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Old 28-07-2014, 13:44   #31
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Re: Weather Frequencies

Canabul,

Many years ago I sailed offshore throughout the Pacific using a Sangean portable radio with an alligator clip from the antenna to a side stay and got my daily weather. I needed headsets at times as the noise level onboard was quite high but that little radio did the trick. It never worked for me in a marina as all the other masts just seemed to suck up the signal but as soon as I got away from there I'd get a decent signal. Good to see your giving it a go, good luck!
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Old 28-07-2014, 19:42   #32
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Re: Weather Freqs

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Originally Posted by leftbrainstuff View Post
I find the SW receivers to be next to useless.
Different from my experience. A cheapo degen 1103 has provided countless usable wfax images from carib-Europe and recently surprisingly good images across biscay just sitting next to a tablet with the antenna resting against a chain plate. Great little radio, I wouldn't want to venture offshore without one as a backup/low power alternative to the Ham radio on board.
Also, on receive with the ham radio (ic7000) the antenna tuner helps a little bit but not massively, it's there much more for transmit.
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Old 28-07-2014, 20:25   #33
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Re: Weather Frequencies

One of the more recent and ever more common sources of interference on board a boat is LED lights. Many of them emit lots of RF noise in the HF and VHF bands. If you have any LED lights try turning them all off and listen to the SSB radio. Turning them on one by one and listening to the radio will usually reveal which ones cause problems. If you hear any change in sound when switching the light on and off then you have found a problem.
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Old 29-07-2014, 17:43   #34
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Re: Weather Frequencies

I do appreciate the help and advice, and John your comments and opinions are certainly welcome. You're right about my frustration levels, I was expecting to just punch in a frequency and that was that. As you so kindly attempted to explain and I am in the process of learning, it's not that simple in the beginning.

I didn't get a chance to try again this morning due to several small crisis situations that commanded my attention throughout the day. However I was able to try again this evening. I used the schedule you sent the link to, and tried all the frequencies except the 17144.5 one. I cannot input that many digits into this radio. It will accept 17144, and I tried bracketing that up and down a kHz and using the fine tune to see if I could pick up anything.

I've gotten repeatable in tuning in Chesapeake now for HF voice. And I can pick up the same exact transmission, albeit weaker, from New Orleans. But so far, no luck with the weather fax.

I sat outside this evening for another hour with the book of frequencies I bought, and managed to tune in a few random bits here and there. I'm pretty sure I was listening to Cuba for a while, and an English broadcast from someplace else. Couldn't tell where, as I found it by scanning in 5 kHz steps.

I'm looking at the New Orleans schedule, and apparently it's done for now. I'll try again in the morning, barring any further pump disasters.

I'm determined to at least get this working well enough to evaluate it for our boat. I never realized I needed several hours of classroom before getting to that point.
Thanks again.
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Old 29-07-2014, 19:44   #35
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Re: Weather Frequencies

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One of the more recent and ever more common sources of interference on board a boat is LED lights. Many of them emit lots of RF noise in the HF and VHF bands. If you have any LED lights try turning them all off and listen to the SSB radio. Turning them on one by one and listening to the radio will usually reveal which ones cause problems. If you hear any change in sound when switching the light on and off then you have found a problem.
When I bought my Tecsun PL-880, I was very disappointed in how much RF noise I was picking up inside my house. So I picked it up and walked around the house moving the antenna near everything that I though might be producing noise. I found a few real noise makers, some to be expected, a couple were surprises. I had to do this on a few different bands, as not all RFI is broadband, or even affect the band you're interested in. I imagine on a boat there might be as many if not more possible RFI noise sources.
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Old 31-07-2014, 08:40   #36
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Re: Weather Frequencies

yesterday afternoon I was down at the marina working on the boat and took the Sony/iPad setup along. I tuned into Boston and was able, for the first time, to get usable fax info. It wasn't pretty, and the text was unreadable, but I knew what I was looking at.

This morning, back at the house, I set it all up again, strung out the 7m wire, and was able to pick up New Orleans at 12:05Z and I played around with the system for the next two hours. I was finally able to read the series from NMG. Most of the text is difficult to read, but not all of it. Some is legible. I think I can further refine this, after getting a signal to work with. This HF Fax app for iPad has a tuning analyzer and that was very useful. I was surprised at the level of background noise picked up by the iPad mike. My next move is to cut a 3.5 mm phono jack and a USB cable and make a jumper so I can go directly from the headphone jack on the Sony into a camera kit, which is a USB to iPad adapter. I think cleaning up the audio signal-to-noise should help.

So now I see how useful this could be but it's far from ideal. For two hours I had to sit there with my thumb on the little fine tune wheel to keep the images readable. I kept trying different freqs, and what was working best at 08:30 local was not the best freq an hour later. So I couldn't have gotten the same results without constantly monitoring the fax and constant retuning. I tried different positions between the radio, the iPad. I tried moving the antenn. I hooked up a little amplified speaker to the radio output and tried that. I used the attenuator function on the radio, played with volume, shifting freqs up and down a kHz, etc.

I think the longest I could let it run without it drifting and needing tuning was about two minutes. I can see that a SSB with some kind of auto tuning function would do a much better job. I'm happy I have a basis for making some decisions, now.

And I think being able to dial up a telephone number and downloading a GRIB quickly would be preferable to spending two hours getting this data, and not being able to read 60% of it. I assume that getting a weather update via an email sent to a satphone would also be quicker and more readable, but again, won't know until I try.

I do know that one of my kids calling me and saying "Hey dad, there's a tropical storm heading your way, will be there Sunday night" would be useful. Even if he had to wake me up.

Which brings up another couple of questions for you experienced and proficient SSB operators....does your radio let you know someone is trying to contact you? If, for example, someone like a kid, parent, lawyer, broker, doctor etc. who is not an SSB opertor was trying to contact you and needed to talk to you desperately about something, can they do it from a shore based phone to the SSB? Will the SSB interrupt you and tell you someone is calling?

One more, for now: Do dedicated weather fax receivers do appreciably better with less operator involvement?
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Old 31-07-2014, 11:55   #37
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Weather Frequencies

Canibul,

Even the worst radio in the world does not need constant manual tuning to receive faxes.

SSB radios do not have call waiting capability like a phone. There is a service where your family can send a message by SSB. But you have to be listening at the right time to hear it. I believe WLO does this as a service. There may be other stations too.

Some family members will contact a cruiser's net via email and they will forward the message to other cruisers.

Weather fax can be done with a PC or dedicated receiver with little to no operator involvement. I leave my PC and SSB running at night while sleeping. In the morning I have all the charts for instant viewing.
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Old 31-07-2014, 12:11   #38
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Re: Weather Frequencies

I didn't think it should need constant tuning, either, but it does.

I tried twice to just let it run without me continuously fine tuning it to see what happened. After a minute or two, I could see more noise creeping into the fax print and the quality/resolution of the signal decreasing to the point where it started degrading the image to where I had problems reading it. I very very slightly tweak the fine tune, while watching the tuning display on the software, and when I one of the two peak frequencies lined up with the index, it comes in well. For a minute or two.

I'll see if I can put together audio patch cord and see what happens when we take ambient audio noise out of it.

We're kind of scrambling around at the moment, with a potential storm three days out.
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Old 31-07-2014, 12:39   #39
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Re: Weather Frequencies

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Originally Posted by Canibul View Post
One more, for now: Do dedicated weather fax receivers do appreciably better with less operator involvement?
I have recently released updated weatherfax plugin for opencpn.PlugIns | Official OpenCPN Homepage

This has builtin radio schedules, and can automatically receive faxes, alarms, and automatically overlay them onto charts without user interaction. Can execute external commands making automatic radio control possible. I don't know how well it works in practice and it's been a while since I was using it underway (while developing this) but it did work then. I only need more feedback to do better.
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Old 31-07-2014, 13:23   #40
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Re: Weather Frequencies

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You'll be glad to know that one of the new VHF radios on board does have our MMSI number programmed in. The SH 2200 GX with AIS/GPS will now diligently report my location to the US Government.
Actually it won't. The AIS is receive only and the DSC will only transmit if you tell it to either by hitting the red distress button or sending an individual or group DSC message.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Canibul View Post
I'm not even going to ask why they don't just list the frequencies one would tune a radio to. I'm sure there was a reason.
I'll tell you anyway. Weather fax is sent using frequency shift keying (FSK). FSK uses an offset to transmit two tones (for black and white) or a range of offsets (for grayscale). Dedicated weather fax receivers like John's use FSK also so he just plugs in the center frequency as published. SSB radios work fine, but you have to subtract 1.9 kHz from the FSK center frequency to find the SSB carrier frequency (for USB).
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Old 31-07-2014, 14:13   #41
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Re: Weather Frequencies

I don't even turn the AIS equipped radio on. That's in case we find ourselves passing through shipping lanes at night again. The antenna and power are hooked up to a non DSC radio.

I know what FSK is, thanks. We used a version in subsea acoustics when we wanted a simple binary telemetry function. My rhetorical question was why they don't just post the frequencies one would tune a SSB receiver to if one wanted to receive weather fax. The frequency of the carrier is of no interest in that case.
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Old 31-07-2014, 14:51   #42
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Re: Weather Frequencies

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I know what FSK is, thanks. We used a version in subsea acoustics when we wanted a simple binary telemetry function. My rhetorical question was why they don't just post the frequencies one would tune a SSB receiver to if one wanted to receive weather fax. The frequency of the carrier is of no interest in that case.
Because weather fax is FSK. Those of us in the recreational community that choose to use an SSB receiver instead of an expensive FSK receiver need to adjust for the difference between the FSK center frequency and the frequency of the SSB suppressed carrier.
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Old 31-07-2014, 17:00   #43
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Re: Weather Frequencies

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I don't even turn the AIS equipped radio on. That's in case we find ourselves passing through shipping lanes at night again. The antenna and power are hooked up to a non DSC radio.
Canibul,

I think you are confused. The AIS function of your VHF radio does not transmit your location to another AIS receiver. The AIS function is receive only telling you the position of other ships but not transmitting your location.

You would be wise to hook the DSC equipped radio. In case of an emergency anyone on board could send an all ships distress message by pushing the DISTRESS button. But it can't help you if there is no power or antenna.
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Old 31-07-2014, 19:08   #44
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Re: Weather Frequencies

Antenna, Antenna, Antenna
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Old 31-07-2014, 20:20   #45
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Re: Weather Freqs

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I just yesterday received a new Sony ICF-sW7600GR. I tried for a couple hours to find something useful on SW or SSB yesterday, but the only things I could hear was when I punched in the numbers for the local FM disc jockey. Received that okay.

I bought the World Radio TV Handbook with the Sony, but so far I haven't figured out what all that stuff is. So I got on the internet and found a listing of Caribbean Weather net channels this morning. I figured out I am an hour behind AST, and I tried the listed frequencies at 06:30, 07:00, and 08:00 AST etc. I tried to find Chris Parker, and I tried to tune in to the Coconut Telegraph net. But So far, I have yet to hear a human voice on SW or SSB. same static, which I can run up and down in freq with the USB/LSB switch and fine tuning pot.

After reading this thread, I tried imputting 10000 and 15000 to see if I got some kind of time signal, but all I heard was the same static.
I've read the brief manual, and messed around with all the buttons and switches and their descriptions all make perfect sense to me. yet....so far nothing a five dollar transistor radio wouldn't have done.

So far, I've been using the telescoping antenna and have not strung out the wire one. I'm on a bluff sixty feet above the Caicos Bank in a house surrounded by glass sliders and no nearby buildings. Shouldn't I pick up something?

I must be doing something wrong. These freqs are in kilohertz, right?






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Ralph,
1) I have never heard of any sailors using that receiver....
And, I think you may have bought the wrong radio...
As I don't think that radio receives SSB (Single Side Band)....as it has no BFO...and according to the weird Grundig specs, would require an "external adapter" (a rather peculiar and complicated way of doing this, btw...)

It is spec'd as a AM/FM/SW receiver....and for the $70 - $80, looks to be a decent one, but nowhere do I see a BFO or "SSB" switch, etc...so I think the guy who recommended that radio to you was not aware of your application...
Grundig S450DLX Radio Receiver, Grundig S450

Amazon.com : Grundig S450DLX Deluxe AM/FM/Shortwave Radio - Black (NGS450DLB) : Shortwave And All Hazard Radios : Electronics

Grudig 450 DLX Field Radio Product Reviews


ALL maritime voice communications use SSB (and all maritime Weather Fax and text transmissions, also require an SSB receiver)....and 99% of all ham radio HF communications is either SSB or CW (morse code), and also require a BFO / SSB mode (or CW mode, for morse communications)

A Sangean 909, or Sony SW-7600, or their current/newer versions are both well made and useful Shortwave receivers that DO have an SSB mode (or BFO)...and both have been used by many sailors/cruisers for years now, with no major troubles....

Please see this thread, where the details are laid out pretty well...
Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea

SSB Receivers






2) I hope you don't mind a blunt assessment here....
Not having an external antenna is big mistake!!
But, the fact is that it won't cost you much money, as ANY scrap piece of wire will do....any 25' - 35' length of wire run up a flag halyard, and plugged into the radio's ext ant jack, will work MUCH MUCH better than the internal / whip antenna!!!
You don't have to "buy" an external antenna...
Please do yourself a favor and build one...






3) Most often the problems associated with HF radio (SSB) reception on-board, are caused by interference (noise) from so much of the other stuff on-board....
(although most boats do have too much of a problem, and even those that do usually find spending < $25 and an hour or two of their time, fixes the problems....)
Some things that some have found to be causing interference (called RFI) are:
battery chargers, inverters, wall wart power supplies, refrigeration units, charge controllers, etc...

So, even with a good $150 receiver (capable of SSB reception) and a cheap/free external antenna, you may find some things on-board to cause some interference...





4) As for your specific questions about what frequencies to use....you must have a radio that receives SSB....and then you can get excellent signals from the USCG and WLO...where you'll find MUCH better weather data and forecasts than Chris Parker (and a much stronger signal as well...)

See these pages for the specific times and freqs...
USCG HF Voice

HF SSB Radiotelephone, Telex and Email Frequencies and Channels





5) And, for a great deal of info on weather info/forecasts when at sea....have a look here....
SSCA Forum ē View topic - Offshore / Hi-Seas Weather data / forecasts







I hope this helps....

Fair winds.

John
s/v Annie Laurie






Quote:
Originally Posted by Lasata View Post
At an Anchorage in Georgetown harbor, Exumas. It doesn't seem to matter where I am... out in an anchorage, in a secluded marina without services or population, or even in Miami... I believe the radio is just junk


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