Sources of weather forecasts for sailors

07 March 2016

Amongst the most important information a sailor requires is a weather forecast.

Whilst many sailors may have a good idea of what to expect, especially in an area they know well, only a fool goes to sea without a weather forecast.

In most countries around the World Coastguard stations are tasked with broadcasting weather information. In many cases this is done on VHF radio on a regular basis throughout the day. In the UK, the coastguard broadcasts a forecast every 3 hours including an inshore forecast. In addition strong wind warnings and gale warnings are announced as Securitie messages. In addition, the BBC broadcast the UK Shipping Forecast on FM and LW at 0048 hrs and 0520 hrs every day and on LW only at 1201 and 1754 hrs respectively. 

As well as radio broadcasts, there are a variety of websites and smart phone apps which will issue broadcasts for specific area or allow you to download weather station data in real time. 

Alternatively, Navtex is still used to obtain weather in various sea areas around the world and several weather services are available to ocean sailors requiring passage planning information. In fact there are several amateur-run ham radio stations that provide a very effective weather service, especially for those crossing the North Atlantic during the Summer months.

If all else fails, most marinas and Harbour Masters’ offices post weather forecasts for their berth holders and with satellite communications now becoming cheaper by the year, Sat C is a practical option for even the most cost conscious sailor. High speed broadband now opens up sophisticated weather modeling and passage planning tools to us all if we have the funds available to pay for the kit in the first place and the monthly bandwidth.

Of course, even armed with a weather forecast, the prudent sailor will always keep an eye on the clouds above and the mercury in the barometer at the chart table. They never lie.

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