As part of their duties when sailing onboard, voyage crew may find themselves taking meteorological observations, including air and water temperatures and ambient pressure. But why do we do this? Lucy Denham recently visited the ship to help inspect the equipment used to do this, and explains why:

Tenacious ship visit

By Lucy Denman, Surface Observations Metadata Industrial Placement

I am a Surface Observations Metadata Industrial Placement at the Met Office, working within the Surface Observations Team. Last month I accompanied Adam Ryan, the Port Met Officer for South East England, on a visit to Tenacious, a Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST) vessel. The  ship is a member of our UK Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS) fleet, so whilst onboard we carried out an inspection of its met observing equipment.

Tenacious and the Jubilee Sailing Trust

The Tenacious ship is a breath-taking wooden sail ship built by the JST, a charitable organisation whose mission is to provide sailing experiences for young and disadvantaged people, including those with disabilities, mental health conditions or those dealing with significant challenges. The ship was built in the early 2000’s and, at the time of construction, was the largest wooden tall ship to be built in the UK for over 100 years. It embarks on voyages around the world, recently returning from an island-hopping tour around Barbuda and Antigua, providing us with highly valuable marine meteorological observations from data sparse areas of the world.

The ship was designed with accessibility in mind, so that people of all ages and abilities can be part of the crew, bringing ashore JST’s ethos of integration. We are very proud to be able to collaborate with a charity making such a positive contribution to our society. 


A picture of Tenacious sailing, tilted at an angle and with white spray under her bowand hull.

UK Voluntary Observing Ship fleet

As a member of the UK VOS fleet, the crew on-board Tenacious are asked to send at least one manual observation per day. They record various observational readings such as temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind and occasionally sea surface temperature using instrumentation we have loaned to them. As inferred by the name, these ships do this on a voluntary basis (although we do keep them well stocked with small items of Met Office branded merchandise as a token of our appreciation!).

Members of the VOS fleet do this as they understand the value these observations have on improving the accuracy of weather forecasting, particularly when originating from data sparse areas. These observations ultimately help them, and all other mariners, stay safe and thrive while at sea.

A picture of Tenacious chart room, which is filled with lots of equipment and screens to help the officers navigate safely.
Carrying out a ship inspection inside the bridge of the ship

My visit

When Adam and I paid a visit, we were inspired by the crew’s enthusiasm towards weather observations. During a talk with all the passengers on-board, they explain the significance of the weather observations they collect and how via their association with the Met Office we’re better together value. 

By the end of the trip, passengers are able to take the manual observations by themselves and are excited to do so! We were truly impressed by how dedicated they were to taking accurate readings and the community-feel they harboured through submitting a daily observation. In fact, at the end of each voyage they auction off the barograph paper for around £50 as a fundraising opportunity!

Tenacious is moored alongside a concrete quayside. Pictured from astern, on a cloudless day. In the foreground of the picture is a person in a white hard hat and yellow hi-vis standing with their hands on their hips and looking at the camera.
Outside the Tenacious at Portland Harbour, Weymouth

Undertaking a ship inspection

However, Adam and I weren’t just there for a jolly, we had business to do… It is incredibly important that our instruments are well maintained and that we have an accurate and up-to-date metadata record. In Surface Marine Networks, this is carried out by the completion of a ship inspection. This process includes noting deployment details such as our SM badge numbers, calibration dates and specific equipment locations. We also quality check the equipment on-board by comparing the mean of 3 readings against a transfer standard value, to ensure equipment has not drifted since the last visit.This metadata record means that we can have confidence in the quality of marine observations and that data can be understood and utilised in the most appropriate way, for both nowcasting and climate purposes.

Seeing a ship inspection in person was particularly rewarding for me, since my main project this year has been to automate this process, with the aim of making inspections more time efficient for PMO’s.

In gratitude for the devotion the crew on Tenacious have shown towards collecting high quality weather observations, we wanted to do our own small bit and generate greater awareness for the amazing work the JST charity does in changing lives through inclusion and exploration.    


You can find out more information on the International  VOS scheme and the great work of JST on theise websites.