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Old 17-09-2018, 10:11   #1
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Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

Hi all,



We recently completed a 3 month cruise from our home waters of the Southern Gulf Islands to Alaska and back in our Nordic Tug 37.


I naively thought we would have good access to Weather Forecasts since we had our InReach Satellite device with us. As it turned out, the InReach device was almost useless when it came to weather forecasting. Whenever I attempted to get a marine forecast, it would return the message that I was not on a large enough body of water or ocean.


We were often in remote areas with limited to absent reception of local VHF marine forecasts. Thankfully, we could text family with the InReach device to get them to look up the forecasts online and text us back with the summary, but there were times when this was impractical and a real nuisance.


On our return, I emailed the InReach support and was essentially told that that Garmin is aware of this issue but has no immediate plans to fix it.


So, I am researching options to the InReach system.


I see three viable alternatives:


1. Ocens: Subscribe to Ocens and use the InReach to get Ocens forecasts in cryptic 160 character summaries for the areas we expect to transit.


2. SiriusXM: Buy & install hardware for SiriusXM Weather service (~$900-) to interface with our Furuno MFD, then subscribe to their Offshore Weather service at (gasp!) $55- /mo. (The Coastal subscription at $30- / mo will only give wind and wave forecasts for up to 3 hours in the future - you need to subscribe to their Offshore package to get 48 hour forecasts )


3. SSB weatherfax: Buy & Install a SSB radio and get weather forecasts via SSB radio to be displayed on iPhone or iPad. This might be subject to restricted range and clarity when in tight fjords?



We venture short distances offshore to cross capes etc. but we are not an offshore boat.


I wonder if people could comment on their personal experience with the above options and perhaps offer their suggestions to improve access to accurate and relevant marine weather forecasts.


Any comments or suggestions are welcome.


-evan


MV Tugaway
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Old 17-09-2018, 21:46   #2
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

We use ssb and have for years - 11 to be exact - everywhere from the western carib across the atlantic to the black sea - have my ham license so I get winlink and forecasts for free - works great for us - we have some long sails coming up next year in the med and again will rely on our ssb
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Old 18-09-2018, 08:19   #3
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

Thank you chuckr,


Have you had experience using the system in deeper fjords or hideaway anchorages where the signal could be potentially blocked?


Sometimes, up the Alaska or BC Coast one can be tucked away in steep sided anchorages with a need to venture out across more exposed waters. An up to date forecast would be very useful but impossible to get on VHF or the InReach.



For example: We were in Red Bluff Bay in Alaska with a plan to cross Chatham Strait. We had the forecast for NW winds of 15-20 Kt from a couple of days before when we tucked into the fjord. When we exited the anchorage, we saw 25 - 35+ Kt winds instead. Not a big deal but having the more up to date forecasting would have been very helpful.


Does the SSB work in tight mountainous anchorages?


-evan
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Old 18-09-2018, 08:40   #4
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

SSB is not line of sight and bounces off the atmosphere instead. So It ought to work. But I know some of the Fjords up there are pretty narrow and deep and cant say for sure.
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Old 18-09-2018, 09:04   #5
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

We just fnished the same trip in a Krogen 42. Had the same issues you were experiencing. No VHF or cellular once you leave the main channels and head back into bays and inlets.



I'm considering activating and using my SatPhone next year to download text forcast of the VHF forcast in both the US and CN.



I would imagine Iridium Go would be a good option as well and would be my first choice if I did not already own a SatPhone. Servie seems same/cheaper that XM Weather plus much more functional for other uses that just a music and weather.
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Old 18-09-2018, 09:06   #6
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

I have the SiriusXM and like it. Not only does it give you the NOAA report right on your plotter, but it tracks thunderstorms right on your plotter. Seamless with my other Garmin interments. It costs about $50 a month, and you can buy it a month at a time. Just call 'em up and tell them to turn it on, and when you get home, tell 'em to turn it off. The expense up front was high, but it just works, no muss, no fuss.
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Old 18-09-2018, 09:07   #7
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
SSB is not line of sight and bounces off the atmosphere instead. So It ought to work. But I know some of the Fjords up there are pretty narrow and deep and cant say for sure.

Thanks you. I think I understand the difference between SSB and VHF in terms of the wavelength and propagation. In theory, it should work if we can see the sky with some angle; but, I wonder if anyone might be able to confirm its utility in these circumstances...


-evan
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Old 18-09-2018, 09:11   #8
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

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Originally Posted by CaptRory View Post
I have the SiriusXM and like it. Not only does it give you the NOAA report right on your plotter, but it tracks thunderstorms right on your plotter. Seamless with my other Garmin interments. It costs about $50 a month, and you can buy it a month at a time. Just call 'em up and tell them to turn it on, and when you get home, tell 'em to turn it off. The expense up front was high, but it just works, no muss, no fuss.

Thanks.


I'm not so opposed to the initial capital outlay but the thought of being committed to 6 months or a year at $55- / month has me cringing. I should re-read the Canadian subscription terms... Being able to turn it on and off without a penalty would make it more attractive.


-evan
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Old 18-09-2018, 09:13   #9
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

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Originally Posted by Steve Mason View Post
We just fnished the same trip in a Krogen 42. Had the same issues you were experiencing. No VHF or cellular once you leave the main channels and head back into bays and inlets.



I'm considering activating and using my SatPhone next year to download text forcast of the VHF forcast in both the US and CN.



I would imagine Iridium Go would be a good option as well and would be my first choice if I did not already own a SatPhone. Servie seems same/cheaper that XM Weather plus much more functional for other uses that just a music and weather.

I have an older Globalstar Sat Phone we used in Mountaineering trips but I'm not sure how well it would adapt to data usage. I guess I need to explore that option too.


Thanks.


-evan
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Old 18-09-2018, 09:16   #10
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

Here's a couple other options for your inReach other than the Garmin weather feature...

WX2InReach - https://wx2inreach.weebly.com/
Basically, send the message "wx now" to wx2inreach@gmail.com and get back a weather report. There are other options for more details, etc. Use a preset message to save an outgoing, only pay for the incoming message. Free.

FastSeas - https://fastseas.com/#inreach
Send a message to query@fastseas.com (with a special format) and get back weather routing to your destination. Subscription required.
(This is a weather routing system, not a weather forecast, per se)

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Old 18-09-2018, 09:23   #11
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

A really cheap option would be a shortwave receiver and free wefax/navtex decoder. You can also get the shipping forecasts by voice broadcast.

Otherwise, Iridium Go or SSB/Pactor, either of which can get free GRIBs, wefaxes, and shipping forecasts via SailDocs.

Iridium Go will cost $2000 to $4000 less to acquire and install, but will cost about $140/month to use. If you are not keenly interested in other uses for the SSB radio like nets, ham radio, etc., then Iridium is much simpler to set up and use, and it could be many years before you actually come out ahead financially by using SSB.
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Old 18-09-2018, 09:37   #12
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

Quote:
Originally Posted by eheffa View Post
Thanks you. I think I understand the difference between SSB and VHF in terms of the wavelength and propagation. In theory, it should work if we can see the sky with some angle; but, I wonder if anyone might be able to confirm its utility in these circumstances...
SSB (the 3-30 MHz bands) works pretty well in canyons and other obstructed-horizon situations. Certainly much better than VHF and higher frequencies. In a deep fjord with only a sliver of sky showing it's going to be marginal, but even then it still gets through sometimes.

Normally, Iridium works great closer to the poles, and you can get all the WX info you want via Saildocs, OCENS, etc. But you do need a pretty open horizon for it to work well. I've had difficulty using Iridium when anchored in steep coves, and I assume a fjord will be only worse.
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Old 18-09-2018, 11:42   #13
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

Evan,

We live on our boat in southeast and southcentral Alaska and fully comprehend what you are up against for obtaining reliable weather products. I can share what we have and do for perspective, and will provide a link to a page I maintain with more details...

We have an ICOM M802 HF/MF radio with packet modem, VHF Marine radios, and an Iridium Sat phone with passive external antenna.

Basically, between 55 and 62°+N– when cell is not available– we rely on Iridium sat comms for everything [defined as email, SMS, all weather products including GRIBs, WeFax, Sat images, text forecasts, voice, etc.]

We subscribe to a sat phone plan that is geographically isolated to Alaska and Canada only [it covers all land and ~20 miles offshore, and includes roll-forward minutes] This plan costs less than the international plans. [again, details on the page I will link below.]

We also subscribe to a specialized email service [UUplus] which we use very successfully with sat and/or cell [and/or wifi] connectivity from anywhere we have ever ventured.

These two services combined [Iridium plan and UUplus] for us for now are more cost effective than an Iridium GO at $140/month for unlimited data [by a factor of 3 to 5x/year.]

The ICOM radio can and is used for comms [and Wx, etc.] as well, but we find it less reliable and more fiddly in the mountainous terrain [we are at sea level with 5000 ft (+) peaks surrounding us as you describe.] It is also less reliable the further N we venture, and even more so in the summer season when the sun barely sets and sunspots, etc. are a stronger factor. [I've had Marine HF/MF SSB radios on my boats for the last 30 years or so, so have some experience...]

In the fjords, we even find the external Iridium antenna only garners us maybe 3 mins of connectivity before dropping to await the next satellite. [It is usually only a couple of mins before the next satellite provides a strong enough signal...]

This is the short version of our options, and what we use routinely.

More details are available on this page which I maintainn to keep track of our decision making processes and use cases as they evolve.

Best wishes determing what best suits your needs.

Cheers! Bill
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Old 18-09-2018, 11:46   #14
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

SSB and contract with a weather router covering your area. On the east coast and Caribbean we use Chris Parker. Subscribers can two-way with him for personal assistance
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Old 18-09-2018, 13:25   #15
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Re: Practical Options for Marine Weather forecasts in remote areas

You don't need an ssb tranciever for weather, just a reciever and a decent aerial. May be worth trying to set up the guard wires as an alternative aerial. Greatest sensitivity is at rght angles so tne guard wires will look straight up. The best weather forcasts are via national agencies like NOAA so are available via SSB.
Having said that I would want a full SSB setup for safety in such a remote area. In an emergency you want contact with local shipping not a rescue center 1000km away!
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