Do You Know the Wind? SailFlow App Review

"To know the laws that govern the winds, and to know that you know them, will give you an easy mind on your voyage round the world; otherwise you may tremble at the appearance of every cloud."
-Joshua Slocum from Sailing Alone Around the World

As sailors, we need to make our peace with the wind. After several years of sailing my boat, my feelings for the wind are still sometimes jumbled. When there's no wind I reluctantly fire up my old gasoline Volvo inboard and curse the swarming flies. And then there are times when I see a forecast calling for 25+ knots or I see the foam blowing off the top of a swell and my stomach tightens a bit as trepidation creeps in. I know the tremble that Slocum speaks of and apparently I've got more to learn about the wind.

So how do you learn the wind? Well, there are plenty of books on the subject and I'm a firm believer in learning through doing. But there are some crutches available that will make your relationship with the wind more affable in the meantime. 

One of the crutches I use is an app called SailFlow. Many of you may already be familiar with SailFlow's website. The app is really just a mobile version optimized for smartphones and tablets. The app (and website) uses a large network of weather stations, including NOAA stations in the U.S., to provide a comprehensive source for wind information designed for sailors. 

The interface is fairly simple, with all of the action buttons located across the bottom of the screen. The "Alerts" tab allows you to set up text or email alert messages for specific thresholds such as wind direction, high & low wind speeds, gusts, etc. 

"Profile" screen showing graphs
Next is the "Profiles" tab. To me, this is the real meat of the SailFlow app. Here you're able to bookmark your favorite locations and get an instant on-screen overview of conditions (wind direction, wind speed, air temp.) at each location. Selecting a specific location brings you to a screen with much more detail. Here you'll get a forecast and real-time observations on the same graph. The top "wind graph" shows hourly wind speed and direction, both in real-time and forecasted. The bottom "forecast table" shows a 7-day forecast of wind speed, gusts, sky (cloud cover), and air temperature all color coded so you can quickly see predicted changes. The display is easy to read and looks nice.

The "Search" tab allows you to graphically search for weather station locations on a map or create your own "virtual stations" that use forecasts and algorithms to predict weather where you're going, not miles away where the weather station is. You also have the option of changing display styles (map, satellite, hybrid) and toggling on/off nautical charts and radar, although the nautical charts only come with the paid version.

"Search" screen (Nice wind in
the Bahamas today!)
The "Forecast" tab doesn't seem to do much. When you select it you're brought to a screen with some preset "daily briefings" locations (none near me) and the option to find nearby forecasts. This is a paid feature only. Selecting "nearby forecasts" simply brings you back to the search page (see above).

The free version of the app is available for both iOS and Android devices. The paid versions include things like unlimited alerts, nautical charts, sea surface temperatures, and no advertising. Prices range from $2.99 to $9.99 per month, but honestly, the free version should provide you with all that you need. As I mentioned, the "Profiles" tab and its' functions are where 95% of the information is anyway. It gives you a good graphic depiction of what the wind is currently doing and provides a long-range forecast. That's enough for me. And who in their right  mind is going pay $9.99 per month for additional data that's free online if you're willing to dig a bit?

So to sum things up...

Pros: Tons of wind data in a visually pleasing presentation
Cons: A lot of clutter with the locked paid features
Bottom Line: If you've got a cellular signal where you sail and don't want to use NOAA's VHF or text forecasts and condition reports for wind, SailFlow provides an accurate, quick tool for sailors.

For more sailing apps, see my previous reviews:

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