Weather is a constant concern of cruising sailors, power or sail. We pretty much live by the forecasts and unfortunately not all of them are created equal. Weather forecasting is almost more of an art than a science, although on the big picture stuff, they’re usually pretty good. But the devil is in the “local” details – and that’s what causes the actual weather you see at any point you are. I can remember many times when the general forecast said wind from the north or east at 15 and instead we had west wind over 20 in the Bay Islands and closer to the Honduras coastline. This is the land effect and will overpower the “big picture” forecast.
As a result, we’re all looking for more reliable local information. You already know we’re big fans of Chris Parker’s weather, but unfortunately Chris doesn’t do forecasts for Florida unless you’re crossing to the Bahamas or Isla Mujeres. I can only assume this is because there are such a plethora of resources for weather along the Florida coastlines, that he figures he doesn’t need to include it. And he’s probably right.
Last year in Marathon while we were trying to sort out weather to cross to the Bahamas, we used Chris’ service. But the local cruisers told us about a weather service they liked called WindFinder.
We did an informal comparison earlier this season comparing day to day, NOAA, Buoyweather and WindFinder weather. WindFinder kept “winning” as the closest to the actual weather. So for now, while we’re in internet range, we really like using WindFinder. We like that we can adjust the settings so that the wind direction is not just an arrow, but an actual heading. We like that it gives us 1 am, 4 am, 7 am, 10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm, 7 pm and 11 pm data for each day. We also like that it has wind direction (in degrees if we change the arrow settings) speed & gusts, wave direction, wave period, cloud cover, precipitation, air pressure and air temperature all on one easy to read page. And it covers the next 8 days. Cool!
Here’s a PDF of the Marathon forecast I was looking at when I wrote this post. Windfinder – Wind & weather forecast Marathon:Vaca Key
You can also get WindFinder as an IPhone or Android app. Sometimes when I’m out of internet range, the IPhone will still pick up WindFinder — a good example is in the 10,000 Islands – at Indian Key, I can still get weather although I’m technically out of internet range.
Although there are advantages to NOAA and Buoyweather – the biggest being that we can get either via e-mail to our SSB sailmail account when we won’t be in range of internet – I know the world today assumes everyone always has access to internet, but we don’t all the time and we like it that way. I have not figured out if it’s possible to have WindFinder e-mail text forecasts since you cannot receive html or anything other than text via SSB/Pactor III modem.
We also like PassageWeather and use it when planning a longer trip, but it has the drawback like WindFinder that I haven’t figured out how to get the information in text format e-mailed so I can receive it on winlink or sailmail via SSB/Pactor III modem. If someone has figured out how to do this, please leave a comment and explain so I can update this post and update how I get the most reliable weather info.
If you’re a techie and into the data used to compile WindFinder’s forecasts – like WW3 and other stuff, click here for answers.
Cheers! Please if you have a better source, or a source you can get via text e-mail on your SSB/Pactor III modem, leave a comment letting us know how you do it! Thanks! Jan