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Weather & Tide charts

Current weather from 

Wind chart for Western Approaches

Charts courtesy of Windy.com

WaveNet, Cefas’ strategic wave monitoring network for the United Kingdom, provides a single source of real-time wave data from a network of wave buoys
Click here to see the page of interactive wave data.

Tide for Western Approaches

The Beaufort Wind Scale as depicted by fishing vessels at sea.

For anyone ashore the strength of the wind impacts very little on day-to-day living. At sea, things are different and sailors, fishermen in particular have relied for years on the regular Met Office Shipping Forecast as provided by the BBC.  

The origins of the Beaufort Wind Scale lie in observed values - the visual appearance of the sea state and the ability of a vessel to cope under those conditions.  Other factors come into play - not least key elements such as the depth of water and the nearness of land in relation to the direction of the wind from whence it has travelled - or 'fetch' as it is known.

Here, each video of a fishing vessel at sea approximates to a given Beaufort Wind Scale from 1-12. Once the wind exceeds Hurricane Force 12, the visual appearance of the sea state changes little - for smaller vessels anything over Force 10 becomes a question of survival.

Force 0

Force 1

Force 2


Force 5

Force 6

Force 7

Force 8

Force 9



Force 11

Force 12

Winds in excess of Force 12 (Hurricane)

The Beaufort Scale (0-12) was originally based on a written description of the appearance of the sea for the benefit of sailors recording their voyages and for referencing the weather for the French and British navies. Consequently, once the wind exceeds 70 knots the sea state changes little. Here is a pelagic trawler off the west coast of Scotland in 96 knots of wind off the west coats of Scotland.

Fetch: The Beaufort Scale does not take into account the effect that a swell (ground sea) has on the size of the waves. In bad weather – anything over force 8 in sheltered waters – like the Irish Sea - the waves are steep and the product of the wind, 'wind-sea' – the waves can dissipate as quickly as the wind does. Waves that travel long distances are the product of a prevailing wind have a much greater ‘fetch’ (the distance they travel) and produce a swell that is a huge energy store – which is why we have such good surf in Cornwall (as does the west coast of Ireland) with waves that begin life off the eastern seaboard of the USA and travel 3,000 miles across the NE Atlantic.

In storms where the wind direction changes quickly the sea can become confused and produce dangerous pyramid waves that can rear up and disappear - dangerous in particular to smaller vessels that can be capsized in such seas.

Off the exposed west coast of the UK and Ireland you can be in a 20ft swell and yet the sea surface is like glass with no wind - this most often occurs in summer fogs.  Another significant factor affecting the sea state is the depth of water - especially where there is a strong tide - as in the notorious Pentland Firth off the NE coast of Scotland or the Raz de Sein off Brittany.

When caught in extreme winds, powered vessels can 'dodge' - setting a course to steam slowly directly into the wind to improve comfort and reduce the chance of capsize. Running for shelter with a 'following sea' can be very dangerous as a vessel can 'broach' - turn suddenly side-on to a wave - causing it to roll over. Sailing vessels can only deploy a drogue to hold the bow of the boat into the oncoming wind - or just lay to the wind and batten down the hatches!