Starting with this chapter I’m going to focus on weather reception tools that work when we are offshore or in remote places where the internet is not available. Let's start with weatherfax and why it's still important.
Tips For Receiving Weather Fax
by John HarriesReading Time: 4 minutes
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- Weather Analysis And Routing Is The Skipper’s Responsibility
- React to The Weather, Or Plan For The Weather
- Strategic Weather Analysis—Hardware and Software
- Weather Analysis, A Step-By-Step Guide—Part 1, Tactical
- Weather Analysis, A Step-By-Step Guide—Part 2, Strategic
- Weather Analysis, A Step-By-Step Guide—Part 3, Learning About the Upper Level
- Five Tips For Choosing Weather Information to Believe…And Pay For
- 4 Great Tips From a Professional Meteorologist
- Tips For Receiving Weather Fax
- Tips For Receiving GRIBs
- Tips For Receiving Weather Forecasts
- The Importance Of The Big Picture
- It’s A Forecast, Not A Prophecy
- Managing Ocean Currents
- Iridium GO! Review—6 Myths Busted and a Purchase Recommendation
- The Ultimate Guide to Using Iridium Handsets and GO!
- Iridium GO! and UUPlus, Real World Use Review
- Iridium NEXT Update 2019
When off soundings, I convert weather faxes to charts in our chart plotting software (this also takes care of skew). This allows for instant geo-referencing and facilitates planning.
Great idea. Having said that, however, I find that I just use weather fax charts for the general overview. To look at the situation in more detail, I find that GRIBs work better for me, and they are automatically geo-referenced and can be loaded into our navigation system.
Can you recommend a “hardware” demodulator and does this allow the signal to come through without blasting over the SSB speaker?
I have been using moc.liasaliam@rehtaew‘s small TIF weather charts accessed via the sat phone. The size of the small TIF is nominally around 17 kb so to do what you do, i.s. slideshowing a series, might be a bit expensive at $1.75 or so a chart. But, when the WF is giving a poor or non-existent report, it’s a very good way to go and 100% reliable.
There are two versions of Weather Fax 2000, one with the hardware demodulator, and one that uses the computer’s own sound card for demodulation. The former is a lot better but more expensive.
And no, the demodulator will not prevent the signal blasting over the speaker. Our Icom M-700 has a switch that allows us to turn off the speaker. I was under the impression that all SSB radios were so fitted. I guess not.
Good point on getting the same charts over the sat phone when reception is poor. We have done the same from time to time, although, as you say, it gets pricy.
Are the UK weather faxes receivable from western Greenland? I was there last summer and, not realizing UK weather faxes covered areas farther north than Boston ones and assuming transmissions from UK would not make it over the mountains, never tried.
I found the Arctic Surface Analysis broadcast from Iqaluit to be quite useful, since it was the only weatherfax I knew of then that covered areas farther north than the ones from Boston. Not an easy fax to read (much data, all fine lines), but it does show all the weather systems in the Arctic.
Yes, the UK weather faxes are easily receivable from western Greenland, on the 8 MHz band, although it does depend on the time of day. The mountains would have no affect on this since with HF radio we are dealing with signal bounce from the ionosphere. Smart radio people who are into that kind of thing can calculate the optimal time and frequency for HF radio reception but I have to confess that I belong to the dumb “try it and see” crowd.
Receiving faxes at sea over SSB using either a soundcard or hardware demodulator delivers noise in the audio signal received as noise in the fax image. This can make reading the fax quite challenging. The Ham radio version of sailmail (airmail) has a huge selection of weather charts and forecasts available on request meaning that they can be acquired when propagation is good and/or when planning is at hand. These require a ham license, a HF SSB that transmits on ham bands, and a pactor modem. Gribs are also available by subscription – that is – regularly updated for an area specified in the subscription request. Ham bands are great for social networking and emergency communication. Licenses in US do not require morse code these days.
That’s true, but generally if the propagation and SSB installation is good enough for reliable pactor reception of a suit of files that big, it will also be good enough to produce legible analog maps via weatherfax. In addition, receiving a full suit (say 5 maps) will take a while at pactor speeds. I would guess at least an hour, and possibly a lot more, depending on how much, if any, they have been compressed by airmail. Not being a ham, I’m not sure what the protocol is for Airmail, but a sailor who was downloading daily maps via pactor would quickly exceed the rolling total of transfer time allowed by sailmail (90 minutes a week) and win no friends in the process.
(no editing function) The pactor modem faxes are noise free. Airmail Ham service is also free and includes email. Larry
I realize I am linking in to an older post, so I hope this will get read.
I would like some assistance on how to best link a world receiver to an HF Weather Fax app on a tablet. In my case it is a Sangean ATS909 receiver, which I would like to connect to my iPad. There is a nice HF fax app by Black Cat Systems. However I am still struggling with the connection between both apparatus. On their site Black Cat systems mention the following: “with the Camera Connection Kit, you can plug a USB sound input device into the iPad, and use a patch cable between it and the radio’s audio output. This is by far the best solution”. I have been searching the internet for this but I am getting lost in all the available information. An answer from BCS is also not forthcoming.
Any suggestions? Thank you.
Well, first off, I think you would be better off using a computer and a solution like I detail in the post above. Ipads are great, and I love mine, but they are not great at this kind of thing.
Having said that, I looked at the Apple Camera Connection kit and can certainly see why you are confused since it is a USB and SD card reader, neither of which have anything at all to do with connecting a radio’s antenna port.
I then looked at the radio, and it seems to have an earphone port, so maybe you could use a cable to attach that to the ipad’s earphone/microphone port via a male to male audio cable.
However, I then looked at the Black Cat site, and all they talk about is placing the ipad next to the speaker, which is not going to work well on a boat.
Bottom line. I think this is simply not a good solution for serious use at sea.
Considering to purchase this product:
It seems to bundle all I need:
“The NAV-FAX 200 includes a data interface port, cable and software for viewing and printing weather fax images and data.”
I would like to be able to receive Navtex along the European coast, something I know Winradio does. However Winradio is prohibitely expensive.
I don’t want a SSB transceiver, please.
Will the SI-TEX NAVFAX 200 do, please?
Interesting question, in fact so interesting I’m going to answer it with in a post, look for it in the next couple of weeks.
Weather fax 2000 looks like a simple, useful, and relatively inexpensive weather tool in terms of boat bucks, but like Iridium sat phones it is stuck in the past by requiring Windows 7 or even older versions. Does anyone know if it will work with Windows 10?
Not sure about WF 2000, although I’m pretty sure it works on Windows 8.
On Iridium, if you want software for 10, or anyway because the software that comes with Iridium is pretty poor, I recommend UUPlus or Sailmail for use with Irdium.
More here: https://www.morganscloud.com/2016/03/24/the-ultimate-guide-to-using-iridium-handsets-and-go/
Thanks, John. I’ve read your chapters on Iridium and downloading weather info with great interest. On your advice I bought an Iridium 9575 Extreme sat phone instead of jumping on the Iridium GO! bandwagon, but it is still unclear to me how to optimize the hardware, software, and subscriptions. Where does Xgate fit into the sat phone-to-laptop transmission of weather data and emails? I know it is a 4 to 1 compression system. Does it duplicate anything that UUplus or Sailmail does? And does WeatherFax 2000 add benefits beyond what can be retrieved from SailDocs? I don’t want to subscribe to multiple services that overlap. Cruising is expensive enough without that!
Xgate is simply a competitor to UUplus, you don’t need both. If it were me, I would go with UUplus, no one has their experience or dedication to good support. They also do everything possible compression wise and give you elegant access to Saildocs too, which, in my opinion, has better information than PredictWind. See: https://www.morganscloud.com/2016/02/05/five-tips-for-choosing-weather-information-to-believe-and-pay-for/
As to WeatherFax 2000 it allows you to download weatherfax maps over SSB for free, assuming you already have a SSB radio. You can get the same maps off Saildocs but that will cost you Irdium air time.
Summary: Sign up with UUplus and move on. They will help you get all sorted in the best possible way.
My SSB radio has a lot of interference most likely due to the electronics in the pilot house. Will this prevent weatherfax 2000 from receiving the downloads?
Any interference at all will make the weather faxes difficult or impossible to read. And trouble shooting these kinds of SSB problems can be heart breaking. If it were me, I would just buy an Iridium GO! and be done with it. We have full instructions for that option in the Online Book: https://www.morganscloud.com/category/weather/book-weather-analysis/