If you want to sail away, free FastSeas weather routing can help


If you’re looking for a real getaway this morning, or even just an online distraction, FastSeas.com can help. It’s also a testament to how much goodness a smart boater/coder can create for his or her fellow mariners these days. And while FastSeas is primarily an online weather routing service for sailors embarking on ocean passages, it’s easy and flexible enough that even a coastal power cruiser can benefit…

FastSeas_routing_includes_ocean_currents_cPanbo.jpgYou could say that FastSeas.com is just a website, but in fact when you click that Calculate Route button a sophisticated program analyzes your boat’s sailing abilities and your comfort preferences along with weather models to determine the best ocean path from the Start to Finish locations you set with your mouse or finger tip. While you do have to register with FaceBook, Google or Twitter, it is that easy to try FastSeas and there’s no cost to get deep into it (though donations are encouraged and deserved).

And note on the screen above that FastSeas calculates ocean currents as well as winds, and how you can step through the planned route watching your calculated performance along with predicted wind, sea, and current conditions. So in my fanatasy of leaving for Bermuda later today, by Friday FastSeas has me catching a ride on the friendly side of a Gulf Stream meander with a light tail wind, which is a nice image to consider.

FastSeas_polar_diagram_and_table_features_w_Clipper70_data_cPanbo.jpgOf course, the more a routing program (or a human router) knows about your boat, the better the planning. FastSeas starts with some basic default polar data which you can edit to better describe how fast your vessel goes on different points of sail in different wind strengths, but it can also handle more sophisticated polars found or created elsewhere. I went to the suggested QtVlm resource and found polars for a Clipper 70, which looks like it could handle November sailing starting at 45° North just fine.

FastSeas_Departure_Planning_using_trawler_style_polars_cPanbo.jpgOn a more practical note for boaters like me who cruise the coast in relatively slow power boats, I tried to build a polar diagram that reflected what Gizmo does and doesn’t do well. FastSeas would not accept the idea that I can go straight into the wind, but 5° is close enough and the diagram also suggests how little I like running sideways in wind driven seas. It would be great if FastSeas boater/coder Jeremy Waters added a vessel performance section for motoring — some sailors would like it too — but even now the Departure Planning feature (also seen above) is useful for, say, finding good days to get down the coast of New Jersey.

FastSeas_route_exported_to_GPX_and_shown_in_Coastal_Explorer_cPanbo.jpgI also found that a FastSeas route exported as a GPX file imports quite nicely into Coastal Explorer. Hopefully, it works as well with other charting programs and also MFDs, because that seems the best way to turn a weather route into an action plan. Note how at least in CE the route includes performance predictions, and that on this passage to Bermuda I end up reaching in at nearly 20 knots!

FastSeas_route_to_Martinque_on_IMOCA_racer_cPanbo.jpgYup, at some point last night, I realized that if I was fantasy sailing, it might as well be on a wild and crazy IMOCA 60. I couldn’t find any polar data for the new foiling models that are now leading the singlehanded Vendee Globe fleet, but even a last generation IMOCA could apparently get me and a good crew from here to Martinique in less than a week.

I look forward to following the Vendee in the coming months and have already enjoyed Charlie Doane’s visit to the start. There’s only one full fledged American in the race, but Rich Wilson is a great guy on an interesting mission. Good luck, Rich. We’ll try to keep the lights on for you.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

22 Responses

  1. mattnyc says:

    why do I need to log in?

  2. Richard C says:

    Just signed into FastSeas and like it. Wish I had it last June on the sail to Bermuda. Wonder if FastSeas can text routing updates based on changing weather and send it to my inReach Explorer. Can it send a GPX file email update to a winlink address based on changing conditions? If it can do either it makes this a very powerful tool.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Matt, FastSeas saves your edited or imported polar data and also the last Start and Finish lat/longs you choose, even between platforms like PC and iPad. That requires a logged-in account. Also, your identity is protected to whatever extent it already is on Facebook, Google, or Twitter; there is no additional email or anything else required.

  4. Joel says:

    I used FastSeas and Expedition for the Annapolis Bermuda race. Both came up with the same route. It was easy to export the route from a PC to a micro SD card and then import into a Ray e7. We caught favorable eddys and avoided unfavorable ones. We passed a lot of boats who went south of the rhumb line while we went North.

  5. Jeremy Waters says:

    @Richard FastSeas has an email responder service similar to SailMail which can email you a routing or departure planning solution in response to an emailed request. Details are provided on the “Introduction” tab under “Get Weather Routing Solutions While Underway”. You can get routing solution emailed to you in a variety of file formats including GPX. I have not tested it with Delorme inReach, but it should work.

  6. Robert Hagens says:

    Count me in as a crew on that trip to Martinique. When do we leave?

  7. Sparkyu says:

    Cool beans.
    Can someone explain why the current overlay for Gulf of Maine shows no change as I step the time line forward? Particularly near SW Nova Scotia.

  8. Sparky says:

    @Ben. The electronics kit used board Great American IV would make a great article.

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Sparky, I don’t see the current display changing anywhere as I step thru a route. It may be a display issue or maybe they don’t change much? I don’t think the OSCAR model accounts for coastal tidal currents, and the forecast increment may be 5 days:
    Hopefully Jeremy will explain.

  10. Jeremy Waters says:

    @Sparkyu @Ben the ocean current data provided by the OSCAR project are a 5 day average derived from satellite observation – and not a forecast. It is therefore provided with a single time index.

  11. Jeremy Waters says:

    @ben I’ve made a few tweaks to accommodate power boats – including creating “simple” power boat polars and adjusting how the “motoring” logic works. I’ve also added sea surface temperature (sst), sst anomaly, and atmospheric pressure layers. Regards, Jeremy

  12. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Very cool, Jeremy! I just adjusted the “simple” power boat polars to slower speeds with much of a breeze on the beam — it’s mostly a comfort thing — and then ran a scenario crossing the Gulf of Maine from Monhegan to the Cape Cod Canal. Your Departure Planning calculation seemed to nail the passage I’d hope for, a straight shot at max displacement speed with 100% winds less than 10kn and those mostly on the quarter. I leave the day after Thanksgiving, with leftovers (not really).
    I also tried the coast of New Jersey, and that’s when I discovered that I can set low maximum head and beam winds and then let Departure Planner find the days that work. Nice!
    It is a little confusing to see different passage and motoring times in the Passage Stats and Departure Planning but I assume they are not real calculations.

  13. Marc Dacey says:

    This looks great for planning. I exported a KMZ route to Google Earth and it worked like a charm.

  14. Michael says:

    This looks very cool – I’ll give it a try for our passage from Norfolk to the BVI in January.

  15. CitizenK says:

    If using android buy Sailgrib WR. Possible to use boat polar files with many options. Works great!

  16. Michael says:

    That’s not much use offshore. I will try out the InReach email option, though.

  17. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    3/4 around the planet in 50 days solo sailing, and the great Brit hope Alex Thomson is a close second though he lost his starboard foil a long ways back!
    For some interesting armchair racing, plug the IMOCA2015 polars I linked to above into Fastseas and watch it work out the possible last leg up the Atlantics. Only about 6,250 nm to go.
    But wait, Thomas Coville just sailed a big tri around the world in 49 days…
    …and several Sydney-Hobart race records may fall tonight:

  18. Sparky says:

    @Ben. Where is that Imoca 60 polar?
    Last leg of Vendee looks to be a horse race again.

  19. jjn says:

    i made a comparison between fastseas and sailgrib on android during the vendeeglobe! sailgrib has far more advanced features then fastseas!
    if you plan an offshore cruise try sailgrib you will be surprised!

  20. FastSeas says:

    FastSeas now supports Garmin/DeLorme inReach devices. Both routing and departure planning solutions can now be requested and delivered to inReach devices.
    See the following for details:
    Let me know if you have any questions.

  21. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Looks like an thorough implementation, Jeremy, and I hope to try it on new InReach+ I’m testing.
    It’s an interesting coincidence that I just heard from my friend Charlie Doane (WaveTrain.com) because he’s picking up his new boat in France, his weather router told him he had to get an inReach, and Charlie wasn’t sure he could register it from abroad. The answer was easy — yes!
    At any rate, it will be interesting to learn more about how a pro router used inReach with clients.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *