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Old 02-28-2007, 08:53 PM   #1
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It seems in my quest to go cruising it is critical to understand how to forecast the weather. I would like to learn how you that are out there accomplish this. Are there any references that I could use to learn this skill? I am not sure what type of information you receive from a SSB and where you would go to receive it. If I could get started in the correct direction I would really appreciate it.

What I have found so far: My wife and I went to the Chicago Boat show and we listened to a presentation from a gentleman who retired from the NOAA. His name is Lee Chesneau. I believe he has classes on the subject.

If we get the correct chartplotter we can get weather depictions from Sirius or XM satellites. This is just for the US I believe.

Thanks for your help.

Rick and Debbi Porter
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Old 02-28-2007, 11:59 PM   #2
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Hi Debbie and Rick,

I'd suggest first step is to be able to intepret a weather map. Its not so hard to judge what you are looking at, you'll leanr that from courses and books, but trying to predict how that current weather map will develop for tomorrow and the day after etc is a magic art. Just recall how often a land based TV 'expert' gets it wrong in your home town, and you'll appreciate how tricky it can be.

Suggest next step is learning how to interpret what you see and feel around you. How to read a barometer, the sky, the seaweed. As well as all the old sailors tales, what you see will help you interpret how the weather pattern is progessing, in turn making your predictions more accurate. Again, lots can be gained from books, but a lot more can be gained by experiencing it all whilst at sea.

Just about everyone can get a simple weather forecast.

These are predictions from others who have interpreted the weather maps, and pass it over in a condensed form.

A Navtex is the most common device over this side of the world to recieve both weather forecasts and sea safety bulletins.

EU countries have multiple Navtex stations, some who forecast fairly accurately, and some who get it horribly wrong. Guess they get those forecasts from their local weather men.

You'll also be able pick up weather forecasts close to shore as currently issued by coastal station on VHF. Also from regular radio channels, either commercial shipping forecasts or simply local coastal forecasts. These of course when overseas, are not always in English!

I have absolutely no idea if the subscription radio satellite stations like you mention give weather forecasts. I would have assumed they transmit over such a wide footprint they'd have to be on air with weather 24/7 to do this well.

Also never heard of a facility where they can transmit and you can recieve weather maps.

Somehow I doubt the latter but if someone has told you they can download files to overlay onto a chartplotter - guess you'd better ask them for more info on how.

So essentially - coastal work and you can use forecasts. Offshore - you really need to get and read weather maps.

You could pick yp forecasts for short trips before you depart. They usually show predictions for two / four days ahead.

You could also get them off the web where there are lots of weather forecasting sites - go see www.weatheronline.com.

You can indeed download what are called GRIB files (weather files) which can be overlaid onto chart plotting devices so end up only having to look at one screen. But with GRIB displayed, most end up pretty cluttered.

Or if a long way offshore, you can get weather maps via an INMARSAT system, or via a modem attached with your computer and to a HF radio. You could also web access via your computer and a sat phone connection. That is all pretty expensive kit, so you do need to know you'll get value (ie use it) before investing.

Hope this helps you out.

If an expert out there thinks I've missed anything or wishes to correct me for US waters, then guys, please listen to them.

Enjoy

JOHN
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Old 03-01-2007, 12:22 PM   #3
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Rick and Debbi,

Swag offers some excellent information. I would like to add that I believe Weather forecasts should be treated like Stock Tips from a Buddy. They should be followed up with some of your own research. I think a prudent sailor would back up the given info with other info such as tracking your Barometer (how quickly pressure may be rising or falling), cloud formations or getting redundant forecasts from separate places. I used to know an old farmer that could walk out into his fields, take a look at his surrounding environment and be able to predict weather better than any weather forecaster with all their high tech toys. He was a student of his surroundings because he HAD to be! I can't say that a sailor is much different in this respect.

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Old 03-01-2007, 04:10 PM   #4
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Thanks for all the information. I think we will look at taking some classes. I believe we will be coastal cruising for about 2 years and then if we feel up to it cross the Atlantic. we have some time to get more experience with all the things that make one feel able to live on a sailboat.

Thanks again.
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Old 03-02-2007, 07:27 AM   #5
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If you understand weather maps then this is what is available....free.

Email...SSB and pactor modem required.

Weatherfax... SSB required. It DOESN"T require a pactor modem but it's easier. Text forcasts are also transmitted.

Weather Grib files...overlays onto charts on many navigation systems or you can use a free viewer. Email (sailmail) is required. A no brainer to use.

Weather NETS...SSB required. Also weather information is given by all cruising nets.

Long term weather outlooks...NOAA and Bob McDavitts for example. Email required.

For pay:

Various places offer weather routing for a fee. You can do it yourself for free across the entire globe and at sea...BUT....some areas (New Zealand for example) have very dynamic weather patterns and the $50 spent to be "routed" from Tonga to NZ maybe well spent.

No reason to get Sirius or XM satellites. In the US the information is readily available from NOAA for free. Also weather underground and a bunch of other places. Save your money.
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Old 03-02-2007, 11:14 AM   #6
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You've got a lot of good advice here. I can't add much, but might just comment that the changes in technology are coming so fast that what works today is going to be outdated a year or two from now. As coastal cruisers, the weather information available on your VHF radio is excellent. Just yesterday we were monitoring channel 16 when a weather alert on channel 1 came through.

I understand that XM and Sirius are going to merge. We have an apartment in the Caribbean, St. Martin, just about 90 miles from the USVI, and we cannot get XM radio there.

Before taking a course, I suggest that you read more about reading weather charts and understanding them. Then a course might be helpful to answer any remaining questions you have, or it might be you won't need it.

Fair winds,

Jeanne
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Old 03-11-2007, 04:06 PM   #7
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You have received good advice from several others. I would add that if you have an SSB receiver, you can recieve broadcasts from the US Coast Guard that relay US Weather Service forecasts. The radio station call sign is NMN (november mike november). By listening to the forecasts regularly for several days prior to your trip and then during your trip you can do pretty well. Your SSB receiver can be an inexpensive portable Yacht Boy.

I always carry by portable receiver with me on a trip.

The following information is something that I give to my students.



<H1 style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">NMN Short Wave (SS Radio Weather Information and Forecasts</H1>



Time EST

4426.0

6501.0

8764.0

13089.0

17314.0

2230

X

X

X



0000

X

X

X



0430

X

X

X



0630


X

X

X


1100


X

X

X


1230



X

X

X

1700


X

X

X


1830


X

X

X








The U.S. Coast Guard, Comslant Chesapeake, VA (call sign NMN), provides the most complete offshore weather information available in this region. Broadcast include forecasts and a synopsis for New England, the west central North Atlantic, the southwest North Atlantic (including the Bahamas), the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.



These forecasts are delivered by a synthesized voice known as “Perfect Paul.” The times listed above are the beginning of the broadcast cycle. Note that the various area forecasts are also repeated on a regular basis. By noting the times of the particular section you want, you can avoid waiting the next time. A very useful tool for getting the most out of these forecasts is a plastic weather area map used with dry markers.



The above text and schedule are quoted from Reed’s Nautical Almanac, page R13.



Capt. Mike
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Old 03-11-2007, 04:09 PM   #8
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Sorry but the time and frequency matrix that I wanted to include did not maintain its matrix form. The information is available in Reeds Almanac.

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