As a boater, understanding and using weather resources and apps can make all the difference in a safe and comfortable trip. With so many weather apps available, it can be overwhelming to decide which one to use. Here are some tips to help you choose the best weather app for your needs.
Features to Look for in a Weather App
When choosing a weather app, look for multiple-day forecasting in hourly increments, which allows you to plan your departures and arrivals. The app should include wind, waves/swells, ocean currents, tides, water and air temperature, pressure, and lat/long indicators. Additionally, the app should offer more than one weather model for comparison to confirm the data's accuracy.
Paid vs. Free Versions
Most weather apps offer free versions with basic features and limited forecast periods. Paid versions provide more forecasting models, increased resolution, and more frequent model updates. Paid versions also offer the option to stop receiving in-app advertising.
Weather Routers & Services
For boaters looking to cruise around storms or have a multiple-day voyage offshore, a professional weather router or service may be useful. These routers can provide a detailed custom route, offer updates and route changes, and suggest safe ports 24/7 in case of unexpected bad weather, all based on speed, departure and arrival timeframes, as well as the customer’s preferred travel conditions.
Get Educated about Weather and Forecasting
Taking the time to get educated about weather and forecasting can increase your confidence using weather apps and allow you to recognize patterns with different models. Several locations offer online weather courses and in-person training specifically for boaters. Weather classes can be found through BoatUS or in person at many of the boat shows such as TrawlerFest. While these courses will not make you a meteorologist, they will help you learn what to look for and how to apply it to your cruising decisions.
Weather Forecasting Apps & Services
While the list below is nowhere near a complete roster of all applications, the ones below work cross platform and have strong user ratings from boaters.
So, you are invited on a boat trip or charter! First there’s jubilation, then a little trepidation, especially if you’re new to boating. You might wonder what are the rules afloat? How do you as a new crew member know the dos and don’ts on a particular boat? Here are some tips on how to be good guest onboard and avoid being a floating faux pas.
COMMUNICATING WITH THE CAPTAIN
Experienced captains make boating look easy, but smoothly navigating the seas requires lots of concentration and attention to details and safety rules. To help ensure a successful cruise, consider the following:
• Follow the leader, because there’s only one captain. If it’s not you, then do as the captain does or as he or she tells you. Observe the captain’s behavior and follow that tempo and protocol so that you are in sync. Be attentive and helpful when asked, then follow instructions.
• Ask your host, the captain, about the duration and destination of the voyage. Be positive and flexible, as plans on the water often change along with weather and tides. Itineraries are dynamic, so go with the flow and be cooperative.
• Be honest about your yachting experience or complete lack thereof, so the captain knows your comfort level or your phobias before you go far out to sea. If you know you’re prone to sea sickness, now’s the time to politely decline.
• Stay out of the way in docking situations, coming about and maneuvering unless you are asked to handle a specific task. Don’t impede the captain’s view by standing next to or in front of the captain. Keen awareness makes for a cool competent boater.
• Admit immediately if something breaks or goes wrong on your watch. Stuff happens on a boat, and the sooner you report something like a clogged head, a dropped fender or a broken winch, the more easily remedied or fixed.
DRINKING & DINING WITH EASE
There’s something about being out on the water that makes everything taste better. Whether you’re out for a quick cruise or a more extensive trip, these suggestions can ensure that everyone enjoys dining onboard, from a simple snack to a hearty feast:
• When you offer to provision, be sure to do so generously. Volunteer in advance to bring snacks, a picnic or a meal. Ask the captain or boat owners’ preferences and if they have food allergies or aversions, and favorite drinks.
• Try to pick up the tab when dining in port or out for cocktails at a beach bar. Trust me, this simple generosity is cheaper than owning the boat or filling the fuel tank.
• Hydrate often and offer water to the captain and crew, too. Be careful not to over-booze on your cruise. You don’t want to know what they do with a drunken sailor.
• Sea sickness happens; admit it, then suffer silently. Look to the horizon, stay above board and toss your cookies overboard if needed (counterintuitively, it gets worse below deck). Power through and know that this too shall pass.
Regardless of the size of the boat, space will be limited and co-existing in close quarters requires thoughtful behavior. These tips can help:
• Dress efficiently and appropriately for changing weather, with waterproof layers and non-marking sole boat shoes. Street shoes and black-soled boat shoes with non-marking soles are not “non-skid” and should be removed.
• Don’t bring a ton of stuff; boat quarters are compact, and you should be, too. Tote your belongings in non-marking soft bags and soft coolers, if possible.
• Be tidy; boat clutter on decks can cause accidents. Stow your gear so as not to interfere. Once underway, you’ll be glad you secured your belongings and beverages. If you’re on a sleep-aboard, keep heads and beds neat and clean.
• Learn your lingo. Boating comes with its own jaunty nauti vernacular: bow and aft, port and starboard, galley and head. Don’t be a landlubber loggerhead by clogging the companionway (look it up if you don’t know). You garner extra points when you impress the crew by tying a bowline like a bosun.
• If kids or pets are on board, be sure that they wear the appropriate personal floatation device and that you always supervise their whereabouts.
• Give praise and be grateful to be on the water (read: no complaining). Use your manners — please and thank you — and be useful when you can. If not, be cheerful and appreciative, fetch drinks from the galley, tidy up, offer sunscreen.
The better crew you are, the more likely you’ll be asked on board again. Enjoy the journey; you’re on a boat!
Nighttime on a boat can be magical. Everything, even familiar territory, takes on a new feel which can be strange but far from scary. In fact, boating at night not only lets you potentially venture farther in one outing, it can also become your favorite way to spend time aboard.
Boating overnight can include either navigating and maneuvering in the dark, or spending a safe night at anchor or in a slip. Let’s break down these two concepts and highlight some tips for how to do each.
Under Way at Night
Whether you’re coming back from a waterfront dinner, taking a moonlight cruise, or heading to a distant anchorage, you’ll need to be ready for nighttime operations.
1. Prepare the boat and check the safety gear
Locate all personal flotation devices (PFDs), put fresh batteries into your headlamps and flashlights and place the binoculars near the helm. Check that the engine, radio and electronics are in good working order. Test the running lights and bilge pumps.
Gather your crew and lay out the rules of engagement including staying in the cockpit, wearing PFDs and safety harnesses, and following the protocol for an emergency be it crew overboard, collision, fire, etc.
Agree on communications with the captain and set a watch schedule. Know how to call for help in case of an emergency. It’s best to not single-hand at night due to fatigue. If you must make a passage at night alone, set an alarm for every 30 minutes in case you drift off while standing watch.
2. Boat defensively
Visibility is reduced and your senses may play tricks on you in the dark. Distances are harder to judge, and boats, markers, and obstacles are difficult to see. Slow down and be methodical in your navigation. Familiarize yourself with the charts for the area where you’ll be boating well ahead of time and learn the aids to navigation you’ll encounter along the way. Learn your light signals (on other boats and on shore) before departure.
Preserve your night vision by using only red lights inside the cabin or in your flashlights. Scan the horizon a full 360-dgrees every 15 minutes – more often if you’re in a busy traffic area. Turn off music and listen. You may hear fog horns, whistles, bell buoys, or other boats approaching.
3. Keep an eye on key data
Is the engine running smoothy with a steady temperature? Is the bilge pump running more often than it should be? Is all gear (and lines) secured? Trust your instruments but make sure your chartplotter is updated and your radar and instruments are working before you leave the slip. You should have checked the weather forecast before departure but keep an eye on changing conditions.
4. Dock and anchor with caution
When maneuvering at night, don’t use headlights or spotlights until you’re close to your destination whether that is a dock or an anchorage. Use light too soon and you’ll destroy your night vision. As the old saying goes, approach a dock only as fast as you’re willing to hit it. Advise crew to move slowly and deliberately when stepping onto a dock or tying lines to cleats. Double-check knots and hitches before leaving the boat unattended.
It may be difficult to judge a good anchorage in the dark including how far from shore or other boats you are when you drop the hook and whether there’s a current running. Slow down and take good bearings, making sure you have room to swing. Be extra careful when working with the windlass at night when fingers, clothes and hair can get caught before you notice. You may need to set an anchor watch with your crew or set an anchor alarm on your plotter.
Sleeping aboard a boat at night
Temperatures on the water at night can be cool even in midsummer so plan on bringing extra blankets, sleeping bags, clothes and dry gear.
Bring bug spray, especially in hot and muggy climates.
If in a slip, check the lines before retiring for the night. Are you secured to good cleats, is there any chafe in the lines, and is there loose gear on deck that could go overboard in a breeze or be stolen?
If anchored, check periodically that you’re not dragging anchor. The best way is to take two bearings as close to 90 degrees from each other as possible. Allow for some swinging room but overall, your bearings should be fairly constant. Don’t anchor in active traffic channels, near rocks and docks, or too close to other boats that may swing differently from you. Use proper scope of 7x the length of anchor line to 1x the depth.
If at a sandbar, the boat should be pulled up and secured with lines to trees or an anchor on the beach in case the tide rises and sets the boat adrift.
Secure kids and pets for the night. You don’t want anyone getting on deck and possibly going overboard.
The best experiences
Nighttime is the right time on a boat for so many reasons. You may see phosphorescence as fish swim by or a night sky like you don’t experience on land. You may hear dolphins exhaling as they amble by. You may be rocked gently to sleep in an idyllic anchorage.
Most importantly, running through the night will expand your horizons. Once you stretch your wings, you can explore distant marinas where you can get a slip to get that good night’s rest aboard. (Check out Snag a Slip for slip reservations as you travel.)
The key is preparation, vigilance and a methodical approach to everything from driving to tucking into a warm berth. Then, enjoy all that the wee hours on a boat can bring.
Boaters are a fun loving yet superstitious bunch. For as long as mankind has sailed the seas, there’s been ceremonies to mark the launch of a new vessel. It’s how boaters celebrate welcoming their boats into the world, and ensure safe passages for a lifetime of adventures on the water.
The practice of christening boats actually started thousands of years ago in ancient Greek and Phoenician civilizations as religious ceremonies performed to ensure safety for sea-going vessels. These ceremonies date back thousands of years and varied around the world, some even involving human or animal sacrifice. Our current, less savage, practice of christening a boat with champagne arrived in 1891. It was Britain’s Queen Victoria who first smashed a bottle of champagne against a hull, launching the Navy cruiser HMS Royal Arthur.
Hosting a proper christening ceremony not only connects you to a nautical tradition rooted in ancient times, but is a reason to celebrate with friends and family. Here’s what you’ll need, and what you’ll need to do, to launch your boat in style!
What You Need to Christen Your Boat
-Your boat (It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway)
-Friends and Family to Join in the celebration ceremony
-Lots of champagne, wine or sparkling cider (To drink)
-A branch of green leaves (We’ll explain)
-A pre-scored ceremonial christening bottle in a fine-mesh containment bag (This ensures the broken pieces of glass don’t end up in the water.)
When to Christen Your Boat
There are actually days on which you should NEVER christen your boat, or you chance bad luck and misfortune. As you’ll see, most of the days to avoid are based on religious events, and sailors and seafarers have followed these traditions for centuries. For that reason, you’d be wise not to break with tradition. Here are the days to avoid:
All Fridays – Yes, any Friday is considered bad luck. This is likely for religious reasons, as Jesus was crucified on a Friday. This may seem like an unusual reason. Even so, the US Coast Guard waits for the weekend to christen their new boats. It’s simply part of a long tradition, and boaters won’t break it.
All Thursdays– You may be aware of Norse mythology, and “Thor” the god of storms and thunder. It’s believed that holding a boat christening ceremony on a Thursday provokes Thor and turbulent seas. So, to avoid the rath of Thor, just pick another day.
First Monday in April– This day has another religious connection. It’s marked as the day when Caine slew Abel, condemning Caine to a life of wandering.
Second Monday in August– This day is denoted as the day God destroyed the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone.
December 31– It was on this day that Judas felt so much sorrow and regret, seeing Jesus condemned to death, that he committed suicide by hanging.
Gather Your Family and Friends
Once you’ve decided on a fitting day, go ahead and get out the invitations to gather at the location you choose to christen your boat. The most common places to hold a boat christening ceremony are marina slips, anchorages and moorings. And, you’ll want to make a quick maiden voyage if you’re christening at a location, being sure to rig the vessel before the ceremony, avoiding any possible delays or glitches.
Serve Something to Toast With
Once everyone arrives at the boat, gather them together and prepare for a toast. If you’re deciding what to serve, boat captains traditionally served red wine when christening a boat. Today, a wide range of spirits are enjoyed, with champagne being the most popular. But some prefer other liquors such as rum or brandy.
Give a Toast
With the guests gathered and their glasses full, it’s time for the toast. Begin by welcoming guests, thanking them for coming, and reveal the boat’s name. You can then say a few words about the boat. It’s common to talk about the merits of the boat, and where you plan to sail it. You can even include a poem.
Lay the Branch of Green Leaves on the Deck
Once the toast is done, you should lay the branch of green leaves on the deck. The branch symbolizes safe returns from your journeys, and serves as a good luck symbol. You don’t need to be concerned about what type of branch you choose – any branch with green leaves will do. The branch will need to stay on the boat through the christening ceremony and the maiden voyage. After that, you can toss it overboard.
Break the Bottle on the Bow
After the toast and the laying on of the branch, it’s time for the most exhilarating part of the boat christening ceremony – breaking the bottle! First, move everyone to the bow (front) of the boat. Once there, the captain traditionally breaks the bottle somewhere over the bow – a cleat, anchor roller, or anywhere else. However, don’t break the bottle directly on the bow itself, as it can chip paint and damage woodwork.
If you’re not keen on breaking a bottle, you can also pour a bit of champagne, or your preferred drink, over the bow.
Seal it by taking a Maiden Voyage
The fact is, no christening is complete until you take a maiden voyage of some sort. It doesn’t have to be a long one, even drifting out to your anchorage or mooring qualifies. Once you’ve done this, there’s nothing more to do but enjoy the congratulations!
Renaming a Boat?
If you bought a used boat that already has a name, and you want to change it, there are rules to follow as well. Again, boaters are a superstitious lot, and we don’t want bad luck and misfortune to befall your boat.
Before you plan a christening ceremony, you’ll need to thoroughly remove all instances of the boat’s old name and identity. You even need to completely remove the old name BEFORE you say the new name out loud, or bring onto the boat anything with the new name.
To remove the old name on the exterior, you’ll need to remove the exterior paint or lettering. To do this right, you’ll also need to check whether the boat has ever been repainted. If it has, you’ll need to get down to all the previous layers and literally scrape off the old name. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply paint over the old name. The same goes for the interior of the boat. Make sure there are no fixtures, badges, clothing, coffee mugs, engravings, upholstery, or decorations remaining with the old name. You get the drift! Now if you have paperwork like maintenance logs, receipts or cruising journals, you’ll also need to cover the old name with whiteout.
The rules of this tradition are so steadfast that if you get through the whole process, christen your boat and then find a trace of the old name, you must christen it again!
We know this is a lot to do, but for the love of your boat and maritime tradition, it’s worth it. So, let us be the first to say “congratulations” on your new boat!