Weather and where to get it;
Many yachts with HF radio have a modem attached so that they can receive short emails and weather at sea. Unfortunately we could not purchase a modem anywhere without weeks of waiting so we relied on weather info gathered whilst in port or in few cases relied on our mate Rick in Oz who we contacted via satellite phone to give us a weather report.
Naturally the best is to have the modem pack with the HF radio and order your weather through Sailmail. However, many yachties know that even if you have the information at hand when you are out there, there is not much you can do about the weather if it turns bad. I know that when we were crossing the Colombian Basin and needed weather information to make a quick decision on a change of course I would not have been able to get that through the HF radio system as you have to order your weather report and that would not arrive until the next morning. I phoned Rick and got it within the hour and we were able to cut 50 Nms off the passage.
One of the better ways is to get the weather that is broadcasted on the HF radio by a regular network or by another yacht that is remaining in a port whilst you are on passage and they keep a radio sched with you and give you the weather.
The other way is go outside and look at the sky regularly, learn the signs.
There are some good long forecasting sites on the internet for the Pacific one of the best is Metvuw from NZ. They have a good website and have 3 and 7 day surface charts.
Another good website if you have someone in a port that can obtain the information for you is buoyweather, this site one can select the customise button find the Lat/Long of the yacht and it will give the weather at that position for the next 24 hours, it gives wind speed and direction, wave height and direction and time intervals of the waves.
If you are waiting somewhere for the cyclone season to finish and you are trying to work out if there is anything happening there are two good sites. One is the Cyclone and Storm tracking and the other is the Madden Julian Oscillation Index.
I learnt more about the MJO waiting for this cyclone season to finish and the mongrel caught me out, we thought it was over it reached its eighth phase and was not measurable. We thought that’s it, but the mongrel got going again after we set sail and that is part of what we copped between Tonga and Fiji, it started a cyclone north of Vanuatu and created the convergence zone through Fiji and Tonga.What is the MJO you may ask, the Madden Julian Oscillation is the low pressure systems that start off of South Africa and move eastwards across the top of Australia and through the Pacific to Southern America. It has eight phases. Phase 3 is just NW of Western Australia, Phase 6 is NE of Australia near New Caledonia these low pressure systems create the rain and cyclones in that part of the world.
There are many helpful websites and probably a lot more than I have found, the following is a list of what I have found or been given, they will help you plan you passages. Wait for the best weather window before setting off with careful planning the passage can be pleasant. But unfortunately sometimes the planning falls down because Mother Nature gets a little smarter than the weather forecasters and we get squalls and storms develop after leaving, but that does not happen all the time.
The list of websites for weather information;
Other weather information can be received on HF Radio on frequencies listed below.
Australian weather HF radio information can be found on- http://www.bom.gov.au/marine/radio-sat/marine-weather-hf-radio.shtml
The following I have taken from the Noonsite web page that has all this information. https://www.noonsite.com/General/Communications/pacific-list-of-radio-nets
Amigo Net (very popular/helpful for Pacific Mexico) 1400(UTC) Daily 4149 / 4146
British Columbia Boaters’ Net – http://www.bcbn.ca/
The BCBN operates daily during the summer months from 1700 PDT using the Vancouver Island Trunk System. The starting date for 2016 was June 10. The purpose of this net is to provide information to mariners, and to facilitate communications between boaters and with friends and family back home. Methods of contacting the BDBN are shown on their website.
Comedy Net, daily meeting on 7.087 MHz at 2040 Zulu (just after the Australian MSL wefax broadcast). Leans towards the irreverent and informal. Several land based regulars who’ll help solve local problems. All licensed hams are welcome, esp. newcomers. Cheers and 73 from Jim and Ann Cate (N9GFT/VK4GFT) s/v Insatiable II
Far North Radio (NZ – Kaipara, Brett – Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu)
Provide an SSB (hf) service to vessels transiting to/from the Pacific and Tasman sea areas.
See Noonsite Report for more details.
1800-1900 hours New Zealand daylight time – 6.516MHz
1900-1930 hours New Zealand daylight time – 4.417MHz
Gulf Harbour Radio, ZMH286: On air during the South Pacific cruising season from May 1 until the end of November. Operated by cruisers Patricia and David from SV Chameleon from their home base in Whangaparaoa, just north of Auckland.
8752 kHz or 8779 or 8297 kHz (in that order depending on interference).
Monday-Saturday UTC 1915. NZST 7:15am
Provide current weather analysis and forecasts for cruising yachts and fishermen in the SW Pacific. Live streaming.
Find out more at http://www.ghradio.co.nz/
Intercon (Carib & Pacific) 14,300 USB at 11:00 (From 07:00 – 12:00 ET). Website http://interconnet.org
Northland Radio ZMH292
A private coast station located in Russell, New Zealand. A not for profit provider of SSBservices to cruising yachts completing ocean passages in the South Pacific, and coastal passages within New Zealand coastal waters.
Maritime Mobile Net (world-wide)14300-14313 kHz 24h/day in different languages. Website www.mmsn.org
Pacific Puddle Jump Supports, and reports on, the annual migration of cruising sailors from the West Coast of the Americas to French Polynesia. There are no mandatory daily radio check-ins, however, several radio nets always evolve, which are administered voluntarily by fleet members. See www.pacificpuddlejump.com
Pacific Seafarers Net, (HAM) 14300 kHz at 0300(UTC). Informal chat followed by roll call at 0310(UTC).
The three nets that share 14300 kHz provide an outstanding safety net for cruisers. Whether you talk to the Pacific Seafarers Net, the Maritime Mobile Service Net, or the Intercon Net, all the net controls support cruising sailors (and other mobile operators), hand off well to one another, and have robust links to official responders. Website www.pacseanet.com
Polynesian Magellan Net
Covering all of French Polynesia.
Daily at 1800Z and 0400Z on 8.173 USB
Russell Radio (Russell in the Bay of Islands of New Zealand) Coverage area extends from Tutukaka in the south to Knuckle Point at the northern end of Doubtless Bay, encompassing the Cavalli’s and the Poor Knights Islands. VHF 16, 63 (working channel). Website www.russellradio.org.nz. Email email@example.com
Southbound Evening Net (SSB) (San Diego to Panama and beyond) Website expired. ACTIVE
Email firstname.lastname@example.org https://southboundnet.wordpress.com/
Broadcast nightly starting at 0100 (UTC) at 6516 kHz Upper Side band.
The Southbound Evening Net takes check-ins, provides WX updates, and passes traffic between vessels every night.
Vanuatu Net, operates daily at 0730 Local time, 2030 UTC during cruising season – on 8.230 with a fallback frequency of 8.188
LIKELY STILL ACTIVE (LAST REFERENCE IN SECOND HALF OF 2015)
Namba Net (Local weather via French Net and email from Meteo Vanuatu. Yachts enroute to Australia can transfer to the Sheila Net as they near the Australian Coast.) 8,101 at 21:15. Sister net to Sheila Net: More to New Caledonia, Vanuatu & north to Solomons. operates during the cruising season May to about October at 0815 hrs local time Vanuatu (UTC +11). Last referenced Sep 2015
Pacific Maritime Mobile Service Net
Nets begin at 2100 UTC hours every day
Nets close at 2400 UTC hours every day
15 meter band wide area coverage on 21.412 mhz USB
Not limited to the Pacific Ocean
Felix Dudley – W4FDD – email@example.com Last reference Nov 2015.
Seems current Panama Pacific Net, 8143 kHZ at 14:00 daily. Weather Panama to Galapagos. Alternate frequencies of 8137, 8155 and 6230 (6C).
Seems current Panama Connection, 8107 kHZ at 0930 UTC daily.
Rag of the Air (Fiji) on 8173 at 19:00. Run by Jim & Kyoko Bandy. Jim Bandy has stepped down but the net is still believed live.
When in any port there is often a local cruisers network on VHF radio, this can be on any channel so ask around when you arrive. They are usually run around 0800 to 0830 hours local time and they usually have a weather section along with other information. Many places will give you some warning that the net is about to start on CH16 and allocate the frequency that it will be held.
Some of the HF Radio networks are seasonal or not always operating during our time crossing the Pacific some sailors staying back in port would give weather reports for yachts underway. For example I stayed in Raiatea for a month and provided weather reports and scheds at 0800 hours and 1700 hours daily getting their lat/long, speed and course at the 1700 hour radio sched, I would then work out their possible position in the morning sched and provide the weather for their locations using the internet weather stations for information. I had one yacht going to Vanuatu, one to Tonga and another to Rarotonga. Other sailors did the same when we left. We always worked out a radio sched with all travelling yachts even though they were going to different destinations.