As all who go sailing, motorboating or even use RIB's know, weather and weather forecasting are very important. Thankfully due to modern technology we no longer have to set our alarms for the crack of dawn and listen in to Radio 4. This was normally followed by a stressfull hour drawing a weather map from the information given. All this while the crew are either snoring gently or stuffing bacon and eggs down their throat, depending on the time of the tide. That said my personal preference was to stay up an extra hour with a glass of wine and get the late night forcast.
While the traditional method of gaining a weather forecast may still have a place when making longer passages, for most of us pottering around the coast or for the hop across to France, weather forecasts can be called up via the internet, mobile phones and PDA's whenever you wish. With the huge range of forecasts out there it is easy to find something to suit your needs, this may be simply the inshore waters forecast, or weather maps with predictions for the next 5 days or more. There are rainfall radar maps updated so regularly that you would know exactly when to put your waterproofs on!
Now, some of this information is not available without an internet connection but many marinas now offer wireless access (it's on our list of things to do, honest!), or there is always the local internet cafe. Even without these and often quite well out to sea, modern mobile phones can provide all the information required and more.
Here are some of the weather sites we use at Thornham Marina for all to try, they are all free!
Lets start with some of the better known ones, such as the MetOffice, chimet and her sister sites, that give actual and recent past weather information from stations around the solent area. The BBC site is another good site for inshore waters, shipping forecasts and surface pressure charts, similar to the Met Office.
Beyond this there are sites such as xcweather or windguru which give spot forecasts for very localised areas such as Thorney Island in Chichester Harbour or Lee on Solent on the South Coast. A point to bear in mind is that these sites usually only give you the gradiant wind speed and direction and do not allow for local effects such as funneling or sea breezes which can make a marked difference to the forcast wind.
meteox European rainfall RADAR allows you to watch the rain approaching and forecasts several hours ahead. Where there is rain there is going to be a wind change close by and it is also handy for knowing when to nip down to the marina and antifoul your boat.
If that is not enough to keep you busy try Ant Veal's Great Weather which has enough links to keep anyone amused.
After all that, remember knowing the weather is not only a safety concern but with a little practice and observation it can dramatically improve the sailing or boating experience for you and your family, this maybe by helping you to choose which weekend you spend on the water or plan a cruise so you don't spend the whole time fighting against the wind.
If anyone has their own favourite sites please let us know as one of the great things about sailing is that some may know more than others but no one knows everything.