Seven days a week, Herb gives each of his boats a four- or five-day forecast. And every day, he asks each boat how accurate he was for that day and then revises the next forecast.
“I usually sit down at noontime to start looking at all the information, downloading the most current data, and then I start doing my analysis.”
Around three o’clock, Herb finishes analyzing weather patterns. He looks at his log to see which boats are still on the water and if any new boats have checked in. Sailors know that they must call between 3:30 and four p.m. At 3:30, he turns on his radio and listens as each boat alerts him that it’s on radio. At four p.m., he calls each boat back with a personalized forecast, starting with those in the Caribbean and then sweeping east toward Europe.
For example, a boat will check in, give its position and weather conditions at the time, and ask what to expect. “I might say, ‘Okay, you’re near the Gulf Stream, so you’ll probably end up picking up a little extra current tomorrow. That should give you another extra knot or two in boat speed. Winds are gonna get light, probably shift a bit more west-northwesterly tomorrow, so if you stay in the region of that current, you’ll make up for some of the loss in speed that you would otherwise have from a better wind field. By tomorrow night, a front will approach you; the wind should start to pick up. And behind the front, you might pick up possibly 25 to 30 knots from the northwest. If that’s too much for you, you may want to push a bit more southeasterly and get out of the Gulf Stream.’ “
Herb will answer any questions, and then he’ll sign off with, “That’s it; we’ll see you again tomorrow night. Have a good watch.”
HERB’S FORECASTS are very rarely off base, and the slightest variation will prompt some immediate feedback.
“A guy once said to me, ‘Herb, when’s the front gonna pass?’ I said, ‘Maybe around eight o’clock this evening.’ The next day, he came on and said, ‘Herb, you were 10 minutes off,’ “ Herb says, giving a big belly laugh over the phone.
His peak season is between April and July. Requests ease off during the summer
hurricane season and then pick back up in October through January. These days, he advises between 10 and 60 boats at one time. Numbers are lower because there are more sources of weather information; more convenient forms of communication such as e-mail, text messaging, and satellite phones; and also because of the effects of a changing atmosphere, which have limited his frequency range.