This is the Shipping Forecast ...

An extract from Sod's Law of the Sea

Dear David,

YOTTIMET

This is the study and application of information supplied by a kindly Government service, the Meteorological Office. Basic non-Yotti information can be obtained about this subject from many textbooks. Totally disregard advice from Marina Masters, long-shoremen, your mother-in-law, seaweed on the door, and bunions. Even Reed's Almanac transgresses the borders of science by including poems which link the colour of the sky at sunset with the aspirations of a sailor. Seeing the editor-in-chief of Reed's is very definitely a yotti, it is surprising that he has allowed this lapse. If you tried telling any old salt that a red sky at night is likely to be his 'delight', he would think you a sex maniac to associate the two.

Stick to the information gleaned from the newspaper, the radio and your barometer. In addition to the standard knowledge and equipment, true yottimet needs two pieces of special equipment.

(1) Alarm Clock

This is vital and should be set to ring just before the shipping and other forecasts you wish to hear. If you don't have one, you can go for weeks waking up or remembering to turn on the radio just as the forecast ends and the nice gent at Broadcasting House says 'We now rejoin Radio 4 for the cricket scores/farming news' or whatever comes after the forecast. (If you just miss the forecast but the BBC gent says ''This is the end of the Shipping Forecast. Good luck and good sailing gentlemen', then either stay at home, or head for yours or someone elses quickly.)

(2) Met Office Golf Club Fixture List

Met men do not go sailing (they know the weather is too unpredictable): they play golf, and can generally read the portents well enough not be caught out too far from the clubhouse in a heavy load of 'precipitation'.

You may have been conditioned by the publicity department of the Met Office and kindly television 'forecasters' into thinking that Meteorology is now a highly organised, accurate and computer-reinforced science. So it is: the computer predicts accurately what is likely to happen from the latest available information of some satellite or selected weathership report. It still requires human interpretation and is quite correctly called a forecast. So, if you recall, is the name given to your effort with the football pools week by week in the winter.

On weeks for 'away' fixtures of the Golf Club, the senior Met men organise an apprentice Mettie for duty whilst they travel by coach to Argyll. The apprentice is given a number of highly sophisticated options predicted by the computer together with the office set of poker dice. Four jacks and a ten ... Humber Thames Dover ... Light Variable. Full house (queens on tens) ... Wight Portland Plymouth ... south west decreasing later ... and so forth.

This works quite well, and nobody can tell the difference except for that rare occasion when a low pressure system has crept in under the eyes of the satellite and is tailing a bigger system and creaming up the channel at fifty knots. The apprentice Mettie is still churning out low throws like three nines when, to his alarm, Coastal Reports and ships from the Western Approaches start giving him the tip that he should be up to at least four kings. He then has to wait for a reasonable hour to telephone the Ancient Argyll Golf and Curling Club to tell the Club Captain that something is definitely not three nines off Penzance. The boss then takes a hand with Fate and tells him to update the forecast to at least five queens in Plymouth Wight Portland, four kings and an ace on the rest of South Coast, and three jacks and two queens backing to five queens with heavy rain later for the East Coast.

You can tell these away fixtures weekends without a fixture list when something nasty happens which is predicted twelve hours after you had it. It is, however, prudent to be expecting the unexpected.

All weekends with home fixtures will give you very good forecasts. You may not get it quite when they say ... but you will get it.

This page was last updated on : 06 Sep 2011