MARINE WEATHER UNIVERSITY
In 2011, we spent several months sailing the islands in the Kingdom of Tonga. Every morning, I would listen to the marine weather forecast on the VHF, and most afternoons, with fingers crossed and tongue held just the right way, I would download weather charts broadcast out of New Zealand over the HF radio receiver. Everything got written down in a notebook, including observations about our local conditions. For weeks at a time, this basic system of information gathering and weather predicting was what we used to hide from the constantly shifting winds of our late-season explorations.
These days it’s hard to find an anchorage without a cellphone signal, and the amount of weather information available online is seemingly endless. But fancy, high-tech graphics don’t always mean accurate weather forecasting, especially if you don’t understand how it all fits together. Which is why when I heard about Marine Weather University (academy .islersailing.com/p/marineweatheru), I was interested in learning more.
The online platform is a collaboration between veteran sailing meteorologist Chris Bedford and world-class sailor and author Peter Isler. The eight subjects cover topics such as cloud identification, satellite and radar interpretation, understanding the complexities of weather models, and navigating weather sources on the internet. Classes are available as stand-alone subjects, an eight-class fundamental course and a 16-class advanced package. The courses start anytime, so you can work at your own pace and review videos as many times as needed.
Chris Bedford has 35 years’ experience in meteorology and is considered an expert in marine forecasting, and it’s not hard to see why once he starts digging into the course material. The lectures were recorded live, and although they don’t seem scripted, they are well-organized. Bedford speaks about weather in a very logical manner that is easy to follow, even when he dives into the complex mathematics involved. The friendly onscreen rapport between Bedford and Isler at the beginning and end of the videos speaks to their long history of working together—they met during the 1987 America’s Cup—and the passion that they have for weather and sailing.
I recently completed the 16-class Advanced Weather course and am happy to say that it was worth my money, which hasn’t always been the case with other online courses. I really liked that the focus of Marine Weather University is teaching the skills of interpreting and understanding weather, both right outside my galley hatch and on a global scale, so that I can make informed decisions and my own predictions. With a Weather Models 201 course just launched and plans to expand the curriculum in the future, I think Marine Weather University is worthwhile to keep on your radar.