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Old 07-10-2014, 02:38   #1
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Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Hi there,

I am needing advice on the best options on how to get the weather for our boat.

Currently we are sailing in Tunisia and our journey here from Spain highlighted our need to have better weather communication now. We lost internet quickly and listening to the VHF radio reports was difficult as we did not speak the local languages and even though we tried to interpret it was unsuccessful. Even though the weather was fine it became stressful as I kept hearing weather warnings and was not sure if they applied to the region we where in.

Our plan is to sail long distances as we are aiming to take our boat from the Med across Atlantic and then eventually home to Tasmanian so we have always intended to install new equipment for weather reports. Sooner is now the priority. For short journeys we are using zyGrib.org but this means we need to get to the internet on a regular basis.

If any can let me know what's working for you, equipment and approximate cost I would be very grateful. Alternatively if there is another recent thread that has similar information I am happy to go in that direction.

Thanks in advance

the Miss
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Old 07-10-2014, 03:02   #2
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

There are a number of threads on this topic. Try the search function. Basically there are two ways of getting Grib files as yo need them

1- SSB (shortwave) radio - Depending on where and what you buy the cost will vary, but I recently installed a new ICOM 802 with tuner, antenna and a Pactor VI modem. Radio,tuner, antenna and installation ran about $3000 (did almost all installation work myself) Pactor modem runs around $1200.

ONce installed, you can pull grib files as often as you like for free (ok Sailmail costa a couple of hundred $ per year). An SSB radio also allows yo to send and receive e-mails (text only as the modem is slow, but you can stay intouch no matter where you are onthe oceans). You also can participate in all the cruiser radio nets - and get first hand information on conditions (anchoring/authorities etc) from cruiser who are on the spot).

There are several persons around the globe who will send you detailed weather information for your area daily (the most famous one was Herb, but he has retired)

The radio has a DSC distress button - punch it and it automatically starts sending a distress signal which someone WILL pick up. It also sends your GPS coordinates etc.

You have to spend some time learning how to use it - but well worth it.

You can start your reading here:

Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use / proeprly-install SSB, & troubleshoot RFI, etc.)


2. Satelite phone - cost (last I looked) around $8000. Then you have to buy a minute plan. Depending on how much you buy, costs vary, but figure somewhere around $200 per month.

Advantages - you can download Gribs as you please (although each grib costs) You can call home using it as normal phone

The learning curve is short.

In an emergency situation, you can take it with you in a liferaft.

Disadvantages - no DSC distress button. You have to make a phone call to someone to tell them you need help.


This is a personal preference matter. Many buy the phone because there is virtually no learning curve. Learning to use a SSB takes time and is an investment.

We picked the SSB, because it has a multitude of uses - not the least of which are the radio nets and the Distress button.
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Old 07-10-2014, 03:05   #3
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Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Hi miss, congrats on making Tunisia. Well done !
In the med we relied on Internet and also had navtex which is a small radio reliever that sends weather updates for most regions. The one we used plugs into a PC and has a small external antenna and gives text updates and warnings as they are released. Cost is about 200euro

Now that we have left the med we have a satelite phone which can download gribs like zygrib as well as emails. Phone cost is about 700eu, plus the wifi adaptor box for 150eu with no other setup costs. Then you will need a sim. We bought a 500minute sim that lasts for 12 months for 700usd. That will cover us for gribs and emails and any voice calls. One grib takes about 5 minutes to download, depending on the area and details you select.

Another option is the new iridium GO which works similarly to the phone, but needs a tablet or iPhone to use. Price is around the same as our setup.

There are some current threads on the GO and also I did a review of our iridium axcesspoint setup on here somwhere..

Next option is a HF radio which is pretty expensive to install 5k+, and not so easy to operate and requires a HAM license.

Another option may be a wifi extender antenna which may get you internet further offshore.

In the end for the med I think the best you can do is study the gribs, forecasts, synoptic char.ts, shipping forecasts and outlooks, clouds and barometric pressure before you make a passage, and then deal with whatever comes your way on passage. Most passages are likely to be under 4 days so if the forecast changes when you are 2 days out there's not much to do except grin and bear it, and chances are the forecast can be totally wrong anyway. There's too many variables in the med created by land masses to be 100% spot on..
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Old 07-10-2014, 05:03   #4
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

easiest short term solution for the med,and as far as the canary islands would be to get NAVTEX,after the canary islands you pretty much have to take what you get until after the windward islands in the carribean.
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Old 07-10-2014, 05:23   #5
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Quote:
Originally Posted by carstenb View Post
There are a number of threads on this topic. Try the search function. Basically there are two ways of getting Grib files as yo need them


2. Satelite phone - cost (last I looked) around $8000. Then you have to buy a minute plan. Depending on how much you buy, costs vary, but figure somewhere around $200 per month.

Advantages - you can download Gribs as you please (although each grib costs) You can call home using it as normal phone

The learning curve is short.

In an emergency situation, you can take it with you in a liferaft.

Disadvantages - no DSC distress button. You have to make a phone call to someone to tell them you need help.


This is a personal preference matter. Many buy the phone because there is virtually no learning curve. Learning to use a SSB takes time and is an investment.
Correction: An Iridium satphone with install package and external antenna for the nav station is less than $3000 USD.

We found zero learning curve and 100% reliability for downloading GRIB files.
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Old 07-10-2014, 21:28   #6
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Check out the 'PREDICT WIND' site. It is excellent. It has the package you need. Even the, new 'GO' equipment, as previously mentioned.
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Old 08-10-2014, 01:42   #7
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Yes I've heard predict wind is good. They were selling stand alone satelite hardware but I think now they have changed to using the GO for hardware. I'm not sure what sort of subscription costs are involved.
Also as to the cost of sat phones or the GO, they are closer to $1000 and I don't think installation or external antennas are needed, especially on a cat where you can have a good reception from the nav desk or sit the phone outside in the cockpit, or the GO. Ours works well at the nav desk with just the inbuilt antenna. We have an iridium 9555. The newer iridium extreme has a couple of additional features like inbuilt GPS which would be handy for tracking perhaps..
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Old 09-10-2014, 02:30   #8
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Hello,
For your Atlantic crossing, the most simple (and cost effective) is the RFI (Radio France International) weather forecasts:
Every day at 11.33 GMT.
Frequencies : 6175 KHz, 15300, 15515, 117610, 21465
You can catch it on a very basic SSB (short waves) receiver.

Approaching Caribean area, FM diffusion is available :
100.6 FM for Martinique, 98.0 FM for Guadeloupe, 100.7 and 98.7 FM for St Barth, St Martin and NorthCarribean.
Fair winds,
Mistigri
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Old 09-10-2014, 02:35   #9
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Thanks mis, we have a basic receiver. Are those frequencies different zones or what is the zone for canaries to Martinique? I might drag out the receiver and see if I can pickup any forecasts
Did you have success far from land,mid crossing?
Also any luck with weatherfaxs? I attempted to set up ours a couple of years ago but gave up after hearing the aliens talk for hours trying to figure it out..
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Old 09-10-2014, 03:35   #10
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

First welcome to Tunisia. We spent last winter in Port Yasmine and will do so again this winter. We simply love Tunisia.

As for the weather we put ssb on the boat a long time ago and it works well for us. We have been out 7 years and one of the smarter things we did when we preped the boat for cruising. I also got my ham license so the cost of the gribs and email is costless.

When we crossed the Atlantic we downloaded the gribs daily from various stations. Once in the carib you can listen to chris parker a weather router who covers the entire. we subscribed to chris and could get his thoughts on our intended sailing route if we wanted it and we got a daily email from him on the area we were cruising on the ssb.

There are also some cruiser nets on the ssb in the carib and other places that lets you connect with other cruisers.

We did look at other options but we think that for us this was the best option and by the way we do not have navtex so when we can not get wifi in the med we use the ssb and the grib files for our weather.

Now some say it is old technology and other things about what is the "correct" way to go and a search of this forum will show that.

Good luck with your decision and if you are in Port Yasmine we will be there in about 2-3 weeks .
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Old 10-10-2014, 13:20   #11
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Currently inTabarka and next few days going to La Galite. Not sure of our movements for next few weeks. We are interested to see more of Tunisia but wondered if we should travel once elections over.... Can't leave until December but this might be the best place for winter.

Thanks for advice on weather, looking at options now.

Cheers
The Miss
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Old 10-10-2014, 13:35   #12
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Second hand SSB Kenwood transceiver from eBay, backstay antenna, second hand SG230 tuner from SGC, a laptop, a WinMOR modem from QRPproject! Deine Partner wenn es um QRP und Selbstbau im Amateurfunk geht, RMS Express software from Winlink Global Radio Email for email and SeaTTY weatherfax software. And a radio amateur licence. I think all of this together cost me less than 500 euro.

A WinMOR modem is a lot cheaper than a Pactor modem. Winlink is free, Sailmail isn't. Winlink doesn't have good coverage in the Pacific though. And getting a radio amateur license is a lot cheaper than getting a Marcom-A licence.
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Old 10-10-2014, 13:40   #13
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Wow, that inspires.
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Old 11-10-2014, 08:02   #14
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

Hi Miss,

Regarding the short waves frequencies for FRI, and as I am not a great specialist in short waves propagation (in fact not at all!), I think the best is to try those frequencies let say 10 mn before the forecats hour and choose the best. You can hear the forecasts all over the crossing.
Forecasted zones go from Portugal and West Africa to Carribean. A map from these areas you will find at : La météo marine grand large de Météo-France sur seableue | Seableue

I understand you are now in Tabarka. I was there in February last year, conveying a sv Oceanis 50 back and forth from France (for vat reasons!).
It's a very good sheltered place but....very ugly during winter time.
When departing from Tabarka which is very near from Algerian border, take care not to enter into Algerian waters. This happened to me and 10 mn after entering in those waters we have been chased by Algerian CG. Very suspicious guys in fact, not very fluent in english (as I am!) so it takes a lot of time to explain them what we are doing there, french crew on a sv with Dominican flag. So if you can avoid it, no hesitation.
Fair winds,
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Old 13-10-2014, 02:32   #15
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Re: Help I Need Good Advice Re How To Get The Weather

By miss, smartphones are available in Australia at up to 75% discount if you qualify for the regional rebate (or know someone who does) check the gov site.
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