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  Topic Review (Newest First)
12-09-2004 07:04 AM
Electronic charts & SSB weather


I notice we''re in the Living Aboard area when all this stuff is more relevant to the Cruising or Gear & Equipment venues...but we''ll press on, regardless. <g>

I think the Yeoman product is a practical, functional way to give paper charts a GPS kind of accuracy & utility. But then, we started without electronic navigation and so used only paper...which meant the Yeoman was in use every day and we became big fans. Now that we rely on electronic nav, we almost never use it. Still...many an active cruiser who covers lots of ground ties up a LOT of money (many thousands, I''d guess) in paper charts plus electronic hardware and chart media. Is it so far fetched to spend some hundreds of dollars to offer the ship and her crew an option that''s inbetween 17th century hand plotting on paper and 21st century electronic systems? I rarely see a boat with more than one way to do chart plotting (the exception is if they are using a PC, in which case they sometimes will have a back-up PC) so, if the chart plotting hardware goes south, folks are back to parallel rulers and lat/long plotting. Ugh...

12-09-2004 04:01 AM
Electronic charts & SSB weather

I''ve been wondering about the Yeoman Nav Pro. Seems to be an interesting device.

Any further comment regarding its usefulness?
12-04-2004 04:17 PM
Electronic charts & SSB weather

Doug, let''s start with your last question first: a ''TNC'' or Terminal Node Controller is the ''modem'' that converts the analog radio signal to a digital signal for use on your laptop...and vice versa. It''s an integral box for doing Pactor transmissions (the kind that ALL SSB-based email systems use).

Re: the ''notorious hook ups'', I''m not sure they''re very notorious these days, now that both the laptop software (''client'' software, like Airmail or Sailmail), the Winlink & Sailmail systems, and the radios are all some distance up the learning curve. My Plain Jane SSB, an Icom 706 (not even a ''G'' model) is less than One Boat Unit new and works fine, and once the SSB installation is done with some attention to the rf issues, I''m confident your SSB would, too.

BTW if you haven''t, I''d encourage you to visit and read thru Jim Corenman''s description of how a SSB can introduce rf problems into a boat and how they can be avoided. ne of Jim''s many gifts is that he writes and talks simply about quite unsimple things, and you might find that helpful to you. A poor SSB installation and the rf ground loops that result from it are key causes of dissatisfaction out in the cruising fleet when you find it.

Your needs (email & real-time wx products) are exactly what Winlink offers. Sailmail offers much less in the way of wx info and so, if you don''t have or see yourself getting a ham license, I''d suggest step #1 is to look at the wx products available via Sailmail and determine if it will meet your needs. Even if it doesn''t, you still have two additional choices: Use that same hardware plus Jim''s Getfax software to download Navtex, WxFax and other broadcast wx products (they exist all over the world; more on this below) -OR- move on to a Sat Comm system.

I''m pretty illiterate on SatComm systems because we''ve never needed one, so I sat in on that SSCA seminar this year. The major learning for me was that, while the satellites may be highly reliable, the ground stations limit the actual level of service received by the user (due to station location, station down time, and the footprint that''s needed for commercial viability vs. the one we''d like as sailors). Plus I guess I''m now spoiled and a bit of a tightwad when it comes to wx info (since all mine has been free for the last 5 years). I found the price of the service to add up considerably at the rate I tend to want wx info at times. So needless to say, price out whatever Sat Comm system you have an interest in by being realistic about your frequency of downloading. ($50/month was the starting point for minimal use of Global Star, it seemed to me, with an actual cost up to double that amount when actively cruising). Not many months of successful SSB/TNC use will buy you that TNC.

That first ''other'' option, the one not involving Winlink but using a TNC with Sailmail and wanting more wx info, is to use Getfax, JVComm or another similar software program and receive wx product broadcasts that you have an interest in. I find this a poor second choice because it means the laptop has to be booted up, the radio on freq & the TNC ready at a time when the products of interest to you are being broadcast. Plus there''s a bit of electrical overhead with this approach, because you are likely to set things up and then walk away and let the hardware do its collective thing while you''re busy being crew, navigator, cook, etc. Early in the a.m. (you also have to get up when the wx products dictate it!) when you''re making the Go/No Go decision, this isn''t so bad. But underway, short-handed crews get pretty busy at times and squeezing this task in is an extra burden. IMO much better to grab the download that''s waiting for you, automatically, in a few short minutes when your sked permits it, which is what happens with Winlink, Sailmail and the Sat systems.

What kind of radio do you have? Both Jim''s Pactor Primer and also his Airmail/Sailmail ''Help'' files offer hook-up info, even for radios without all the right plugs on the back, so you might see if your radio is mentioned. At the least, if it''s a 700, 706, 710, 715 or 802, all Icom, they are what the system was designed for. Beyond that, Plain Jane SSBs are better IMO - a bit easier to operate and a lot less expensive.

So why is there frustration expressed by some cruisers trying to get wx info via their SSB''s? Here''s my sense of it. Pactor type SSB-based systems are just not simple to get set up right. It''s not rocket science, and a decent (if not best in class) system is within anyone''s reach...but there are a series of niggly steps you have to take and few shortcuts are allowed. And then thee''s the operation of the radio itself to learn. The simple truth is that most of our boat systems these days, and especially electronics, are so intelligent and simple to install that folks can be forgiven for thinking this SSB/TNC install should be like hooking up an autopilot or a furling system. It isn''t, for at least two main reasons: each boat (and therefore, each installation) is going to be a bit unique, and most sailors know very little about MF/HF radio technology and a SSB''s proper operation. Buying the gear gets you started, but some initial tenacity and research plus some diligent effort is required to get you satisfied. (Imagine how many cruisers carry a SSB for its ''safety benefit'' and, of those, how many really could use it effectively in an emergency. That''s one of the side benefits of doing Pactor HF email; you''ll know how to use your system much better because you use it all the time).

When I''ve tried to help other cruisers with their SSB & email systems, it''s been a bit wild at times. The mouse is clicked and the whole frigging DC/AC panel starts blinking and beeping, or the radio gets keyed and the laptop goes funky and the cursor spastic. That would drive me nutty, too! But these are due to installation problems, not due to the software, operation of the hardware, or the physical skills needed to hook things up being difficult.

Hope this helps connect the dots a bit between the gripes you''ve heard from some SSB users and the la-dee-da Life is Grand reports you hear from others, like me. Perhaps what would help you the most is to beg a little Nav Station time with a satisfied user, watch her/him pull down a fistful of wx reports, see how long it takes and how hard/easy it is to connect (in an aluminum forest/marina, it can sometimes be difficult), and then ask to peek under the bedsheets and see how the hardware is set up. That way, you''d be operating on what YOU think and not what others tell you, me included.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

12-04-2004 08:55 AM
Electronic charts & SSB weather

Jack, I have been looking into the some of the sources of weather info. avail. via. SSB to computers. Yes there are a few, all seem to be requiring modems which require the notorious ''hook ups''. My ssb, which is quite recent but quite plain, may not have the ''plugs'' around at the back needed to hook up. Reading some of the feed back from cruisers, it looks like there are a lot of problems getting weather from SSB''s. I suppose it''s just one of those hassles to remedy that keep you from getting bored while out there.
The point is, I am wondering if it''s worth pursuing the SSB option or look into the satellite route. I am needing two things, communications ( text or e-mail OK) and weather. I was looking at an SSB hook up yesterday that Steve Daseuw (sp) was endorsing, can''t remember what it was called, found him eventually on Anyway, he must have everything electronically on his boat that he wants, if he thinks its OK, that''s something. BTW, you mentioned TNC, what''s that?
12-01-2004 03:01 AM
Electronic charts & SSB weather


"I want to get a weather fax, printer, hook up for the laptop, tied into the SSB. Like you say, tha computer has many uses."

I''d suggest you visit a few boats that have been out for a while and look at their set-ups, before making up a lengthy list of boxes. You''ll get a lot of ideas. And especially if you are motivated to have email aboard (and therefore be using a TNC), you will have many options for wx fax (text & graphics) without any need for a wx fax receiver or printer.

"I will be on 12 volt only while at sea, can lap tops be powered via 12 volts?"

See the discussion on this topic elsewhere. Again, lots of choices...

11-25-2004 10:28 AM
Electronic charts & SSB weather

Jack and friends,
I got feed back from raymarine tech, they say the 9 yr.old dome is not compatable with the new c-120 ploters. So, since the 9 yr old dome, is not tried and tested, it looks like I now have a new Radar on the list.
I went on the digiboat site last night, the CD rom charts look like a good idea. I will need a back up plotter in case the LT takes a bad turn,not sure which way to go right now.
I want to get a weather fax, printer, hook up for the laptop, tied into the SSB. Like you say, tha computer has many uses.
I will be on 12 volt only while at sea, can lap tops be powered via 12 volts?
11-24-2004 07:41 AM
Electronic charts & SSB weather

Doug, I missed your identity when replying to your original post; congrats on the ''new'' boat and good luck with all the inevitable (fun) work that lies ahead.

Re: your R a/p and R dome, I don''t see those forcing any subsequent decisions on you; they can be used almost no matter what your other nav & electronics choices. Given your plans (ocean crossing and European cruising), I''d think your primary criteria would be:
1. Redundancy for electronic navigation
2. Convenience & comfort when route planning at least as much as ''oversight'' or underway monitoring
3. Acceptable charts for the areas to be sailed

Since almost all of Europe is First World from a charting standpoint, I wouldn''t think chart product choices would not be as much a driver as the first two I mentioned. OTOH I have high praise for the CMap charts far more than the NIMA or BA products, and I find the early version of MaxSea I''ve used to be I still find it easy to have charting preferences here in Europe.

There''s one other factor that''s minor but which might apply to you and be worth a moment of reflection. I''ve found it very convenient to have the laptop serve both as the basis for my electronic navigation AND the basis for our communications & wx download activities. One place (our chart table, adjacent to the companionway), comfy and with everything at hand (paper charts, wx files, electronic charts, radio controls), serves multiple purposes nicely. I''m sure I could come up with something similarly convenient using a dedicated chart plotter IF both the money and the space were available...but fortunately, I don''t have to worry about that.<g>

11-23-2004 01:21 PM
Electronic charts & SSB weather

Hi Douggie
I have just installed a Raymarine C70 color Radar with Chart overlay, hooked up via nmea to my existing Navman instruments and an octopus auto helm. All the wiring was easy and works as Wind Vain steering, GPS rout, or steer to compass. I have wired the NMEA back to the chart table soon to add the PC side. If you have any questions I have researched quite a bit.
Cheers Luke
11-23-2004 11:28 AM
Electronic charts & SSB weather

Hello Jack, I was going to e-mail you anyway at some stage. We corresponded a while back about the UK VAT issue, I haven''t gotten that far yet. I have just purchased the Lord Nelson 41, a cousin to the Hans Christians. She has a new Raymarine autopilot and a Raymarine radar ''dome only'', I was kinda thinking of getting one of those fancy plotters that will overlay the radar etc.and thereby killing two birds with one pile of dollars. The cockpit is very un star wars now, and I like it that way but, it would be nice to have a small plotter out there. I have to learn about hook ups and cross compatability and possibly go with the lap top at the chart table. I guess the problem is that if I do go with the Raymarine, I am limited to their charts. I will search the archives to get more info. Thanks
11-22-2004 06:00 AM
Electronic charts & SSB weather

Doug, this topic has been tackled before (only a few weeks ago, in one case) so you may want to search the Archives.

Your question is the most common one. After all, its the content on the media, not the buttons on the console, that mostly determine the value of your purchase. Regretably, there is no single vendor who is going to give you the ''best'' charts for all the areas you might be cruising. First, personal preferences play a big role in satisfaction. E.g. some folks love Imray charts but I find them visually disappointing and sometimes inaccurate. Second, some vendors specialize in a given area and simply outperform the others. E.g. I have seen no raster or vector chart product that rivals the CYC charts for the E Caribbean (four sets of paper and/or CDs, Virgins to Grenada). Third (and by now, pretty obvious), proprietary chart products run by proprietary software inside proprietary hardware simply exclude you from the ''burden'' but also the pleasure of selecting the ''best'' charts for a given area. That''s why I continue to be most pleased with running chart products on a laptop at the nav station.

No, we don''t get to have a Startrek helm. No, we can''t sit there and stare into the CRT, watching our little icon bop along the course line while in the cockpit. No, we can''t overlay our radar picture onto our chart representation. (My, that''s a pricey option...). Do we find any of this necessary, after perhaps 25,000 NM? No. Is our flight planning before a coastal run or offshore passage harder than with a dedicated chart plotter? I don''t think so. Was our choice cost effective? Absolutely, which has helped to fund all the paper chart purchases. (Most boats doing long distance cruising carry at least one laptop for a variety of uses). How many different chart products have we now used? Six, at last count (NOAA, NIMA, CYC, Maxsea, CMap, and Imray. Also played with BA).

Depending on how distant your cruising plans, you might also consider whether it wouldn''t be prudent to have somewhat of a 21st century alternative if your one and only chart plotter craps out. (In our case, we have an old but surviving laptop plus duplicates of the our charting eggs aren''t all in one basket). If a dedicated plotter goes south on its crew, they usually only have manual plotting on paper charts to fall back on, trying to pull down GPS coord''s onto paper, taking visual bearings and again manually plotting them, etc. Very painful and, for the half-seasick, tired crew member, all of this is prone to errors. You might want to reallocate a portion of the Chartplotter + Software budget for a Yeoman Navigator Pro, a thin graphics pad that sits 24/7 on your chart table and on which you lay your paper chart. Suddenly, you have a mouse with a direct GPS feed and a simple, accurate way to plot on paper with the accuracy of GPS. Just a thought as you mull all your options...

Good luck on all the prep!

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