More weather by SMS

Despite writing software for my own SMS weather service covering the East Atlantic, I still found myself checking sites such as windfinder and windguru whenever I was in port.

This was because I was sailing along the coast and the GRIB data used for my system produces data points for the high seas. Along the coast of Portugal and the Rias of Spain the data started at about 10 degrees longitude west. Good enough, but not perfect.

My solution was to make windguru coastal data available via sms.

Here is how to obtain it. Send a text message in the format:


to the usual Belgian number +32498327494

This will return approximately two days worth of wind and wave data as two separate text messages for the city of La Coruna. Due to the limits of text messaging, precipitation and cloud cover are not included.

The list of data points that can be used is currently as follows (I’ll add more soon):

  • gibraltar
  • tarifa
  • meca
  • rota
  • mazagon
  • canela
  • faro
  • vilamoura
  • praia
  • sagres
  • sines
  • cascais
  • peniche
  • nazare
  • figueira
  • aveiro
  • espinho
  • viana
  • patos
  • rostro
  • laxe
  • coruna
  • cedeira
  • navia
  • salinas
  • gijon
  • moris
  • vicente
  • santander
  • orinon
  • laida
  • sebastian
  • hondarribia
  • mimizan
  • soulac
  • diamond
  • houat
  • glenan
  • trepasses
  • brittany
  • sablons
  • vierge
  • dossen
  • rose
  • malo
  • jersey
  • guernsey
  • becquet
  • salcombe
  • exmouth
  • lyme
  • weymouth
  • swanage
  • compton

Obviously you replace coruna (in the example given above) with the data point from this list that interests you. Note that only lower case letters are used.

The data returned looks like this (but with many lines):

Su20 11.6 15 2.3 13

  • The first two letters are the day of the week
  • The next two digits are the time for the forecast (in 24hr format)
  • Wind speed in knots to 1 decimal point
  • Wind direction compass rose. 0 is north 4 is East 8 is South and 12 West
  • Wave height in meters to 1 decimal point
  • Wave direction compass rose

So for Sunday at 20:00 hours the wind will be 11.6kts from the NNW. Wave height will be 2.3m and the swell will be from the WNW.

Hope it helps!

If it does and you care to help me pay for the SMS bills, be sure to press the donate button on my homepage at

Marine weather forecasts by SMS


I’ve spent the last couple of weeks improving my weather by sms service for the Mediterranean and East Atlantic (Including E Atlantic islands and the mainland from the bay of Biscay to Cape Verde).

Here is the latest on how to use it.


Send a text message from your mobile phone like so:


to the following Belgian phone number:

+32 498327494

You will receive the wind forecast for Latitude 38 degrees, Longitude 8 degrees. Note the leading 0 before the 8. This is required for longitude entries of less than 2 digits.


For positions west of the Prime Meridian prepend a – symbol as follows:



The sms you receive will look something like this:




+03:F3 W

+06:F3 NW

+09:F2 NW

+12:F1 NW

+18:F1 S

+24:F1 S

+30:F2 NW

+36:F1 N



The first line shows the date and time of the GRIB forecast. In this case 06:00 UTC on the 23rd of October.

The second line gives the position in degrees latitude and longitude. Note that longitude also shows minutes. The reason for this is that the East Atlantic weather information (just to make things difficult) is provided in 1.25 degrees of longitude increments.

-05.00, -06.15, -07.30, -08.45, -10.00…

Hence if you request:


What you receive is in fact the GRIB data for position 35,-08.45

i.e. 35 degrees Latitude N, and 8 degrees 45minutes longitude W

So the idea of the second line is to inform you of the actual position of the GRIB data (which may not be the position you explicitly requested).

Awkward at first, especially as requesting -09 degrees longitude will result in the system NOT finding any data (surely 8.45 was near enough!), but you will get the hang of it.


Having trialled the system this summer in the Mediterranean, I was occasionally caught out, even when the reported wind speed and direction was fine. The trouble was that the sms system neglected to inform me of pending thunderstorms or large seas.

In this enhanced version you now receive a second sms (after about a minute) with the marine forecast for the specified area. Since sms messages are by definition small, I’ve had to create a pseudo shorthand for the forecasts.

All occurrences of North, South, East and West have been substituted with N,S,E,W.

Increasing is shown as < and decreasing as >

occasional as occ. , variable as var. and moderate as mod.

Showers becomes SH and Rain RA


In NW, Mainly SW 2 to 4. In SE, Mainly NE 2 to 4. Rough with NW swell abating. Scattered RA later in N.


It shouldn’t be too difficult to decipher. 😉


While I am testing the system it is available free of charge, but if you find this weather service useful, a small donation at will help pay the sms bill and ensure further development.



Free weather forecasts for sailors by SMS


GRIB data points

GRIB data points for the Mediterranean

I have been keeping myself busy while Eileen of Avoca has been out of the water by setting up my own weather by mobile phone service for the Mediterranean.

See photo for current coverage.


Because when the weather turns, setting the computer up for a quick weather check can be somewhat of a challenge. I wanted something much simpler, and weather forecast  (text messages) by mobile phone fit the bill.

With a satellite phone I can even use the system mid Atlantic! (Except that I have no Atlantic GRIB data as yet, and no satellite phone).

The system uploads Mediterranean GRIB data (at 1 degree resolution) 4 times a day. You access it by sending a text message giving your latitude and longitude to the nearest degree.


Example 36N 25E for the sea between Crete and Kos

36N 13E for Malta

36N 05W for the straights of Gibraltar


You compose an SMS message with the following content (make sure it is all lower case):




and send it to +32 498327494


and a few seconds later you have the 24hr forecast for those coordinates.

Note that west of the meridian you use a negative number, so for the straights of Gibraltar you need to send:




Best of all I offer it to my loyal blog followers for free (all 3 of you). At least while the pre-paid credit lasts.