We are long time users of WeatherFax 2000, from Xaxero Marine Software Engineering Ltd in New Zealand, for the reception of weather faxes on a Windows PC.
WeatherFax 2000 is one of those products that are all too rare around boats: it just works; no fuss, no muss. Not only does it do the best job of anything we have tried at pulling vital weather information out of the ether, but the interface is easy to understand and the documentation explains a fairly complex technology clearly.
I think the key to why it is such a good product is that it was written by a real bona fide long distance cruiser: the last I heard, Jonathan, the developer of WeatherFax 2000, was on his boat cruising Chile; a place that will definitely breed a healthy interest in the weather and effective ways to track it!
A couple of months ago, when we launched Morgan’s Cloud, I found that our demodulator—one of two options offered by Xaxero for receiving weather faxes—was failing intermittently. I wrote Jonathan asking what a replacement would cost in the hope that I would not have to repurchase the entire package. I fully expected to pay for the new hardware and shipping, since the demodulator was six years old, and even said that in my e-mail.
The next day I heard from Jonathan offering to send me a new demodulator free of charge and ten days later it was in my hand. Now that is pretty amazing service. What more can I say?
By the way, some people may be surprised that we are still using weather fax since there are modern sources for weather information available. We use some of them, such as downloading GRIB wind field and pressure information over Iridium, but, in our experience, you still can’t beat a series of weather fax surface prognosis charts for getting an overall understanding of what is coming at you weather wise. Best of all, weather fax is free.
I am planning a crossing from US east coast to Europe in may-june 2013. I have been reading on new communication tools extensively. My concern here is tools required to receive weather adequately for one ocean crossing.
Having a sound boat, my concern is Weather, Weather, Weather.
I had to make choices but nothing is bought yet.
Here my plan:
Portable SSB receiver( LSB & USB capable 1 Khtz selectivity).
Noise attenuator( in your article) if it add quality for a Portable receiver?.
External antenna. (back stay already insulated. Would a frequency tuner add quality in the case of a portable receiver?)
HF weather report decoder(JWX , JVComm32 or SeaTTY).
Back up weather reception:
Iridium Sat Phone bought or rented. Using email request(text, grib,image report from SailAMail or equivalent). ( compression software like Xgate discarded because very low eMail usage).
Once in Europe, we could be there forever. This is why I discarded the rather expansive set up of a full SSB or ham installation. Iridium for pole coverage. If I change my plan and try a first circumnavigation of the canadien arctic archipelago in a single season( never done before). The Mclure Straigth was sailed this year.
I have no experience of the kit I am writing about.
This is an humble request for comments.
Sounds like a good set up. However, I would use the HF radio for weatherfax using Weatherfax 2000 and not worry about the decoder. Instead I would use the Iridium as the primary system for GRIB and text forcasts. I would also add the UUplus email system, even though you don’t use email much. The reason is that UUplus does an excellent job of getting and compressing weather information, such as GRIBS, to the point that what it will save you in air time will more than pay for the monthly cost. See our in depth series on weather reception for more.