Weather Watcher

7 July 2011 By Steve Davis

Although the prediction of weather still uses old technology —“Mares tails and mackerel scales…,” “Red sky at night…,” curling, frizzy hair — new technology goes beyond the rhymes of our sights and senses to provide real-time data that predicts what may be on the horizon. A beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds may greet us as the day awakes, but waiting to see how they develop during the day won’t give the crew much time to prepare for an unforeseen storm. Computer technology provides almost instantaneous access to weather data wherever our location, and continued advances in software give crew a comprehensive way to analyze it. Technology changes as quickly as the weather, and this past year has introduced new products and software upgrades to the market.

Weather Services
Online weather services provide a cost effective way to receive weather data — some services are free of charge — and usually offer a wide array of packages depending on your voyage and your budget, whether its a transoceanic crossing or a few weeks in a popular cruising ground. In addition, seasonal subscriptions are offered, if you’re planning to spend the summer in an area prone to hurricanes. FleetWeather’s yacht division (, Nowcasting International (, Weather Routing, Inc. ( and Metworks (, are just a few that use the latest computer technology and software to deliver forecast information 24/7/365 in any format preferred by the client. Routing advice and emergency assistance also are provided. Applied Weather Technology (AWT) offers onboard, around-the-clock weather-routing information with its BonVoyage System, which allows captains to view and interpret potential problem areas along their route in advance using an onboard computer. (

Navigation Systems
As bridge systems become fully integrated, the newly released TimeZero 3D Trident navigation system from Nobeltec combines innovative chart handling functions with weather data. The software is PC-based and built on the TimeZero chart engine. The system incorporates 3D chart rendering with optimal radar integration and chart plotting, and has the capability to layer in high-resolution satellite imagery, tide and current animation, AIS, GRIB weather and weather and ocean data, such as temperatures, wind, waves, pressure, sea state, sky conditions, etc. The system can be tailored for pleasure sailors and commercial mariners or be the basis of a full “glass panel” installation on the bridge of larger vessels. (

Weather Stations
On board, new technology is apparent in weather stations. Airmar’s PB200 ( features an internal WAAS/EGNOS GPS engine and a three-axis, solid-state compass to provide apparent and true wind speed, navigation data and magnetic variation. Internal temperature and barometric pressure sensors, heading sensor, and a unique dynamic-motion-correction software that provides two degree heading accuracy even if the vessel is pitching and rolling up to 30° in rough seas, allows crew to read instantaneous changes in weather. Furuno’s WS200 weather station ( has similar capabilities, and with no moving parts, both stations are reliable under the most demanding weather conditions.

“There’s an app for that”
iTunes alone has 817 weather-related apps from around the world, including NOAA Ocean Buoys (Dec 2010), Sail, Radar Metereológico España and SatWeather, which were updated or released in June 2011. Esirion Apps ( created the iPhone and iPad app Yachting Weather, which retrieves high-resolution marine forecasts from based on your GPS location. Values include storm and precipitation risk, temperature at sea level, barometric pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction and wave data.