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1. Check the marine forecast
Before you go out, always check the marine weather forecast.
Marine weather forecasts state what the weather is expected to do. Land and general forecasts do not take into account wind speed over water (which is double that over land) or the waves or swell.
If a land forecast does give wind speed, it is in km/hr and that is an indicator that you are listening to the wrong forecast.
How to get the latest marine forecast
How to get forecasts when you’re out
- Maritime radio – the MNZ maritime radio service provides forecasts at scheduled times. These are announced on Channel 16 at 0133, 0533, 0733, 1333, 1733 and 2133 hours (New Zealand Local Time).
For the Chatham Islands, forecasts are broadcast at 0603, 1403, 1803 and 2200 on Channels 60 and 62 (Chatham Islands Local Time).
- Coastguard on VHF radio – on your local Coastguard channel, including NowCasting continuous broadcasts on Channels 20, 21, 22 and 23, in many recreational boating adverts.
- MetPhone – dial 0900 999 + your map area number.
Learn to read the forecast
2. Get local information
Seek local knowledge from those who live in the area – harbourmasters are an excellent source of local information.
While marine forecasts are almost always accurate when predicting major weather events, such as gales, they can be less accurate when predicting local changes of conditions, so you should always be prepared for the unexpected.
3. Keep an eye on the weather
The weather can change quickly and without warning. At the first sight of deteriorating conditions, head for shelter.
If you are planning ahead or intend to be away for a day or two, get a long-range weather forecast. The outlook will tell you what weather is predicted up to 5 days ahead.
Having information in advance leaves plenty of time to alter plans or decide to wait for better boating conditions.
Prepare for the unexpected
Remember that the weather can change suddenly and without warning. Keep an eye on the weather while you’re out, listen to the Maritime Radio and NowCasts in your area so you get a warning of increasing winds before they arrive, and head for shelter at the first sight of worsening weather. When the wind starts to blow, the water becomes very rough, very quickly, especially on lakes and rivers.
Remember that forecasts are only the best prediction available at any given time.
If in doubt, don’t go out!
A large proportion of accidents involving small vessels are weather related. Bad weather makes the environment onboard a vessel extremely hazardous. It also places a lot of strain on the vessel’s structure and equipment and the people on board.
It is important to respect the weather at sea. Skippers should make sure they understand the different parts of a weather forecast and the best way to find up-to-date local information.