There are many sources available to gather marine forecasts and real time weather observations. Here are three that we have relied on for years:
This is the text of the forecast captains listen to on their marine radios. It is updated every six hours and predicts weather for five days. It is important to look at weather relating to where the boat is going. Since the Spectre dives Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands don’t get too excited by forecasts for other areas. Scroll down this report to: EAST SANTA BARBARA CHANNEL. The report will change with each update and becomes more reliable closer to the trip day.
This site presents a view of the four Northern Channel Islands and the Ventura coastline. Weather buoys are represented by stars and the Anacapa and Santa Cruz stations are marked with circles. The two buoys to watch are the ANACAPA PASSAGE BUOY and EAST SANTA BARBARA CHANNEL BOUY. The stations atop Anacapa and Santa Cruz will provide wind speed and direction. The buoys provide information on swells, water temperature and wind speed. These are updated every hour.
This site provides a color representation of the Santa Barbara Channel and the local islands. It is important to check the color scale below the chart. The wave height for any given color will change with bigger sea conditions. So the dark blue at the beginning of the scale can be 0-1 feet but on a bigger day might be 0-2 feet. ANACAPA is the small island to the right of SANTA CRUZ. Remember to check that area. It will usually be much calmer then the channel further west. This chart updates every few hours.
This is the site for land based weather in the Ventura area. It may not be accurate for weather just offshore.
With a lifetime at sea, mostly near the Channel Islands, I have made some observations about the weather. And like anyone’s observations about the weather, mine are mainly speculation. Here are a few. I have others but a few will do.
Television weather reports are a source of entertainment. Key phrases like “storm watch” are hooks to keep us around for the commercials. A storm in California can be a storm, or it might be 5-mph winds with just enough mist to curl hair.
Conditions change. A diver plans a trip on a sunny day then shows up for the boat when the weather turns bad. By the same reasoning the reservation phone rarely rings when it’s raining. That’s because it’s difficult to absorb how quickly conditions change. The sea and the weather are always in motion. Experienced dive captains may not predict the next dive spot much less conditions tomorrow. With the online sites now available it’s possible to watch real time conditions and note the changes.
Weather is local. The weather that really matters is the weather where you are! This means that when the wind hits the north side of Anacapa Island the boat goes to the south side. It’s a rule that applies in a hundred different ways, none of which will come up on the evening weather report.
The weather gods do as they please. Pushed hard enough I will take a guess at the weather to come. My guess will be based on local knowledge and years of experience. But I may be wrong. Weather doesn’t ride a track or take aim at a destination then go there. Too many times I’ve heard the argument that a diver can only go on a certain day, implying that the weather must cooperate. I sympathize but the weather doesn’t care. We shake our fist at the wind and are soundly ignored every time.
The weather can provide calm before the rain and many times the ocean behaves well during the rain. But divers, not wanting to be wet, wait for the clearing sky report on the evening news before heading to the boat to meet the wind. And it’s wind that clears the sky and its wind that follows the rain.
Be as flexible as possible. Go diving when the weather is good! Don’t wait! It’s not always good! Follow some of the great information that’s here for us all. Be prepared to have a rough trip now and then. A willingness to take a chance will get divers out on unexpectedly good days.