"I am aware of the offshore standard of using a SSB radio and modem to receive weather fax or voice reports..."
Certainly that's the way most offshore cruisers go. And of course, when you're within cell phone range, either a smartphone or a phone tethered to a laptop will do fine.
Further out, you can get weather faxes straight from NOAA by plugging your SSB directly into the soundcard of your laptop and using software such as JVComm. You don't even need a full SSB transceiver for this option, just a receiver (e.g., the Sony), which you can get for much less.
You can also use a satellite phone as a modem to get internet information to a laptop in various ways (some services can be set up to deliver forecasts/faxes as emails). I've done this throughout the Americas and the airtime has typically cost me maybe $1-$3/day. The upside to this approach (as opposed to Pactor) is that, when you need it, you also have the ability for reasonably secure direct voice communication. We've had to handle some "back-home" emergencies while we were "out there," and the Iridium has been an almost-literal lifesaver.
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