Getting Weather while under way

Lisa and I have still not been able to leave Key West. We’ve had an endless series of problems with the boat that have prevented us from crossing over to the Bahamas. On the positive side, it’s allowed us to fix the issues in an place that we know well, have very helpful friends, and can get the stuff we need.

Meanwhile, the delays have also given me time to figure out how to do stuff like get the sort of weather reports we would like when we want to make crossings, etc., without access to a broadband internet connection.

For those of you who don’t remember the days of dial-up internet service, that is pretty much what we have using a Pactor Modem and HF Radio (generously supplied by JCP). Anyway, accessing web pages isn’t an option. We are limited to email, and essentially the amount of data you can fit in an SMS (no pictures!).

Given that limitation, there are a couple of handy sources I’ve come up for getting the weather information I would like help us find weather windows to allow safe travels. Both of these sources are email responders that allow one get specific weather information using pre-formatted email messages. This is very exciting!

The first service is from NOAA, the National Weather Service. You can get information from them from the following URL or by sending the following mail message:

Send e-mail to:
Subject Line:        Put anything you like
Body:                help
These instructions are subject to frequently.

More interestingly, a similar service is available from, with information that’s easier to consume. One of the key features of  is the ability to set up “virtual buoys” from which to receive weather information. What I have done is predefine a bunch of virtual buoys at strategic locations along the routes that we plan to follow and we can get the forecast we need at will.

All you really need to do to get a 7 day forecast is to send a preformatted message to the buoyweather requesting information for a particular lat/lon and “voila!” you get a 7 day forecast with wave heights and directions, and wind speeds and directions. Following is an excerpt of what you get back.

 BUOYWEATHER.COM Virtual Buoy Forecast
 Location : 24.5N  81.75W              
 Model Cycle: 2014 APR 19 12Z          
 UTC - 4 Hours                         
           WIND                 SEAS
DATE   HR  dir/deg  range(kt)   dir/per range(ft)
----  ---  ----------------   -------------------
4/19  08   W   270   9 - 12   ESE  5sec   2 -  3
4/19  14   WNW 305   8 - 11   WSW  3sec   1 -  3
4/19  20   WNW 302  12 - 1    W    3sec   1 -  3

4/20  02   WNW 307   9 - 13   WNW  5sec   1 -  2
4/20  08   WNW 304  10 - 14   WNW  6sec   1 -  2
4/20  14    NW 318   8 - 11   WNW  6sec   1 -  2
4/20  20   NNW 336   7 - 10   WNW  7sec   1 -  2

I think this is slick, and it’s super useful for the way we go about setting up our routes for the Bahamas and Caribbean. Check out for details.

Buoyweather also offers similar service for long passages which will give you the weather 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours out along your projected route. We don’t need this yet as we will be making much shorter hops, but it’s useful to know.

I know this is all seems pretty sailing/weather geeky, but we hope this helps any of you who read this and are planning to make voyages of any sort.

If you have weather other sources that you use over an SSB or HAM radio, or that you recommend, we’d love to hear about them.


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