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Safe at Sea: Weather! Weather! Weather!

By PAT SCHMIDT - | Nov 17, 2020

As I write this column, Sanibel has issued a series of tropical storm warnings (Tropical Storm Eta is on its way). With strong winds/wind gusts and a potential 2-foot storm surge, we’ve been reminded to take all the storm precautions we know so well.

This current weather pattern should give us pause and remind us all how critical being well-informed about the weather is. Knowing the weather forecast is essential to being safe at sea. Therefore, this column will focus on a few Websites that offer all boaters (and landlubbers) all the weather information they need — and then some.

First, America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva is a robust resource for boaters, specifically, at “http://www.sancapboating.club”>www.sancapboating.club. Navigate to the “Resources” tab and click on “Marine Weather.” It will take you to the National Weather Service Website. (You will notice that our local forecast office is located in Tampa Bay.) Enter your location by name or zip code and you will immediately be taken to a snapshot of current weather: wind speed, humidity, barometer, visibility, heat index. Below that is a brief five-day forecast, followed by a detailed seven-day forecast. At several points on the page, you can double click on portions of the site, providing the user layers upon layers of information.

An aside: You will also be able to locate “Local Tides” and “Fuel Prices” (good information for boaters) on the America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva site.

Second, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network is rich in local weather/boating information at http://recon.sccf.org/news. RECON is a network of water sensors deployed throughout the Caloosahatchee and coastal waters. On the site, you will be able to learn (in real time) wind gusts and wind speed, water temperature and air temperature, and heat index. With sensors throughout our water area, such as Shell Point, McIntyre Creek and Tarpon Bay, a clear water/weather picture is available.

Third, on everyone’s smartphone — there are great, free weather apps. Having grown tired of trying to deal with The Weather Channel, I downloaded the “Dark Sky” app and it has proven to be my go-to one for weather. I highly recommend it.

By the way, many weather Websites deliver information in knots per hour, rather than miles per hour. Memorize: 1 knot equals 1.15 mile.

Hopefully, Eta will have passed as peacefully as possible when this column prints. Meanwhile, be reminded: Know your local weather before you ever head out on the seas.

Pat Schmidt is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and its boating education courses, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.