Cruising World


- —Heather Francis

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 .islersaili­­heru), 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.

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