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A Sirius/XM Development

A Sirius/XM Development

Finally—dependable, detailed, real-time weather info onboard.

Sirius/XM services offer weather station and buoy reports (left), animated frontal boundaries (middle), and NexRad (right).

Years ago, during one of the economic downturns that regularly plague the oil-and-gas business, I found myself crossing the Caribbean in a 197-foot tug-supply vessel with a military patrol boat chocked and chained to her cargo deck. The point of the endeavor was to bolster the faltering finances of the company I worked for at the time by supplying Panama’s Navy with speedy watercraft for the then-popular war on drugs.

The weather on this particular trip was horrific. In fact, one period was so bad I had to tack back and forth into oncoming seas, sailboat-fashion, for a couple of days to maintain forward progress without losing the patrol boat over the side. How darkly elemental and technology-starved seafaring seemed back then, with little more for comfort than a faltering satnav, a buzzing single-sideband, and a weatherfax that blinked and beeped uselessly. Thank goodness things are different today, especially in terms of the weather information that’s available to commercial and recreational mariners alike.

Recreational improvements began some six years ago when The Weather Channel launched a satellite-broadcast system that delivered “up-to-the-minute” info directly to boats equipped with PCs or other compatible navigation displays. But while the system offered great features, including radar overlays (updated every five minutes), offshore and coastal forecasts, weather advisories, storm tracking, surface temperature data, forecast graphics, and live buoy reports, it eventually succumbed to technical and other issues.

The next step came shortly after, when Garmin partnered with XM Satellite Radio to bring XM Satellite Weather to the marine marketplace. The partnership offered roughly the same features as The Weather Channel’s system but using different satellites and abjuring PC technology in favor of Garmin’s own plotter screens. Friends of mine who bought into the system and still use it today continue to be total fans, praising the peace of mind, convenience, and safety that come from having solid, timely weather info available onboard.

The most recent development surfaced at this year’s Miami International Boat Show. In the wake of a much-touted merger, the two big names in satellite radio unveiled a hybrid service (offering Sirius Marine Weather for some customers and XM WX Satellite Weather for others) and showcased its capabilities onboard a yacht. Display stations from major electronics manufacturers like Lowrance, Raymarine, Furuno, and Simrad were present, not just Garmin.

My take, based on a few hours? First, although the weather info available on both the Sirius and XM sides of the equation closely resembled what The Weather Channel intro’d, the presentations seemed steadier and more reliable, most likely due to Sirius/XM’s optimization of the technology for mass market delivery to consumers. Not only does XM WX’s geostationary constellation of satellites continue to offer excellent, wide-ranging coverage for Gar-min and Humminbird owners, but a new geostationary satellite has been added to Sirius Marine’s non-stationary constellation, enhancing coverage for Raymarine, Simrad, Furuno, and Lowrance owners.

And second, what a helluva deal for boaters Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s two new weather services seem to be, particularly in light of the componentry’s relatively low cost (between $250 and $800, depending on electronics manufacturer and brand of service) and the reasonable price of their monthly subscriptions (between $10 and $60, depending on level of service). Lemme tell ya—such developments woulda been plumb popular back when I was ridin’ the Caribbean on a wing and a prayer!

This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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