheet attachment repair

The crew tighten up a new fixing point for the mainsheet on the boom after the original connection broke aboard the X-562 teamgeist.

One of the more significant rig issues happened aboard the Hanse 505, Hanse Sailor. The D1 & D2 shrouds failed on the starboard side and they had to reinforce them with Dyneema and ‘sail conservatively’.

The breakage led to them requiring assistance from the cruise liner Costa Magica to obtain enough fuel to get to St Lucia, says Andy Brock. “They sent us by long line 100 litres, which is all we needed. The reason for the breakage is unknown.”

The Fortissimo 33 HavAnna also broke strands on their shrouds during squalls and used bulldog clamps jumped with new wire. And the Beneteau Oceanis 41, Endeavour of Cork broke a spreader bolt, which strained their spreader. They “supported rig and sailed cautiously.”

Richard Downing aboard his Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 509 Caledonia Spirit, showed resourcefulness when his spinnaker pole tang broke into three pieces. He repaired it using resin and machine screws. “The holes were drilled and tapped, then loose assembled,” Downing explained. “Resin was then poured into the joints and the machine screws tightened up squeezing the resin out.”

Chafe and ripped sails sailing across the Atlantic

As mentioned, by far the most common breakages are to flying sails. The Lagoon 52, Cat’leya experienced more than their fair share. They blew their spinnaker out and broke their bowsprit early into the crossing. They then chafed through their spinnaker furler line, before breaking both the mainsail halyard and the head of the mainsail six days later.

Impressively, however, they succeeded in fitting spares for halyards and repaired all breakages at sea.

The Hanse 575 Siberia also had a catalogue of sail repairs, including two ripped gennakers, a ripped Code 0, halyard chafe and breaks, masthead block breaks, and a broken batten. And the Nauticat 40, Pureblue chafed through their genoa sheet three times – and despite buying new sheets in Cape Verde, these failed in 24 hours.

Torn sails and broken halyards are one thing, but what happens when you can’t get a sail down? The spinnaker snuffer aboard Betelgeusefouled and jammed at the top of the mast. “We were unable to get the spinnaker down in the snuffer for six days,” said skipper Charles Chambers.

“We lashed the snuffer to the mast and rig as high up as possible to prevent it flailing about. We tried to send a crewman up the mast but the conditions were never calm enough and we did not want to risk injury. Our concern was as the weather deteriorated and squalls of 35+ knots hit us that the snuffer would fail and the spinnaker would launch and potentially bring down the rig.”

Chambers’ solution was to monitor the top of the snuffer by lying on the deck and using a 400mm telephoto camera lens, “which enabled me to review the images on my laptop rather than try and remember what I could see through binoculars.

In hindsight he says:” “We should have followed ‘Jerry the Rigger’s’ advice and fitted a block to the
mast ring.”


Monday, August 14, 2017

Should the Jones act be repealed bet your ass

Should The Jones Act Be Repealed? 


by Captains George Livingstone & Grant Livingstone – Another effort is under way in the Senate to repeal the Jones Act sponsored by Senator John McCain of Arizona.  The law, originally enacted 97 years ago by Senator Wesley L. Jones of Washington State under section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, focused on: 

  • Increased growth of American marine commerce
  • Improving remedies to American mariners if injured on the job
  • Providing for national security interests

Today the Jones Act refers to federal statute 46 USC section 883 which controls coastwise trade within the United States.  Essentially the Act prohibits foreign flagged vessels from engaging in coastwise trade within the United States.  In the context of the modern Jones Act, industry and government stress the following three components: 

  • Economic security
  • National security
  • Homeland security

Should the Jones Act be repealed?  Much has been written pro and con on the subject.  Senator McCain’s position is that it costs American tax payers millions each year, and that it is an antiquated and protectionist Act.  It’s presented as undermining the American ideal of a free market and unfairly impacting American ship owners by forcing them to build American and hire American.  From the American tax payers point of view it does cost millions per year.  From the American ship owners point of view millions could be saved by building ships in China and hiring all Chinese crews to operate those ships.  Critics also claim the Jones Act encourages the extension of a vessel’s life due to the high cost of domestic shipbuilding and repair.  It may well be true in the container business and if so needs to be rectified.  The U.S. flag tanker fleet, however, has some of the most modern ships in the world.  The issue at hand remains, so let’s take a look.

Economic Security

As to free market ideals, Adam Smith, Scottish Author of Wealth of Nations, founder and great defender of the ‘free market’ economic principle contrarilybelieved in the concept of protecting a nation’s maritime interests.  This goes against mistaken assumptions that he was a pure free market advocate.  

In Wealth of Nations Smith states the following, ’There seem to be two cases, in which it will generally be advantageous to lay some burden upon foreign, for the encouragement of domestic industry…’ and ‘The act of navigation, therefore, very properly endeavors to give the sailors and shipping of Great Britain the monopoly of the trade of their own country, in some cases by absolute prohibitions, and in others, by heavy burdens upon the shipping of foreign countries.’

According to a recent Price Waterhouse study:

  • The American Maritime industry sustains nearly 500,000 U.S. jobs  
  • The U.S. flag brown and blue water commercial fleet comprises 40,000+ vessels of all types
  • Hundreds of billions in annual economic output is produced by the U.S. domestic maritime industry
  • For every direct maritime job, 4-5 indirect jobs are created elsewhere 
  • More than 100 million passengers are transported annually on U.S. flag ferries
  • 29 billion in annual wages is spent by maritime employees throughout the U.S. 

National and Homeland Security

The National and Homeland security component is critical.  The U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security rely heavily on mariners to be the eyes and ears on our waterways.  The possibility of maritime terrorism is real.  Keeping American mariners manning U.S. flag ships, tugs/barges, supply, anchor handling vessels and American pilots on arriving and departing ships in our ports should not be discounted.  Just one example, American pilots work closely with regional U.S. Coast Guard units around the country regarding safety and compliance of all foreign vessels calling in U.S. waters.  

 ’The Jones Act fleet is subject to owners and operators adhering to U.S. Laws, including tax, immigration and labor laws.  The Jones Act fleet contributes militarily useful ships and experienced crews to national defense sealift needs.  U.S. merchant mariners are available to crew vessels that move goods for the military, supplying US military forces around the world with the goods and munitions needed to sustain their missions.  This has been demonstrated in recent memory during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom when US Flag commercial vessels transported 63% of all military cargoes.’  The Jones Act helps to sustain national defense through the domestic oceangoing shipbuilding industry.  Domestic shipyards build and repair commercial and naval vessels capable of meeting United States Navy needs.’  *American Maritime Partnerships

2013 MARAD study backs up the above statements from American Maritime Partnerships 

Even with the Jones Act intact, there is serious debate among experts that the United States merchant marine and shipbuilding complex would struggle in the event of a serious international conflict.  Eliminating it would leave this country completely at the mercy of other nations stepping up to fill in the shipping gap.

International Cabotage law  

New Zealand, the United Kingdom (U.K.), Argentina and Australia have or are embarking on the removal of ‘Jones Act’ type laws.  Australia has recently repealed its laws and is now committed to a future without them.  The result?  In just a few years this Island nation totally dependent on maritime trade has only 15 nationally flagged vessels left in the entirety of its blue water commercial maritime fleet.  It doesn’t end there, however, the Australian ship building and repair industry will be crippled in just a few short years.  Where will future Harbor Masters, ship’s agents, tug captains, etc. come from?  The Australian legislature and government have embarked on a path of no return as it will be nigh or impossible to come back from the place they have chosen to go.  Would any nation like to think they are entirely dependent of the good will of other nations to secure and ensure homeland security?

The U.K., historically one of the world’s great maritime nations, repealed maritime cabotage laws.  One consequence has been the introduction of foreign deckhands by some of the major U.K. ferry companies.  Those deckhands make less than British national minimum hourly wage on ‘ships of shame’, harking back to the days when mariners were little more than indentured servants.  

New Zealand long ago chose a complete free market maritime model, the results?  Maritime Union of New Zealand’s General Secretary, Joe Fleetwood, stated in 2012 ’The approach for the last generation has been for Government to abdicate its responsibility to ensure standards in the maritime industry.’   There is general agreement that deregulation and ‘Flag of Convenience (FOC)’ shipping (removing cabotage laws) has put New Zealand’s environment at greater risk, there has been a rush to the bottom.  In an increasingly fierce competitive shipping market, each new FOC is forced to promote itself by lowering standards on the ships under control of the FOC.  This puts the environment at much greater risk of a shipping disaster.

Taking Action

In conclusion, it would seem a strong Jones Act is still an essential cornerstone of our nation’s economic, national and homeland security.  The question to be answered by the United States Congress is straightforward.  Is repealing the Jones Act good legislation?  If repealed, real pressure as well as long term negativeconsequences would likely be placed on national security, the domestic economy and the environment, rippling back to the doors of Congress.

Somebody's playing in the slush and it ain't good

Arctic Ocean Thaw Boosts Russian Shipping as Old Ice Blows West

Christophe de Margerie LNG carrier
Photo: Koptyaev Igor / Shutterstock

ReutersBy Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle OSLO, Aug 11 (Reuters) – Russian shipping in the Arctic is benefiting from winds that are driving the oldest and thickest sea ice towards North America, further opening a remote region that is thawing amid global warming, scientists say.

The thinning Russian ice could help liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers, due to start exports from Russia’s Yamal Peninsula in late 2017, to navigate an icy route east to Asia for more than a planned six months of the year, they said.

Almost all attention on Arctic shipping has focused on how global warming is shrinking the extent of ice around the North Pole, opening a summertime short-cut route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

But little-noticed shifts in the age of the ice, driven by prevailing winds and currents, are also helping Russia.

“Winds are blowing the ice out of the Northern Sea Route along the coast of Russia” and towards North America, said Jeremy Mathis, Director of the Arctic Research Program at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA maps show that almost all the ice near Russia in winter is now only a year old and typically up to about 2 meters (6 feet 6 inches) thick, with older and more jagged ice concentrated towards North America.

northern sea route ice coverage map
U.S. National/Naval Ice Center map showing ice coverage along the Northern Sea Route off Russia’s northern coast on August 10, 2017. Image: NOAA

By contrast, in 1985, ice older than five years was found across the Arctic Ocean, NOAA data show. Old ice can build up into hull-tearing ridges perhaps 20 meters thick.

“The old ice is like a bar of butter straight out of the freezer, hard as rock. The new ice is like warm butter – you can put a knife through it,” said Robert Corell, a leading U.S. Arctic expert at the Global Environment & Technology Foundation.

“Russia will benefit most in coming years,” he said, because the younger ice will allow ships including LNG tankers to navigate for ever longer between Asia and Europe. The Arctic Ocean is widely predicted to be ice-free in summertime by 2050.

Read: Ice-Class LNG Tanker Forges Path for Arctic Shipping Super-Highway

So far, most traffic on the Russian coast is between Russian Arctic ports or opening exports from Russia of goods such as oil and gas, metals, fertilizers, coal and timber.


In March, the Christophe de Margerie, the first ice-breaking LNG tanker built for Russia’s Sovcomflot (SCF), docked at the Arctic port of Sabetta to test its LNG terminal. This month, it took an LNG cargo via the Arctic from Norway to Asia.

Christophe de Margerie LNG carrier
Photo: Koptyaev Igor /

SCF says the tanker, which can carve through ice 2.1 meters thick, will be able to serve European ports year-round and sail to Asia from July to December when there is least ice. Another 15 ice-class tankers are being built by Daewoo Shipbuilding for the project.

SCF and Daewoo declined to predict how far the season to Asia might lengthen in coming years.

In March, SCF deputy CEO Igor Tonkovidov told the Russian newspaper Kommersant that it might be possible to go east in winter as a “navigation experiment,” if accompanied by an ice-breaker. But he said “the route will not be the most economically efficient.”

Uncertainties about ice, high insurance rates, hefty fees for Russian ice-breaker escorts and a lack of search and rescue teams still discourage use of the Arctic.

There were just 19 full transits between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans last year, according to the Northern Sea Route Information Office in Murmansk. It says the Arctic route from Yokohama in Japan to the Dutch port of Rotterdam is 7,345 nautical miles, which is 3,860 shorter than via the Suez Canal.

Aker Arctic Technology, based in Finland and which designs and tests ice-going vessels, says the shrinking, younger ice will tend to open more routes.

But “nobody can guarantee that this is the case always,” said Kari Laukia, head of ship design and engineering, because of big ice variations from year to year.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle in Oslo, Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow and Yuna Park in Seoul; Editing by Gareth Jones)


In case you're interested it's a Celtics knot

It's Monday morning and this is how it sometimes feels

Sorry I couldn't pass this one up

2017 prediction




2017 Hurricane Season Could Be Most Active Since 2010 – Updated NOAA Outlook

Hurricanes Karl, Igor and Julia (from left to right on Sept. 16, 2010) were part of the onslaught of Atlantic storms during the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Photo credit: NOAA
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a scheduled update to its 2017 hurricane season outlook, with forecasters now predicting a higher likelihood of an above-average season with up to 19 named storms and 5 major hurricanes. 

In the updated outlook, forecasters are now predicting a 60-percent chance of an above-normal season, with 14-19 named storms and 2-5 major hurricanes. NOAA’s initial outlook in May predicted only 45 percent chance of an above-normal season and 2-4 major hurricanes. A prediction for 5-9 hurricanes remains unchanged from the intial May outlook.

NOAA said this season has the potential to be extremely active, and could be the most active since 2010.

“We’re now entering the peak of the season when the bulk of the storms usually form,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “The wind and air patterns in the area of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean where many storms develop are very conducive to an above-normal season. This is in part because the chance of an El Nino forming, which tends to prevent storms from strengthening, has dropped significantly from May.”

Bell noted other factors that point to an above-normal season include warmer waters across the tropical Atlantic than models previously predicted and higher predicted activity from available models.

In just the first nine weeks of this season there have been six named storms, which is half the number of storms during an average six-month season and double the number of storms that would typically form by early August, according to NOAA. An average Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1-November 30, produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

“Today’s updated outlook underscores the need for everyone to know their true vulnerabilities to storms and storm surge,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “As we enter the height of hurricane season, it’s important for everyone to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update their insurance and have a preparedness plan.”

The numbers announced today include the season activity to-date.

The Atlantic basin has already seen six named storms (Arlene in April; Bret and Cindy in June; Don and Emily in July; and Franklin in August). Two of these storms, Cindy and Emily, struck the United States, with Cindy making landfall on June 22 at the Louisiana-Texas border and causing heavy rain, inland flooding and multiple tornado outbreaks. Emily made landfall on July 31 in Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Meanwhile, TS Franklin is predicted to make landfall tonight in Mexico as a hurricane.

Today’s update also decreases the chance of a near-normal season from 35 percent to 30 percent, and a below-normal season from 20 percent to only 10 percent from the initial outlook issued