The U.S. Naval Academy Sailing Squadron,
As Part of Its Training Program,
Herb E. Hilgenberg, "Southbound II"
Probably the best analyst of
North Atlantic Weather & Sea State
on Tuesday Evening, April 16th, 1996 at 1930
in Chauvenet 216
A Note from James P. Nolan,
Vice Commodore Naval Academy Sailing Squadron
In the last few weeks, several individuals have asked me about the NASS Varsity Offshore Sailing Team coach lecture to be given by Mr. Herb E. Hilgenberg of Toronto, Canada, this spring.
I guess that I thought that every person who had been in a command position in an Atlantic offshore passage or a race to Bermuda during the last six or seven years knew of SOUTH BOUND II. I still believe that to be the case, with few exceptions. However there seem to be quite a few who are planning to make such passages that need more background to understand why we want to hear from Herb Hilgenberg. Herb is a different, precise and independent voice in deep ocean weather forecasting. We want all of the expertise in this field that we can muster. Safety at sea is often critically dependent upon adequate preparation for changes in weather before they occur.
Thus precise knowledge of on coming events is critical and is often difficult to obtain at sea. South Bound II represents a new approach to this problem that we dare not ignore and that has been proven effective repeatedly during the relatively short time of its existence. The following description may help your understanding.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hilgenberg SOUTH BOUND II
Deep Ocean Weather Forecaster for the Atlantic
Each afternoon from his home in Burlington, Ontario, outside of Toronto, Herb Hilgenberg goes on the air as "South Bound II." He then spends about six hours receiving weather and sea state reports and navigation plans from upwards of 80 vessels in the Atlantic Ocean from Greenland to South America, from Norway to Africa. In return he provides to each individual local weather and sea state predictions along the vessel’s predicted track for periods up to five days. In some cases he also gives advice on the best routes to follow. Commercial vessels and knowledgeable yachtsmen who ply the deep ocean rely on "South Bound II" to assist them in making comfortable, swift and economical passages through the vastness of the Atlantic where there are no weather stations to advise the Mariner about what may be coming. Although Herb has contact with some commercial vessels, most of his daily contacts are with yachtsmen. There is no charge for this service.
Why do commercial firms use this service? Why do the most knowledgeable and experienced yachtsmen rely on and swear by this mild and unassuming man from Toronto, who characterizes himself as "an engineer, not a meteorologist"? There are, after all, Offshore weather predictions broadcast by Government operated radio transmitters in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal and other American and European weather services.
The answer is not complicated. Herb is usually correct in his predictions. All of the government weather services have a rather natural priority to provide predictions of weather for the land surfaces of their countries. Thus, the resources available to them tend to be devoted largely to that task; their prediction models tend to be based on weather that occurs above land surfaces. Thus with a few localized exceptions, mostly in coastal waters, the government weather service predictions for the Atlantic Ocean are general, large area predictions that cover tens of thousands of square miles (or square kilometers). They do not predict conditions in detail.
Herb is of the sea; he understands the sea and the needs of seamen. He is willing and able to give predictions for very localized areas. He has been able to predict the strength of the wind over the water, the times of day at which wind shifts, changes in wind speed and frontal passages will occur. Along with that, he will also predict sea state, including the direction and height of conflicting wave trains. He may suggest alternative routes to avoid particularly nasty conditions. His record for accuracy and detail has made South Bound II an international byword among sailors on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, he has recently undertaken some Pacific Ocean predictions. Each day Herb concentrates his efforts on the ocean for many hours before he goes on the air. He has developed his own methods of prediction using many data sources, including direct reception from several satellites. The methods of analysis have not been published. South Bound II deals in results, not theory.
South Bound II does not advertise. Herb accepts speaking engagements very seldom and almost never will consent to be interviewed formally. South Bound II was started in the late 80s in Bermuda, where Herb, a Canadian citizen, was working for a private company. South Bound II was started as a hobby. As the initially amateur activity grew in scope, new licences were acquired and operating frequencies were changed. The Hilgenberg home progressively filled with computers and communications equipment. Satellite dishes were planted in the garden. South Bound II flourished. In 1994 the Hilgenberg’s moved back to their home in Canada, much to the distress of many Bermudian sailors. It took a little time and a lot of work and investment, but South Bound II was reestablished in Canada and has been in operation for well over a year.
On Tuesday, April 16, Herb will give up one day
of South Bound II transmissions to lecture to the Naval Academy
Squadron. As one of a series of senior coach lectures for USNA Varsity
Sailing Team coaches, it will be conducted to be the equivalent of a
level seminar. The seminar will begin at 1930 hours in Chauvenet Hall
216. There is no scheduled finish time; discussion may continue two
or more. NASS members are invited. Other interested experienced
yachtsmen may also attend. Small donations by attendees to support this
requested but not mandatory. Herb will discuss what he does and how his
service may be accessed, what to expect and what not to expect. For
who will be in command of vessels in the deep ocean beyond the
continental shelf, attendance would be an instructive and rewarding
experience. The discussion will center on the Ocean, not the Bay or the
Continental shelf. Those who are interested in those areas may be
disappointed. It will not be an elementary level explanation of
meteorology, nor will it be an explanation of single station
forecasting. The line of discussion will be designed to
give up to date information to experienced and qualified skippers,
navigators and watch captains. So if you have the experience to enjoy
this discussion, please join us.