Garmin users, check this out: there’s a new weather service that can put real-time weather data right on your chartplotter screen, and the best part about it is how you pay for it.

Satellite weather services generally charge you by the year, season, or month, and these expenses can add up quick. If you only use the service one day out of 10, why should you pay for it all the time? You shouldn’t. And that’s why the new GDL 40 allows you to activate the weather receiver option one day at a time.

Put weather data on your chartplotter screen, with the Garmin GDL 40.

Put weather data on your chartplotter screen, with the Garmin GDL 40.

Bringing up live weather radar, wind speeds and direction, sea surface temperatures, wave heights, local forecasts, marine warnings, and lightning strikes (provided by the service Digital Cyclone) is easy, and you don’t have to plan ahead. Simply select the “buy weather” option right on your chartplotter screen, press “go,” and the data begins downloading. One day of service will cost you $4.99, though you will also have to activate your account, which requires an annual $9.99 fee. Skinflint perk: the first year’s activation is included for free in the GDL 40’s hardware cost of $299.

The GDL 40 is a weatherproof cellular receiver antenna, which can be mounted above or below deck, (though reception is better when mounted as high as possible). It “talks” to your Garmin chartplotter via NMEA 2000, and is compatible with the GPSMAP 6000/7000 series, GPSMAP 4000/5000 series, GPSMAP 700 series and the GPSMAP 4X1/5X1/5X6 series (NMEA 2000 versions). Power draw is low at 2.25 watts (maximum) and physical size is small, at about 3.5” by 2.0”. Most of the weather data is updated every 15 minutes (30 minutes for some data) and its range can be extended by adding a Digital Antenna external cellular antenna.

What are the drawbacks to the Garmin GDL 40, as compared to a satellite weather system like Sirius? Range is going to be limited (just how far offshore the system works will depend on mitigating factors, such as geographic location) whereas satellite coverage goes just about anywhere. For coastal and freshwater boaters, of course, this won’t be much of a concern. And no matter where you boat, one thing’s for sure: it’ll be refreshing to get what you pay for, instead of paying a whole lot more.

-Lenny Rudow