While a computer or mobile device allows access to a variety of weather services, receiving the information miles offshore and outside cell or Wi-Fi range proves challenging. A sport-fishing yacht or commercial vessel with room for a large satellite receiver might be able to access the Internet far out at sea, but the services and equipment are expensive. Plus, most center-console fishing boats don’t have room for a bulky satellite dome.
That’s where the satellite weather services provided by SiriusXM come into play. While you might think of SiriusXM as a source of music and entertainment broadcast via satellite and piped in through the onboard stereo system, special subscription packages provide much more. With just a hockey puck-size antenna or modem-size black box, a wide range of weather data, including Doppler weather radar, a chart of lightning strikes, weather warnings, wind forecasts, current wave heights and more become readily available.
A variety of marine electronics brands, including Furuno, Garmin, Lowrance, Raymarine and Simrad, offer MFDs that display marine-weather data in chart format. This allows you to monitor weather, such as storm cells tracked via Doppler marine radar relative to your boat’s current position, so you can plot a course around the danger, as we did off Port St. Lucie.
Sometimes you can’t drive around the weather, like when a big front is closing in. SiriusXM Marine helps here too. Often, the nicest sea conditions and best fishing occur just before a storm. On more than one occasion, I’ve sneaked out to score fish ahead of the front. The storm-tracking capabilities of SiriusXM let me fish as long as possible before heading in.
No one wants to keep their eyes glued to the MFD while fishing, but how else will you see storm cells, fast-moving fronts and other heavy weather early enough to make your move?
The answer comes in the form of weather alerts. SiriusXM Marine offers alerts and warnings that call your attention to dangerous weather elements in your area. The service frees you to fish with confidence, rather than constantly checking for an approaching storm.
I call fishing areas protected from winds and waves “sucker spots.” The southeast shore of California’s mountainous Santa Cruz Island is one such place. A few years ago, we were fishing in the lee of the island amid calm winds and flat seas. Yet, as we rounded the east end of Santa Cruz late in the afternoon on the way home, we saw what we’d been missing: The channel between the island and the mainland was a raging cauldron of steep 5- to 6-foot waves and rolling whitecaps.
SiriusXM Marine helps in these situations too. It allows you access to wind and wave models, as well as current sea conditions via NOAA weather buoys — not just at your current position, but anywhere along your intended route. With this service, we could have monitored the wind speeds in the 14-mile-wide channel and perhaps made the run home earlier in the day when the seas were more friendly.
Ultimately, SiriusXM Marine is not a replacement for prudent seamanship. A captain still needs to keep his eyes and ears tuned to the ever-changing nature of ocean weather. Yet such a service augments a captain’s sea sense, allowing him to view wind, waves, storms and lightning beyond visual range, to maneuver around the weather or outrun it.