By: Capt. Dean Adler
Preparing for a voyage is a daunting task. Making all the necessary reservations, provisioning, bait, tackle, maintenance, fuel etc take many hours and effort. With the internet at your fingertips, deciding the most opportune moment to actually untie the boat and get underway is not so much a mystery anymore. By bookmarking a few key websties and learning to understand what it all means, there is no reason whatsoever to get beat up making a crossing anymore!! I scratch my head still watching boats arriving at various ports of call in crappy conditions when waiting a day or two would have delivered calm seas and been the prudent move. Here is a list of some great weather website tools to add to your favorites.
The premium version gives you a 7 day marine wind and wave forecast for any Lat/Long location. The site also offers sea surface temp, ocean currents, chlorophyll charts and simple text forecasts. You can name and save these spots into the sites favorites for recall at anytime. The graphics and detail are superb. The flexibility to click in 3, 6,12 and 24 hour increments plus or minus and even animate the sequence is a valuable tool.
Naval Oceanography Portal
This unclassified government site has a plethora of information. Click on Oceanography Products then the Global & Regional Ocean Wave Prediction Charts (WW3). There are 4 tabs. Global Areas, Tropical/WW3, Regional Models and Ensemble Models. Click the Ensemble tab and then the GOMEX picture. There is a list of options that forecasts out ten days! One of the most useful lines is the Probability of Significant Wave Heights > 4 ft. Click the “all” and scroll down to view each day. What you want to see is lots of white!! Keep in mind the time stamp is GMT. There is loads of info available on other tabs including surface wind streamlines, significant wave height and direction, if you take the time to click the different tabs listed above and familiarize yourself with this site.
Radiofax Charts-New Orleans
This section of NOAA’s website provides the old weather fax paper charts in TIG and GIF format. Click the GIF of each WIND/WAVE chart to see the trending conditions currently out to 72 hours. There are other places to visit on NOAA’s site to see satellite imagery, weather buoy analysis, coastal and offshore forecasts in copy form as you would hear on the WX channels on your VHF radio.
This name speaks for itself. Click on the interactive map to access wind and weather forecasts around the world.
Windguru is available in two versions: “Windguru” (free access) and “Windguru PRO” (paid access). Most forecasts and information on this server are available for free but some require the “PRO” fee. From the home page find the Spot Menu tab to access the choices for Geographic Area, Country, Region, and Spot.
Understanding what it all means
All this information is vital in deciding when to go. Watch for similarities in the forecast models from different agencies. If they are in agreement, this usually means you can make a confident decision on your departure date. Obviously the weather is constantly changing so checking frequently is a must especially as you approach your estimated departure date. Take the time to acquaint yourself with the basic symbols and terminology. Keep in mind that most time stamps are in GMT so for example a chart that is valid at 1800 GMT is 1200 or 1300 on the east coast depending on daylight or standard time.
Calm Seas and Clear Skies!!