Predicting the Weather on the Water

The Foundation for Safe Boating and Marine Information, Inc.

Predicting the Weather on the Water

Someone (I’ll cite who eventually) said once, “It is a sign of superior seamanship to not have times when superior seamanship is required.”

It’s a lovely summer day, and you can feel the need to go out on the bay and spend some quality time in our favorite activity. How best to be sure that stormy weather won’t sneak up on you?

The beach-going public can tune in to a local news forecast, which is absolutely fine if you have shelter or alternate plans can be made on land… but the boater has to be forewarned, and foreknowledge can prevent frightening outcomes like being caught in a white-out with no visibility and high winds.

The practical boat operator will, without fail, be sure to get a local weather forecast from at least two sources before leaving the dock. The first is looking at the sky and understanding the weather concepts by experience and learning, make your own assessment. (Chapman Piloting – Seamanship & Small Boat Handling has a good chapter on this, and many offerings are available online to help you get the fundamental understanding).

The second would be to get a predictive model from a source that you trust. There are many online resources for this, with links below for just a few that FSB Staff have used in the past.


In the United States, the agency responsible for predictions on ocean lanes and inland is the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. This is also the agency responsible for charts in the US and territories, the National Hurricane Center, and other resources related to weather, so you can be sure that the information is authoritative.

A weather observation or prediction from NOAA is what the local TV meteorologist will use to interpret the local weather for broadcast viewers. The radio equivalent of the authoritative information are the NOAA National Weather Radio Stations – a constantly-updated audio report of the local area observations, along with advisory and prediction information. This resource cannot be overstated; National Weather Radio is a lifesaver!

The Foundation is partnered with NOAA in their promotion of digital chart publications. In certain conditions, having these aboard can be counted as ‘carrying charts’