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  #1  
Old 12-28-2006
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Navigation / Communication / Weather for Bahamas Cruise

Thanks to everyone who's given me great advice so far in planning a 6 week cruise to the Bahamas from Mobile, AL.

The question I have this time is on communications, weather info, and navigation since they all seem to bleed together.

I'm trying to minimize outfitting expenses for this trip - so, if for example, an SSB isn't required for this trip, I'm going to try to avoid it for now. That being said, we will not be skimping on the equipment we need to do it safely and properly.

So let's start with communications: I was originally thinking SSB for offshore communications, and using that to get weatherfax info while making passages and in the Bahamas. But, that's going to get pretty expensive for a transceiver and installation.

As an alternative - would renting a Satphone (Globalstar) suffice for emergencies? And would you think I'd need to rely on it for weather data as well? If so, what's the best method of getting weather data using a satphone, and what should I estimate my costs to be on that (#minutes/day)? This helps me decide satphone vs. SSB

I was thinking of a NavTex NX300 for receiving weather data (the range is said to be 200-400NM which should be ok for everything except maybe the passage through the Gulf to the Dry Tortugas and /or a shortwave receiver (like the Sony ICF-SW7600GR which has been mentioned in some other threads).

For navigation - I know about the Explorer chart book for the Bahamas. Is an electronic chart plotter something we should be considering? Or will we be ok with some paper chart in the Gulf, the Explorer chart books for the Bahamas, and fleshing that out with some electronic charts from NOAA on the laptop?

Just as an FYI, we do have a GPS (and a backup handheld), but its a basic one - nothing fancy.

Lastly -- Radar. We don't have it, and don't really need it in Mobile. For a trip like this, would you consider it an essential (or highly recommended) piece of safety equipment, or just a luxury we probably can do without?

Thanks for your suggestions, and feel free to chime in with anything else I neglected to consider.

Pelham
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Old 12-28-2006
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Ahoy Pelham

Let me start of by saying, you don't need a SSB for a trip to the Bahamas, you don't need radar either. Your VHF will do you just fine, there are cruiser nets on vhf that you can get weather from just about anytime.

If your hung on SSb all you need is a Grundig Yacht Boy and a laptop computer with some WX software. It will work just fine. Also you can listen in on conversations and get routings that people have paid for. Also you can tune to Herb for weather Reports.

The Sat phone is even overkill in my book. The VHF will work just fine between Florida and the Bahamas, You can even use you regular FM/AM radio.

All you really have to do is watch the fronts coming from Canada. You don't want to cross the Gulf stream with Northerly winds. As far as a Nor easter, coming from LA it will blow you right to Florida.

Fair Winds

Cap'n Dave
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Old 12-28-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by capn_dave
If your hung on SSb all you need is a Grundig Yacht Boy and a laptop computer with some WX software. It will work just fine.
Cap'n Dave
Can you provide a link to the WXsoftware r eferenced in your post.

Thanks

John
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Old 12-28-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pelham

So let's start with communications: I was originally thinking SSB ...
As an alternative - would renting a Satphone (Globalstar) suffice for emergencies? And would you think I'd need to rely on it for weather data as well? If so, what's the best method of getting weather data using a satphone, and what should I estimate my costs to be on that (#minutes/day)? This helps me decide satphone vs. SSB
You don't need an SSB but I would recommend renting a Sat Phone or buying a used one with a limited minute plan. The reason I recommend it is that the range of VHF is 25 miles or so and there is not always someone listening within range when you are crossing or making passages within the Bahamas. You need a reliable way to call for help if you have an emergency. You do NOT need one for weather if your trip will be to either the Abacos or Exumas as there are DETAILED morning weather and info nets on the VHF every day. Furthermore, there is both wireless and plug in internet in all the populated areas where you can easily sign up for a month of service. So...unless you plan on hanging out far from the crowds you don't need the added expense of data connections for your Globalstar.


I was thinking of a NavTex NX300 for receiving weather data...
Not needed.
For navigation - I know about the Explorer chart book for the Bahamas. Is an electronic chart plotter something we should be considering? Or will we be ok with some paper chart in the Gulf, the Explorer chart books for the Bahamas, and fleshing that out with some electronic charts from NOAA on the laptop?
Chartplotters are nice to have but completely unnecessary for safe navigation in the Bahamas. Indeed, many of the electronic charts that are available for the area ARE unreliable as they are based on old data and not up to date surveys like the Explorer charts. You will need a reliable GPS ...and I suggest that on your planned routes, you use the Explorer Chart waypoints to build GPS routes and enter them in advance of your trip so they are there when you need them.

Just as an FYI, we do have a GPS (and a backup handheld), but its a basic one - nothing fancy.
Do you know how to enter waypoints into both units?? Better yet...do it before you leave and be prepared for failure!Bring plenty of batteries...they are expensive over there.

Lastly -- Radar. We don't have it, and don't really need it in Mobile. For a trip like this, would you consider it an essential (or highly recommended) piece of safety equipment, or just a luxury we probably can do without?
A luxury you can do without. There is little traffic once you cross the stream and that only requires a good lookout for 8 hours or so. There is no fog to deal with.


Pelham
FYI...There is a good Abacos bulletin board with both sailors and locals that can answer many of your specific local questions..".i.e. where is internet access in Hopetown"...http://www.cocotels.com/
There is also a link to barometer bob the weatherman there so you can see the type of info you'll have easy access to.
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Old 12-28-2006
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Ahoy engcon

Here ya go... I use SEA TTY it is a little more advanced program but can be figured out with a little effort. This program uses your laptops built in sound card for the demodulator http://www.freedownloadscenter.com/N...ls/SeaTTY.html

It is shareware and cost $35 boat bucks There is Weather Fax 2000 about $90 more info at http://www.xaxero.com/weathefax200opti.htm

I also use grib files. These are marine forecast files that are really kewl. Try Grib explorer. I don't have the URL with me right now.

I can carry a Yacht Boy in my luggage when I am doing delivery's

Fair Winds

Cap'n Dave
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EngCon..
http://xaxero.com/downloads.htm or
http://www.dxsoft.com/en/products/seatty/

both give you access to weFax with just an audio patch cord from your SSB receiver to your PC sound card.

NOTE: I tried to use the Grundig Yacht boy for this and never got good quality faxes. I think a better receiver with more precise SSB fine tuning is needed for good results. Dave...how do you get decent results on the Grundig. All i ever got reliably readable were the navtex broadcasts.
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Old 12-28-2006
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Talking ARRRRR Ahoy Cam

I have to use the long wire that comes with the Yacht Boy and then I might add some. It really makes a difference. Have you downloaded grib files? They are allot clearer and more info in smaller size the WX.
Way Kewl

About the Sat Phone. It's only 50 miles from south Florida to Bimini and I have never had any problem with talking with someone all the way if I wished. In fact sometimes I wish there weren't so much chatter.

Fair Winds Oh and the rain let up and it hit F today... Come on Down

Cap'n Dave
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Thanks Dave...the VHF is a bit different heading to the Abacos or crossing to Eleuthra since there is lot less traffic. We were stranded in Great Sale one year with a busted fuel pump and could raise no one on the VHF...The Globalstar brought friends to our assistance. Lots of folks go with only VHF but I like the assurance of a connection that the sat phone gives in case of a medical or other emergency.
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Old 12-29-2006
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Instead of a YachtBoy try a Icom PCR-1000 it worked fine. Solidily Built. Came with good sotware. About $650 Retail.
I have a 3 year old one for sale $300 I used on my trip to Trinidad clcjr54@hotmail.com
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Old 12-30-2006
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Just finished a trip from Ft Walton, Beach to Abaco's. Good VHF reception all the way. You won't need a Sat Phone unless you plan to go to the more remote southern islands. The explorer charts and the Dodge Guide for the Abaco's are both great. The Dodge guide gives you a little better detail. I personally like the Gramin Blue Charts because they are based on the Explorer Charts so what you see on the screen is the same as the paper charts. For the east coast of Florida and crossing the Okechobee I used Skipper Bob. I also had a Map Tech guide for the East Coast. Between the Map Tech and Skipper Bob I had both commercial and cruising information. Get yourself and extended range USB WIFI and a 10" extension cable and you will be able to access the internet while in the major areas of the Bahama's and the east coast of Florida. I had good access from my boat in the middle of North Lake Worth, White Sound in Green Turtle Cay and Marsh Harbor.

One of the more experienced cruisers I met had a Globalstar Sat Phone. He used Ocen's e-mail service and subscribed to Chris Parker weather which he received by e-mail twice daily. He spends a lot of time further south and felt that having access to accurate weather daily was a must. If I go back next year and plan to venture south, I will probably try a similar system. Give me a shout (hutch5151@aol.com) and I'll fill you in on the crossing weather.
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