Sunday, May 20, 2012

Off Topic: Waterspouts

Although I regularly bemoan the fact that gaming is non-existent where I live (the closest FLGS is nearly a 50 mile one way trip for me), I have to admit that calling the Florida Keys home for the last fourteen years is not a bad thing at all.  After all, I do live in paradise and have a dream job.  OK, so other wargamers are very few and far between down here, but the advantages of working on the water and living beside palm trees definitely outweigh the disadvantages of living in a gaming vacuum.  Some of those advantages are the spectacular scenery I get to see everyday from my "office window" on board the boat.  And last week was no exception.  I was treated to a wonderful display from Mother Ocean.

During our morning dive excursion, a line of dark grey rain clouds started to move out over the reef line.  The rain was falling heavily in sections while thunder and lighting added to the natural soundtrack.  But the winds remained light and this time of year that usually means one thing...Waterspouts!

Though I see them quite often during our wet season that lasts from mid-May to November, I was in for quite a surprise.  Over a twenty minute period I was able to spot and photograph between 12 and 15 waterspouts in the same general area.  That general area happened to be pretty much right on top of me.  In fact, while I was busy getting video of one about a mile from my position, one quite literally developed on top of me.  The mate on board happened to bring to my attention the monster that was forming about 30 yards from my stern.  I was able to get great video of the business end of the spout but due to our close reference point, I obviously could not get the whole thing in the frame.  Darn!

The video above shows the water swirling on the surface of the ocean.  The funnel cannot be seen yet.  The video below shows the same waterspout after it moved away from our position.

While the waterspout did form very close to the boat, I wasn't too worried.  There are two types of waterspouts:  tornadic and fair-weather waterspouts.  The tornadic version is just as it sounds....a tornado that forms over water.  This variety can be every bit as dangerous as their land-based counterparts and are certainly a cause for concern.  The ones close to me however, non-tornadic, or fair-weather spouts, are a totally different beast.  They usually form in fairly benign conditions beneath the bases of flat-bottomed cumulus clouds and start on the water and work their way up to the cloud (unlike tornadoes that form from the cloud down).  They are still capable to capsizing small vessels though so I certainly would not recommend getting close to one.

Although waterspouts have been reported in many locations worldwide (even in Europe I'm told), the Florida Keys get more waterspouts than any other place.  Over 400 are reported every year.  I've witnessed quite a few in my days on the water, but seeing so many in such a short period of time was both unusual and exciting.

Before posting these photos, I tried to think of a clever way to link the pics to gaming.  Naval waterspout rules anyone?  But in the end I just gave up and let it be.  Sometimes it's just nice to sit back and chat about something off topic.  It could have been something much worse like politics or religion, right?

So enjoy the photos while I start working on my next "on topic" post.


  1. Fascinating...its begs the question, what do you do for living out on the water?

  2. Well Scott, if I could get over my lazy writer's streak and complete the "about me" section, I guess my post would have made more sense. Placing a little about myself there would have made the connection for readers. But since I'm apparently too lazy to complete the bio, I'll give you an answer here. I'm a professional boat captain, dive instructor, and marine biologist. Between the three professions, I'm pretty much on the water (or under it) nearly every day. I'm very thankful for being able to live the life I want and actually enjoy my career. It's a rare blessing these days for sure. It's a tough job but someone has to do it huh? Anyhow, as always, thank you so much for reading.