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Old 03-03-2011, 19:57   #1
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trying to understand ssb

My head is swimming from trying to learn what we need for an ssb system. We are planning to sail from Washington to Mexico and spend a year or two cruising Mexico and possibly south to Panama. We are on a strict budget. We would like to have a good/reliable radio for offshore, but have no need for email while out at sea. We would however like to "see" the weather and not just hear it over the radio. Do we need a pactor, weather fax, or neither to get this info while offshore? I've read that a computer can be hooked up somehow to the ssb to get weather info (but really don't fully understand it). Any input would be much appreciated!

s/v Pearl

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Old 03-03-2011, 20:09   #2
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Re: trying to understand ssb

I'm not the ultimate expert but can answer some of your questions.

First, there are two main weather reports used by sailors. Weatherfax gives you a map similar to what you see on the TV weather. The centers of the highs, lows, fronts etc are shown and I think also isobars.

Then there are GRIBS that show wind arrows for the area of the map.

Weather fax can be received by plugging the output of the SSB into the sound card of a computer and, with appropriate software, show the weather map on the screen or print.

GRIB files with current technology, will require a pactor modem to receive the file, then sent to the PC.

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Old 03-03-2011, 20:36   #3
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Re: trying to understand ssb

Do you mean basics like transceiver, antenna tuner, antenna? There's a lot of details about good power to the transceiver and antennas are very important, but on boats are usually a compromise. Are you going to have it installed or do it yourself?

Previous poster is correct, take a cord from the audio level out to a sound input on your computer with a free program gets you wfax.

Here's some info on usage and bands

Latitude 38 - Idiot's Guide to Marine SSB

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Old 03-03-2011, 20:39   #4
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Re: trying to understand ssb

Skipmac is correct. I'll add that WeatherFax (WeFax) shows a few (but only a very few) wind-barbs (speed & direction arrows) in addition to the fronts & etc. WeFax is also the product of trained weather professionals. GRIBs are simply computer models, with NO human input. They are what weather professionals often start with, & they need significant interpretation. They also do not show fronts (unless you're very good at interpreting them).

So, WeFax does not need a Pactor modem, but can be received with just an SSB connected to a computer's sound card & displayed with free software. WeFax is also the product of weather professionals & needs minimal interpretation. GRIBs need much more interpretation & also a Pactor modem.
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Old 03-03-2011, 23:53   #5
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Re: trying to understand ssb

If you want two way SSB communication as cheaply as possible, get a Ham radio. You can pick up a used ICOM 718 and tuner for around $600 if you are patient. New will set you back about $650 for the radio and another $250 to $500 for the tuner. Antenna and counter poise/ground will run another $200-$400 or so. You can study for the Ham license using the online sample questions with a day or two of intense study.

If your question was how to get weather, the others have answered that question.
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Old 04-03-2011, 00:44   #6
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Re: trying to understand ssb

I believe to receive the WeatherFAX charts you do not need an SSB transceiver; all you need is an HF (shortwave) receiver ($100 or so), a PC with a sound card and the WeatherFAX software
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Old 04-03-2011, 03:08   #7
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Re: trying to understand ssb

To be more specific...

Download JVComm32, which is an example of the software you need to convert the WeFax transmissions into images on your laptop. Read the instructions.

Buy a mono (not stereo) 1/8" patch cable from Radio Shack.

Buy a SSB receiver (click on the link in my sig line to search CF archives for threads on which is best)

Figure out which radiofax channel is right for the area you're sailing in: NWS Radiofax

Connect the receiver to your laptop with the patch cable (earphone jack in SSB to Mic jack on laptop).

That's it.

BTW, the NWS also transmits text weather forecasts on the same freqs as the radiofaxes. Just check the schedules.
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Old 04-03-2011, 04:22   #8
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Re: trying to understand ssb

Another download for the pc is SEATTY. I just downloaded it and am starting to learn how to use it aswell. I am using a cheap grundig right now but seems like a pretty simple download to use.
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Old 04-03-2011, 05:57   #9
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Re: trying to understand ssb

I am learning. I have a ICOM 802 and Pactor II usb and a computer. I am planning on requesting weather info via email. I have looked at NWS web site and gotten list of the different weather files that I can request. I have not figured out how to tell if a file is test or a weather chart graphic. Can anybody tell me if there is a code in the file name that distinguishes the type? Can any body tell me a file to request that would give me a weather chart of the eastern half of the US land and the coastal area?
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Old 04-03-2011, 06:02   #10
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Re: trying to understand ssb

Shari, For the type of cruising you will be doing you will want a transceiver and not just a receiver. But these will not give you real time weather, you will need very expensive satellite equipment for that. The SSB will get you all of the information you will need. You will have to be able to interpret that information on your own. Captain Marti Brown has an excellent book on the basics of SSB for a boat called Marine SSB for Idi-Yachts and it is a good start. Learn how to use weatherfax and take some basic weather forecast training. Chuck
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Old 20-03-2011, 07:23   #11
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Re: trying to understand ssb

Originally Posted by RDW View Post
. I am planning on requesting weather info via email. I have looked at NWS web site . . . and
I hope you have found saildocs, viewfax, and airmail (and Expedition if you want some fancy routing capability) - by far (IMHO) the easiest/best cruiser way to get all sorts of weather (but especially gribs) by e-mail.
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Old 20-03-2011, 09:41   #12
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Re: trying to understand ssb

Here is the kind of image you would get from receiving free weather fax only kind of information:

You don't really get anything more local than that from WeatherFax. WeatherFax signals can be received for free with a SSB radio, and free software can be installed on your computer to display the incoming data. These kinds of maps are transmitted about 4 times per day and are generated by the Nat Weather Service.

IF you want more localized weather data and forecasting than that, you will need to have a modem that attaches to your SSB radio so you can receive email messages via SSB. Then you can subscribe to various weather services (many are free, but you pay a fee to the company that sends the email) that will email you scheduled forecasts that would be far more detailed than just a picture like the one above. You could get a picture of the winds forecast like this one:

Similar maps can be generated for Rain, Waves, etc, and can forecast about a week ahead.

good luck!
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Old 20-03-2011, 09:46   #13
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Re: trying to understand ssb

Go and attend a HAM radio course... It will lift the fog of SSB/CW RG58 RG5 etc...

You will get a far better feel as to what you will need/use/want.

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