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Old 06-09-2012, 13:00   #16
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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Ok but how do I send requests (emails) from my sat phone? It looked to me like I needed to email the file requests, or maybe I missed something.
You can do it either of two ways: by e-mail as you suggest and you then need a 'compressed e-mail server account' to do that effeciently - global marinenet's xgate or sailmail are the two big alternatives. Both do anout the same thing at about the same price (roughly $200/year). I have used sailmail but think xgate is just slightly faster. OR the 'viewfaxbeta version' (which has been out for years and is completely bug free but has no help files) has a 'get data' function (under the 'file' drop-down) that allows you to get the weather data directly in one step without doing the e-mails. The gribs are already compressed and you now get them without any of the e-mail overhead (headers and footers etc) so this is pretty efficient.
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Old 06-09-2012, 13:11   #17
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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You can get all the weather data you need absolutely free at saildocs and saildocsgribs, and there is an excellent absolutely free grib viewer called viewfax
[I see that Evan's has already mentioned the email stuff while I was typing. As usual, we agree on this subject.]

But of course you still need an email account for the satphone. XGate or OCENS are good, and no doubt other providers are as well. A SailMail account (typically used for SSB email) will also work for satphone email.

If you have a ham license, a ham-band enabled SSB, and a pactor modem, then Winlink is a free SSB email service, and as Evans noted Saildocs is a free weather data source for any type of email service.

As for satphone reliability, I've found the Iridium service to be at least as reliable as SSB. With the satphone you do get signal drop-outs, and the signal can be gone for several minutes at a time. With a little patience you will get your connection. I used it extensively during our recent Pac Cup and return and it worked well.

With the satphone you can also get compressed WFAX charts via Saildocs. These images are too big for SSB/SailMail, but you could get them with SSB/Winlink if you didn't mind the connect-time.

I also used SSB/Sailmail a few times during our trip, just to be sure that it still worked (and it did), but with SSB you do have to deal with propagation and interference, which can make connections difficult.

As has been mentioned, The SSB receiver and soundcard WFAX decoder (like JVComm) is probably the cheapest way to get good weather info.
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Old 06-09-2012, 13:17   #18
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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You can do it either of two ways: by e-mail as you suggest and you then need a 'compressed e-mail server account' to do that effeciently - global marinenet's xgate or sailmail are the two big alternatives. Both do anout the same thing at about the same price (roughly $200/year). I have used sailmail but think xgate is just slightly faster. OR the 'viewfaxbeta version' (which has been out for years and is completely bug free but has no help files) has a 'get data' function (under the 'file' drop-down) that allows you to get the weather data directly in one step without doing the e-mails. The gribs are already compressed and you now get them without any of the e-mail overhead (headers and footers etc) so this is pretty efficient.
Thanks! I downloaded the beta version you suggested and it works great on my computer here at work. Will install tonight on the boat PC. One question, how does the get data function get the sat phone to retrieve the data? Do I just have the sat phone connected to the laptop with the USB cord and make sure its turned on and has prepaid airtime available? This all seems almost too good to be true!
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Old 06-09-2012, 13:29   #19
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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Do I just have the sat phone connected to the laptop with the USB cord and make sure its turned on and has prepaid airtime available?
just a little more complex than that . . . You need to install the iridum dial-up adaptor (software, like a driver, that should have come on a CD with the phone). Then to get weather you hook up the iridium phone cable to the computer, dial the iridium internet gateway, and push the viewfax get data 'send' button (have the request all ready before you dial the iridium).
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Old 06-09-2012, 13:33   #20
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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just a little more complex than that . . . You need to install the iridum dial-up adaptor (software, like a driver, that should have come on a CD with the phone). Then to get weather you hook up the iridium phone cable to the computer, dial the iridium internet gateway, and push the viewfax get data 'send' button (have the request all ready before you dial the iridium).

Awesome! Thanks. I have the phone, cable, disc, and and external antenna but havent bought any airtime yest so I havent had a chance to play with it. Trying to decide how much airtime to buy. I with the smaller bundles didnt expire so quickly. I would love to have say 75-100 minutes and have 6 months to use. Have you found any place to buy minutes from that you like and has good pricing?
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Old 06-09-2012, 13:46   #21
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

I've been using Outfitter Satellite for my pre-paid airtime, but the prices seem to be pretty close regardless of who you use. Make sure that you have a way to "reload" your airtime while you're at sea. You can burn through a lot of minutes if you're not careful, and you will probably need to have a credit card authorization agreement already on file to purchase more airtime should you need it. Make sure that this will work smoothly before you cast off the docklines.

For that matter, make sure *everything* works before you leave. Things like spam filters, passwords, etc, can be difficult to deal with when you're at sea. Test your communications before you go.
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Old 07-09-2012, 09:02   #22
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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...and there is an excellent absolutely free grib viewer called viewfax
Also, if you are running, or plan to run, charting software on your PC check to see if it supports GRIB data overlays. This is quite handy because then you can easily review the forecast overlaid on your route and charts.

Some of these apps will generate the saildocs request for you, but I have not tested with Iridium. Alternatively, you can download GRIB data using viewfax and then just load the file into your charting app.
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Old 07-09-2012, 09:26   #23
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

Last night I installed viewfax on the boat computer and dowloaded some gribs and a few other items. I dont have my iridium set up yet but the viewfax works great! I was able to get the gribs and then use the grib plug-in in Open CPN to overlay onto my charts. While there may be more sophisiticated grib viewers Im finding the plugin just fine. The other great part about viewfax is I can also get surface maps and other non-grib weather data which allows me to validate the gribs. I have been cautioned to not trust gribs on their own because they can miss things like fronts.

I installed the iridium drivers and I think something called internet direct3? But I need to get some airtime for the sat phone to fully test out.

Do any of you know how much airtime I should expect to consume dowloading a 6-10kb grib? Looking like buying 200 minutes with a 6 month lifespan is the direction Im heading. Im hoping to get my Kaito HF reciever and JV comm working and use that more often than the Iridium and the sat phone is really only for passage use.
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Old 07-09-2012, 09:29   #24
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

Anyone ACTUALLY using the OCEN's WeatherNet 3 (New! WeatherNet 3
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Old 07-09-2012, 10:16   #25
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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Do any of you know how much airtime I should expect to consume dowloading a 6-10kb grib?
With a 10kb GRIB it should take no more than a minute to make the connection and download. Since it takes a while to establish the connection to the email server, to minimize airtime you should try to send and receive all your email in one batch. Don't connect for every little email someone writes.

Also, learn to monitor the satellite signal strength before you try to connect. You really want a good solid signal. If you try to use it when the signal is marginal you can burn a lot of time and not get through. Most of the email applications (SailMail, XGate, OCENS, etc) will save partially-sent or received messages, so should the signal drop out you can later pick up where you left off, but this is still less efficient than doing it all in one session.

By the way, XGate and OCENS use the same programs, and same server.
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Old 07-09-2012, 10:32   #26
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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With a 10kb GRIB it should take no more than a minute to make the connection and download. Since it takes a while to establish the connection to the email server, to minimize airtime you should try to send and receive all your email in one batch. Don't connect for every little email someone writes.

Also, learn to monitor the satellite signal strength before you try to connect. You really want a good solid signal. If you try to use it when the signal is marginal you can burn a lot of time and not get through. Most of the email applications (SailMail, XGate, OCENS, etc) will save partially-sent or received messages, so should the signal drop out you can later pick up where you left off, but this is still less efficient than doing it all in one session.

By the way, XGate and OCENS use the same programs, and same server.
Thnks Paul. I dont plan to use the sat phone for email on passage just for weather and the occasional txt or phone call. Email can wait for when we have wifi. Hopfully I can get my weather file requests into batches that help with the airtime and will definitly keep an eye on signal strength. Was looking at docks for the phone but then saw the prices. forget that.
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Old 07-09-2012, 11:36   #27
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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Thnks Paul. I dont plan to use the sat phone for email on passage just for weather and the occasional txt or phone call. Email can wait for when we have wifi. Hopfully I can get my weather file requests into batches that help with the airtime and will definitly keep an eye on signal strength. Was looking at docks for the phone but then saw the prices. forget that.
If you're logging on to email for a grib then sending another one with a few lines of text doesn't actually use much more airtime so keeping something like a google blog going won't dig much into the minute bank. Gives you something to do as well.
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Old 07-09-2012, 13:48   #28
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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...The other great part about viewfax is I can also get surface maps and other non-grib weather data which allows me to validate the gribs. I have been cautioned to not trust gribs on their own because they can miss things like fronts.

...
Yes, this is a key point to keep in mind about GRIB data. They are direct forecast model output. Weather FAX charts, and many other weather products, are produced by professional meteorologists using their experience combined with reviewing output from multiple forecast models. It is best to compare the two when making your weather decisions.

When planning the next leg of a trip, I like to review several days of GRIB, Weather FAX, and other data to validate the forecast and pick my weather window. The weather "discussion" on the NOAA site can be quite enlightening too. See Atlantic Tropical Weather Discussion for example. This discussion can give you some insight into what the forecaster was thinking and why he made certain decisions in preparing the forecast chart.

Also, as you point out, GRIBs don't graphically present frontal boundary information and other notations added by the forecaster to weather charts -- which can be quite useful stuff.

However, ViewFax does have the ability to choose which GRIB data elements are presented graphically. I find this really handy because you can for example, select both surface pressure and 500mb contours to be presented -- this can really be helpful in seeing which way weather is likely to be steered by upper level winds and how it will effect surface winds. I like to pack a lot of info into the display settings I choose (surface wind, surface pressure, waves, rain, 500mb Height). It makes for a bit of a busy display, but really helps me to visualize the forecast. Screen shot attached.

Keep in mind too that forecast models, and the resulting GRIB data, don't currently do a very good job near shore because of the complexities of localized land effect, but there is an evolving area of weather modeling called Meso-Scale modeling which is working on just that problem. See Meso-Scale Forecasts Ė can they help the sailor? / Franks-Weather | The Weather Window for more info.

Another weather data display site that I really like is weather model gfs - united kingdom - surface pressure [base + 0] - weatheronline. Very well done with lots of options.
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Old 07-09-2012, 14:41   #29
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

My netbook computer draws 1 amp dc when I hook it to a 150 watt inverter. Between email, OpenCPN, Kindle for PC, and games, it stays on 24/7 during passages. I'm curious how that compares to most chartplotters, because the last time I looked at an MFD, it drew 2 amps.
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Old 07-09-2012, 16:28   #30
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Re: Best Way For Weather Reports

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My netbook computer draws 1 amp dc when I hook it to a 150 watt inverter. Between email, OpenCPN, Kindle for PC, and games, it stays on 24/7 during passages. I'm curious how that compares to most chartplotters, because the last time I looked at an MFD, it drew 2 amps.

That's pretty impressive. Did you test that with a good multimeter or how did you get the 1 amp?

Most Laptop PC's I have actually stuck a meter to (not a statistically representative sample by any stretch) draw more like 50 Watts. If your netbook draws 1 amp @ 12V that's only 12 watts by comparison.
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