Portable S.A.M.E. Weather Radio - SailNet Community
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Portable S.A.M.E. Weather Radio

Most sailors develop a natural habit of keeping one eye on the weather—after all, the weather is what makes our boats go. When we’re on the water, checking the sky and surrounding sea for signs of weather changes is relatively easy to do by simply looking around. As Bob Dylan croaked in one of his songs, "You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

But gazing at our surroundings only lets us see the few miles out to the horizon—what lies beyond can only be surmised by wind direction, cloud types, and a certain "feel" that experience brings us with time on the water. A good barometer is the next tool in the sailing forecaster’s arsenal. But when NOAA started broadcasting local marine weather on the VHF, much of the uncertainty of weather prediction disappeared—you just flipped on the radio and a friendly automated voice gave you verbal pictures of the satellite imagery, Doppler radar summary, and regional observations.

But you still had to have a VHF radio with you and listen to it periodically. Weather changes can occur rapidly, and forecasting is still as much a dynamic art as it is a science. At the office, at home, in the car, or when asleep, all the NOAA broadcasts go unheard (and unheeded) because the radio isn’t turned on.

So the next big thing in weather radios was the weather alarm. NOAA developed the capability of generating an emergency tone that triggered the VHF radio to come alive and receive the current watches or warnings. Now you could carry the radio around and have instant info on impending weather events without having to listen to endless broadcast loops all day. The weather alarm was especially appreciated at night because the radio-generated tone would wake you up if an emergency weather situation was developing.

Until, it woke you up at 3:00 a.m.to tell you about a beach erosion warning in a town 150 miles away from your location.

Oregon Scientific designed the All Hazards Weather Radio for weather-alert freaks like me. First, it is small—truly hand-sized, completely portable, and guaranteed waterproof. It receives for a fair amount of time on three AA batteries, and that’s handy because it seems like the GPS, cameras, and all our other gear use the same size. The All Hazards also comes with an A/C adapter. Its digital PPL tuning receives all seven NOAA weather channels and when a weather emergency tone is generated, the mute function from the standby mode on the All Hazards is overridden and the radio gives off both audible and visual alerts that will not be missed.

The kicker is that the All Hazards also has S.A.M.E. (Specific Area Message Encoding) technology that allows selective reception for up to a six-county area. You can turn on only your home county, or any combination of five adjacent counties in the broadcast area so that you’re not getting alerts that don’t apply to you.

Like anything digital these days, the All Hazards has an LCD display, and the designers couldn’t resist adding an alarm clock with snooze and a calendar—I don’t use those features on my watch, cell phone, or calculator either. But for personalized local alerts on weather, the All Hazards is hard to beat.

Tom Wood is offline  
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