Ignore the apps: it’s much safer to swear by the weather wisdom of a local oracle, says PBO columnist Dave Selby

With advances in technology, modern weather forecasts are at least 100% accurate, if not more.

And although dog walkers, keen gardeners, leisure sailors and anyone who goes outside may contest this, it’s backed up irrefutably by the science, as I can prove.

For example, when they say it’s going to rain it does, and to the very minute, as if commanded by some higher being; and when they say the wind will be north-east Force 3 it most certainly will be, beyond any possible doubt.

It’s not the fault of meteorologists if dog walkers, gardeners and sailors happen to be in a different place from where the weather’s actually happening, or on a different day.

In other words, it’s the weather that’s right and us who are wrong.

Another problem with the weather is that there’s just too much of it, but thankfully now that the BBC has ditched The Shipping Forecast on long wave there’s a little bit less.

The resulting reduction of anxiety is worth the licence fee alone, and if only they’d can The Shipping Forecast altogether – particularly the one at 05:20 – the nation would sleep better.

When I first started sailing there were only two weather sources I relied on. One was local oracle Adi, our boatyard manager.

The other was the three-hourly Ch16 VHF announcements, which told you to go to another channel that was either silent, buzzing with interference or occupied by motor boaters asking each other where France is and what time the Oddbins duty-free wine warehouse in Calais closed.

These days there are myriad phone weather apps that allow you to choose weather suited to your liking and temperament.

Though they’re all unerringly accurate, there is a spectrum of opinion among Maldon’s waterfront sages in the Queen’s Head that is not dissimilar from the range of views on which greyhound-cross is the ideal lurcher for hunting, legal or otherwise.

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Those with a sunnier disposition tend to favour Wind Optimist, while those who spend more time in the pub swear by Wind Pessimist. But it’s wooden-boat sailors who are most keenly attuned to the weather.

This is because before you go sailing you have to varnish your boat every spring, on a day without rain or sun in a temperature range between 11.7°C and 12.3°C and relative humidity of 40.3% to 41.2%.

This year that occurred between 2pm and 3.15pm on the third Tuesday in April amid a frenzy of activity, as that’s a relatively narrow window to varnish and sand seven coats. Unfortunately, as some people were sanding while others were varnishing, a fight broke out.

Rising pressure

I avoided the fracas by varnishing the mahogany surround of the barometer attached to the bulkhead of my own wooden boat.

Barometers, it should be explained, are operated first by tapping, followed by tutting, because whatever the needle does it’s bad news.

If the needle falls that means rain and/or wind; a quick rise after low is a sure sign of a stronger blow; and if the needle doesn’t move it’s broken.

Thus, a barometer not only measures pressure but creates it.

Indeed, one of my heroes, Blondie Hasler, who came second in the 1960 solo transatlantic race, eventually threw his barometer overboard because he realised there was nothing he could do to outrun the oncoming weather.

When it comes to weather, and whether or not to go sailing, I still rely on Adi who not only tolerates berth holders but also runs a care in the community programme which he summarizes as “saving you lot from yourselves”.

In my case, he’s done it countless times.

Typically I’d ask him something like: “I’m thinking of going to Brightlingsea, what do you think?”

He’d study the sky for a minute – possibly to avoid eye contact – and then say: “Go for it, Dave, you’ll be fine.”

And to be fair he’s never yet been wrong as I’ve always made it back, even in the Force 7 north-easterlies which I seem to encounter more than anyone else in Maldon.

I did go out in a Force 3 once, but Adi was on holiday that week.