This is Stornaway coastguard, Stornaway coastguard, Stornaway coastguard with the maritime safety information broadcast. Starting with the inshore weather forecast valid for 12 miles offshore from ….day 18.00 utc to … 18.00 utc.

This is the announcement on the VHF for all ships in reach of a particular coast guard office. They are always there at ten past seven in the evening. And if they are late there is usually a very good reason. An oil platform blew away or a ship is in trouble. It must be pretty bad for the coastguard to be late for the weather broadcast.

VHF and paper to  write down the forcast
This is the VHF we use and the shorthand Alexanders uses to write down the forecast.

The VHF works in the line of sight, so sometimes it is a struggle to get the right frequency or even signal when we are on land. I have to climb a hill to get any reception on the little handheld device or I need to keep it above my head and wave a bit for connection. Meanwhile, I can’t write anything down because if I try, I lose the signal. It must look like an episode of Mr Bean.

listening to the VHF radio for the weatherforcast
Charlotte trying to get a signal by holding the VHF and waving around a bit.

But when we have a reception, it is like listening to a friend. At the first words the broadcaster utters you know immediately who this person is. They have such recognisable voices and the speed in which they read the broadcast varies. Some talk slow, others go way too fast. I sometimes need shorthand to keep up. But they all become people we travel with, a companion, someone you know and can rely upon being there at 7.10 in the morning or 19.10 in the evening. We even have given names to a few of our favourite speakers.

There is a guy we call ‘The storyteller’. He reads the forecast like an adventure story. He always puts in a wide range of tonal differences to make the broadcast more exciting to listen to. His favourite word must be ‘fog patches’, he pronounces that word so lightly you just forget how dangerous fog is on the water. The word ‘rain’ really sounds like a drag when he is reading it. But the word ‘fair’ sounds so cheery. Even if the day is going to be absolutely hopeless, you just know that all kinds of sensational things will happen during the hopeless weather. It might rain harder or go over in drizzle or something exhilarating like a storm. I immediately look forward to tomorrow’s weather.

Celtic Kelly is always fun to listen to. She must live on Lewis or Harris. Her accent is so Gaelic- Scottish it is sometimes difficult to decipher. The word ‘poor’ is pronounced very short and changes phonetically into ‘phur’. She does things with vowels and consonants that I’ve never heard of. Shortening words and lengthening sounds. And she sings through the entire forecast with rolling R’s and soft but recognisable G’s. It is lovely to listen to, I almost forget to write down the forecast.

There is ‘Fast Freddy’, I don’t know if he is called Fred. But he always finishes his reading of the forecast in half the time then his colleagues do. I don’t think he really likes his job, there is absolutely no warmth in his voice. In a monotone voice, he keeps the speed up leaving me with half the forecast written down and without a clue about the outlook for the following 24 hours. When Freddy is around we write down the forecast as a team. Alex prepares the writing. He writes the first 24 hours and I the outlook. Otherwise, it’s just not doable.

There is Voluptuous Violet. If there is one woman who can be called a siren, it is Violet. I think she’s got all fisherman’s hearts beating a bit faster when she’s reading the forecast. With a slow and low voice with just that bit of huskiness in it. Sometimes, when you hear a voice like that, you start imagining what kind of person this will be. What does she look like… Well, in Violet’s case the imagination is running wild! She must look like a pin-up in fishnet stockings and long curly red hair, a uniform, just a bit too short and too tight. Cigarette smoke escaping her ruby red lips while she bends over to the microphone….
But I know that is not true, we met ‘Violet’ and she’s called Shona, she wears sensible shoes wears a loose-fitting fleece sweater and has a picture of her 3 children on her desk.

Charlotte Gannet needs to know the weather before putting up the tent somewhere
You really need to know what the weather forecast is before you put up the tent. This was just after a wind force 8 gale, the high tide comes just a bit higher after the storm.

Charlotte Gannet

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