Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weather, Theory and Practice

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL
34 42.54 N 081 05.58 W

Monday and Tuesday nights we watched a seminar on marine weather theory. I say we, because I shared the experience with four other captains. The seminar (or webinar as they call it) was taught by Chris Parker over the Internet.

I suppose that the technology was impressive. We could see and hear Chris in his home talking to us on a boat with a wireless connection. At the same time about 4 dozen people from who-knows-where in the world were listening too. The technology worked about 90 percent of the time.

Chris Parker, for those of you who don't know is the guru of weather forecasters for sailors in the Bahamas, Caribbean, and southern North Atlantic. Chris knows about local effects, and most important he knows what the sailors really care about. If you're looking for a comfortable passage in which nobody gets seasick, you'll find Chris' information more directly applicable than other sources.

Unfortunately, skilled practitioners aren't necessarily good teachers. The technology can also get in the way, resulting in distraction. In any case, the consensus of our group was that the seminars were disappointing. Did we learn anything. Yes, we all got something, but less than we hoped for, and the usefulness of the things we learned seemed doubtful.

The webinars are also pricey. $60 for the two evenings. If it had been me alone, I would never have spent that much money. However, splitting the cost 5 ways by inviting other captains made it acceptable.

We had a bit of irony at the end. A bit of real life weather, in the form of a strong cold front, was approaching rapidly. I got a text message from my brother that it was blowing 70-90 mph in Melbourne, Florida. That made me take out my Droid and look at the weather radar. Sure enough there was a front 30 miles away and approaching rapidly. Since we had long dinghy rides to get back to our own boats, we terminated the seminar before the bitter end.

Update: After returning to Tarwathie, I continued watching the front approach on my Droid.  Surprisingly, it weakened and disbursed minute-by-minute as it approached.   When it did pass over 90 minutes later, it had become a much weaker front.  Based on what I learned in the seminar, I conclude that there must have been converging air masses above  us at the 500 mb level.  So there, I did learn a little and I did apply it the same night.


  1. I have RadarScope on my Iphone and it works great.

  2. I, too, am an iPhone Weather App user. In fact, it is one of the strongest reasons I have for the monthly data charge. Sitting in the front of a mega-million dollar airplane with 200 people in back trusting me, you'd think I'd have better access to real time data, but alas, the (un-named)airline thinks I have enough. I use it ONLY with brakes parked in line waiting out weather for take-off to determine whether to shut down engines or what to say to the pax. In the vernacular - one peek is worth a 1000 scans.
    A good meterologist, sailor, Captain, uses ALL the data available - especially reliable observation! Well done to your brother for passing along the info!


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