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Old 23-07-2020, 11:24   #1
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What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

Hi guys!
So there are lot of ways how to get weather offshore: SSB, Weatherfax, Iridium GO, InReach (my current solution).
But what do you do with the weather information when you are offshore?
What information is the most important for you when you are out there and what actions are you taking with it?
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Old 23-07-2020, 11:37   #2
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

It depends on where you are. When we crossed offshore from Galveston to St Pete, the Gulf oil rigs had cellular coverage enabling connectivity. Otherwise, we used the InReach and received pre-arranged periodic text messages with summary information based upon our position. Our experience over six days was that downloaded GRIB file weather forecasts were only accurate for 8-12hrs, and then we encountered double the forecast wind speed and wave heights. It seems you have good awareness of the options.
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Old 23-07-2020, 12:31   #3
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

What kind of information you were getting on inreach? Wind speed / direction? Some one was tracking you ashore?
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Old 23-07-2020, 14:25   #4
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

It depends on what's ahead of you. For instance, imagine you have left the Azores, and you learn there's going to be storm force in the Channel when you're headed back to NL. You can continue, or heave to for a day or two and let the storm blow through and not get hammered.

Some places in Australia, an afternoon thunderstorm could keep you from leaving on an overnighter, and waiting for it to go past would make you arrive at the next day's destination at the wrong time for getting in there. You can possibly change destination, abort, or leave "too early" and avoid the t/s by going farther offshore, and slow the boat down, later on, to arrive at the best time to cross the bar.

If you know a frontal passage is arriving one evening, you can anchor now, where the preferred position will be after the passage. Bouncy early, smoother and SAFER later, especially if a strong wind shift is expected.

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Old 23-07-2020, 15:23   #5
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

Xslim,
Of course, what data is the most important (and what you do with it), does depend on where you're sailing and the season/time-of-year....
(as such, my number one and number two items listed below, will swap positions in summertime/hurricane season)


Also, depending on where and what season, a once-a-day forecast can be fine...but, I prefer twice a day....and, if watching close-by weather and/or I'm in heavy weather already, I look at forecasts every 6 hours (FYI, unless there are Storms making landfall within 36hrs, when NWS/NOAA, etc. provide updates every 3 hours, you'll find offshore weather forecasts don't change any faster than 4 times/day, every 6 hours)


Quote:
Originally Posted by xslim View Post
Hi guys!
So there are lot of ways how to get weather offshore: SSB, Weatherfax, Iridium GO, InReach (my current solution).
But what do you do with the weather information when you are offshore?
What information is the most important for you when you are out there and what actions are you taking with it?
Personally, I use weather info / forecasts to try to avoid Storms and Gales, first...and secondarily to find more favorable winds....
(sometimes to see what weather will be like, to better plan a meal....cooking in heavy seas isn't the easiest, so if you can wait a day to cook a multi-course meal, and just eat a sandwich during a Gale, then you're going to be better off...)


As for what info is important to me?
Before I list the specific things that I find the most important for me, when sailing offshore, please take note that in addition to the "data" below, overall I prefer reading the "discussion" and "synopsis" of the situation and/or for region, first....

This allows a quick understanding of the situation....(giving a good "situational awareness of your weather", using just one minute of your time...)

So, unless I'm tracking a current storm, the first things I look for are the synopsis / discussions, along with a quick look at a wide coverage Surface Chart (WeFax)...

These discussions/synopsis are provided by the US NWS/NOAA (as well as UK Met Office, and other first world Met offices / Weather services, such as Aus, NZ, SA, France, Germany, etc.), and are written by some of the same experienced maritime meteorologists that draw the weather charts (WeFax Charts), but are of course not available on a GRIB chart...

(Remember that a GRIB chart, is just the raw computer model data....and much/some of the associated wind/wave texts sent by some private weather routers, are just reiterations of the raw computer model data)




1) After a quick look at the chart and/or a quick read of the synopsis, the number one thing I look for and want to know first, is any Storm conditions (force 10 winds / seas 25' - 30' or higher), any where within 1000 miles of me (or farther away, if possibly traveling towards me or towards my route)....and the storm track / forecast track, along with any frontal conditions that might be associated with the Storm...



2) Tied for first place (and certainly in first place this time of year!) is the Tropical weather status....info on tropical waves / depressions so that I can be aware of the situation before a Tropical Storm forms and long before Hurricane conditions....concurrently, I look for up-to-date info/forecasts on any current Tropical Storms / Hurricanes....




3) Then, after those important pieces of info....I look for any deep Lows, close-spaced isobars, and any Gales....
If reading a text forecast (or listening to a Voice forecast) I also look for wave heights over 16' - 20' (5m - 6m), and winds over 30- 35 kts...



4) Then, if all above is clear and I have mostly benign conditions forecast, I look for wind speed / direction forecasts, in order to better route my passage....looking for more favorable winds is always nice, but certainly not as important as avoiding storm conditions....


Statistically you're more likely to have benign conditions and too-light winds, rather than storm conditions....and as such, you're more likely to be using weather info to find more favorable winds than trying to avoid storms...
But, avoiding storm conditions is more important to me....I mean it's a sailboat, if I needed to go fast I'd fly on a jet!



So, of course, the thing I most use weather info for, is wind speed / direction forecasts, in order to better route my passage....just not as important as avoiding storm conditions...



5) FYI, there are times when you cannot avoid storm conditions, even with good forecasts....sometimes mother nature doesn't cooperate, you know....

Understand that while leaving on a good route forecast is always good....for most offshore passages there really aren't "weather windows" (as they are colloquially referred to), as once you're offshore for a few days, you'll be sailing with the weather that mother nature gives you...of course, if you're smart and if you do keep an eye on the weather, you usually can find more favorable weather, but that's not a "weather window"...

{Here on this side of the Atlantic, when heading West - East, across to Europe, the continental Lows (and their fronts) can pack quite a bit of a punch! And, although they usually move fast, a Full Gale in the N. Atlantic is not fun (I know, I've been thru more than a few)....many prep'ing for a west-east Atlantic crossing think all they need to worry about are Hurricanes, hence they leave early in the season, and sometimes they get unexpectedly walloped hard by a Low coming off the US east coast, teaching them a hard lesson...}

And, on some passages no matter how good you are, sometimes you'll get skunked by the weather....(I had TS Olga form behind me, overtake me, and give me a nice push....but would've been a real pain if I'd been going another direction!)



I hope this helps answer your query?


Fair winds (pardon the pun....that's my usual way of saying "best regards")

John
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Old 23-07-2020, 15:26   #6
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

I use my InReach... worked well in the past when I did St. Croix > Florida > New Jersey. Any bad weather coming up anywhere from 50-250nm, I have changed direction. Anything less than 50nm, it's too late. Anything above 250nm, I observe every 1-2 hours and adjust course, if necessary.
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Old 23-07-2020, 15:55   #7
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

Quote:
Originally Posted by xslim View Post
What kind of information you were getting on inreach? Wind speed / direction? Some one was tracking you ashore?
The only option used to be Spotcast:
https://www.ocens.com/spotcast




But there are now other options such as

inReach Satellite Communicator - 2-Way Messaging & SOS - inReach Satellite Communicator - 2-Way Messaging & SOS


and

https://wx2inreach.weebly.com/
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Old 23-07-2020, 16:29   #8
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

I use the weather to avoid becoming becalmed and to avoid headwinds
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Old 23-07-2020, 23:41   #9
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

Hi John,
Thank you for such a great detailed answer!
Definitely saving it for future reference.
As of text synopsis- are you referring to NAVTEX?
Do you read one for specific Met area or any detail ones?
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Old 24-07-2020, 08:14   #10
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

Quote:
Originally Posted by xslim View Post
Hi John,
Thank you for such a great detailed answer!
Definitely saving it for future reference.
As of text synopsis- are you referring to NAVTEX?
Do you read one for specific Met area or any detail ones?
With navtex You might consult another met area

Depends on your passage, speed and ability to receive the signal

Typically no

Your met area is large enough

With. Long range equipment like sat com C monitoring other nav areas is strait forward and handy for some trips

Fax and ssb voice gives you long distance ability
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Old 24-07-2020, 08:44   #11
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

If you are really concerned you can get a land based weather router, who will analyze daily weather forecasts for you along your route. You will need a SSB or satellite phone, and it will cost you some $$$.

There is such a plethora of weather devices available today, it would be hard to recommend one over the other, but all require that YOU have the ability to interpret what you are seeing.

On a long voyage it all becomes pretty moot as you will just have to learn to deal with whatever is out there.

Forecasts are generally good for 1-3 days, but after that ????
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Old 24-07-2020, 09:41   #12
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

xslim,
Slug gave you the highlights....so, I'll just ad a few of my personal thoughts (not much more to ad)
Quote:
Originally Posted by slug View Post
With navtex You might consult another met area

Depends on your passage, speed and ability to receive the signal

Typically no

Your met area is large enough

With. Long range equipment like sat com C monitoring other nav areas is strait forward and handy for some trips

Fax and ssb voice gives you long distance ability
--- Most of us have our routines, etc. that work for us...but, they're certainly not absolutes...
These are mine...


I'm a "night person", and I prefer night watches....so, I will nap sometimes while others are up fishing, reading, listening to music, etc...but, I always put my crew and boat first...so, here are just my personal routines...
(and, fyi, in addition being my personal tastes, these are of course USA-centric...)

On a passage (and actually for a few days / a week before departure), in the morning / after breakfast, I like to look at a surface chart, and a 48hr and 72hr forecast chart...and either listen to (USCG SSB Voice broadcasts) or read (from my WeFax machine) the High Seas forecast.....and/or offshore waters forecast, if on day one or two...

Then make my route decisions based on my present weather, my own observations, what ocean currents are available, and the weather charts / synopsis/forecasts in my hands...
I will also look at 96hr forecasts (which have a 120hr positions of Lows, Storms, etc.)...
{note that many times (with benign weather), there are no/few synopses....}

Take note that wefax charts generally cover large areas....half of an ocean...sometimes the whole ocean....and sometimes span multiple MetAreas....
The USCG "Hi-Seas" forecasts are also wide coverage forecasts, covering the whole MetArea...
So, while it does take some knowledge/expertise to determine your weather on a smaller-scale, it's not too hard...

Later on, usually after dinner, I will generally look at an updated chart or two, and listen to the updated evening's Broadcast, as well...




--- If weather patterns are confused, and/or heavy weather is possible, I will also look at a 500mb analysis and more....but, I'm not a professional meteorologist, so I will usually believe the pros...
I just look at these upper air charts to better understand the weather pattern, not to do my own forecasting...



--- If I was in Europe (or Asia), I'd have a dedicated NAVTEX receiver as well...and if heading across the Pacific, I'd probably ad INMARSAT-C for the SafetyNET text forecasts....(fyi, I can of course receive NAVTEX now, but I do not)....
Due to my dyslexia, I find the weather charts and the voice broadcasts to be much easier for me....




--- Again, these are just my personal routines....others wake up at sunrise and spend hours looking at emails, etc., and worrying about things....
I just assume I will deal with what weather is out there, but I try to find the more favorable conditions....



fair winds.

John
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Old 24-07-2020, 10:58   #13
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

Normally I use the Sat C text , , navtex , or ssb voice forecast to understand the surface fax that I have in my hand

An all band receiver plus relevant software is a very good solution for weather

Internet stuff is nice , but itís expensive
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Old 24-07-2020, 12:17   #14
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

I marvel at today's technology.

When I first started sailing offshore, I had no weather or long distance communication device whatsoever. I was able to receive some limited weather via the weather stations on vhf....but typically, beyond 25 miles from land, they were no more.

I was not alone. Most sailors of that era were in the same boat as I, figuratively speaking.

Unless, there was an approaching hurricane or other significant bad weather event, I paid scant attention to the weather reports, as I had little option in this matter, preferring to just take my lumps as they came. I knew that within 24 hours, things would likely be different, and I would adjust accordingly.

These days I see people agonizing for ages over reams of weather data available from numerous sources, trying to identify each and every little thing. On top of that, they will consult with other sailors trying to form a consensus as to what their next move should be.

I think you get a case of information overload which has a tendency to root you in place.

Just my opinion, off course......but sometimes less is more...
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Old 24-07-2020, 14:30   #15
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

@McHughV, yes, "analysis paralysis", alive and well where flocks of cruisers are all together.

We started out with a shortwave radio receiver for wx. One picked the weather one left in, then took what came....and it was OK. Granted, it's better if you can take the tropical storm on your quarter, and speed along the way to your destination. Fastest day's run on that boat, under storm jib alone.

*********

However, one time a number of years ago, the only guy around who had satphone caught the beginning of a local cyclone, around 5 PM, and that it was coming to where we all were...tomorrow. That advance notification made it possible for us to get to the only hurricane hole in the area that would accommodate our draft. That said, we left the next morning. But also, we would have received radio notification by then, so not too much difference to what we did, nor how we did it. But I think it's nice to learn soonest if something yucky is on its way, so that one has more time to deal with it, or run from it. As it happened that time, the cyclone went somewhere else, any way.

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