Weather Web Sites
The Internet, including both the World Wide Web and e-mail lists, can aid the recreational, as well as professional boater, to find marine forecasts and weather conditions before heading out on the water.
In addition to weather forecasts and storm warnings, they can also provide a wealth of other useful informaiton such as tides and currents, satellite imagery, marine buoy readings and wave conditions.
There are many sties on the Internet to aid in finding marine forecasts relevant to B.C. and the rest of the Pacific Northwest. A few of these sites even have the conenient option of allowing users to send weather updates to their regular e-mail, cell-phone or Personal Digital Assistant (PalmPilot) as well. While they may lack the romance of traditional maritime weather predictors (Red sky at night; sailors delight), you'll find these sites hold a wealth of invaluable and accurate info--a must-have for any prepared mariner.
Environment Canada's marine weather site is a great tool for the boater. To find information on maritime conditions, simply visit the above site, then, after you select your desired language (English or French), hit the "Marine Weather" link on the left side of the page. From there a map of Canada is displayed. Click on your region and when the next map pops up (B.C. coast, for example), simpyl click on the area you're about to head into.
Besides covering the entire coast, there is also data from offshore marine buoys (Bowie and Explorer) as well as north and south coast buoys and a synopsis and forecast for specific areas within the region.
A five-day weather forecast is also available here, as well as weather warnings, seasonal forecast, hurricane and lightning warnings and more. For amateur meteorologists, satellite images are also available by selecting the "Satellite Imagery" link from the left-side menu, and from there, you can draw your own weather conclusions by examining detailed and colourful images taken from orbit. These maps are the same ones that Environment Canada's Weather Centre uses for their forecasts.
This site also offers other extras, such as lighthouse reports. Click on the map of B.C. (on the map of Canada) and then click on the blue bar titled Pacific and Yukon Region (then you enter the B.C. site). Click on weather forecasts in the left-side menu and you will be able to choose pressure slope, light station reports or tides. There's also much more information here that you might want to explore. Pressure slope information is also available on the main marine site.
Another thing about this site is it allows you to have an e-mail sent to your automatically (for free!) including whatever forecast you wnat and whatever time you want, simply by clicking on "email weather."
THE WEATHER NETWORK--MARINE FORECAST
Although based out of Montreal, this site offers user-friendly information about weather and water conditions for the Pacific coast and every major waterway in Canada.
Simply click on the region you intend on cruising and you'll be taken to a detailed and easy-to-understand page that gives you the general conditions for that area: wind speed in knots, wave height in metres; along with any weather warnings, plus a forecast that looks ahead one day.
If you want a more detailed display of conditions, scroll down and you'll see a menu where you can select specific locations (i.e. Victoria Harbour). Here, wind speed and gusts are measured, along with barometric pressure, temperature and visibility. Tide tables are also available, making this site the perfect one-stop shop for marine weather.
Another great site for gathering data on cruising conditions is Weather Underground. But don't mind the name, because it's a great source for data on marine conditions.
When you first arrive at the site, you'll see a map of the world with selected regions where data is available. Weather information for the whole Pacific coast is here, so you just have to click on your boating area and you'll be taken to a more detailed, smaller-scale map. One more click on the specific locale you cruise and you'll get a long, detailed list of everything you would ever want to know about the weather in your cruising grounds. Info includes: wind, precipitation, temperature, humidity, pressure, a 24-hour forecast and more.
In addition to marine forecasts, current wave heights and animated forecast loops of wave heights from the global and regional wave models are also available for these areas.
U.S. NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
This site, the American National Data Buoy Center, immediately displays a map of the world, with the coastlines and oceanic regions covered by buoys within the NOAA's scope highlighted--including North American Pacific coast.
Clicking your mouse on the region for which you want the weatherreport will take you to a smaller-scale map that shows all the marine weather buoys with a "clickable" black dot. To get weather info, simply hit the buoy closest to your cruising area, and you'll be taken to a site where all the data that particular buoy has recorded is displayed. Expect to find information on wind direction and speed--including gusts; pressure and pressure tendency (rising or falling); and water and atmospheric temperature. All of the info is updated constantly, sometimes as often as on the hour.
Any buoy located in Canadian waters will have a link on the weather data page that will take you to the Environment Canada, Pacific and Yukon Region Web site. There, you can read data from all Canadian marine weather buoys in one place.
NOAA WAVEWATCH (WAVE CONDITIONS)
For any amateur oceanographers out there (or professional, for that matter), the NOAA Wavewatch site is worth a visit. This site offers information on wave heights and wind speeds for several regions, all of which are listed in a menu bar at the top of the screen. For the Pacific coast, select "Eastern North Pacific" from the menu, and then choose between "nowcast" for the current conditions, or scroll down for between a 6- and 168-hour forecast, or scroll up for a six-hour "hind-cast." Hit the "go" button and the next screen you'll see is a large-scale map of the North American Pacific coast. From there, it's a matter of clicking on your cruising area and a long list of oceanographic data will be displayed, including height, speed and direction of the waves in that area. It's complex and it may take a bit of skill to decipher--perhaps not a site for the novice mariner.
There are quite a few Web sites out there that have tide tables, but by far the most useful is the Canadian Hydrographic Service's Tides, Currents and Water Levels site. From the above address, simply select one of our two official languages and you'll be taken to a map of Canada, with the regions covered by the CHS highlighted.
As with the other online maps, click on a region and you'll be taken to a close-up map of that area. Again, select your specific location and there you'll see a seven-day tide table predictor, with tide levels in metres and feet, all with corresponding days and times--really everything you need to know about ebbs and flows for the entire country. A great site for boaters and anglers alike.
The World Wide Web is a big place, an this is by no means an extensive list of weather Web sites, but it should give you a good start. Many of these sites are quite involved and have multiple features and long menus not mentioned in this article, so play around for a while and see what they have to offer--you may find some invaluable information.
With the help of these Web sites, some of the guess work is taken out of the business of weather prediction, but remember: storms can whip up in a manner of minutes and not all forecasts are accurate. Just because it seems like smooth sailing, doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared for any situation.