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Old 08-03-2018, 09:47 PM   #1
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Use Weather Forecasts; Don't Try to Make Them.

I think it's great that there are courses to help understand weather better.

I take exception to the phraseology of this ad. I wrote Passage Maker about it last month, but they seemed not to understand my concern.

"Chris Parker has been the cruiser’s best friend since the dawn of the millennium, when he began giving weather routing advice. Heading from Newport to Bermuda? Crossing the Gulf Stream? Hiking the “Thorny Path” to the Caribbean? Parker has always been there for us. Now he’s sharing his wisdom with a pair of online courses, beginning with Weather 101, Basics, a Boaters University course which lays the foundation for Weather 202, Advanced (coming soon). Together they teach forecasting essentials, enabling us to evaluate commercial and government weather predictions and make independent decisions."

It's these last four words: “and make independent decisions” is what I take exception to.

One, two or three+ weather courses cannot make you a weather forecaster. They can help you understand how numerical weather forecasts are made, but to say or even imply that you will be able to pick one model over another (making independent decisions) for any given space and time is fallacious at best, and possibly dangerous at worse.

I don’t want to get into a lawyer’s argument about what “independent” means. As skippers of our boats, we all make independent decisions all the time.

But taking courses by Chris Parker, will not make you forecast like Chris Parker.

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Old 08-04-2018, 07:12 AM   #2
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Well I think what was meant by "independent decisions" is to make the best decision based on all available information which might be limited or out of date particularly while cruising offshore.

I don't think what was meant is to look up into the sky and decide to go with no further input .

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Old 08-04-2018, 07:36 AM   #3
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Back in the days of working for a living , the motto was

"why check the weather?, were going anyway."

For inshore sailors the local TV weather radar does the work,

offshore you get whats coming , regardless of the weather guessers.
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Old 08-04-2018, 07:49 AM   #4
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FWIW...

I'd interpret that to mean making decisions about what to do with the boat... in light of forecasts. Not decisions about what the weather will (might) be, but decisions about whether (get it?) to go out in it or not.

We often encounter local predictions for uncomfortable sea states... but we also know that often those won't develop until the time of day when wind opposes tide. We don't second-guess the whole forecast, but we do sometimes take advantage of knowing how local forecasts sometimes (often?) play out in real life.

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Old 08-04-2018, 08:23 AM   #5
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...but we also know that often those won't develop until the time of day when wind opposes tide.
THIS. It's one thing to know if it's going to be raining. It's another to know that a wind out of a particular direction (for a length of time) will make for uncomfortable recreational boating.

Two things I pay most attention to are if the wind is going to be opposing our trip home and if a weather front is parallel to the shoreline. Either one can make for problematic summertime recreational boating on the Chesapeake. A long wind running the length of the Bay can stack up a lot of chop, made worse if the tide's opposing it. But a front running parallel to the shore can often kick up some pretty sudden squalls if there's enough temp/humidity difference. I'll adjust my plans accordingly.

When traveling for fun there's little sense in forcing the issue. Best to get that into your head AND that of your crew. Don't get so fixated on getting to a particular destination that everyone hates the trip.

For work, sure, I get it, you're going out.
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Old 08-04-2018, 09:28 AM   #6
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[QUOTE=Wxx3;686466].....enabling us to evaluate commercial and government weather predictions and make independent decisions.

When I read this I ignored the word independent and the statement made more sense to me. (IMO.) When looking at a forecast, one makes a "go/no go" decision based on the forecast. It is not an independent decision but rather it is an informed one based on the weather data that was reviewed.
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Old 08-04-2018, 09:53 AM   #7
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I think it's great that there are courses to help understand weather better.

I take exception to the phraseology of this ad. I wrote Passage Maker about it last month, but they seemed not to understand my concern.

"Chris Parker has been the cruiser’s best friend since the dawn of the millennium, when he began giving weather routing advice. Heading from Newport to Bermuda? Crossing the Gulf Stream? Hiking the “Thorny Path” to the Caribbean? Parker has always been there for us. Now he’s sharing his wisdom with a pair of online courses, beginning with Weather 101, Basics, a Boaters University course which lays the foundation for Weather 202, Advanced (coming soon). Together they teach forecasting essentials, enabling us to evaluate commercial and government weather predictions and make independent decisions."

It's these last four words: “and make independent decisions” is what I take exception to.

One, two or three+ weather courses cannot make you a weather forecaster. They can help you understand how numerical weather forecasts are made, but to say or even imply that you will be able to pick one model over another (making independent decisions) for any given space and time is fallacious at best, and possibly dangerous at worse.

I don’t want to get into a lawyer’s argument about what “independent” means. As skippers of our boats, we all make independent decisions all the time.

But taking courses by Chris Parker, will not make you forecast like Chris Parker.
I was somewhat perplexed by the wording too as whether they intended it that way or not, I'm sure some people will go in thinking they're going to learn how to forecast weather.

I would have much preferred it say something like "Teach basics about how forecasts are developed, various models, and how you can best utilize the forecasts available to you."

There is a slightly more scary paragraph on the web page for the course. It reads.

“Weather 101, Basics” is a course for ambitious cruisers, who want the knowledge to perform reality checks on forecasts received from afar and the ability to craft their own when onboard technology goes dark.


I know nothing about how to forecast, but I do know that no one is accurate all the time and all the major forecasters have varying degrees of accuracy. Even when there's a consensus, one of the least reliable outliers may turn out to be the one right this particular time. I use multiple sources and based on them try to form an opinion as to what is most likely but also using those that are worse, what might be possible and to be aware of.

Chris Parker is a very valuable resource because of his focus on each area but he's not a God and not infallible and that one things somehow through a couple of courses they're going to become a forecaster is dangerous. He who knows he doesn't know how to forecast is far safer than one who becomes convinced they do know how.

I do applaud his philosophy as expressed here:

I try to make sure you are not surprised by the weather, especially that you're not surprised by inclement weather. Occasionally that means my forecasts for inclement weather fail to verify, but I'd much rather have it that way than to have clients surprised by nasty weather. Of course, I can't anticipate all inclement weather, and I encourage clients to use as many forecast sources as they wish. I encourage dialogue.


I have no problems with his Syllabus as long as it comes complete with disclaimers throughout, warning of the dangers of a little bit of knowledge. Actually, the only Module I'd be interested in is Module 5 which is "Forecast Resources."

I don't fault his desire to monetize his reputation. I would just advise him and advise anyone taking the courses to be very careful.
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Old 08-04-2018, 09:56 AM   #8
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Knowing Chris Parker I don’t believe that it was his intention that this class would make you as good as he is at his profession. I do believe it should give you a better chance of making a correct forecast. We all know forecasting weather especially in the tropics in not exact.
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Old 08-04-2018, 10:01 AM   #9
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Knowing Chris Parker I don’t believe that it was his intention that this class would make you as good as he is at his profession. I do believe it should give you a better chance of making a correct forecast. We all know forecasting weather especially in the tropics in not exact.
I doubt the wording was his, but sometimes it's easy for one well intentioned to fall in the hands of those more interested in marketing and selling.

As to "it should give you a better chance of making a correct forecast", that's exactly the objection Richard and I have and that is that most of us, even with the course, should not be making a forecast at all, but sourcing forecasts and using that information developed by experts.
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Old 08-04-2018, 10:16 AM   #10
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Your in the Bahamas with no radio or tv so you are without any info concerning the weather. Would you be better off taking this course to plan a day long passage or not?

We have all taken some type of mechanics class but most of us (Ski excepted) are not mechanics but the knowledge we acquired will give us a better chance of solving the problem.

Point is taking the class can only be beneficial.
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Old 08-04-2018, 10:34 AM   #11
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Point is taking the class can only be beneficial.
As long as one doesn't assume they learned enough to do their own forecasting and get carried away. I've seen amateur forecasters in the Bahamas. Flipping a coin would have had better odds than one I observed.
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Old 08-04-2018, 11:07 AM   #12
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I suppose the same could be said about any class.. Taking a first aid class doesn’t give one the skills for open heart surgery.
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Old 08-04-2018, 11:26 AM   #13
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I don't think the examples of mechanical or first aid classes are applicable. In those cases your only option is to take care of the situation with only your knowledge. The more knowledge you have, the more problems you can solve. That's good.

When it comes to weather info, you have a professionally prepared forecast by the weather service, noaa, etc. If you decide to create your own forecast, you are assuming that you are better than the professional services.

To make the first aid class example approptiate, imagine your dealing with an injury, and a doctor gives you a diagnosis....and you decide to ignore it and make your own diagnosis.

Knowledge is always a good thing..but taking your own advice over professionals' can lead to problems.
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Old 08-04-2018, 11:43 AM   #14
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No where in my argument did I say to ignore professional information. My point is when you don’t have the advantage of professionals a class you take is better than nothing. I believe in the professionals, Chris Parker being one. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear.
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Old 08-04-2018, 02:31 PM   #15
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I have been in that situation where you had to interpret what even pro forecasters thought.

Back in the day, all Naval Aviators took a boatload of meteorology classes in flight school.

Did I become proficient at weather forecasting? Heck no because we had little of the raw data and models of the pros in most cases.

But, when in Antarctica, one if my collateral duties was to work with the marine science techs and send what little weather data we could collect to Navy Pearl Harbor every day. The next morning, we would get a forecast based on dats nearly 24 hrs old and much of it was just rewritten guesses that we sent them. So day to day flying down there was pretty much based on whatever the Senior Aviator and I could guess. The same holds true for localized weather wherever you boat. General forecasts usually dont cover very localized geographical locations.

It would be the rare individual in todays world that hadnt had the occasion to question a professional in some category. There is just so much info available at ones fingertips. Its really nothing more than a second opinion that has been suggested for generations.

Taking classes on any subject brings one closer to a orofessional level, what one does with it is only as good as their common sense quotient allows.

I always used to say to other pilots who pointed the finger too quick..... there are probably some doctors that are better pilots than a few I know including me, and there are some pilots I know that would be better docs than a few I know.
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Old 08-04-2018, 03:48 PM   #16
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Taking classes on any subject brings one closer to a orofessional level, what one does with it is only as good as their common sense quotient allows.

Your point, and David’s earlier one I think are right on. A little knowledge doesn’t allow you to duplicate what the pros do, but they do help us understand and interpret what the pros do. That helps us as consumers of professional services be it weather forecasts, tax advice, or medical advice. I see the courses as simply designed to create a smarter consumer.
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Old 08-05-2018, 06:34 AM   #17
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I've instructed the USPS Wx course for many yes and will admit it includes a couple of sessions and exercises dealing with developing a forecast.
The purpose is NOT to make the participants forecasters but to begin to learn and appreciate some of the very basics of what it takes to develop a fcst.
When we meet w the local NWS personnel I make it a point to discuss the forecasting exercise we just completed. They are quick to point out that it would be near impossible to provide a reliable fcst from the limited info we are working with. In this case we deal exclusively with surface data... Temp Pressures Winds....
The NWS staff makes a strong point that conditions aloft have a major impact on the Wx and to not include that makes forecasting difficult at best.
The participants have a better understanding of the factors that affect a forecast and the complexity of developing one.
I have never had any participant feel they could do better than the professionals nor even wanted to try. Instead I think they better appreciate the difficulty and variability associated w any forecast.
I hope that deeper understanding helps them make their independant boating (and other) decisions more intelligently. I feel we all make decisions based on daily forecasts since the professionals only give us the forecast but we decide what actions we will or will not attempt given their forecasts.

Long way of saying I agree w WXX3 point but I doubt the cited course instructor intends his course description to mean anyone should develop their own forecast and ignore what the professionals provide.
Interpretation of the words written can take different forms and some of those may / can be misleading.
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Old 08-05-2018, 09:29 AM   #18
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Your in the Bahamas with no radio or tv so you are without any info concerning the weather. Would you be better off taking this course to plan a day long passage or not?

We have all taken some type of mechanics class but most of us (Ski excepted) are not mechanics but the knowledge we acquired will give us a better chance of solving the problem.

Point is taking the class can only be beneficial.
First, I assumed Chris Parker did not write that blurb. He knows better and his course is valuable.

I have a different take on the value of the course. In my mind, anyone taking this course(s) would have a better understanding of both the usefulness and the limitations of wx forecasts.
They would also better understand that a digitized wx fcst is similar to a CD versus a phonograph.
Computers digitize an analog process which the weather is.
The advances we've made in numerical weather forecasts during the last 50 years is because we've been better at digitizing an analog process.
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Old 08-06-2018, 11:25 AM   #19
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I was finally able to get a weekend on the boat this last weekend. Way too busy this summer. Anyway, on the way out the door I grabbed one of several books that had been given to me by family members.

The book I grabbed was “And Soon I Heard a Roaring Wind: A Natural History of Moving Air” by Bill Streever.

I read through about 1/4 of the book over the weekend and thought of this thread. The book is a mix of history, personal experience, biography, and science. So far pretty good.
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Old 08-06-2018, 11:39 AM   #20
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So Dave, are you now an expert on weather? Hahaha
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