Issue: March 2001
Look Up

The wind is blowing hard out of the west today. I know this is so from the way the flags were snapping at Annapolis Yacht Club as I drove by this morning. I find this oddly comforting, knowing which way the wind is blowing. You could probably infer all sorts of things from that way of thinking, but you'd be wasting your time. I'm simply a weather nut. Always have been. In my next life, I plan on being a meteorologist. (I was thinking of being a marine biologist, but that may have to wait another life or two, to give my brain time to grow a few more calculus cells.)

Even by weather fanatic standards, I admit to excess. I watch the Weather Channel like other people watch the stock ticker-at least once in the morning, followed by a tune-in with my little battery-operated marine weather radio for the local on-the-water word. This radio fell out of favor with me for awhile, after some pig-ignorant pencil pusher decided that a soulless computer voice could tell me the tides at Bloody Point as well as any warm body. Wrong. I miss humans. But you get used to almost anything, so I listen to NOAA too. (When I was a kid and Dad tuned into the weather on the VHF, NOAA was "Noah," the guy who always seemed to say it was going to blow 10 from the north when it was blowing 25 from the southeast. At least some things haven't changed.) Once I get to work, it's another check-in with the Weather Channel online, at least once or twice a day, more if there's some really cool weather happening and I want to watch the local radar loop. And then, before bed, a nightcap of the local radar and forecast.

Yes. It's an addiction. I know that because I experience unsettling withdrawal symptoms when I'm in some strange place and I can't see lots of sky or figure out which way the wind is blowing. True, even Holiday Inns in Far Foodle get the Weather Channel, and the weather radio can pick up the local marine forecast, which is always fun for a little comparison shopping. Here on the Bay, for example, we think it's honking if it's blowing 25. In certain parts of the world, that's a lull. But without that daily touch with the elements, I always feel uneasy, like you do in a dream when you suddenly realize you've shown up at school with nothing on but your undies.

The simple explanation for my little obsession is that I've been on or around the water almost all my life, and knowing what's brewing upstairs is pretty important. But I'm happy to see that nowadays, perhaps I'm not quite so far on the fringe. I love the fact that you can tune in your evening news now and see Dan Rather looking confused on some beach in Florida or the Outer Banks, waiting for weather to hit him. I love the idea that The Perfect Storm can be a bestselling book and a movie starring hunky George Clooney.

El Nino, Hurricane Andrew-nothing like a little force of nature to remind us just who's the boss around here. We are a nation that has almost forgotten its seagoing roots, yet this turn-of-the-century fear and fascination with the weather seems to be reminding us what mariners have always known: Watch the sky. Mind the sea. Forget about calculus for now. The clouds are calling.