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  #1  
Old 06-09-2011
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Cost effective options for receiving weather reports while sailing

I understand that the equipment needed is determined by how far offshore you may be sailing. However, I am trying to determine how to install the weather receiving capability in phases that make sense (by being able to expand or update) as my sailing goes from coastal to offshore. I am aware of the offshore standard of using a SSB radio and modem to receive weather fax or voice reports...but that is a $3-5,000 investment, right?

Currently, and for the next year or so, I will be coastal cruising in the 60 to 20 mile offshore range...mostly within 20. The Garmin GDL 30a XM weather/radio receiver/antenna package at about $300-400 will apparently provide decent weather information within 20 miles. But if that is installed now, will it simply have to be swapped out for another entire system to obtain unlimited access to weather as I start to venture across oceans?

Any thoughts on the best plan to build a state of art weather receiving capability?
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Old 06-09-2011
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Get a good iPad,
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Old 06-09-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stiffwind View Post

Any thoughts on the best plan to build a state of art weather receiving capability?
This depends on where you are sailing.

Within a 20 mile range of a metropolitan area, you may get an internet connection which will allow for web-based weatherfax, grib files, etc..

60 miles offshore of Western Canada requires an SSB, modem. etc.. Or someone can send you grib files via sat phone. Done both.

Or you can can study weather, watch the clouds, the barometer, wind direction, etc. and be your own forecaster.
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Old 06-10-2011
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"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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Old 06-10-2011
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Originally Posted by WDSchock View Post
Get a good iPad,
I agree 100%.

I find value in a multi-tasker and the Ipad is that hands down. Email, weather, charts, entertainment, real GPS (not cell phone gps), etc, etc,,,,,,,

You can get a grib file reader for between $2 and $20 depending on how many bells and whistles you want, which can download weather forcasts and keep them on the Ipad while offline. You will need to be within range of a cell signal when you download, but they do travel much further over water than land.

The only ongoing expense is a data plan and I would recommend the lowest plan available, unless you can't resist downloading music, videos or whatever else eats up bandwidth. To date, I have the lowest plan and use my Ipad on the 3G network very frequently and have yet to eat up more than 30% of my allocation.

Finally, get a waterproof case for another $20.
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Old 06-10-2011
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We use the sat phone for the reason Larry quotes. Twice, in remote locations, we have had to talk to our bank when the credit card suddenly stopped working and it allows us to stay in touch with the kids and grand kids.

I have the US coastguard Miami on speed dial and when I get in the Atlantic I will have UK coastguard Falmouth, who handle Atlantic rescues, on speed dial.

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Old 06-10-2011
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The Sony works fine. The Kaito 1103 ( http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blan...ins=B0006OCEFY ) is pretty popular - I carry mine on deliveries to be sure I have weather.

At the risk of being blunt and without the intent of offending anyone, gribs are inadequate. WEFAX is the way to go. You still get wind vectors and the synoptics show the fronts that you DO want to know about.
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Old 06-10-2011
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Originally Posted by SVAuspicious View Post

At the risk of being blunt and without the intent of offending anyone, gribs are inadequate. WEFAX is the way to go. You still get wind vectors and the synoptics show the fronts that you DO want to know about.
I use every means available; Weather fax, gribs (using different models if I can), Environment Canada forecasts and observations, etc.. I also sunscribe to a couple of paid sites.

If you show precipitation on the grib reader, you can determine (somewhat) the location of fronts.

In an forced choice I would choose weather fax.
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Old 06-10-2011
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Another thought

Cost effective and state of the art may be mutually exclusive.

A state of the art system may use a program like Expedition. It has current data built-in. You input your boat's polars and download grib files. Expedition will provide you with a chart of the course to steer as well as a table with the course to steer and target boat speeds in regular intervals. The grib files come from SailDocs via email.

One user has developed a couple of add-ons that provide tables which indicate whether or not your are sailing to the target speeds.

I think Expedition runs about $1300.
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Old 06-10-2011
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Here's what I use:

I have an old Satellit 800 (misspelling intentional). I connect the headphone audio out from that into my laptop's microphone input. Microphone input adjusted, and Satellit 800 volume at a low level, I load SeaTTY software on my laptop. I can leave it running over night have have the received faxes waiting for me in the morning. SeaTTY will detect the start sequence when a fax is sent and start receiving/saving the fax image. You can also use SeaTTY's scope function to keep an eye on the audio levels to ensure that you don't overload the microphone input.

You can pick up an inexpensive shortwave receiver that is capable of SSB reception on Ebay and an audio cable from your local computer store. Do a bit of research before you buy the receiver to ensure that it will receive the frequencies that the faxes are transmitted on and that the receiver is decent quality.

Total cost for receiver, cable and software will probably be less than $200.
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