Atlantic SSB weather channels
Cliff, here are some sources and annotated comments on what is actually used on a passage like you are planning:
First, will you have a way to download SSB RTTY or similar broadcast products? If so, that will be helpful as you do the Azores-Spain run. No one does that better than the Deutsche Wetter Dienst (German Weather Service). Download their sked for products and carry a small pocket dictionary to help with the terminology. Or you can write me at email@example.com and I can get you a word cross-over dictionary I made up. They offer a 2-day f''cast that reaches down to the Canaries from Ireland and you''d find it very helpful. They are *very* good.
Similarly, will you be downloading WxFax products? If so, first New Orleans and then Offenbach and the UK station (sorry, the name escapes me...) will be most helpful. Check Frank Singleton''s website for WxFax listings (use Google); he has a wealth of supporting info there. As with the DWD f''cast products, the hassle is that the HF rig has to be on and properly tuned, the computer booted up and the software running, in order for these to be accessed.
Both the above are not nets and so have the advantage of giving you direct info offered by professional f''casters and real-time images developed from buoy data, sat data, etc. If you use a net, similar info is just passed along via a controller so the above options give it to you direct.
Third, don''t underestimate the value of Winlink (the ham system) or Sailmail (the commercial non-profit marine SSB alternative) for providing weather info. The books offering Atlantic Crossing info seem without exception to make a huge mistake by not emphasizing the value of monitoring real-time wx changes and adjusting your course accordingly. Instead, they offer routing info based on pilot charts which, while statistically valid over an extended period of time, can be wildly inaccurate for a given season. Both 2003 and 2004 are exact illustrations of this potential problem. If in doubt, walk the docks when you reach Horta and look for the boats with the broken booms, snapped poles, sails being repaired, etc. and then ask them what routes they took. Invariably, they will tell you they followed the guides'' 38-40N routing advice and were not working hard copying real-time wx f''cast data.
From USA''s east coast out to somewhere mid-Atlantic, you''ll want to talk with Trudy (I''m sorry but all my refs are on the boat, so I can''t be specific but Gord''s list has Trudy''s Atlantic Maritime Mobile Net, I believe). You''ll need the wx f''cast regions the French use in order to use her relay f''cast but it''s worth having. Also, don''t overlook the value of HF contact with Bermuda Harbor Radio both as you approach Bermuda and again as you depart. These fellows are all professionals, have no fewer gizmos or sat systems than a major U.S. facility, and are good to work with. To my knowledge, all the other listings Gord is offering you are irrelvant...except Herb.
You will find almost EVERYONE uses Herb, it''s just that only a minority of them actually seek voice contact with him daily. Many just listen in since boats tend to be spread out and so it''s not too difficult to luck into hearing an exchange with a boat in your area. Personally, I think this is a poor choice for the individual skipper but it makes Herb''s overall service work better since he can become heavily burdened at times. Keep in mind you must do things Herb''s way, he offers ''advice'' that is biased on the side of safety (some skippers like more wind and more speed than he thinks prudent), and you are marrying a sked that is inviolate, no matter what is happening on the boat. You only have to cross short-handed (my wife and I did it alone) and manage a radio sked with changing wx conditions to understand this...but I think Herb''s worth the effort. The Atlantic run is truly ''his thing''. You will find it increasingly difficult to work him as you close on Spain, which is when you truly begin to appreciate the pro he is as a radio operator: he knows the prop paths and will patiently keep coming back to you, as long as it takes while still juggling the rest of his workload, to make a contact work. Just be sure your HF rig is in good shape and you know what''s expected of you; he''ll do the rest.
Hope some of this is useful to you and good luck on a good window!
WHOOSH, lying Ramsgate, Kent