03 December 2007

Wintertime and the Living's Easy

Recently on NPR's exceptional Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, a caller started his call with, "I'm blah-blah from Phoenix, it's 80 degrees and I'm wearing shorts." Or something to that effect. The host, Peter Sagal, quipped, "ah, it's that time of the year in Phoenix, when the weather becomes bearable and the residents become smug." Or something to that effect.

I fear that I'm "that guy", the smug West Coast sailor who delights in pointing out that I wear shorts while sailing in November (like I did this past month a few times). I write about it and feel a sort of smug satisfaction. I admit it. I also feel totally superior whenever I mention our 25 knot summer winds.

But now it's time to take myself down a notch or three. I could have sailed this weekend, I had a bit of time and opportunity. The boat's just sitting there, the wind is completely manageable single-handed. But I didn't do it. It's just too damned cold.

Folks in Rhode Island and Minnesota and New York are laughing at me right now. Too cold? It was 55 degrees this weekend. That's not cold.

But San Francisco has a special kind of cold, one that Easterners and Northerners just don't get. Our special kind of cold is why our biggest industry is selling sweatshirts to tourists. Forget Tom Perkins and the Silicon Valley crowd, the Sweatshirt King might just be the wealthiest person in SF...wealth built on tables of $15 sweatshirts with bad stitching in Fisherman's Wharf.

This cold is caused by Alaska sending its ocean currents our way. It's caused by mountain runoff funneling into the Bay. It's because our 50 degree air interacts and mingles with 48 degree water. Our cold is wet. Our cold has water's natural ability to soak in and not go away. Our cold sucks. And it's at its worst when you're on the water.

So I didn't sail this weekend and I lost some smugness. But I didn't get frostbite.


Litoralis said...

Boohoo...this whole "Our cold is wet" stuff isn't convincing me. The reason tourists buy sweatshirts in SF is because they thought they were in California where it's supposed to be warm. If putting on a sweatshirt makes you comfortable it's not really too cold.
We have that kind of cold in the East. We call it Spring.

EVK4 said...

That's all I get? One cranky Northeasterner with a big weatherchip on his shoulder?

I know that it's colder on the Bay than it is on whatever body of water that isn't iced in up there.

I dare anyone to sail on SF Bay without a good hoodie and a long sleeve shirt this time of the year. It can't be done. It's just that cold here.

Anonymous said...

Tell me when your cold includes ICE...then maybe I'll listen. Edward, your post reminds me of all the Pacific Northwesterners all bragging about the epic amounts of rain that they see each year relative to the East. This is total nonsense though, as the average rainfaill for Seattle is actually quite a bit less than it is out here, and their rain, more of a drizzle, never goes beyond that, while we see torrential downpours. Do we whine about it though...nah. By the way, I dare anyone to go sailing with just a hoodie here right now.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but it's cold there in the summer, too. Unless you duck behind Angel Island.

I used to sail Lasers on SF Bay as a teenager wearing a t-shirt, jeans, canvas shoes from Safeway and a lifejacket. I now live in Miami Florida and wear neoprene in air temps under 70 and think water less than 75 is 'cold'.

Our winter racing season is the peak, since that is when we get most of our wind and sailing most other places in North America sucks. Still, the biggest whiners when there is a big regatta and a cold front comes and temps plunge into the 50's are the people from the NE.

Litoralis said...

Edward asked me what the weather was like here in the "East." Well, here's the forecast for the next few days:

Tonight...Mostly cloudy. A chance of rain and snow showers this evening...then a slight chance of snow showers after midnight. Lows in the lower 20s. West winds around 20 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. Chance of precipitation 50 percent.

Tuesday...Mostly cloudy. Highs in the mid 30s. West winds 15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 35 mph.

Tuesday Night...Partly cloudy. Lows around 20. West winds 10 to 15 mph. Gusts up to 25 mph in the evening.

Quite nice actually.

Unknown said...

hell yeah Ed it's COLD!

Pat said...

Even in San Diego, which is not particularly cold, California souvenir shops sell lots of sweatshirts, especially to Arizonans who are surprised by the coastal chill -- which is why hooded and other sweatshirts are sometimes called "Zonie Souvenirs".

Captain John said...

I spent a lot of time in Minneapolis these past three winters. A 'dry' cold is a very different experience than SF's kind of cold. Even the sub zero wind chill cold is different.

But it's not really about who has the worst experience. I think all we are saying about SF's 'wet cold' is that it is different, and not for the faint at heart.

Sometimes it keeps us from sailing and then we kick ourselves for missing the opportunity.