For the first time boaters can learn to be their own forecasters under the tutelage of popular weather router Chris Parker. This is not an easy thing to accomplish in a short period of time, so we have devised a unique system—a mix of online and in-person learning.
(Credit to Chris Morejohn of Hogfish Maximus for that dramatic photo above. You'd like to know if that were coming your way.)
First, students must take Weather 101, Basics online at www.boatersuniversity.com. This 3½-hour course instills the fundamentals of how weather happens and includes quizzes. Then, the second part of the course—the part where forecasting is taught—happens at TrawlerFest in Stuart, Florida. That all-day session is called Weather 202, Advanced (Live), and it happens on March 6.
TrawlerFest attendees will have permanent access to the advanced course online, and for those who cannot make the trip to Stuart, the online version will be available for sale, so all students who have completed the initial course can finish the second one as well.
Excuse the inconvenience, but this requires visiting the Boaters University site for the initial course and then traveling to the TrawlerFest ticketing site to sign up for the second half, but it’s a lot easier than predicting the weather, isn’t it? We don’t care in what order you sign up for the courses. We’re not even going to check, because we are all adults here. But be forewarned: It’s probably not a very good idea to try to take the second half of the course without taking Weather 101 first.
Complete both courses, and we'll present you with a certificate of completion, signed by Chris Parker, that can have a positive effect on your vessel's insurance rates, depending on what type of insurance you have and your underwriter's policies.
When Chris Parker was four, his ambition was to be a TV weatherman. He even studied Meteorology for a couple years at college in Vermont, but he ended up with a degree in Business.
Parker grew up in a boating family, however, and it got the best of him. In mid-career, he chucked his business life to cruise the East Coast, Bahamas and Caribbean. For 12 years, he and his partner and Wizard the cat lived like seagoing gypsies. “We took pride in traveling an average of 5,000 miles each year, while burning an average of about 50 gallons of diesel,” he says. “We almost always sailed from place to place, and often sailed on and off anchor.”
Parker tells the story of why he came back to his childhood dream of growing up a weatherman. It was a case of self-defense, and it happened in the Bahamas in the winter of 2000:
"We were caught several times by nasty cold fronts which arrived with no warning. Nasty weather surprises were not supposed to be part of retirement in paradise! Being a hard-headed "type-A" personality, I figured I had to be able to do a better job predicting weather than the forecasts I'd been relying on. I began downloading and analyzing weather-fax charts and text forecasts and generating a forecast for our use. Soon after, GRIB files became available and they were a huge help, providing precise (though not always correct) input.
When discussing plans for upcoming days with cruising friends, the conversation inevitably turned to weather. Friends asked why we wanted a protected anchorage on a particular afternoon, or why we decided to go northeast to Eleuthera from Staniel Cay instead of continuing southeast down the Exumas. I said our decisions were based on the weather forecast, and when the forecast I was using turned-out to be correct time and time again, friends began asking where I got my forecast. Before long, friends were hailing me on SSB and VHF radios for forecasts."
Parker went pro. He became chief forecaster for the Caribbean Weather Center after its founder David Jones died in late 2003. He continued in the position until late 2010, when he founded the Marine Weather Center, based in Lakeland, Florida, where he broadcasts to small private vessels all over the world using powerful radio equipment and the Internet.