UK Marine Coastal Weather Services

About this page

Marine weather forecasts around the UK and western Europe are summarised on this page.


Related pages

On this page -


The MCA, HMCG in particular,, are very proactive in the implementation of UK MSI services to coastal mariners. They are always willing to discuss with users and to consider suggestions and criticisms.


UK HMCG procedures.

The content and schedules of the broadcasts of MSI on VHF are as agreed by the RYA after much discussion with associations, clubs and individual members. The salient features of these broadcasts are -

  • Weather forecasts are broadcast every three hours from 0710.
  • New inshore waters 24 hour forecasts plus new 24 hour outlooks are issued every 6 hours from 0710
  • Intermediate forecasts are repeats of the previous broadcast.
  • Strong Wind Warnings are issued on receipt from the Met Office if the wind in an inshore forecast area is expected to exceed force 6 and it was not forecast in the last Inshore Forecast. Warnings are repeated in the next broadcast or incorporated into the next new inshore forecast.
  • Broadcasts are grouped around the coast so that, apart from Belfast, forecasts are broadcast within about 1 hour of the start of the cycle.
  • Inshore waters forecasts are broadcast on NAVTEX 490 kHz.
  • Sea Area outlooks for 3 to 5 days are broadcast on NAVTEX 518 kHz.

There is a short call on Ch 16 to announce broadcasts. Schedules of HMCG broacasts will be found on another page of this site.

Met Office Website

The Met Office website contains texts of

  • Shipping forecasts
  • High Seas forecasts
  • Inshore waters forecasts
  • Strong wind, gale and storm warnings
  • Updated hourly actual reports from all round the British Isles

Except for weather actuals, these pages are available in printable form for quick downloading.

Caution: The internet is not part of the Maritime Safety Information system and should never be relied upon as the only means to obtain the latest forecast and warning information. Access to the service may be interrupted or delayed from time to time, updates may also be delayed. Please refer to GMDSS services, Inmarsat SafetyNET or international NAVTEX for the latest information. When using these web, always check that the page on your screen is not from your cache. Use the Refresh or Reload button if in any doubt. As with any forecast, ALWAYS check date and time of issue.

BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 long wave broadcasts the 18 area Inshore waters forecasts after the 0048 and 0521 shipping forecasts. The late night broadcast includes actual reports from a long list of coastal stations. The early morning broadcast uses a shorter list.

These times are not a problem when sailing. For those ashore and who like their sleep, the Internet has all the relevant information in text or using iPlayer.

Use of the Internet for Weather MSI

Many leisure sailors make some use of the Internet to obtain weather forecasts.

 Other page, provide many links for this purpose.  Some words of caution and advice may help beginners: -
  • For day to day decision making, most reliance should be placed on those forecasts produced by National Met Services (UK Met Office, Météo France, Met Éireann etc). These will be based on the most complete data available, the best numerical weather prediction models, tuned to the area, and will have the important benefit of human interpretation and vetting.
  • Sailors should be prepared to compare forecasts from different Met Services. This is not in order to choose the one that you like best, but to look for consistency. As a general rule, inconsistency implies uncertainty.
  • For the same reason, compare successive forecasts from the same source eg UK shipping forecasts on the BBC. Inconsistency from one forecast to the next, again, implies uncertainty.
  • Forecasts produced completely automatically should be used with care. This applies to forecasts produced both by private and National Met Services. In particular, it applies to GRIB coded forecasts. These forecasts are very useful for planning over the next few days but, for short term use they should only be used in the light of forecasts with human, intelligent, input.
  • Remember that no broadcast or routinely issued forecast is capable of describing the weather on a space/time resolution that we sailors observe. This applies equally to National and private Met services.

Using the Internet when afloat

It is rare nowadays to find a cruising yacht without a laptop PC, tablet or smartohone. Costs are usually small.

Occasionally, however, such facilities are not available. You may be able to still use a dial-up connection but more likely will have to use GPRS (General Packet Radio System,) sometimes, known as 2.5G. This involves linking a mobile phone to a laptop.

If you have to go down this route, as I have done on occasion, then care is needed to avoid running up a big bill, especially if roaming. Several pages on the [[Weather-Communications-For-Leisure-Sailors | Communication pages of this site might help. They were written mainly before 3G became widespread and give hints on keeping costs down.

Summary

The UK HMCG VHF weather broadcast have been developed in consultation with users. In parallel, the Met Office website provides a useful back-up service, as does the BBC site and the Internet in general. If there are problems, sailors are invited to channel their comments, criticisms and suggestion through the RYA.


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