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Old 11-05-2013, 10:26   #1
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Florida
Boat: Catalina 470
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Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

Last year, on the SSCA Disc Boards, I posted detailed info on obtaining offshore weather forecasts while at sea and/or in remote locales.....primarily for the typical US / Caribbean / EU / Atlantic / Pacific cruising areas...
And, I've referenced / referred many to that thread, but now I'm thinking that it might make good sense to actually write all of that here as well...

So, while "weather" is more of a 'seamanship" issue, the obtaining of the forecasts is typically an "electronics" / "communications" issue....so thought posting here would make sense.

~~~~~
~~~~~

From Aug, 2012....



-- As for offshore / hi-seas weather data and forecasts, etc...

1) For most of the N. Atlantic, all of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico (including US East Coast, Bermuda, Azores, Bahamas, Caribbean, Central America, etc.), as well as the Eastern and Central Pacific, etc.... you have easy / FREE access, via HF-SSB Radio, to the "gold standard" in offshore marine weather data/forecasts (the US NWS/NOAA Marine Weather, broadcasts in voice, text, and WeFax, from the USCG...)


a) Here is the general Marine Weather page.....with all the links on it...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/home.htm


b) Here are the pages, showing the WeFax (weather charts / sat images) broadcasts....
Have a look at all these pages to get an idea of what charts are transmitted, etc...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/radiofax.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/marine.shtml

c) For the North Atlantic...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfmarsh_links.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/marsh.shtml
{I use NMF/Boston...for most of the N. Atl...}

d) For the Tropical Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Tropical East Pacific...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfgulf_links.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/gulf.shtml
{I use NMG/New Orleans...all the time....for SW N. Atl. / Carib / Trop N. Atl....}

e) For the North Pacific and Tropical East Pacific....
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfreyes_links.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/ptreyes.shtml

f) For the Central, Southeast and North Pacific...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfhi_links.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/hawaii.shtml

g) For the rest of the Atlantic, Med, Pacific and Indian Oceans....
Here is a page with worldwide WeFax broadcast schedules...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/rfax.pdf
{note that I use GYA, from the UK, for eastern N. Atl. WeFax...}


h) Also, for the past 25 years, Herb Hilgenberg provides excellent offshore weather forecasting and routing advice, via Maritime HF-SSB Radio....(for FREE!!), for the whole N. Atl., Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and areas further on request....
http://www3.sympatico.ca/hehilgen/vax498.htm


i) For subscription fee, Chris Parker also provides offshore weather and routing advice via Maritime HF-SSB Radio, for the Caribbean, Bahamas, Gulf of Mexico...
http://www.caribwx.com/



2) For offshore and hi-seas Voice and Text weather broadcasts....
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfvoice.htm
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfsitor.htm

{Note: For hi-seas / offshore voice (and/or text) weather broadcasts further along your route, there is Aus, Brunei, NZ, etc... have a look at a thread here..
viewtopic.php?f=12&t=8301
For worldwide offshore/hi-seas text weather data and forecasts, there is always INMARSAT C....
And, for near-offshore broadcasts, don't forget NAVTEX!!!! ]




3) As for how to "get" the above weather data / forecasts...it is all transmitted for FREE over HF radio (i.e. "Marine SSB Radio"), by very powerful (4000watt) transmitters....
You can access all the above by:

a) a Standalone, dedicated HF WeFax receiver/chart printer....such as a Furuno FAX-408...at about $2200 (street-price) it is pricey, but VERY reliable, and used worldwide on many commercial vessels (and some pleasure craft, such as mine)
http://www.furunousa.com/products/produ ... eather+Fax
{ This is what I use, and used an Alden MarineFaxIV for many years before I installed my new Furuno FAX-408 a few years ago....
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47003.htm using a 22' long vertical "random-length" wire antenna, and have excellent reception and crystal-clear charts....}


b) a dedicated WeFax receiver-only networked to a Furuno NavNet display or PC/laptop...(if you already had a Furuno NavNet display, the FAX-30, at about $900 is a good choice...but unless you've got the Furuno NavNet system, this is also a bit pricey, as you can use your SSB radio to do the same thing....)
http://www.furunousa.com/products/Produ ... duct=FAX30


c) a Marine SSB transceiver (such as Icom M-802/AT-140) for voice broadcasts, and for WEFax (and text) broadcasts, connected to a PC/laptop, using FREE software (such as JVComm) allows for WeFax (and text/SITOR) reception....typ. prices are about $2400 for transceiver/tuner/etc....
http://www.docksideradio.com/Icom%20SSB%20Radios.htm
http://www.docksideradio.com/wefax.htm


d) an inexpensive HF/SSB receiver (such as a Sagean 909 or Sony 7600, etc.), using a good antenna, for voice reception....and for WeFax (and text) reception, connected to a PC/laptop (and again using JVComm, etc)
Typical costs here are from $150 to $500, depending on receiver and antenna set-up....
{this is usually considered a "back-up" system, with the vessel's primary Marine SSB Tranceiver being used as the "primary" HF receiver for WeFax, Voice, etc..}


e) should you also find the need for e-mail access while offshore / out on the hi-seas (many simply use e-mail / internt in port only, using Wi-Fi and/or G3 aircards, etc.), then you'd certainly have a PACTOR modem (~ $1200) attached to your Marine SSB Transceiver (~ $2400, plus installation)....and using this set-up, you could request the WeFax charts that you desire to be sent to you via e-mail, using saildocs, etc.
http://www.docksideradio.com/Pricing%20&%20Ordering.htm
http://www.sailmail.com/
http://www.saildocs.com/


f) Also, note that you can use your Marine SSB for telephone calls as well, at 99 cents/min.....
http://www.shipcom.com/
And in addition to telephone interconnects and traffic lists, WLO / KLB also provide NWS/NOAA Offshore and Hi-Seas Voice weather broadcasts....as well as high-quality / hi-power PACTOR modem interconnections / e-mail...
http://www.shipcom.com/frequencies.html


g) You can also use a satellite terminal (or fixed-mount sat-phone), with typical costs from $2500 - $6000+, plus lots of $$$ for airtime/data....to gain access to these "free" (US Tax Dollars Paid For!) weather charts / images....
http://www.ocens.com/Cruising.aspx
http://www.saildocs.com/



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Please note, that while there are many cruisers who use laptops on-board, there are fewer that use them on long passages....as the difficulty of use (hanging onto them, yourself, etc.) when offshore can be a pain!!!
So, dedicated weather reception, such as a FAX-408 when ofshore / hi-seas (or NAVTEX equipment for coastal/near-offshore, out-to ~ 200 miles) is usually much preferred!!!
For those utilizing computers, many find a dedicated, low-power fixed PC to be much easier to use, and more reliable, than trying to use a laptop...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



4) Should you decide that some type of satellite communications is desireable for your planned cruise (such as for a bit easier or more private telephone calls when offshore / on the hi-seas...or if medium-to-hi-speed / broadband data and internet connections are desired in far flung/remote locales and/or when offshore...etc. etc...), there are 3 or 4 "basic" types of sat comm systems....and a few "advanced" types...

--- "basic" types are:
a) Handheld sat phones, such as Iridium 9555 (or IsatPhonePro), usable above decks only and need clear view of sky at all times (which can be difficult when in a decent seaway)...usually only used for brief voice contacts when offshore in good weather.....and aren't very effective for data connections (trying to rig/wire things up, in the cockpit!!!)
$600 - $1500....(plus airtime costs of about $1/minute...)


b) Handheld sat phone (as above), with a fixed-mount external antenna and below decks "docking station".....(these allow use of phone below decks and also allows LOW-SPEED / E-MAIL ONLY data connections...typically about the same speed as PACTOR 3 on HF-SSB / Sailmail...)
Adding appox. another $1000 to the basic handheld sat phone....(giving you typical costs of $2000 - $2500...) plus airtime costs of about $1/minute...
Data compression software is also an absolute requirement, whether you use airmail, or OCENS, or X-Gate....

{This set-up has similar up-front costs compared to Marine SSB, but without the versatility...plus sat phones have the added costs of daily/monthly airtime....as well as added complexity....
And, of course a sat phone does NOT have the emergency (or Distress) communications ability of a HF-DSC-SSB Radio (such as the Icom M-802)....
Further a sat phone cannot connect you with weather nets, cruisers nets, ham radio nets, merchant vessels, etc. as a marine HF-DSC-SSB can...}

http://www.ocens.com/Cruising.aspx


c) Fixed-mount / Portable (non-marinized / non-stabilized) satellite terminals...such as INMARSAT B-GAN....
Allows for medium-speed (~ 64-128k) data connection / internet access, when in port, in remote areas...
Typical costs are $3000 and up....(plus lots of $$$ for airtime/data...)

There is also INMARSAT C, which is a low-speed (~ 600 buad) text / telex system, which provides SafetyNet weather and warnings (for free)....
It is VERY ROBUST and RELIABLE, and like the MF/HF-DSC-SSB radio is part of the GMDSS....(great for those sailing the world via the great capes, etc..)
Typical costs here are also about $3000 - $4000....


---- "advanced-types" are:
d) Iridium Pilot / Openport....allows medium-speed (128k) data connection / internet access, worldwide at sea, in all weather conditions.....
Typical costs are $4500 - $5000 (plus lots of $$ for airtime/data...)


e) INMARSAT Fleet Broadband (FB).....allowing medium-speed (128k - 500k) data connection / internet access at sea and in remote areas....
Typical costs are $5000/$6000 to $15,000/$20,000 (plus lots of $$$ for airtime/data...)


f) Maritime VSAT systems....allowing hi-speed (500k - 1.5Mb) data connection / internet access at sea and remote areas....
Typical costs are $15,000/$20,000+ and UP....(plus LOTS of $$$$$ for airtime/data...)


For more details on sat comm equipment and data services see:
http://www.ocens.com/Cruising.aspx
http://www.iridium.com/products/iridium-pilot.aspx
http://www.globalmarinenet.com/xgate.php
http://www.kvh.com/Leisure/Marine-Syste ... ernet.aspx




5) As for specific equipment....and its usefullness for weather / communications, when offshore and in remote areas...
First off, in my opinion, a maritime HF-DSC-SSB Radio (such as the Icom M-802) is an almost necessity on all offshore cruising boats / ocean-going pleasure craft of all types....as it is the ONLY way to directly signal "Distress" to other vessels past VHF range (anything past 20-25 miles)....
Secondly, a marine HF-DSC-SSB radio would allow very effective and cheap (aka free) access to offshore/hi-seas marine weather...(see details above)
Third, a marine HF-DSC-SSB radio allows you to contact/stay-in-touch with both other cruising boats and those back on-shore (should you desire to do so...)...not to mention the great addition that having a ham radio license will allow...
NOT having a well-insatlled and properly working marine SSB on-board is a big mistake that can be easily avoided!!!

So, my recommendations, in order of preference and usefullness/performance....(while the above info is "fact", my recommendations are of course "opinion"!!!)

a) My first recommendation is easy....an Icom M-802/AT-140 Marine MF/HF-DSC-SSB Transceiver/Tuner, properly installed and tested.....

b) Next, I'd add either a dedicated wefax receiver (such as a Furuno FAX-408), or a low-power dedicated PC attached to your M-802, using free software to decode the WeFax charts (and text forecasts)....

c) Third, would be the addition of a PACTOR modem (SCS P4 Dragon) and AirMail software in your dedicated PC....along with a subscription to sailmail (and/or Shipcom).....

d) Fourth and Fifth, would be a combination of a dedicated NAVTEX Receiver, and an INMARSAT C termina, for SafetyNet / hi-seas weather forecasts....
Along with MF/HF-DSC Signaling, these are both part of the GMDSS, and make excellent dedicated text-only weather receivers, where data is transmitted for FREE, no subscription is needed!!!! And, they make excellent additions to any offshore sailing boat!!
(I'm already in the process of adding a separate, dedicated NAVTEX unit....and will be considering a Sat C unit before any circumnavigation plans...)

[Note that 4 of these first 5 systems require NO subscription fees, and are FREE to all users....and with the US, UK, Aus, NZ, Japan, China, etc. etc. etc. all recently stating their continued commitment to hi-seas weather forecasting / broadcast, these tax-payer support services will be here with us for many, many years to come....]


e) And, further down the list would be an Iridium 9555 phone, fixed ext. antenna, and docking station....
f) And, then maybe an Iridium Pilot (OpenPort) or INMARSAT FB.....



6) Tieing it all together, isn't necessary at all...and usually not even desired, as keeping your systems separate or at least able to work pretty well without being "tied-together" is a BIG part of the Keep-It-Simple-Stupid (KISS) approach!!!

There are some more advanced computer-type cruisers that do weather chart overlays, on top of their electronic charts....but, this usually requires pricey displays/computers (not something that is easy to keep working reliably offshore and in remote locales) and specific software (such as MaxSea) and pay-for charts/services....AND does require all things to work well together....(not really the best for long-range / offshore cruising, as it is a bit gimmicky....but is used by some)

Note, that you'll find that when offshore you'll not be using a chartplotter much at all....and in many popular cruising areas (Caribbean, etc.) you'll not need radar much either....
Although, radar is VERY nice to have when offshore, in "unsettled conditions" (esp useful in the ITCZ)....to find and weave-thru squals and storms....in many areas, you're not likely to use the radar too much....(but do make sure it works well, before you shove off for far flung locales...)
So, even if desireable to do so (it is NOT), worrying about chartplotter and radar integration, into your on-board weather forecast receiving systems is a rather moot point.....and shouldn't figure much into your decisions....



A few last thoughts....
7 ) Please do not forget that in addition to refrigeration, autopilot, etc. you'll need the electrical power to run all of the stuff on-board...so whatever you can do to use as little power as possible and/or for as short period of time as possible, is always a good idea....and you'll need to take into account the power used by different systems / equipment on-board, AND make sure you have enough electrical generation (solar) and storage (batteries) to use what you desire.....
Have a look here at what I've done....
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47004.htm
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47074.htm
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47145.htm


8 ) Here's my Nav Station, Cockpit, etc....it's all worked great for almost 6 years now, including two Atlantic crossings, 12,000+ miles offshore, multiple full Gales, severe T-Storms, etc...
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47003.htm
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47002.htm
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47148.htm


9 ) For some more info on using HF-SSB Radios, have a look here...
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=13306
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=13270
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=13490




10 ) Note that no mention is made above of GRIB charts (Gridded Binary charts), which are raw computer model data.....in most users' experience these are not as accurate/reliable as profesionally prepared (by humans) weather charts, and are best suited to those individuals that are better forecasters than those professionals at the NWS, Ocean Prediction Center, Tropical Precdiction Center, National Hurricane Center, etc...
(although in some remote parts of the world, GRIB charts are about the best you can do for offshore weather charts....for most cruisers, they are not needed and fall short of the "gold standard" of offshore marine weather forecasts, but unfortunately some new cruisers are easily "sold" on them by marine electronics dealers/installers/vendors.....)


~~~~~~
~~~~~~
~~~~~~

From 2009...

And, regarding English language Voice forecasts in Asia... (posted in 2009, although still applicable)....
~

{Please note that a weather chart, via HF WeFax, etc.....is usually considered the preferable offshore/hi-seas forecast mode.....and I'd advise using them......

Also, note that NAVTEX 518khz broadcasts are in English worldwide......
Although it is "text" not "voice".....it seems to me to be exactly what you need for your cruising grounds and application....

Using a dedicated NAVTEX receiver will give you redundancy to your existing set-up.....
Since I'm not a fan of relying on laptops for critical missions, I'd recommemd a dedicated NAVTEX receiver (Furuno) as your primary SE Asia offshore/coastal weather receiver and use your existing MF/HF receiver with laptop / software as a back-up.......(of course continue to use your laptop with WeFax software as you do now......and a dedicated NAVTEX receiver can serve as a co-primary source of weather info/forecasts....)

You can use you existing set-up to receive NAVTEX right now (there's cheap or free software availabale), before your depart on any offshore voyage to get used to it....and to see if it will give you what you need.....

NAVTEX is designed for coastal and near-offshore waters, out approx. 250 - 300 miles.....
While it won't give you coverage across the Pacific (that's what HF wefax, text and voice braodcasts are for), it WILL cover your cruising area very well.....(most heavily transited areas of the world are covered with NAVTEX stations....)

In your cruising areas, there are many NAVTEX stations.....here's just a sampling....
Bangkok, Singapore, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak, Jakarta, Makassar, Ambon, Jayapura, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Hong Kong, Sanya (and 4 others in Chna), Chennai (and Mumbai).....as well as Guam, 5 stations in Japan, 2 in Korea, 2 in Taiwan, etc....}


But you asked about "voice broadcasts, in English"......so that's the answer I'll do my best to provide....

1) Yes, there are HF Voice Weather broadcasts, in English, that cover the Pacific Ocean and Asia.....
But, I cannot think of one website that lists all of that data, so I'll try to give you what I can here, from my own recollections....and hopefully a few links if I can find them...

2) USCG NMO, Hawaii and USCG NRV, Guam broadcast Pacific Hi-Seas Forecasts.......check their schedules at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfvoice.htm
(Generally covering the South Pacific, Central Pacific and Eastern Pacific........coverage to 160 East, and from 25 South to past 60 North....)

(USCG, NMC, Pt. Reyes, CA also broadcasts some Pacific Hi-Seas weather....)

3) Also, WWVH does broadcast Pacific Hi-Seas forecasts, from their transmitters in Hawaii at 48 - 51 minutes past each hour, at 2.5, 5, 10, and 15mhz.....
These are NOT detailed forecasts, but typical of wide area coverage Hi-Seas forecasts, with mainly significant weather, significant systems, and any warnings mentioned......

(WWV, in Ft. Collins, CO also broadcasts a Pacific Hi-Seas warnings at 10 minutes past each hour on 2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20mhz....)

4) Listening to (and speaking with) amateur radio Maritime Mobile Nets will give you a great deal of info, weather forecasts and otherwise......
In addition to the MMSN ~12 hours a day on 14.300mhz......check out the Pacific Seafarers Net (14.300 at 0300z) and the Manana Net (14.340mhz) and the Pac MM Net (21.402mhz)....


You may also wish to check out Don Anderson, N6HG's schedule (see Pac Sea Net's website), since he can provide weather info for both Atlantic and Pacific (out about 7000 miles from CA), on both HF Maritime Freq (via WPXU557) and/or amateur radio......

5) Late at night and Early Morning, here in Florida I still hear Australian Weather on 8mhz Marine / Aviation Freqs.......heard them just last month...... so they have GREAT coverage.....and, I know that they're on other freqs as well (4, 6, 8, 12, and 16mhz bands depending on time of day)......

VMC, Queensland, AUS and VMW, Western, AUS provide HF Voice weather broadcasts......
Have a look at the Australian Marine Weather page, and follow the links for coverage areas, times, and freqs....
http://www.bom.gov.au/marine/

And.......VZX, Australia, although still on-the-air (sailmail), ceased its voice service in late 2006.......

6) Brunei Bay Radio (V8V2222) also provides Marine HF Voice Weather Broadcasts......
I think you'll find their website informative....
http://www.bruneibay.net/bbradio/index.html


7) New Zealand also has a decent Marine HF station(s)......Taupo Radio.....
And their Metservice has excellent weather forecasts of the South Pacific, south of 25 degrees South.....
I know that their HF WeFax broadcasts are still on-the-air, but not sure of their HF Voice broadcasts.....if you require these very southern Pac forecasts, do a search for NZ HF Marine Voice Weather broadcats......

8 ) VIG in Port Moresby, Papua, supposedly also has HF Voice Weather broadcasts......

9 ) And while my info shows that HSW, HSA, and HSJ in Thailand broadcast HF FAX and CW, they may also still do HF Voice??????




So, Jim, to sum up......there are HF Marine Voice Weather Broadcasts, in English, for the Pacific and Asia.......
If Pacific coverage from US to 160 degrees East will suffice, the the USCG Voice broadcasts are good.....
If you wish better coverage of SE Asia, Brunei Bay Radio is good....
You can also use Australian and/or New Zealnad HF stations...and Amateur Radio for even more info and weather forecasts...
And, if all else fails, you can at least hear Pacific Warnings and Sig Wx via WWVH.....

(Oh, and if you want current weather in MANY areas, there's always the HF Aviation VOLMET stations....)


~~~~~
~~~~~
~~~~~

And, from this past week, regarding a SIMPLE / CHEAP way of getting weather while at sea / in remote locales, while heading from Seattle, WA to Mexico....

I understand your frustration / confusion, and I do believe I can help you sort through this maze!!!
Please go thru item by item, and follow the links, and I think we'll get you on the right track....

{PLEASE forgive my bluntness!!}
There is NO need to "get ham certified" in order to get excellent HF radio reception....but, just about any $200-$300 used ham radio (like an old IC-735, etc.) would work MUCH better than that Si-Tex...
Doing these 3 things will get you all the weather data/forecasts you'd need/desire....and it won't cost you much money, nor take much time!!!
----Getting a decent radio and antenna....
----Spending a few minutes (certainly no more than an hour or two) learning about HF radiowave propagation....
----Getting rid of the probable high amount of RFI on-board and/or surrounding your boat....


First off, directly on your exact points...
A) The SiTex "SSB Receiver" is a piece of crap, as has been discussed here and on the SSCA Disc Boards for many years...

B) The trick in using an HF radio, primarily HF receiver, is two-fold....
---First, understanding the incredibly high amount of interference ("RFI") that is around your boat, marina, yacht club, etc...
AND, reducing/eliminating that interference to allow easy/clear HF radio reception....
Take note that while I have ~ 40 years experience in this area, it is NOT that complicated, and there are many, many threads that are loaded with the details on how-to reduce/eliminate RFI on-board....
The first approach is usually to get away from the dock/marina (at least 1/2 mile away), and disconnect power/switch off breakers (or even the main battery switch), to everything on-board except your radio....and then see how well your radio and antenna work....you'll be amazed at how well even cheap, mediocre-quality radios work without lots of RFI around....
---Secondly, spend a few minutes (or as much as an hour or two) learning a bit about radiowave propagation, and how you'll use different frequencies/channels at different times of the day and over different distances...(here again, there are many threads here and on the SSCA Disc Boards that can be of great help...)


C) In areas where there are NAVTEX transmissions (such as along US/Canada coasts and throughout Europe, and parts of SE Asia), NAVTEX is a great source of text-based (written words and abbreviations) weather for coastal and near-offshore waters, from the coast out-to approx. 200-250 miles offshore (w/ maximum ranges to be 300-400 miles, but not to be relied on past approx. 250 miles)...
But, NAVTEX coverage is NOT available, or very unreliable, in many areas (such as the Mexican coast)....and/or sporadic coverage due to atmospheric noise, etc. (such as in the Caribbean, etc.)....SO...
So, for YOUR application, assuming you are in fact in Seattle and are heading down the coast to Mexico, NAVTEX would NOT provide you with decent weather info once you have gotten more than 100 miles or so south of US waters....
(so, while the Furuno NX-300 is a fine piece of gear, and is on my wish list, it would mostly be a waste of $$$ for you, at this time...)

Have a look at these pages, for some info on NAVTEX and coverages for your area....
NAVTEX Maritime Safety Broadcasts
http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/images/marcomms/navtex-p.gif
http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/images/navtexe.jpg
http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/images/marcomms/SAVANNAH.jpg
http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/images/navtarea.jpg
GMDSS | WMO
http://www.icselectronics.co.uk/navt...rea.php?nva=12
http://www.icselectronics.co.uk/navt...area.php?nva=4
NAVTEX Database | ICS Electronics Limited



Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by jared1048
I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to get weather info on my trip down the coast to Mexico.

I bought a Si-Tex SSB receiver but I cant figure out how to use the thing and I don't have the time to get HAM certified.

Looking at the Furuno NX300 it states that it can get weather info 200-400 miles offshore. Does this mean its only good when your at least 200 miles offshore? Why not anything closer? I'd rather need something that worked up to 200 miles offshore.
1) Not exactly sure where you're planning on sailing/cruising (and this plays a BIG role in determining what you can best use to attain accurate and timely weather forecasts), but assuming you're still in Seattle and are heading to Mexico...here are my thoughts....

2) Along the US west coast, you'll be well served with normal US NOAA weather radio broadcasts on VHF radio....

3) If you venture further offshore than their coverage (> 25 - 50 miles off the US west coast), AND when you leave US waters, you WILL need some other method of receiving marine weather data/forecasts....
a) Typically the most useful offshore / hi-seas weather data/forecasts for recreational sailors (not professionally trained and/or experienced in ocean meteorology), is a surface weather chart and/or a wind and wave chart....
Both of these are broadcast multiple times per day...showing current conditions, as well as 24, 48, 72, 96, and 120 hour forecasts...
These are know by mariners as "WeFax charts", and for the areas you are interested in, are prepared by seasoned professional oceanographic meteorologists, with the US NWS/NOAA Ocean Prediction Centers, updated 4 times per day, and transmitted for FREE by the USCG 4+ times per day on multiple channels/frequencies, from a couple different locations.....
These maritime weather "WeFax charts" from the US NWS/NOAA, are considered (by most offshore mariners, professional and recreational) to be the "Gold Standard" by which other weather forecasts and Met offices are measured against....
And, these can be received (FREE of charge) by anyone with a decent HF radio (and antenna) and minimal experience.....with the radio's audio output connected to the sound-card input of any PC/laptop, etc...

b) These US NWS/NOAA Offshore and Hi-Seas forecasts are also transmitted in an very easy-to-follow format/pattern by voice, from the USCG....multiple times per day, from multiple stations....as well as retransmitted by Hi-Seas Coast Stations WLO (Mobile, AL) and KLB (Seattle, WA)....
And, here again are provided FREE to anyone with a decent HF radio (and antenna) and minimal experience....
The use an easy-to-understand "Iron Mike" synthesized voice....

{Please take note that these above two types of radio transmissions, of offshore and hi-seas weather (as well as those from the UK's Met office), have served me (and 10's of thousands of others) well over the past 35+ years of sailing/voyaging from FL, Bahamas, Caribbean, across the N. Atlantic numerous times, thru the Med, etc. etc...and while dubbed a bit "old fashioned" by some, they ARE currently in 2013 STILL transmitting (and will be for at least another decade or two) and STILL being used daily by many mariners (professional/commercial and recreational) worldwide.....

See the recent survey results from WMO/jcomm Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology, for surprising results, that show outside of Europe (where NAVTEX is prevalent), HF radio (and especially HF WeFax) is still used by many large commercial vessels, even though many have satellite provided internet access, they still use HF radio and HF-Radio transmitted WeFax daily....}


c) Last year, I wrote a very detailed post about offshore and hi-seas weather, etc. on the SSCA Disc Board....where all of the details of the above summaries are spelled-out, and many direct links are provided...
SSCA Forum • View topic - Offshore / Hi-Seas Weather data / forecasts

Sorry about my bluntness about the Si-Tex receiver, learning a little bit about radiowave propagation, and about reducing your on-board and surrounding RFI, but if I had a dollar for everyone with the same issues/problems you've mentioned, I'd be sailing a new Hinckley SW-52, instead of a Catalina....
And, don't forget that you needed to learn how to sail once, and you needed to learn navigation, anchoring, docking, etc. so why not spend a few minutes learning about radiowave propagation as well, it's just another piece of knowledge that you can use to enjoy cruising / offshore sailing....



Jared, I know this is a long post with lots of details, but I do hope you find it useful and not overwhelming!!

~~~~~
~~~~~
~~~~~





So, while this posting doesn't cover everything, I think it's a good start...
And, I do hope this helps, but doesn't overwhelm...

Fair winds..
John
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Old 11-05-2013, 13:45   #2
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

Just to present a slightly different perspective . . . .

We sail with an iridium phone and a laptop, and get our offshore weather by grib.

We have the capability to get weatherfax (via a Sony all band receiver) but find the gribs much more useful.

We have previously used a professional shore router but have stopped as we found they (we tried two different ones) did not add much value beyond the gribs.

We do listen to herb, when in the North Atlantic, and other cruiser nets, because that is a way to get accurate near real time weather conditions.

I personally would suggest your post accurately described the best practice 15 years ago, but not now. However, it just goes to show there is almost always a range of quite different opinions and solutions that work.

Finally, the word 'accurate' in the thread title made me laugh. Anyone who's spend a lot of time offshore in remote parts of the oceans knows that sometimes (more than most people would expect) the weather services don't even know accurately what the wind direction and speed is right now much less 48 hrs from now.
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Old 11-05-2013, 14:28   #3
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

Evans,
Thanks for the comments....the more "accurate" we can make the info here the better...
Sorry about the thread tittle....I suppose it is a bit pompous to use the word accurate when describing weather forecasts for open stretches of water where little data is reported and/or the only data comes from satellite-based scans...(if I could edit/delete the word "accurate" from the tittle, I would...so please forgive my enthusiasm...)




As for different views, perspectives, and applications, that's great....and a welcome addition...
Quote:
Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
I personally would suggest your post accurately described the best practice 15 years ago, but not now. However, it just goes to show there is almost always a range of quite different opinions and solutions that work.
But, I hope you don't mind if I respectfully disagree with you a bit....as I personally stand behind my opinion that what I wrote is a very viable / workable approach, even in 2013 and for years to come.....and while I don't think I used the word "best", I suppose I implied it....so, yes, my approach is "best" for me, for my applications, my budget, my desires...(and maybe for others as well...)
I hope we can agree that neither is right, nor wrong...just different??
What's "best" for me is not necessarily even "okay" for others, and what's "best" for others, might be barely acceptable for me....

In addition to being surprised by the number of commercial / merchant vessels that are still using HF-delivered WeFax, rather than satellite delivered products (my own non-scientific queries)....
I'm also noticing a trend of more budget-conscience cruisers who are questioning the cost vs. benefit of using Sat Comms....(yes, Evans, I am aware that it does work well for you.... but I've personally met with many cruisers who are looking for a cheaper / less complicated approach...)
And/or the cost vs. benefits of a PACTOR modem and using Sailmail vs. using Wi-Fi / 3G in port and free "broadcast" services at sea....

(If someone desires to save a few thousand dollars by not:
a) buying sat comm equipment and paying for airtime....and/or
b) not buying a PACTOR modem and paying for Sailmail....and/or
c) not learning to be an It-guy....and/or
d) not desiring the low-speeds of Winmor...
etc. etc.
There ARE viable, and reliable, ways to do it....hence my easy "old-fashioned" but still viable, approach...)

Further, I just recently read the survey results from the WMO/jcomm Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology, where the large majority of respondents report using HF radio (both WeFax and Text) for offshore / hi-seas weather info/forecasts....


Okay enough of my ramblings....


Again, I appreciate the different perspective....and I assume others will as well...

Fair winds...
John
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Old 11-05-2013, 14:44   #4
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

My all time favourite wx support toys are:

a) small boat: radiofax,
b) big boats: Inmarsat boadband.

What we get depends on where we are.

My least preferred method is an SSB transceiver / modem / email.

PS You can get wx via deLorme inTouch, but you need someone who understands your needs to sms it to you.

b.
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Old 12-05-2013, 13:40   #5
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
As for different views, perspectives, and applications, that's great....and a welcome addition... But, I hope you don't mind if I respectfully disagree with you a bit....

Feel free, people do it all the time, does not bother me in the least and I often even learn something

In this specific case we used almost exactly what you described in the early '90's on Silk during our first round the world trip - actually we started even simpler with just an SSB receiver rather than a transceiver and only got the transceiver later. But we have moved on as the technology has.

I did truly mean it with I said there are a lot of different good ways that work to do almost everything.

but I've personally met with many cruisers who are looking for a cheaper / less complicated approach...) And/or the cost vs. benefits of a PACTOR modem and using Sailmail vs. using Wi-Fi / 3G in port and free "broadcast" services at sea....

It's not clear to me than an icom SSB + tuner + antenna + wefax printer (or pc) + potentially a pactor + sailmail is any cheaper than an iridium + netbook + xgate. It's also not clear to me that the first is any 'less complex" except perhaps for someone who is already a radio expert (but even then I am not sure).
............
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Old 14-05-2013, 09:46   #6
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
Just to present a slightly different perspective . . . .

We sail with an iridium phone and a laptop, and get our offshore weather by grib.
I second the grib files. I get them free via winlink email, HF and pactor modem.
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Old 14-05-2013, 10:05   #7
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

I just say a couple of things

Certainly for Europe and the Med, NAVTEX is the best thing since slice bread, and should be fitted before anything else/ You get free detailed forecasts and additional its quite area specific. with a gPS connected the unit will switch from station as you sail along.


I would most certainly argue with this

Quote:
First off, in my opinion, a maritime HF-DSC-SSB Radio (such as the Icom M-802) is an almost necessity on all offshore cruising boats / ocean-going pleasure craft of all types....as it is the ONLY way to directly signal "Distress" to other vessels past VHF range (anything past 20-25 miles)....
Secondly, a marine HF-DSC-SSB radio would allow very effective and cheap (aka free) access to offshore/hi-seas marine weather...(see details above)
Third, a marine HF-DSC-SSB radio allows you to contact/stay-in-touch with both other cruising boats and those back on-shore (should you desire to do so...)...not to mention the great addition that having a ham radio license will allow...
NOT having a well-insatlled and properly working marine SSB on-board is a big mistake that can be easily avoided!!!

Firstly GMDSS requires you to signal "the shore" not other vessels. Hence for GMDSS compliance an EPIRB is best.

I would say today , where I fitting out , Id seriusly consider Fleetboardband, rather then HF radio. Internet access is 'priceless' and is teh only future proof component.

I like Evans tend to rely , outside broadband, on my sat phone and all the products you mention ie Wxfax, are available via that method , as well as purely digital products like GRIB. I also have a good friend , whose an amateur weather expert, I just ring him on the satphone and ask!!

I agree with evans , your advice is admirable, but dated. Take a look at the comms percentages on the ARC. HF has been declining steadily and sat comms gaining ground rapidly

Quote:
but I've personally met with many cruisers who are looking for a cheaper / less complicated approach...)
certainly HF is not a cheap install.

And I am a HAM operator, HF is a hobby now really.

so just to recap

Quote:
a) My first recommendation is easy....an Icom M-802/AT-140 Marine MF/HF-DSC-SSB Transceiver/Tuner, properly installed and tested.....

b) Next, I'd add either a dedicated wefax receiver (such as a Furuno FAX-408), or a low-power dedicated PC attached to your M-802, using free software to decode the WeFax charts (and text forecasts)....

c) Third, would be the addition of a PACTOR modem (SCS P4 Dragon) and AirMail software in your dedicated PC....along with a subscription to sailmail (and/or Shipcom).....

d) Fourth and Fifth, would be a combination of a dedicated NAVTEX Receiver, and an INMARSAT C termina, for SafetyNet / hi-seas weather forecasts.
I would place the following as a more modern approach

(a) Navtex, cheap to fit and easy to use, good upto about 400 miles offshore, 3G for inshore

(B) SAT phone with data connection

(c) Fleet broadband ( or open port)

(d) HF if you fancy a hobby, if so then go for a ham rig as well

forget inmarsat C, expensive, useless and completely overtaken by satcoms. The GMDSS compliant sets are widely expensive, even the non compliant sets are ridiculous price.

dave
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Old 14-05-2013, 10:17   #8
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

I bought and installed a perfectly functioning used (icom m700 pro) ssb with ham unlocked for about $1300, all in.

My Iridium phone alone set me back about $1100, not to mention the $150/month I eat on minutes and that's if I don't go over. The airtime is for my job, otherwise I wouldn't have it at all.

Two weeks ago before we left to cross the Sea of Cortez (small ~300 mile offshore hop), my Iridium phone gave me a sim card error. A billing error had caused the service provider to cancel my subscription. A simple phone call (from my land line, because we were still in cell range) got it fixed, but had we left a day earlier we would have been screwed.

I think on a spreadsheet satellite communications seem to be the clear winner, but in the lumpy bumpy ocean the radio is quite useful, more reliable, and less expensive.
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Old 14-05-2013, 10:23   #9
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

Quote:
I think on a spreadsheet satellite communications seem to be the clear winner, but in the lumpy bumpy ocean the radio is quite useful, more reliable, and less expensive.
can you phone your wife to assure you that despite being 5 days overdue, you're fine, with a HF radio ( no you can't)

Can you phone a expert on a problem with electronics , 500 miles offshore, with HF , no you cant

Phone a friend who looks up an internet forecast , with HF , no you cant

Keep in touch with the owners on deliveries, with HF , nope.

Ring marinas in advance, HF ( Nope)

I mean now that the listening watch on HF has ended, I cant even raise many ships on HF anymore , unless I have DSC and then I need their MMSI and hence they need to be within my VHF AIS range,

my phone was bought on ebay for $370 , crossing the atlantic on several occasions usage averaged out at about $400 per trip. once off the coast its all 3G ( however the sat phone is still sometime cheeper).

PS: All kit gives trouble, HF sat, etc. its doesnt invalidate the advantages.
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Old 14-05-2013, 10:24   #10
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
.... but I've personally met with many cruisers who are looking for a cheaper / less complicated approach...)......

...

..


There ARE viable, and reliable, ways to do it....hence my easy "old-fashioned" but still viable, approach...)
Thanks for putting together such a detailed post

On a delivery last couple of weeks I had not perfect but easily readable wfax from northwood and hamburg across Biscay and down Spanish/Portuguese coasts using just a nexus 7 sitting beside a degen 1103, even when motoring. https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...kud2VmYXgiXQ..

Wooden boat so down below reception was good enough with the radio antenna resting against a chainplate. No images to share I'm afraid as it was set to auto delete after a week.

Not the sort of thing you'd want to be doing long term but you can get wfax offshore without breaking the (money or battery ) bank.
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Old 14-05-2013, 11:26   #11
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
can you phone your wife to assure you that despite being 5 days overdue, you're fine, with a HF radio ( no you can't)

Can you phone a expert on a problem with electronics , 500 miles offshore, with HF , no you cant

Phone a friend who looks up an internet forecast , with HF , no you cant

Keep in touch with the owners on deliveries, with HF , nope.

Ring marinas in advance, HF ( Nope)

I mean now that the listening watch on HF has ended, I cant even raise many ships on HF anymore , unless I have DSC and then I need their MMSI and hence they need to be within my VHF AIS range,

my phone was bought on ebay for $370 , crossing the atlantic on several occasions usage averaged out at about $400 per trip. once off the coast its all 3G ( however the sat phone is still sometime cheeper).

PS: All kit gives trouble, HF sat, etc. its doesnt invalidate the advantages.
You're only comparing the strengths of a satellite phone in your "which is better for xyz" questions. I get in-country cell phones as well because they're better than both satellite communications and HF radio for nearly everything once you're in terrestrial zones. But that doesn't negate other technologies simply because a $30 cell phone has a pile of specific advantages.

can you phone your wife to assure you that despite being 5 days overdue, you're fine, with a HF radio ( no you can't) (I can certainly send her an email with sailmail, and as I indicated before I had my Iridium provider turn off my connection because of a billing error.)

Can you phone a expert on a problem with electronics , 500 miles offshore, with HF , no you cant (Nor do I need one, to be honest. I don't need an electronics expert to help me sail a boat, navigate, or perform any other function that puts me where I want to be when I want to be there.)

Phone a friend who looks up an internet forecast , with HF , no you cant
(I can hear the forecasts for my area on several different nets, and ask for weather forecasts from other stations and those people are much more qualified and familiar with local conditions beyond what reading a grib will show you).

Keep in touch with the owners on deliveries, with HF , nope.
(That's fair, although I and most others don't do trans-oceanic deliveries as a normal course of business.)

Ring marinas in advance, HF ( Nope)
(I've never needed to. I'm within VHF range hours in advance, and there are plenty of options to figure out how to handle a marina without busting out a satellite phone.)
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Old 14-05-2013, 11:34   #12
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

I really don't understand how anyone would put a satellite phone into the "need" list. They're fragile, they can be turned off at any time by the reseller for any reason without any notification, the sim cards can and do fail from time to time, and they are quite expensive.

And this is from a guy who routinely spends ~2 hours a month talking away on my Iridium 9555. I also have it hooked up to Twitter so I can update my account underway and get SMS messages when people @ reply to me. It's a great product, but so is my surfboard.

I love having them, but just because I dig them doesn't mean I need to rationalize it as a need for safe passage making.
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Old 14-05-2013, 11:56   #13
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

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I really don't understand how anyone would put a satellite phone into the "need" list. They're fragile, they can be turned off at any time by the reseller for any reason without any notification, the sim cards can and do fail from time to time, and they are quite expensive.

And this is from a guy who routinely spends ~2 hours a month talking away on my Iridium 9555. I also have it hooked up to Twitter so I can update my account underway and get SMS messages when people @ reply to me. It's a great product, but so is my surfboard.

I love having them, but just because I dig them doesn't mean I need to rationalize it as a need for safe passage making.
You do seem to be arguing against yourself !!

Hf radio is a technically complex subject, installation requires knowledge or expense often both . ( I restrict my deliberations to Marine HF not Ham). Furthermore HF stations are now very few indeed and telephone hookups are cumbersome to arrange. Ships dont listen since DSC, Then you just have to add the usual propagation issues etc.

Sat phones, are less expensive to buy New then a New HF setup, require less installation and generally "just work'

I have an old Moto 9500 phone in a Peli case. works fine. The newer ones are much more robust and the Inmarsatphone is reputed to be quite robust.

( but who cares, you dont 'need' long range comms to sail oceans).

As to being turned off, I firmly disagree, I have a relationship with a top notch comms airtime dealer, they are first class, understand my needs, bend the rules from time to time, I have NEVER been cutoff , I run an account with them ( they have allowed me 90-120 days credit at times ) Great bunch ,


Comparing satphones and HF on the grounds of failure risk is nonsensical, both can fail. But satphones offer (a) email and (b) ease of use. Its teh simple reason why they have gained ground and HF has lost market share amongst cruisers.

Im not against HF, but Id put having a satphone well ahead of it thats all.

dave
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Old 14-05-2013, 12:25   #14
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

As someone ramping up for the big departure day, I keep bouncing back and forth on this question. Here's my breakdown. Tell me if I've got it right.

Sat. pros: Easy and somewhat cheaper to install (vs SSB), easy to use, direct communications (one-to-one), email, access to weather info via data downloads, portable, no license requirements.
Sat. cons: Significant operating costs, no access to cruisers' nets, less durable (perhaps).

HF (SSB) pros: Small operating costs, access to cruisers' nets, one-to-one comms, weather info, data/email (pactor).
HF cons: Higher skill needed to use effectively, somewhat higher install costs (compared to sat.), not portable, licensing required.

I'm currently leaning to an SSB setup, but the main reason is due to the operating costs of satellite. Remove that impediment and I think I'd go sat.
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Old 14-05-2013, 12:36   #15
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Re: Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

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Sat. pros: Easy and somewhat cheaper to install (vs SSB), easy to use, direct communications (one-to-one), email, access to weather info via data downloads, portable, no license requirements.
Sat. cons: Significant operating costs, no access to cruisers' nets, less durable (perhaps).

HF (SSB) pros: Small operating costs, access to cruisers' nets, one-to-one comms, weather info, data/email (pactor).
HF cons: Higher skill needed to use effectively, somewhat higher install costs (compared to sat.), not portable, licensing required.
I would add that a New full featured HF with Pactor is Way way more expensive then a new ISATPHone. ( like 4-5 times more) , so feedback the TCO against the operating costs of the sat phone, it will pay for a hell of a lot of minutes.

'weather info, data/email (pactor).' since all methods do this , this is not really a comparative advantage , however getting high speed PACTOR, like anywhere near 2400 is hard to do in my experience. if you go into ham system hardware is cheap but the throughput is appalling.

IN my view HF ( especially Ham on board ) is a radio hobby. and its proponents are fanboys obviously.

With the arrival of cheap ( well cheaper) satcomms, 'ordinary' non-fanboys have trended away from HF ( and Ham )

Access to cruiser nets is a two edged sword in my mind!!, ( mind you especially VHF harbour nets-- run away).

Get a furuno Wx receiver and a satphone- sorted!!!!

Dave
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