10 weather rules every boater should know

Reading the weather is crucial to enjoying a happy and safe boating life. Follow our 10 weather commandments to ensure you never get caught out again

1. The ‘sexiest’ weather website is probably not the most accurate
Just because your website looks better does not mean you have better data.

2. Are you looking for what the weather forecast will be, or what you want it to be?
With so much info available, you will eventually find a forecast that fits with your plans.

3. Most sites use the same info presented differently
Choose a selection of sites, one with a plain language forecast, one with weather charts, one with high-res charts and one with tabulated data.

4. Learn how to interpret the Shipping and Inshore Waters forecasts
Does ‘later’ mean an hour, three hours, tonight or next week?

5. Understand frontal charts
These most basic charts contain a lot of relevant info.

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6. Start weather planning a few days before you plan to set off
If you start watching weather charts early and note how they change, you can assess how accurate they will be.

7. Winds can be stronger than you think on the southern side of high pressure
Always add at least Force 1-1.5 on top of the official forecast to be on the safe side.

8. The closer together the isobars are, the stronger the wind is
Look at the weather charts and note what wind speed you experienced with what spacing of isobars – this can give you a useful approximation of what to expect from the winds.

9. Long, straight isobars mean rougher seas
Long, straight isobars indicate a ‘long fetch’, which means that waves can travel long distances in a straight line, creating large swells.

10. It’s better to be in port wishing you were out there, than out there wishing you were in port
Listen to the professionals, if the forecast says ‘don’t go out’, then don’t go out.

These rules were compiled by BBC weatherman Simon Keeling. For the full feature and to find out how MBM rated 14 weather websites, see the April 2013 issue of MBM.


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