Links for river currents and wind speed forecasts

Why We Sail

What Does It Take to Beat the Current?

Summary of Winds

Decoding the Winds

Navigation charts

Estimating Linear Speeds of the Currents











GPS tracks

September 1, 2014
speed map

August 10, 2014
speed map

August 7, 2014
speed map

September 29, 2013
speed map

September 3, 2013
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 17, 2013
street map
satellite map
speed map

July 23, 2013
street map
satellite map
speed map

September 9, 2012
street map
satellite map
speed map

September 3, 2012
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 26, 2012
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 17, 2012
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 11, 2012
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 1, 2012
street map
satellite map
speed map

July 21, 2012
street map
satellite map
speed map

June 30, 2012
street map
satellite map
speed map

June 26, 2012
street map
satellite map
speed map

September 4, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 27, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 21, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 16, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 13, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 11, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 7, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 6, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

July 30, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

July 18, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

July 14, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

June 22, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

June 13, 2011
street map
satellite map
speed map

2010

September 11 , 2010
street map
satellite map
speed map

September 5 , 2010
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 16, 2010
street map
satellite map
speed map

August 6, 2010
street map
satellite map
speed map legend

July 24, 2010
street map
satellite map
speed map

July 17, 2010
street map
satellite map

June 27 , 2010
street map
satellite map

June 17, 2010
street map
satellite map

2009 and earlier


September 2007

July 8, 2009
satellite map
street map
speed map

August 9, 2009
satellite map
street map
speed map

August 29, 2009
satellite map
street map
speed map

September 6, 2009
satellite map
street map
speed map

September 13, 2009
satellite map
street map
speed map

gps thumb
Mystery of the misplaced tracks solved.

Sailing at the Point
A Diary of Life in Downtown Pittsburgh

John D. Norton
http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/sail/
jdnorton@pitt.edu

See the videos.


Sailing past the point
Photo. Thanks to Les O'Riley

The summer of 2009, Eve and I realized a little dream that first arose when we became downtown residents of Pittsburgh. We are surrounded by some of the most spectacular waterways in the world. Wouldn't it be fun to hop on a bike, pedal over to a small sailboat at the river's edge and launch into the water? What an extraordinary mix of downtown living and riversports?!

Starting that summer, that is what we have been doing. It proved to be harder than we thought to realize that little dream. But it was worth the effort. My little blog here reports what happened and what is happening.

I encourage everyone to think about sailing on the rivers. It is a very different experience from all other forms of boating. (See Why We Sail.)

Before you throw yourself in a sailboat onto the rivers, I do want to alert you that this is not something to be done lightly. The rivers can be risky places. You do need to know what to do if there's no wind, or too much wind, or if the wind becomes erratic, or when a barge looms, or if the current is too strong. (For that last one, the answer is simple. Stay out of the water!)

If you are an experienced sailor, or can make contact with one, there's no reason to shy away from the rivers. Just remember that what can go wrong will, so be prepared. If you want to hear more, email me at jdnorton@pitt.edu

After a few sails on the rivers, I'm now beginning to see what conditions are good for sailing:

-- My original strategy had been to dock the boat downstream of the Point and always sail upstream. That way, if the worst happens and the wind dies completely, I will drift home, even if slowly. And, for the very worst, I do carry a paddle, firmly tied to the deck. However for the many days with little current, the effect of the current is so small as to be negligible.

-- Sailboats work best when there is the greatest difference between the windspeed and water speed. Therefore the optimal winds run against the river current, if there is a current. Then you run before the wind to get upstream. To come back downstream, you tack into the wind, with the current aiding you. For the rivers around Pittsburgh, that means winds from the West and the North are best. Indeed If there is a noticeable current, I've decided not to sail unless I have them. If there's no current or only a very slight one, then any sustained wind is all that is needed.

For more on this, see What Does It Take to Beat the Current?

-- There are some big, fast moving things on the rivers that you do need to keep away from. (Barges!) Make a habit to scan for them constantly; they approach faster than you first expect; and know where the channels are that they move in. As long as there is wind, even a slight breeze, a sailboat is powered and can move. Don't sail on those few days when the air is calm. And do always carry a paddle if you the wind dies unexpectedly.

Where are the channels in which the barges navigate? See Navigation charts.

What clearance do I have under the bridges for my mast? Everywhere, there is at least 40 feet of clearance. That is ample for any sailboat likely to be sailed on the rivers. For sketches and measurements, see Navigation charts.

-- I keep a close eye on the river currents through the US Army Corps of Engineers' data, as presented on the US Geological Survey website. I like to see flows below 10,000 cubic feet per second on all the rivers. For wind speeds I like to see winds forecast over 8mph. 5 mph is a minimum since with that forecast, on the water, there will be awkward periods of calm.

Here are useful links for river currents and wind forecasts.

me sailing







 

2014

Southwesterly Woes
September 1, 2014.

Perfect Weather,
Perfect Sailing
August 10, 2014,

One Minus One
August 7, 2014,

2013

Big Yellow Duck
September 29, 2013

The Videos
September 3, 2013

Making the Videos
September 3, 2013

Labor Day
September 2, 2013

Failing into the Wind
August 17, 2013

The Fountain
July 23, 2013

Waiting
July 23, 2013

Heeding the Signs
June 22, 2013

2012

Speed
September 9, 2012

Perfect Sailing
September 3, 2012

From the East
August 26, 2012

Three Professors
August 17, 2012

Relief
August 11, 2012

Caught
August 1, 2012

No Wind
July 21, 2012

Captain Eve
June 30, 2012

Windy Day
June 26, 2012

2011

The Deluge
September 4, 2011

On the Edge of the Hurricane
August 27, 2011

Baseball Game Traffic
August 21, 2011

Gotham City
August 21, 2011

Save the Fastest for Last
August 16, 2011

A Gentle Sail
August 13, 2011

Then There Were Two
August 11, 2011

The Big Boat on the Allegheny
August 7, 2011

What? A Sailboat?!
August 6, 2011

The Big Boat
July 30, 2011

Rivers and Lakes
July 30, 2011

Flying
July 18, 2011

Winds Every Which Way
July 14, 2011

Chasing the Majestic
June 22, 2011

First Sail
June 13, 2011

Floods
Early June, 2011

2010

Winds from the South East
September 11, 2010

Labor Day Weekend
September 5, 2010

Clockwise
August 16, 2010

Circumnavigating Brunot Island
August 6, 2010

Wind. Wind. Wind.
July 24, 2010

Storms and Southerlies
July 17, 2010

Becalmed
June 27, 2010

First Sail of the Summer
June 17, 2010

2009

Further up the Monongahela
September 13, 2009

Against the Current, Against the Wind
September 6, 2009

Illusions
August 29, 2009

Further Up the Allegheny
August 9, 2009

Three Rivers
July 8, 2009

Up the Allegheny
June 27, 2009

No Sail
June 21, 2009

The Point is Gained
June 14, 2009

Worst Day
May 16, 2009

Groundhog Day
May 13, 2009

Starting

Possible Sites for a Sailboat Facility

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In the Press.

Ever wonder what a philosopher of science might have to say about sailing? See my "Paradoxes of Sailing."

Why do we keep renaming our bridges in a way that makes it hard to find them?
Letter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 11, 2013.