Guidance Counselor Page 2

Weather Router Walt Hack, Part 2
Guidance Counselor
Part 2: Weather router Walt Hack

By Tim Clark — July 2001
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Weather Routers
• Part 2: Weather Routers
• Part 3: Weather Routers

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Weather routing had its start in U.S. Navy operations as early as World War II. By the 1950s marine meteorology had advanced to the point that such services could result in measurable savings to commercial shipping companies by helping them save time and avoid heavy-weather damage to vessels and cargo. In recent years, responding to the boom in recreational boating, weather-routing advisory services have moved into the pleasure yacht venue.

Hack's career followed a similar progression. After studies at the U.S. Navy Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, he served five years in the U.S. Navy as a meteorologist, three of them aboard an aircraft carrier. In the mid-1970s he went to work for Bendix Corporation's commercial ship-routing services, where as operations supervisor he helped adapt the service to yachts. Following stints at other weather advisory companies, he founded Ocean Marine Nav in the early 1990s to serve commercial and private yachts worldwide.

He is not alone in this specialized field. Commercial routing services such as Weather Routing and Commander's Weather Corporation, among others, also provide consultation and custom forecasting for pleasure craft. But Hack has become something of a legend. Milt Baker, founder of Bluewater Books & Charts, a cruiser's Mecca in Fort Lauderdale, learned of Hack about eight years ago when he joined Kessler to cross the Atlantic on Zopilote. He was astonished by his forecasts. "It was as though we put in the order and Walter delivered the weather," he says. "We had a great crossing, and I thought, `Anybody that good should be introduced to a lot of people.' So we started the postings at Bluewater."

In fact, Hack's daily forecast for the Bahamas has been hung on a clipboard at the store ever since that time. Word of its unusual accuracy spread quickly. "A lot of people--particularly before crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas--will come to Bluewater just to take a look at that clipboard," says Baker. "It's an institution."

What makes Hack so good? After all, none of his sources are secret. Like all weather routers, he has access to global, oceanic, and regional numerical models (computer simulations of future weather developments based on actual atmospheric data) from a host of government agencies worldwide; data charts based on observations reported four times daily by ships of opportunity (virtually all commercial shipping traffic on the seven seas); specialized bulletins, forecasts, and climate data from the National Hurricane Center, the World Meteorological Association, the Japan Weather Association, and a half-dozen other organizations around the globe; and a library of reference works by the British Admiralty, the American Meteorological Society, and scores of other governmental and academic institutions.

Next page > Weather Routers, Part 3 > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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