News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

Weather App Shootout – Last Round and Summary

Date Posted: 2018-07-02
Source: Robert Sherer, contributing editor

Editor’s Note: Predicting weather and interpreting data from the numerous computer models used by meteorologists is tricky business. Added to that is the way in which various weather apps present information along with the timing of their updates. In this review of five weather apps - PocketGrib, PredictWind, Ventusky, Windy and Windfinder Pro  - Contributing Editor Bob Sherer conducted a simple evaluation based on his experience on a particularly windy day.

We’re on our approach to the Atlantic City, NJ inlet and the winds are piping up. I’m seeing 15 to 18 kts out of the north on the nose when it was predicted to be around 10 kts out of the south. So, we bounce around the inlet and eventually tie up at the Golden Nugget marina. The winds are howling! There was no storm, no rain, just wind. Let’s see if any of the weather apps predicted these winds!

 

I took this photo of my Multifunctional Display at the helm just after we docked when the winds had increased even more!

 

As usual, PocketGrib is first. I made this screen shot as when I was seeing the 26.3 kts at the helm! I didn’t take any screenshots of the apps before I left Cape May since they all predicted calm winds out of the south or even dying winds. PocketGrib strikes out here!

 

How did Windy do? Again, this prediction was for noon and was downloaded 12:08. A big miss here. That purple area shows winds less than 5 kts! Remember, I’m seeing 27 kts at the helm in a marina while this prediction is being made.

 

Continuing, let’s see how Ventusky does. I should only be seeing 3 kts when I’m actually seeing 27 kts! Another whiff as they say in baseball!

 

How about Windfinder. It’s another prediction of 5 kts, whiff!

 

Finally, let’s see what PredictWind has to say about this. It’s another miss, folks! It’s kind of interesting that it shows very high winds in Long Island Sound. They are supposed to move down the coast later tonight. It looks like the shift in winds arrived early and none of the weather apps caught the change. I’m missing NOAA in all of this since I didn’t expect such variable weather.

The score for this round is Weather 1, Weather Apps 0. I guess you could call it a tie since they all struck out. The previous leg down Delaware Bay was ho-hum. All apps predicted light winds and all apps were correct. The trip up the New Jersey coast was a repeat, all the apps predicted the same light winds, so I didn’t include those two legs in the ratings.

So how did the weather apps do overall? Let’s look at the scores from all four tests.

 

There is still not enough data for a definitive rating, but we'll go with what we have. I would put the top three in the same group. That’s PredictWind, Windy, and Windfinder. More data is really needed to separate them on prediction accuracy. NOAA Coastal fits pretty well in the middle with Ventusky and my formerly beloved PocketGrib bringing up the rear.

I plan on repeating the tests in the fall with my next trip down the ICW and I’ll add a few more apps in the mix. If you have any suggestions for more apps, let me know.

 

  • Comment submitted by Capt. William - Wed, Jul 4th

    The app Fishweather is my second choice boating weather app. Reefcast is the top offshore weather app.

  • Comment submitted by Jeff Bacon - Wed, Jul 4th

    Would it be fair to say that PredictWind's error, in this case, was more where the wind was located rather than the wind strength itself ? It appears that PredictWInd was showing higher wind speeds just a little further offshore vs along the coast. Not that that error would be unimportant. However, if I was seeing high winds adjacent to the area I was transiting, perhaps that is less of an error vs getting the wind velocity and direction comletely wrong ? Thanks for the work you do on your transits, Bob !

  • Comment submitted by Mark - Thu, Jul 5th

    You neglect to mention what weather model you reviewed for each app - a serious omission.   The trick to weather forecasting is to compare weather MODELS, not apps.  The probably of an accurate forecast is proportional to the agreement between the weather models.   Most weather apps will show results for more than one model.  

  • Comment submitted by Daniel Swords - Fri, Jul 6th

    I find SailFlow to be by far the most and the most accurate plus they provide actual data from the day/several hours before. You should check it out, it is a far superior app. 

  • Comment submitted by Capt. William - Sat, Jul 7th

    On the Fishweather app you can look at the weather bouys and weather stations to get live data. 

  • Comment submitted by Daryl - Sat, Jul 7th

    i like using FishAngler for weather forecasts

  • Comment submitted by Terry Moy - Sun, Jul 22nd

    Bob(423) As novice cruisers we will look forward to the next installment of this work!   And as usual thanks for sharing, you make us all better and safer on the water. 

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