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Weather Resources

MVPearkesOn shore:

The National Weather Service's forecasts are available in text form on the Web.

For coastal waters inside 60 miles, go to the Coastal Forecast Map and click on your area. From there out to 250 miles, see the Offshore Forecast Map. Open ocean predictions are found at the High Seas Forecast Map.

Or you can go to the full Forecast List and choose a forecast from a station in your area.

NOAA's graphic weatherfax maps are also available on the Web. To choose from among surface charts, wind/wave predictions, and others, go to Radiofax Charts; select your area, and pick a chart. For example, to see weather system movement for the next four days from Hawaii north, you'd link to the Eastern Pacific station at Pt. Reyes, select Surface Forecasts, and click the TIF button for the 96 HR Surface Forecast from 20n to 70N, 115W to 135W.


At sea:

Radio: NOAA's Weather Radio forecasts are receivable in most areas on a VHF receiver's WX channels.

The Coast Guard rebroadcasts these forecasts using higher power several times daily, announcing on Channel 16 and then switchingto 22A. Times vary according to area; for a schedule go to USCG VHF Schedule.

Note: broadcast schedules are given in Coordinated Universal Time, or Zulu. A worldwide zone map with the time differences from Zulu can be found on the U Texas time zone map.

Local Coast Guard stations have discontinued rebroadcasts on Medium Frequency sideband radio. However, you can get offshore and high seas broadcasts on higher sideband frequencies (longer range) from 4 to 17 MegaHertz, from six stations around the country (including Guam). The schedule is at USCG HF Broadcasts.

The time channel---WWV (and WWVH in Hawaii) airs a brief high seas forecast once an hour. This can be handy, since even a sideband that's not perfectly tuned can usually receive the WWV signal on at least one of its broadcast frequencies---2.5, 5, 10, and 15 MHz (plus 20 MHz from Hawaii). Pacific weather comes on beginning at 47 minutes past the hour on the Hawaii broadcast; the other station, in Colorado, begins a combination of Atlantic and Pacific weather at 7 minutes past the hour.

Cell Phone: If your area has a Weather Service forecast hotline, you can simply dial that number if you're close in. Alternatively, you can dial (228) 688-1948 to access NOAA's Dial-a-Buoy system and get a recent on-scene condition report from a buoy in your area---or any other area. You need to enter the five-digit station I.D. for each buoy, which you can get before you leave port by going to the NOAA Buoy List or, more laboriously, the Buoy Map.

Satellite: For offshore passages, downloading forecasts from satellites has become a reliable solution. If cost is not much of a factor, a range of permanent broadband antennas and service plans allow a boat's onboard computer to do nearly everything a PC on shore can, including getting large-size reports and forecasts like those listed above and on the Sailing Resources page. As a more economical alternative, a satellite phone can be used as a modem to download emails, forecasts and condition reports in text, or "grib" file format. Most satphone providers offer the software for free installation on laptop, notebook or desktop; after that downloads are charged on a per-minute basis. Most text forecasts come through in less than two minutes.

Other options: Weatherfax receivers remain a way to pull in surface charts, predictions, and other weather info during major crossings. Reception can be spotty, but at some time during the day a well placed antenna should be able to pull in a map broadcast from one of the high-power stations around the country. An alternative to buying a printing receiver, if you're using a PC for onboard navigation, is to get software that allows the computer to process weatherfax data received on the sideband radio.