Introducing Super GRIB !


Viewfax4This is a Super GRIB hot off the Saildocs press.  And it’s courtesy of  both the Tropical Analysis & Forecast Branch of NOAA, and Jim Corenman of SailMail Association, who forged the process in order for you to get it through your AirMail program.

It’s a new approach to looking at raw meteorological data, in that the data in the Super GRIB is cooked a bit.   It’s still a bit on the rare side, because at this stage it’s quite experimental!

Go ahead – click on the image for its full effect!




In a series of conversations with NOAA forecasters, we’ve received incredibly detailed answers to our questions about their new project, the East Pacific Offshore Forecast (EPAC).

We’ve organized the conversations in a kind of Q & A format, which you can find here. It’ll help you understand the “architecture” of the project –  and your place as a participant in it.


Where are the buoys?

Here are they are. Notice something strange?

Here are they are. Notice something strange?

Anyone who has spent more than a couple of months sailing along the Pacific Coast of the Americas (aka the East Pacific) knows that figuring out what the weather is doing can be a complex and time-consuming affair.  We have some terrific volunteer weather “helpers” who spend hours each day going through satellite imagery and downloading charts and GRIBs and perhaps even consulting privately with the weather gods.

But it never seems to be enough.


Experimental Forecasts Now Available

UPDATE 0830 MDT March 25, 2014

Jim Corenman at SailMail Association has just notified me that Saildocs is now distributing the forecasts.  To request the forecasts all you need is to send an email to with this line in the body of the message:

send OFFPZ7       

This will send the forecast for Pacific Mexico coast.  For Central America south to Ecuador,  use this syntax:

send OFFPZ8

A full discussion of the process can be found here.



I am delighted to share with you the great news that the new NOAA forecast for the coastal East Pacific is now available on an experimental basis. Below you will find two URLs which will refresh (I believe) 4 times daily (230am PDT, 830am PDT, 230pm PDT, and 830pm PDT).

The simplest method for those of you without broadband Internet access will be to use Saildocs to “scrape” the data on a request basis. For example, for those interested in Mexican Pacific waters:

Send an email to: with this line in the body of the message:


For those interested in Central America down to Ecuador, do the same thing but send an email to: with this line in the body of the message:

Make sure the URL is in the top line of the message body without any spaces or indents.

Check your mail in a few minutes and your email service should send you the contents of those two URLs.

Net controllers: Please use the following disclaimer when reading the forecasts on your scheduled evenings:

“The following weather forecast is an EXPERIMENTAL product from NOAA. The product is in the beginnings of a trial phase, which will go on for several months. Until these forecasts become official, please use your prudence in interpreting this data especially when making travel plans.”

At the end of the weather briefing, please close it with this statement (please feel free to put it in your own words):

“That concludes the reading of the EXPERIMENTAL East Pacific Forecasts from NOAA. For more information regarding the trial phase, please see the Southbound Evening Net website at and sign up to become a beta tester.  Your feedback will be sent on to NOAA during the trial period and will help forecasters improve the product. Any questions or comments please call now.”

I will be incorporating this into a revised Preamble and will have it ready for you to download from the website.

SV Wendaway


Here is the information from Forecaster Lewitsky:

OFFPZ7 (Mexico)

OFFPZ8 (Central America, Colombia and Ecuador)

These should refresh automatically anytime the product is updated.

Also, please note that until these become operational if there are any
technical issues (e.g. the computer running the products goes down over a
weekend, etc) that they may become unavailable until the problem could be


Raising the courtesy flag at sunset

Raising the courtesy flag at sunset

The Southbound Evening Net  is a nightly amateur radio network that takes place every evening  at precisely the same time.  Southbound is a volunteer operation dedicated to improving the safety of mariners especially those traveling south of San Diego, CA and north of Panama.

Every night we take “check-ins”  from cruisers, help them connect with one another and  provide them with relevant information.

Like other marine radio “nets”,   Southbound strives to be reliable.  Our extremely loose organization promises to have a volunteer on the air at precisely the same time every night. In return, the even-looser community of cruisers provides a steady supply of volunteers.  It all works out.

Mostly our work is fairly routine. Boats call in and tell us what’s happening aboard, or en route.  It all gets written down, especially when they report their exact location and destination.  Sometimes they want to connect with their friends in other anchorages.

And some nights, hardly anybody calls. But we’re still there, listening.

And then there are the rarest of rare occasions, when someone calls in with an urgent appeal for help.  And we’re there for that, too.

Since the Southbound Net  is an evening net,  anyone checking in while underway is traveling at night, which changes things a bit. Night crossings, as every sailor knows, have a special dark tenor, and hearing the sound of familiar voices tends to lighten things up a bit.

Many –   sailors and landlubbers alike –  have a rough idea about  ham radio. You need a license to operate one. You need to learn a lot of  old stuff.  But sometimes in big emergencies –  when the cell phone networks die and telephone lines are down –  ham operators somehow get thru. But you have to have a license.

Southbound is a Single Side Band network,  so you can be a complete idiot (like us) and transmit to your heart’s content. If you have a high frequency marine radio, you can use it. (We do ask for your “ship station license”, usually available from your home national government).

You will require a high frequency marine or ham radio that is capable of tuning into 6.516 mHz, Upper Side Band USB).

You will be asked to behave yourselves while on-air, although we do ask nicely.

The conversation is “controlled” in that all communications go through the volunteer who is operating the net. There is a clear format and a few rules that make sure that vessels that are “checking in” (reporting their whereabouts and circumstances) get a chance to do so in an orderly way.

The Specifics

Start Time:   0100 Zulu

Primary Frequencies: 6.516 mHz USB) and 4.149 mHz  (4B)

Acting Net Manager:   Mark on SV Wendaway.  You can contact him by leaving filling out the form below.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please put that in the Comment box!  You’ll receive our monthly bulletin, and other cruisers will treat you with renewed respect and invite you to drink their almost- best tequila.

Even if that doesn’t pan out,  you will still be doing your fellow cruisers a good deed.