Warning: I am a weather geek. Lee Chesneau, Frank Bohlen, and Frank Singleton are friends.
First up, who of you have a Weather Fax and if so what type ?
Weather fax is my primary source of weather information. On Auspicious I have an Icom M802 SSB, Pactor PTC-IIpro, and Airmail/Viewfax on my boat computer. On delivery I use a Kaito KA-1103 shortwave radio and JVCOMM32 on my laptop; assuming you have a laptop the latter set up is around $200US.
Hi Mr C.
My knowledge of this area is scant to say the least but it would appear that WeatherFAX is something of a misnomer. In fact (and I stand ready to be corrected) I think that they are today nothing more than a device that receives graphic information through either a Satellite phone or HF radio.
Correct as far as it goes. You can get weather fax graphics or gribs over e-mail using either a satellite phone or HF radio. E-mail is fundamentally a one-to-one communications mechanism, so if you and five other boats near you want the same information it is sent six times. Consider what happens with tens or hundreds of boats in a region. Very poor efficiency and not good neighborliness.
Weather fax on the other hand is a one-to-many transmission, just like broadcast radio. One transmission that everyone receives in parallel.
The obvious question is what one gives up by using weather fax. The easy answer is: NOTHING. In fact you are better served even if you care not a wit for your neighbors. Weather fax transmits products based on a number of computer models considered by a meteorologist who adds value based on his or her expertise. Gribs come directly from a computer model (usually GFS) untouched by human hands. *Warning - geeky stuff* The GFS model in particular assumes a continuous second derivative over the barometric pressure surface. *end geeky stuff* What that means is that sharp changes in pressure like fronts don't show up on gribs. Now some met offices are working on ways to show weather features like fronts in gribs it isn't either reliable or generally available yet.
So you can use the tried and true weather fax products that show the best available forecast or choose gribs for a more expensive, less efficient, and less effective product.
Quite true, Mr B - although I did think most sailors downloaded GRIB files to their laptops in this the 21st century..
In buying something like this I'd be wondering how much longer the Weatherfax service would be available. To this, I simply do not know - but here's something that might help:
At least in the US when the US Coast Guard floated the idea of terminating weather fax services there was an uproar from the commercial vessels and the recreational cruising community. Everyone was surprised at how many consumers there continue to be.