Fair winds and following seas: finding the right local waters forecast
12 September 2014
Thousands of sailors and fishermen may be putting to sea every weekend with inadequate—or even inaccurate—weather information—but the solution is just a few clicks away.
Australia’s coastal cities may be blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful bays and natural harbours, but as any seasoned sailor will tell you, even the most sheltered seas can quickly turn stormy.
Having high quality weather information is just as critical to the safety and comfort of your crew as it is to have a shipshape vessel and reliable safety equipment.
The Bureau offers detailed boating forecasts for all major capital city waterways, but despite this, thousands of Australians are going to sea every weekend armed with only a general land-based forecast.
Watching our busiest waters
Specially formulated for sailors and boaters, the Bureau’s Local Waters forecasts provide a detailed picture of how the weather is expected to develop in specific capital city waterways over the next three to four days.
The waterways covered include: the busy waters of Sydney Harbour, Pittwater and Botany Bay; Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay; Adelaide’s metropolitan waters and gulfs; Perth’s local waters; Brisbane’s Moreton Bay; Darwin Harbour; and Hobart’s complex southeast inshore area.
Local Waters Forecast areas around Australia
Local Waters forecasts are updated every 12 hours (narrowing to six hours during rougher weather) and provide at-a-glance daily summaries of the wind, sea, swell and relevant warnings, as well as a description of emerging pressure systems and wind patterns in the wider region. They also detail specific weather elements that could influence passages through certain areas, such as wind squalls, heavy rain, thunderstorms and fog.
It is important to note that the wind speed values provided in the Local waters forecast is general for most of the forecast area. A simple text description cannot detail the often complex interactions of the wind with the surrounding topography. Wind can funnel through narrow channels and increase the wind speed in local areas. Winds can also be "blocked" by some topographical features, thus reducing the wind speed. Depending on the wind direction, waves may be smaller on one side of the harbour and choppy on the other side.
These forecasts are a particularly useful tool for sailors and fishermen who want to keep an eye on the five vital weather safety checks as the weekend draws closer, or to fine-tune detailed plans with their crews.
The simple text format of the Local Waters forecasts is designed to support boaters with practical decision-making. There are no complex graphics or meteorological displays, the wind is referenced in knots, and the same information is broadcast on VHF marine radio services.
Local Waters forecast example
Keeping an Eye on the weather
If you want more graphical displays of the weather in your local waterways, these are available through MetEye, the Bureau’s interactive map-based forecasting service. MetEye offers detailed seven-day forecasts customisable for 6x6 km grid squares within capital city waterways and up to 60 nautical miles offshore. These are especially finely tuned for our city waterways, where Bureau meteorologists continuously monitor the forecasts against the wind, weather and sea conditions on a 24/7 basis.
MetEye provides a rigorous new addition to the Bureau’s dedicated marine weather service, which has developed into one of the most comprehensive boating forecast services in the southern hemisphere.
By clicking on specific locations along a planned route, sailors and fishermen can check how the temperature, rainfall, wind speed and direction, and sea and swell height are expected to evolve over the coming week. Boaters can thus ‘map out’ the most critical weather conditions that will influence the safety, comfort and general character of their voyage.
Happy sailing (or kayaking, fishing, diving, water-skiing or wakeboarding)!