Thursday, March 13

Weather? Weather. Weather!

Most of us have been there, we head down to the lakefront. The sun is shining. It’s our one day off to go sailing. We’ve packed the cooler full of goodies. Our excitement is at an all time high. The car is parked and we are half way to the slip. Then we ask ourselves, “What’s up with the clouds?”

Cloud cover increases. A lake breeze develops. The temperature drops suddenly. A warm southerly becomes an easterly. Now you put on your jacket and tell yourself, “Weather gods be damned! I’m going sailing!” Does this sound familiar? I have to admit as much of a weather junkie as I am, I still find myself at least once per year not checking in depth weather forecasts. I’ve become my own worst enemy.

This article will provide you with some cool websites and apps available for both Android and IOS (iPhone/pad) systems. As long as you’re in cell tower range, we all have great info at the tips of our fingers. There’s never really been a reason to leave the house without checking the weather before going boating; now it’s even easier and with more information available.  - Thanks to our friends at Sailing Anarchy I’ve discovered this new site (still in Beta testing). NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has come out with a new site that is seemingly user friendly and will be especially interesting to weather nerds. NOAA says the site is, “a GIS-based web mapping portal displaying near real-time observations, analyses, tide predictions, model guidance, watches/warnings, and forecasts for the coastal United States.” I’ll start poking around the site soon and add some notes in a future article.  - Most of us have used Accuweather. Whether you’ve used the website or listen to any number of radio stations that use Accuweather as their source for weather info, we’ve all used Accuweather. The info is pretty standard and should provide you basic sailing weather information. Accuweather is also available as an app for mobile devices.  - This is the site I grew up with sailing and that most sailing friends used until some of the new sites and apps came out. Click on the link, choose your “zone” and get a nice 48 hour forecast. As a Chicago guy, I typically compare the LMZ741 and LMZ742 zones to see how different they are. Of course if you’re planning a trip up the coast or crossing over to MI City or even bringing your boat down to the yard, the wind and wave info provided will be more appropriate as you cross into each zone.  - This site couldn’t be simpler. Type in Chicago to find your weather station and you’re good to go. You can see all the different buoys and wind observation stations. You can see forecasts as well. Windfinder is very easy to use and is also available as an app for mobile devices.  - Sailflow is another easy site/app to work with. On the home page of the site just enter the city, zip code, region and you’re connected to real time wind info. The site and app give wind observations and forecasts that are very user friendly. Many friends, crew, coworkers, etc all use Sailflow. Even on my iPhone it’s easy to use and read. Highly recommended.  - I have yet to use PredictWind. From harbor chatter to online reviews it seems like a great tool for well, predicting wind. There’s a free version, but it doesn’t seem very useful. You’ll have to pay $19 a year for the basic version and if you’re really, really into it, you can pay $499 a year for the Professional Version. The Pro version offers current, tidal and email options plus way more. If anyone has any insight on PredictWind, shoot me an email.  - Intellicast is another app that I’ve heard around the docks, clubs, and the yard. I’ve not used it but looking through the site, I could be persuaded. According to the site, “The Intellicast Boating App is the first of its kind to fully integrate current NOAA navigational charts along with the most advanced meteorological data available in a rich interactive, customizable map environment.” Intellicast is part of The Weather Channel Companies, FYI.  - BlueFin’s Marine Weather app is highly popular in searched forums on the web. It’s another app I’ve not used but it seems that the online reviews from users are nothing but positive. It’s a free app that uses NOAA info as well as Rutgers Coastal Ocean Observation Lab (RU COOL). According to the website, “Marine Weather is a free, ad-supported weather app providing users access to marine weather forecasts, live buoy data, tide predictions, sea surface temperatures, and radar.” I’ll be installing this app on my phone today.

Now what to do with this info? To start with I highly recommend using the free apps and see what you like. I also recommend using multiple sources for weather and then comparing them to real time results. NOAA doesn’t always get it right. Neither will Accuweather. Heck, we’ve all watched the weather guy on TV or listened to a weather report on the radio, be just about as wrong as it gets.

Over a period of a few weeks you’ll get a real feel for the who, what, when, where to trust data supplied by these sources. Personally I compare the NOAA forecast with SailFlow and typically wind up with some useful info. If you have any advice, news, or otherwise on the subject please send your emails to

Quick note: At our spring open house Yachtapalooza we will have a seminar, “There’s an App for that: A Review of Sailing Apps” by John Hoskins and Phil Pollard. Click here for the skinny. 

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