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Old 03-04-2011, 01:59   #1
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Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

WE are about to leave, sold the car today, just waiting for the weather window.
Going up the queensland coast (australia) we can use our external aerial and modem for internet access and weather forecasts.

Weather forecasts are important to us (there is no rough weather if you don't have a schedule) and we have all the time in the world.

Once we arrive in Indonesia (merauke) we can purchase an Indonesian sim card as suggested by Mark J.
However indonesia phone companies do not give details of coverge area (unlike Telstra Australia)
We are a 42 ft trimaran motor/ sailor. .

I am considering a sat phone with a compression program to access weather only. (buoy weather or similiar)

Any help /suggestions
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Old 03-04-2011, 02:26   #2
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

YIPPEEE!!!!!!! YIPPEEE!!!!!!! YIPPEEE!!!!!!! YIPPEEE!!!!!!! YIPPEEE!!!!!!! YIPPEEE!!!!!!! YIPPEEE!!!!!!!

So, so lucky!!!

I don't know if it any help, but we have an old Thuraya phone. Te Thuraya line long since expired, but when we do an international passage we stick Marc's SIM for his international/roaming line in and it works fine. A bit pricey, perhaps, but gets the job done!
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Old 03-04-2011, 03:54   #3
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

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Originally Posted by beau View Post

Any help /suggestions
Check out this site
Global Weather Downloads (GRIB / Synoptic / Text)/ Express-Weather | The Weather Window

Also with a radio like this cheap off ebay you can download weatherfaxes free with some free software like jvcomm on thre laptop. Schedule here

I actually much prefer weatherfax to gribs for offshore.

Hope this helps, enjoy
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Old 03-04-2011, 04:57   #4
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

We had excellent weather information all the way from South Africa to the Caribbean with our Iridium 9555 and OCENS software.
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Old 03-04-2011, 06:51   #5
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

Quote:
Originally Posted by beau View Post
WE are about to leave, sold the car today, just waiting for the weather window.

I am considering a sat phone with a compression program to access weather only. (buoy weather or similiar)

Any help /suggestions
First, congratulations. You have a great adventure in front of you. It will change your life.

As to weather information - as you have said, when close to shore, gsm cell phone with local sim cards and cyber cafes are the best answers for comm hardware.

For offshore weather hardware you have three choices:

#1 cheapest is a receive only shortwave/world band radio. With that, and a laptop, and some free weatherfax software you can receive weatherfax while at sea. It can be a bit fiddly and you can only get the weatherfax charts according to the fixed broadcast schedule, and some parts of the world are not well covered by weather fax, BUT it's all free free free. Its what many of us used for years and years before sat phones and gribs. You should do this in any case, no matter what you do with options 2 and 3) because its so cheap and you can listen to the BBC.

#2 next cheapest (in operating cost) SSB radio plus pactor modem plus sailmail. With that you can get e-mail and gribs and weather fax essentially for free (there is a weekly maximum limited on the size of e-mails). The SSB and modem unfortunately have a significant upfront cost (lets say several thousand dollars plus installation). But once installed you just have the annual sailmail fee ($250/year).

#3 is a sat phone - there are various models and types, but Iridium is generally the best cruiser choice today. With that you can call your family, call the search and rescue or medical doctor in emergency, And do e-mail and weather gribs. You can get the weather information anytime you want it, rather than having to wait for the fixed weatherfax schedule, and you can get reception anytime rather than the various propagation issues related to radio/weatherfax, and there is no weekly limit (like on sailmail, or 'doing business' restriction like on ham). The upfront cost is a bit lower than for #2 but the operating costs are much higher. You need a compression service/server (about $250/year) and you will pay about $1/minute - you can get about 5 typical (plain text) e-mails in a minute.

Those are the hardware options. The sat phone is (in our opinion) BY FAR the most user friendly for getting weather, e-mail and calling home. The SSB does let you talk on the cruiser nets, which some people like and pothers do not care much for. Our solution has been an inexpensive all band receiver + an iridium, which lets us listen to the nets and get weather fax (on the radio) plus do e-mail and gribs and call home on the iridium.

As to weather sources - with none of these offshore options do you want to be trying to go on the net or to websites. The data rate is too slow and they are too expensive. You want to be getting specially compressed weather data (called gribs). There are various ways and sources for gribs, but (in our opinion) by far the best is the completely free service called saildocs. It was started and built by a tech CEO who went cruising, and has been developed and used by one of the worlds best racing navigators (stan Honey). It has a completely free software program that is best in class (Viewfax - you want the beta version which is in fact bug free) ann is built into one of the best weather routing programs (Expedition). From saildoc can get weather data from several different weather models (most other grib viewers only allow access to one model) - this is useful because it allows you to see if all the models are saying the same thing (in which case it has a decent probability of happening) or if they are each forecasting something different (in which case you can figure its just a crap shoot). With viewfax, you can also get (in efficiency compressed format) most of the world's official text weather forecasts and current predictions and all sorts of other useful stuff - all free (unlike Ocens which makes you pay for this stuff).
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Old 03-04-2011, 07:46   #6
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

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Originally Posted by conachair View Post
I actually much prefer weatherfax to gribs for offshore.
Absolutely agree. I have yet to find a grib model that shows fronts. How can you route or plan without fronts?
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Old 03-04-2011, 07:56   #7
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

I have a Icom 802 SSB and a Pactor II usb. I am in the learning phase. I understand about requesting certain weather files from NWS or NOAA. I have downloaded large list of the files availibe but I am having a hard time finding files that send me large graphic weather maps. Most that I have tried to request, in up sending back word weather forecast, i.e. text.
What files would I request to study graphic weather maps covering the eastern
Atlantic to the Caribbean?
Sorry for the drift but still on topic!
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Old 03-04-2011, 10:19   #8
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

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Absolutely agree. I have yet to find a grib model that shows fronts.
Have you tried looking at gribs with the rain layer? I find the rain (and shift in wind direction) very clearly and graphically shows the frontal location - I think better than on a weather fax because it shows you how broad the front is (it's usually just depicted as a line on weather fax with no indication how broad it is).
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Old 03-04-2011, 14:17   #9
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Auspicious View Post
Absolutely agree. I have yet to find a grib model that shows fronts.
Have you tried looking at gribs with the rain layer?
Project for the week.
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Old 03-04-2011, 14:43   #10
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

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Originally Posted by Auspicious View Post
Project for the week.
here's a grib example - for two days from now, and the comparative weatherfax chart. (sorry I did not manage to get them at exactly the same scale - but one of the nice things about gribs is that you can get just the area and scale you are interested in)
Attached Thumbnails
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ID:	25798  

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Old 03-04-2011, 14:52   #11
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
here's a grib example - for two days from now, and the comparative weatherfax chart. (sorry I did not manage to get them at exactly the same scale - but one of the nice things about gribs is that you can get just the area and scale you are interested in)
Good example. I've used gribs that way and felt comfortable.
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Old 03-04-2011, 15:07   #12
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

Given the choice I'd take both gribs and wetherfax. The difficulty I've had offshore with gribs is keeping the file size small enough to afford the download means the size of ocean covered isn't really that meaningful, with weatherfax you get a much better view of the bigger picture. That's using a satphone, not sure what filesize you could realistically download with pactor or winlink2000.
But if the choice was there - both plus anything else available.
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Old 03-04-2011, 15:25   #13
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

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Originally Posted by conachair View Post
Given the choice I'd take both gribs and wetherfax.

The difficulty I've had offshore with gribs is keeping the file size small enough to afford the download means the size of ocean covered isn't really that meaningful.
Both is nice.

With gribs if you want a large area but a small file, what you do is increase the size of the data grid. When connected to the internet (cell phone or cyber cafe or wifi) I typically use a 1/2 x 1/2 degree grid, but offshore and wanting to see a big area I will often change that to a 2 degree x 2 degree grid - that reduces the file size by a factor of about 16x (not exactly because it depends on your latitude) By sat phone I try to keep my grib files to about 30kb. When on the internet I often get +300kb file sizes.
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Old 03-04-2011, 15:42   #14
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

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Both is nice.

With gribs if you want a large area but a small file, what you do is increase the size of the data grid. When connected to the internet (cell phone or cyber cafe or wifi) I typically use a 1/2 x 1/2 degree grid, but offshore and wanting to see a big area I will often change that to a 2 degree x 2 degree grid - that reduces the file size by a factor of about 16x (not exactly because it depends on your latitude) By sat phone I try to keep my grib files to about 30kb. When on the internet I often get +300kb file sizes.
Thatís exactly what weíve been doing. At 14 to 20 times the file size between the areas requested it makes all the difference between; letís download once a day verses many. Like every 5 hrs or 24 hrs
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Old 03-04-2011, 15:51   #15
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Re: Sat Phone: Weather Forecasts

Personally, both Grib and weather faxes are fine for me however, what I would like to know is how do I receive satelite images and on what frequency with sailmail using my Icom and Pactor equipment?

Also, what HF frequency can I receive UTC time Signals in the south pacific?

Thankyou
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