World Wide Weather

[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.

Satellite Weather Image of AustraliaModern 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.

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South Pacific Cruising Communications

by David McKay

[Feb 2009 -This is an updated version of of the item originally published in November 2008]

Andrea and I have just completed a six month cruise through the south west Pacific Ocean in “Diomedea”, our 48 foot steel Van de Stadt. We sailed from Sydney to New Zealand and then onto Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia as part of the Island Cruising Association Pacific Circuit rally. We returned to Australia. During that time we were able to use a variety of communication mediums to keep in touch with those nearby and those far away.

Radio and Satphone

We maintained a blog, which was created using either email or internet. About 99% of the time it was done by email as internet access was very infrequent.

Email entries can be done anywhere and anytime so long as you have either HF/SSB radio with Pactor modem and computer, or, as we did, Iridium satellite phone and computer. One can upload text easily via email but pictures are much slower and more expensive on the satphone. We found the Iridium to be excellent.

We used two ISP’s for email: Sailmail and UUPlus. The former was good to start with but it became increasingly difficult to maintain connections as time went on. The latter was very reliable. The Iridium phone was used extensively to obtain weather information, mostly in the form of GRIB files but also in text forecasts in various countries. Of course, regular emails were sent and received. Occasional voice calls were done as well.(One can also take the phone into the liferaft as the occasion demands.)

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Relying on weather forecasts

Weatherillo.jpgOne of the advantages of having an internet connection while cruising is to have the current forecast at hand at all times. But a wise sailor will still expect the unexpected. As I write this, we’re anchored on the Shoalhaven river near Greenwell Point, a stopover on an Easter cruise to Ulladulla. I awoke at 0400 hrs to a few creaks and rattles. The kind you get when something is about to change…

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