When operating ships and boats, weather is always a consideration; sometimes underlying, sometimes front and center.
Changes in weather can appear subtle, and then suddenly forceful. To the unprepared, a storm can appear to have popped up without warning. That’s rarely the case, yet boaters find themselves in precarious positions all too often due to careless planning. On a given Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the summer, one can see boaters scrambling to get back to the ramp or the dock. “There was only a 20% chance of thunderstorms – surely it would be the other 80% of boaters affected, not me.”
Forecasting Weather Today
Today’s Weather Forecasting is as good as it has ever been. We have a weather module via SiriusXM in our boat that provides near-real-time weather integrated into our chart plotters: satellite imagery, lightning strikes, radar overlays and sea state can all be overlaid in customized displays. Bulletins are updated on a regular schedule. It is a tremendous resource for voyage planning when out of cellular range and without internet connectivity. Some even have a similar version in their cars.
Internet weather resources are also readily available for free, and they draw on the best resources in the world for their core data. These are very useful planning tools before departure or during coastal operations.
On the day of an open water transit, or just underway for fun, we keep an eye on things with VHF radio weather alerts, onboard radar, a storm-tracker phone “app” (within cell range), and the ever-available weather eye.
Mariners develop a weather eye with some basic training and experience. They have learned how to know the general situation unfolding around them, and then pay attention to subtle changes that indicate something changing: a wind shift, a temperature drop, ripples become white caps, flags wave more forcefully. A prudent mariner has done some homework before the lines get taken in and the boat departs such that the changes from what was expected are easier to appreciate.
Scanning Your Own Business Environment Patterns
What’s the scan pattern of your business environment by your leadership team? Do they read, listen to or watch the news? If so, how deep do they go for understanding? I often hear, “I just can’t even listen/watch anymore.” There are plenty of reasons to think the news of the day is not well presented or incorporates a bias. But that doesn’t mean that facts aren’t available.
Encourage your team to use all of the resources to really understand the environment. This week, no less than NBC News’ White House reporter incorrectly reported on defense bill progress in reporting that the President will veto the budget if it included certain language. That was not at all what happened, or what the President said in writing.
The point is, there is a lot of very accurate information readily available, free and simple to consume. You might be stuck in a pattern, and are missing what are discernable changes in your environment.
Focus on improving your weather eye by maintaining a solid baseline of incoming information; you’ll be better positioned to pick up on the wind shift.
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