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Old 12-07-2010, 15:36   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
We have spent quite a bit of time in the high latitudes and there are distinctive propagation issues above 60 degrees. Basically you can not get weather from an HF radio reliably along for example the NW passage. It's something to do with the atmosphere that you would probably understand better than I do.
Evans, is spot-on with this!!!!
High Lat Comms via HF isn't easy!!!!
And, this is where Iridium really shines!!!
(Although INMARSAT still works up past 70* lat, it's "finicky"....)

Almost 30 yrs ago, I was helping some friends install (and work on) satellite comm systems (and Sat TV as well) at 72* to 75* North.....
I, myself, was in sunny Florida doing the "hard work", and they were up North "having fun"......
They tried old INMARSAT A, and that "worked" but not very reliably....and HF radio comms was just as unreliable.....although it's even worse if both stations are at High Lats!!!



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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
In my experience, the radio guys are emotionally involved in the communication process and tend to feel a need to say their solution is best, while the Iridium guys just want a 'switch it on and go' solution and just say it works for them. We are clearly in the later camp.
Yep, I'm one of those "radio nuts" who just seems to breath electrons...
But, I hope I haven't come off as saying that my solution is best.....

I do try to say that everyone (and every boat) is different....and we all have different desires, applications, budgets, etc.....

So, I don't think either way is "best"......just "different"....



Quote:
Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
I have great respect for the Hams and their commitment to their hobby and its skills . . . I am just more interested in sailing to hard and remote places and have not had/taken the time to 'learn radios'.
Evans, I hear ya'......
If I didn't have family commitments keeping me here, I'd be out doing a circumnav of South Amer.....hopefully within the next few years...untill then, maybe another few Atlantic trips, and LONG stays in Azores, Maderia, etc.....


Gotta go.....(family calling...)


John
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Old 12-07-2010, 17:34   #32
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One of the options that has been briefly mentioned here (I have not read everything, but will later this evening) is using a Ham radio with Winmor.

Winmor is a new program that in effect will allow the sending and receiving of email and the like without a hardware modem. It is software suite of programs that work through the stations being setup by amateur radio operators. It just came out of beta testing, and I have read of at least one boat that used it successfully to send and receive mails daily from Bermuda back to Newport.

The modem is replaced by the computing power of your laptop PC, and a good quality sound card, usually a USB device. To use this you would need to be a ham operator, and it is not to be used for business.

So for the price of a ham radio ($600-1000 new) a USB sound card and a tuner or dipole antennas, you can be up and running. Worldwide coverage will happen over time, but I fully expect it to rival the coverage of the Sailmail/Winlink network of stations eventually.

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Old 12-07-2010, 17:44   #33
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witzgall - Winmor was mentioned earlier, and from my understanding has stability issues especially at extended cruising distances. It may not be proven enough for using in remote areas. It's a soft modem solution which from a BAUD standpoint is much slower than the PACTOR III, and may be slower because of the soft / emulation translation that needs to occur on a software level rather than hw.
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Old 12-07-2010, 17:52   #34
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Salty;

I have not heard about the stability issues you mention. Could you elaborate on what you have heard?

While it is slower than Pactor III, "good enough" might apply for many cruisers needs. With the proliferation of wireless internet in ports, and the gear to pickup those signals becoming more readily available, the need to higher speed HF/satellite email seems to be waining for many sailors?

Chris
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Old 12-07-2010, 17:59   #35
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SSB grounding was mentioned earlier, which reminds me of one other thing worth noting:

supposedly the KISS counterpoise works great and eliminates the hassle of running 100sqft of copper. it's about $150.

i've never used it, and have no affiliation but thought it was worth passing along as relevant to the overall costs (and hassle) of installing an SSB. couple that with an antenna that doesn't require cutting up the backstay, and HF radio starts looking like less and less of a project to install.

FWIW.
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Old 12-07-2010, 18:10   #36
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I use the VHF 100% of the time, the SSB/Ham 90% of the time and cell and satphones 0% of the time. The SSB gives me all the things you suggested plus shortwave broadcasts and a worldwide support network. It's also quite reasonable when you consider the cost of satphones.

You can get a ham/marine/shortwave rigged MF/HF radio for under $1000. It won't be the latest and if you're not a ham or someone versed in frequencies vs channels, the sidebands vs AM, and manual tuning, you're going to pay more and have a steeper learning curve, but a lot of non-ham cruisers did fine with the basics.
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Old 12-07-2010, 18:36   #37
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Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for their input. Still having trouble figuring out how to fit all of this on my Catalina 22!

Kidding aside... this is great education for my next boat and phase of sailing. I really appreciate it.
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Old 12-07-2010, 18:40   #38
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Lightbulb SaltyMonkey Summary Report

Here is SaltyMonkey's summary report. Please feel free to let me know corrections and addendum comments that might make this more true and clear.

General Information

The current state of remote telecommunications on a sailboat to access the internet particularly for email and downloading weather information is not necessarily leveraging the latest technology that you might find on land. The affordability of access is expensive when services and hardware are taken together, and access is slow and cumbersome. There is no affordable small dish solution such as HugesNet or Wild Blue, that is available on a small craft. Most small craft are using a combination of SSS/HAM radio, Satellite Phone, and Shortwave Radio to retrieve weather information.

Weather Content

Although there are various sources of content for weather, a few important observations and definitions clarify needs:

WEFAX - Radio weather fax is the most useful source to collect weather information and should be a default standard for gathering weather information on a small craft. GRIB files that are based on model are not as accurate between 25 deg N/S, so if you are cruising in this area, you should use WEFAX as a primary source. if you are crusing at higher lats, WEFAX can serve as a confirmation to using GRIB files you might retrieve. WEFAX forecasts unlike GRIB based models are constructed by human technicians using a variety of sources including models and observations.

GRIBS - GRIB files are really just a compression file format that is used to send weather information. However, most sailors when speaking of GRIB files are using them as a synonym for the following major weather models:

- GFS model from NOAA
- WW3 model from France (Wave Watch 3)

Some important points:

- GFS model information tends to be more accurate forcast than WW3 and is preferred first. Accuracy can be requested to .5 deg resolution 2x2deg is the default. WW3 is 1x1.5 deg resolution,
- Ocens, Saildocs use the GFS model for their GRIB files
- MaxSea and the GMN GRIB Robot uses WW3 model for their GRIB files

Closer to land additional models known as "mesamodels" are available. These tend to be useful to approx 20 nm offshore. Beyond this, GRIB models are more useful to a cruiser. These mesamodels include:

- COAMPS - US Navy
- NOGAPS - US Navy

Additionally, raw wind data is available via QSCAT (Quickscat). This raw data is used to feed the GFS model.

All models are available via SailDocs (see below). WEFAX images and forecasts are also available through SailDocs. It is unclear if WEFAX images can be delivered in GRIB compressed format.

Weather Service Providers

There are a number of subscription companies that provide commercial weather model information. Most of these rely on the GFS model to derive additional projections and details. Some models also incorporate raw wind data in these calculations from QSCAT. These subscription services also provide course corrections to the subscribers if they are sailing, to best take advantage of course - safety and speed.

Examples of services include:

- PredictWind Wind Forecast, Marine Weather, GRIB, Marine Forecast, Wind Prediction
- Commanders Weather Service Commanders' Weather
- Weather Routing Inc Weather Routing, Inc. (WRI)
- Ocens WeatherNet OCENS WeatherNet - Weather On Demand


Most cruising sailors do not use weather routing services or commercial weather providers, but rely on their own software, downloads via FREE services, and rudimentary knowledge. There is some question as to the reliability of the forecasts and routing of commercial providers, as well as the need for such accuracy way offshore. Moreover, it can be expensive.

There are some navigation software packages that will allow you to calculate optimal routing using weather information. Once such package is:

- Expedition - Expedition
- MaxSea - MaxSea Time Zero - Marine Software

WeatherFax (WEFAX) Weather Retrieval

An affordable and simple way to retrieve weather information is to connect a laptop to an all band short wave radio, using an external antenna to download WEFAX images and data to your hard drive for viewing. WeatherFax 2000 is a software package that can be used with the computers microphone jack port to digitalize analog signal information from a stand alone radio. As a basis, having this setup is useful as an emergency in case more sophisticated communication systems fail.

The second option is to get a stand alone FAX/NAVTEX receiver, such as a FURUNO FAX30, and connect it to your chartplotter.

An SSB radio can also be used to tune to broadcast. Both WeatherFax 2000 and Airmail's companion product GetFax and ViewFax will allow you to remotely tune and retrieve WEFAX via your SSB radio automatically.

WEFAX images are also available using the SailDocs server as a conduit to retrieve forecasts and TIF/GIF files from NOAA. It is unclear if these images are also available in a GRIB format from SailDocs.

GRIB Models Retrieval

GRIB stored models are available for free through various servers, and delivered through email to the user. Most users make a request to saildocs or GlobalMarineNet.com (http://www.globalmarinenet.com/publications/grib.txt) using commands in the body of emails, after reviewing catalogs from previous downloads. Catalogs and requests are available through software email clients as well

SSB or Iridium (Sat Phone) for Email (and GRIBS)

For email, either a SSB/Ham station must be set up or you need to use a sat phone, each has its attractions and negatives. Both demand compression

Iridium phone and GlobalMarineNet/xgate:

Advantages
- no competition for bandwidth or frequencies with other cruisers
- no email limitations per week (90 minutes for sailmail)
- always available (no dark areas in PNW for example)
- direct dial for emergencies
- separate power in case of rolling etc.
- easy installation
- ability to disconnect from distractions and other cruisers.

Disadvantages
- no local communication around the yacht.
- costly per minute plans
- no step capability during downloads. Any fluctuation disconnects the call.

SSB/HAM Station, Tuner, Modem (soft or hw), Antenna, SailMail/Winlink, Fax viewer:

Advantages
- Annual service is FREE (ham) or $250 a year
- Step capability of modem allows for files to be transferred in noisy conditions.
- Modem is theoretically faster downloads (higher baud rate) than phone.
- Communication device can be used to verify weather with other cruisers, as well as other passage information.

Disadvantages
- Costly hardware including modem. WINMOR soft modem may not be reliable enough for offshore usage.
- Complicated setup
- Dependent on battery power which is not good in a swamp or roll.
- Not available worldwide. Problems in PNW for example

Both SSB or Sat Phone can be used for Ship to Shore phone calls for about the same price.

Outside of the Pactor III based modems, Its questionable whether the other modems are faster than iridium given there are also software compression algorithms involved.

Pactor I - 140 bps
Pactor II - 1200 bps
WINMOR - 2167 bps
Iridium - 2400 bps
Pactor III - 5200 bps
Globalstar - 9600 bps


Salty Monkeys Ham Shack

SaltyMonkey, being solo, probably should bite the bullet and get as many configurations as possible for safety and backup. Since he is headed to all latitudes, SSB alone is not enough. Iridium alone would not allow him to get other important cruising information from other cruisers and ships. SaltyMonkey also likes to be a ChattyMonkey so being apart of a community as he potentially sails his boat from SF to Sydney non-stop would be helpful and stop him from talking to himself. Those first few days at sea are psychological hell.

Systems for SaltyMonkey then...

- Backup WEFAX weather System using WeatherFax 2000 and all band shortwave receiver with antenna. This should be mandatory.

- Iridium phone, GlobalMarineNet/xgate - call home; high latitude sailing downloads; emergency communication device.

- SSB/HAM radio ICOM 802, PCT-II usb modem w pactor III upgrade, Winlink service, get fax/Faxviewer, airmail.

- SailDocs - leverage for both Iridium and SSB

- MaxSea or Expedition software for instrumentation, navigation, and voyage routing based on weather analysis.

SaltyMonkey will also bite the bullet and go get his HAM license. For years he had been holding off, but now it makes sense.
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Old 12-07-2010, 23:38   #39
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Quote:
Closer to land additional models known as "mesamodels" are available. These tend to be useful to approx 20 nm offshore. Beyond this, GRIB models are more useful to a cruiser. These mesamodels include:

- COAMPS - US Navy
- NOGAPS - US Navy

Additionally, raw wind data is available via QSCAT (Quickscat). This raw data is used to feed the GFS model.
Uh? I have used NOGAPS out to Tahiti and Hawaii. Perhaps it worked for me 'cuz like Wiley Coyote I didn't know I had run off the edge of the cliff...
The QScat satellite went down last Nov and is down for the count, not expected to be revived. I really do miss it...

Michael
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Old 13-07-2010, 07:36   #40
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svcambria thanks for your notes on QSCAT. For some reason I've been locked out of editing my post so I cannot footnote that.
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Old 13-07-2010, 10:38   #41
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nice work on the summary, salt. and in my (admittedly only recently formed) opinion, your decisions make sense. only a few things i'd add or point out:

any digital weather fax "backup" like a handheld shortwave still assumes a working laptop. if you're swamped or rolled, you'd better have that puppy pretty well sealed - if i had to guess, i'd say your laptop will go before your ship power and SSB. maybe a pelican case carefully stowed might change that... anyhow, something worth considering.

but, that brings me to point 2: there are lots of voice weather broadcasts that you can get via HF (obviously for free, again) that don't require a laptop. worth noting, and an additional point in the "pros" column for SSB

point 3: i hate to even bring this up, since i totally agree with your analysis and conclusions, but skymate is probably worth at least taking a look at. if you're set on the satphone as a backup, skymate is also satellite based, and might be just a wee bit cheaper on both the hardware and monthly fee side. personally, i think skymate sits somewhere uselessly between the SSB and satphone options, but a full analysis of the options probably necessitates considering it.

point 4: if you don't have the boat yet, that's no reason not to start playing with the the wefax stuff, and even winmor (which you can access using telnet on your computer). probably not worth buying a ham now, just in case the boat you buy has it, but definitely get the handheld shortwave and start downloading faxes. getting the ham license too obviously doesn't require having the boat yet.

the last thing i'd say is that i TOTALLY agree that if you're single handing (which i didn't realize), having the ham is a huge plus just in terms of general connectivity. it really is a hobby (albeit kind of a nerdy one ), and i've found that since i've gotten my ham license, sitting below deck and spinning the dial is kinda fun. you'll be way more connected than you would be with just the sat phone (unless your crapping money or minutes), and so far as i can tell, all those ham guys LOVE to just talk

anyhow, thanks for the concise write up.
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Old 13-07-2010, 10:54   #42
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kb: I looked at Skymate a while ago as I thought it would be a reasonable alternative to Iridium, but their coverage has a lot of holes. Not sure Iridium doesn't either?

Getting a HAM. Tried to look up local groups but man, things have changed. Used to be you could go to a class with about 30 other people and do morse code and learn radio stuff. Nowaday, I cannot find a LIVE classroom, so its unclear how I can get motivated and focused without that interaction. My father was a major HAM his whole life, had a top license, and an extremely rare call sign. Always tried to get me interested, but I was totally bored and quit after a while. Thought speed keys were cool though.
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Old 13-07-2010, 11:04   #43
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dunno about the coverage areas of either iridium or skymate - i know iridium is supposedly global... anyhow, if you've looked into it already great.
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Old 13-07-2010, 11:23   #44
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Wow, Thanks Guys! This is a extremely helpful! One thing I know for certain is I will be getting is a HAM. I really like the nerdy aspects of it and am looking forward to being able to communicate with other cruisers around me.
I have memorized the questions from the test, but not really learned the material. As some have said, It would be really nice of there were some kind of live classes around. Thanks again. This has answered a lot of questions for me, ones I didn't even know I had!
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Old 13-07-2010, 14:08   #45
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A Couple of minor things

Salty,
Just a couple minor points....

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
The current state of remote telecommunications on a sailboat to access the internet particularly for email and downloading weather information is not necessarily leveraging the latest technology that you might find on land. The affordability of access is expensive when services and hardware are taken together, and access is slow and cumbersome. There is no affordable small dish solution such as HugesNet or Wild Blue, that is available on a small craft. Most small craft are using a combination of SSS/HAM radio, Satellite Phone, and Shortwave Radio to retrieve weather information.
1) "access the internet", is of course only while in port, via Wi-Fi, AirCards, etc.....
Just to be clear, that Iridium Open Port and INMARSAT Fleet Broadband are both useable and viable options for internet access at sea, but are VERY pricey!!!

I just wanted to point this out, so others readng won't assume that what we are discussing allows internet access (web suurfing) while at sea....



Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
GRIB files that are based on model are not as accurate between 25 deg N/S,
2) Since I do not use GRIB weather, I was not aware of this....but, thanks for the info...


Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
Additionally, raw wind data is available via QSCAT (Quickscat). This raw data is used to feed the GFS model.
3) As, Michael metioned, the QSCAT satellite is dead.....


Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
WeatherFax (WEFAX) Weather Retrieval

The second option is to get a stand alone FAX/NAVTEX receiver, such as a FURUNO FAX30, and connect it to your chartplotter.
4) Again, just a minor point......
The Furuno FAX-30 is a nice receiver, and it's integration with their NavNet2 and NAvNet3 chartplotters works well......
But, this isn't actually "stand-alone"......but, sort-of depends on your definition of "stand-alone".....since using a Fax30 WITH a chartplotter, means that you need at least two pieces of gear hook-up and working (AND drawing power).....

A "stand-alone" WeFax unit is just that, complete stand-alone.....such as Furuno FAX-408 or FAX-410, or JRC's units, or even like my old Alden MarineFaxIV......
See photos of my unit....
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/4700315.htm
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/4700319.htm
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/4700318.htm
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47003.htm


5) Satellite coverages....
a) Iridium IS global.....pole-to-pole.....open ocean-to-desert....
b) INMARSAT's satellites "technically" covers up to 75* Lat......but "practically" (actual usable coverage), is closer to 65* Lat.....and then you'll need to make sure you have the antenna where it can see the horizon....
c) Skymate's published coverages are accurate, but again, you need to make sure that the antenna is not blocked....but in Skymates case, this is very easy....
d) Globalstar... Have a look around, and you'll see how unreliable / impractical this is for most users......although some DO use it, and DO love the cheap pricing.....



Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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