Originally Posted by beau
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
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
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).