[This is the online version of an article in the March 2011 issue of the Mainsheet, the monthly magazine of the Coastal Cruising Club of Australia]
We all know the role the weather plays in a successful cruise or passage. While we appreciate the weather forecasts provided by local Volunteer Marine Rescue units and the general media, the Internet provides direct access to a rich set of weather information for both casual and “serious” sailing adventures.
Modern forecasts are derived from complex prediction models run on some of the world’s largest computers. It is an unbelievably complex problem to forecast the weather more than a few days ahead and we still manage to complain! But the end result is that today we have a wealth of information available to us via the Web. Whether looking for explanations of a weather phenomenon, today’s weather, a seven day forecast, the expected sea state or precipitation – it’s there for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Exactly which weather service you use depends on your cruise requirements and interest. Below are just a few obvious resources which you might consider.
It’s hard to go past the Bureau of Meteorology website, particularly since they gave the Marine Weather pages a facelift last year  Many of the resources available on the site are excellent for passage planning, for example, the 7 day forecast  and Ocean current charts  are invaluable. And while at sea, the day’s forecast , the radar map  and weather observations  are invaluable
Originally designed for the surfing Community, Sea Breeze  provides excellent graphic weather forecasts. It’s 7 day weather and wave forecasts in a handy format for much of the Australian coastline. Unfortunately its coverage of the Queensland coast is less comprehensive (not much surfing behind the Reef). Comparing BOM and Seabreeze, the former is usually more conservative in its forecasts.
There are many more weather forecast services to be found on the internet. Some are free and some work on the basis of a subscription, a cross section is listed on skipr.net  It is useful to compare forecasts from a few different sources when making critical decisions around offshore passages. For coastal cruising when a safe port is less than a day away, I find the above services quite sufficient. And if it is a really critical passage, it’s also possible to get a private forecast via email from someone like Roger “Clouds” Badham 
Before a passage, bookmark the relevant forecast and weather observations in your browser or smartphone. It’s convenient to have the right information “only a click away” any time during day or night. And if you use your phone on deck, consider investing in a weather proof pouch for your phone…
-  BOM Marine weather
-  Animated 7 day wind forecast
-  Ocean Currents
-  Marine Forecasts
-  Weather Radar
-  Weather Observations
-  Seabreeze
-  Skipr weather page
-  Clouds’ Marine Weather Services