First - onboard weather access without a computer. In other words - how did we get weather when we didn't have an Internet connection.
First, we have a Raymarine Chartplotter and we bought the Sirius weather module for it. I can't say enough good things about having this. Not only could we get NEXRAD radar information - both stills and animations - that gave us storm density and direction, but it also has lightning strike information. The lightning strike information is great (it displays a lightning icon in every location that it is detected) as it can tell us the severity of a storm and whether there is potentially hail involved. Plus, a lightning heavy storm generally has significant winds, so it lets us prepare for upcoming conditions. It also shows individual storm cells and lets you see the clocked winds in each cell. Less useful or the NOAA/NWS marine forecasts as we never have found them to be overly accurate. The satellite weather definitely saved us on several occasions, including once when we were off the New Jersey shore with no place to duck in and we could track when a storm packing 70kt winds was going to hit us - almost down to the second. We had plenty of time to reef the sails and tie down loose items both on deck and below.
Second, we have an ICOM SSB. We signed up for a subscription with Chris Parker (http://www.caribwx.com/) for the "low" price of $295. This gave us access to not only listen to Chris's broadcasts every morning on the SSB, but to also give him our current location and destination (whether we were at anchor or in the Gulf Stream) and get forecasts of weather, weather windows, routing, Gulf Stream info, etc., for the entire east coast of the US (and he does the full Caribbean too). Chris has been a weather forecaster/router forever and he knows what quirks each region has and how they react to different patterns. He was over 90% accurate with regards to wind speed and direction, waves, precipitation, fronts, pressure systems, etc. I would highly recommend that anyone who is cruising the East Coast of the US down through the Bahamas and the Caribbean at least listen to Chris (for free) each day. He also sends e-mails on a daily basis containing all of the forecast info, and during severe weather (tropical depressions/storms/hurricanes) he is on the radio and e-mail more than once a day.
We didn't ever contact him, but Herb Hilgenberg (http://www3.sympatico.ca/hehilgen/vax498.htm) does free weather routing for the North Atlantic between the Eastern Seaboard and Europe, including the Caribbean Sea, the Bahamas Islands and the Gulf of Mexico. He has been around forever and is probably best known for his assistance with helping people with weather routing for Atlantic crossings.
Last (and probably least) as an on the water weather source was the use of the VHF based weather. Most VHF radios have the ability to listen to WX1-WX7. This broadcasts the NWS/NOAA marine forecast for the local region and offshore (within range). We found this weather to not be overly accurate, mostly from a wave height prediction perspective. We found if we doubled the predicted wave heights, the forecast was closer to accurate.
There are a ton of Internet based weather sources that are excellent. Here are the ones we mostly used:
- http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/zone/usamz.htm (Coastal Forecasts)
- http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/home.htm (all NWS marine links, including offshore)
- http://www.strikestarus.com/index.aspx (lightning strike info)
- http://www7320.nrlssc.navy.mil/global_nlom32/gfs.html (Gulf Stream info)
- http://www.spc.noaa.gov/ (NWS Storm Prediction Center)
- http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ (National Hurricane Center)
- http://l-36.com/weather_overview.php (a very cool combined weather link)
- http://wwwghcc.msfc.nasa.gov/GOES/ (GOES satellite imagery)
- http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/ (National Data Buoy Center - look at stats from buoys)
- http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/marsh.shtml (WeatherFax's)
- http://www.weather.gov/outlook_tab.php (National weather maps)
- http://www.nco.ncep.noaa.gov/pmb/nwprod/analysis/ (Model analysis and maps)
- http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/currents11/ (US current tables)
- http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/tide_predictions.shtml (US Tide Prediction System)
- http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php (Sun and moon data)
- http://www.mailasail.com/Main/Weather (Weather by email, including GRIBs)
There are probably a bunch of other resources I missed, and I welcome you to comment on this post to add new and useful ones - I'll add them as you send them to me.