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Old 05-08-2020, 16:37   #1
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SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

Hi Everyone,

Interested in feedback from experienced users downloading weather faxes using SDR software and specifically a suggested antenna.

I recently purchased a SDRplay RSP1A and would like to optimize the antenna on my Cheoy Lee 36.

Technical sales have suggested one of the following;

1) Comet CA-2X4sr

2) D130J Super Discone

3) Open stub J-Pole OSJ 146/440

4) or many other options based on lots of youtuber videos

I am interested in real world experience regarding operability and reliability given my space constraints.

Thanks
Dave
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Old 05-08-2020, 22:47   #2
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Re: SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

Dave,

1) First off, please accept that successful HF communications is all about the received signal-to-noise ratio!


And, ridding your boat of all the RFI producing devices is going to be the number one thing that will drive your success here with We-Fax reception....and, of course, getting away from the dock / marina / shore-side RFI (Radio Frequency Interference....i.e. "noise")

Please accept this as a fact, no matter what receiver, no matter what antenna, no matter what HF signals, etc....this is a fact!
{BTW, you make no mention of where you are at, nor where you're sailing/cruising, so I cannot make any specific recommendations....

Oh, and you asked for experience with We-Fax, well, I've got it....
But, you don't "download" we-fax, you "receive" it!!

I've used HF We-Fax starting in the 1970's, with receiving US Navy wefax on 8080 and 10865, out of Norfolk, VA and Rota, Spain.....and still use it today (well, last week, actually) using USCG stations, etc....that's almost 45 years of We-Fax experience....

And, I've used JVcomm32 software, etc. as well, for many years...

BUT...
But, I've only occasionally played with SDR's....not my cup-of-tea...and SDR's don't lend themselves well to my applications...but, I do understand them very well, and have used them!

Oh, and my forte` is antennas!!!}


Quote:
Originally Posted by Skipper dave View Post
Hi Everyone,

Interested in feedback from experienced users downloading weather faxes using SDR software and specifically a suggested antenna.

I recently purchased a SDRplay RSP1A and would like to optimize the antenna on my Cheoy Lee 36.

Technical sales have suggested one of the following;

1) Comet CA-2X4sr

2) D130J Super Discone

3) Open stub J-Pole OSJ 146/440

4) or many other options based on lots of youtuber videos

I am interested in real world experience regarding operability and reliability given my space constraints.

Thanks
Dave
2) FYI, you're asking about We-Fax which is transmitted on HF freqs (and, if you were on land, and had a dish or phased yagi's, at 1691mhz, from GOES sats), not VHF/UHF....

So, none of the antennas you listed will be of any use to you...
Nor, is it likely that any of the Youtube videos you've been watching, will be of great use either.


{And, BTW, even though none of these antennas will be of any use for your We-Fax reception....here is some generic info on them for you....if you were looking for a 2m/440mhz mobile antenna, although that particular model Comet (with the hinge) isn't a great choice, Comet mobile antennas (and some of the base station antennas, too) in general aren't bad......also, VHF/UHF discone's are notoriously poor performing antennas......and, J-poles (while easy to build, and reliable) are notorious for poor radiation patterns and having lots of common-mode issues....}





3) Ah, but don't fret....because you probably already have a decent HF antenna for We-Fax reception, you just don't know it...

{although, I'm not a fan of using an SDR....not the least of which is because of RFI that can come from the computer running it, etc....but, I guess the horse is already out of the barn on that one...so, we'll need to make do...}


--- You can build a quick "test antenna" / temporary antenna.....get a piece of copper wire, so some decent size so it won't break easily (maybe 18ga or so), any piece of scrap wire of about 25' long....string it up on a flag-halyard, etc.....and connect it to you SDR....

(this is a good antenna, but since it is connected directly to your SDR, this means any RFI from any devices close to it, like your computer or power supply, etc., can adversely effect your reception....but, if you get lucky, this will work well and allow you to get used to HF We-Fax reception....just remember what I wrote above in #1, it's all about rec S/N and ridding your boat of RFI!)




--- But, I suspect you desire a better antenna, especially one that is secure, permanent, and works well....here is a good / cheap solution...

So, use a length of coax from the SDR to a chain plate....connect the center-conductor of the coax to a chain plate bolt, etc.....and this allows you to use your entire rig/mast/stays as a random HF receive antenna...

This works, but is susceptible to RFI from many things on-board....so, make sure you're ready for that!




--- There are other choices....but most will perform worse than these two choices above, and will usually cost you $$...





4) Further, just the other day I was asked about my HF We-Fax reception....and I wrote a fairly detailed post about it....please have a look at post #57 here...

https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f147/what-weather-information-makes-you-take-action-when-offshore-237410-4.html#post3201085


There is a lot there, including photos, so please read it over in detail....it is all about what you are asking...






5) And, FYI....since you're a fan of Youtube, you can see some Youtube videos that specifically show We-Fax charts and their reception, please have a look here..

They are all free, and nobody is trying to sell you anything, nor influence you (well, not much, anyway...LOL)....just pass on some great info / advice...

BTW, my videos are all done LIVE as-it-happens, in the real-world not a lab (no simulations)...just like everyone does it in real life....
(btw, please forgive my poor editing and occasional repetition....I did these myself, with no script, no director, no notes....just me, my fingers, my radios, and my extemporaneous narration...all while on-board my offshore cruising boat)



Offshore Weather
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2mPZAx2vWzdjTJjHlChruyY




And, if you're US-based or Caribbean-based (or sailing the N. Atl or Pacific), the US NWS/NOAA We-Fax charts (broadcast by the USCG on HF), will be your go-to!
https://www.weather.gov/marine/


https://www.weather.gov/marine/radiofax_charts



And, here are some details of 3 of the 5 HF USCG We-Fax stations...

https://www.weather.gov/marine/gulf
https://www.weather.gov/media/marine/hfgulf.txt


https://www.weather.gov/marine/marsh
https://www.weather.gov/media/marine/hfmarsh.txt


https://www.weather.gov/marine/ptreyes
https://www.weather.gov/media/marine/hfreyes.txt



And, for worldwide HF We-Fax schedules:
https://www.weather.gov/media/marine/rfax.pdf


And, for other USCG Weather Broadcasts:
https://www.weather.gov/marine/uscg_broadcasts

And, other USCG HF communications:
https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=cgcommsCall

And, for USCG NAVTEX station,etc. schedule:
https://www.weather.gov/marine/gmdss



And, while you're using an SDR....I find JVcomm32 to be the go-to software if looking for simple and reliable HF We-Fax reception...
http://www.jvcomm.de/index_e.html




And, of course, if you desire more info on some other related maritime communications, have a look here...

Maritime HF Comms
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2nPNdApNsZDo_Jk3NB_Bt1y


HF-DSC Comms
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2n3z5nlv-ga2zYuPozhUXZX


Icom M-802 Instruction Videos
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2npivDjoFrC-8QKVyMb4tVr


VHF-DSC Comms
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2m-IejYg7J6QugtO2epizxF


Offshore Sailing
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2nbwAGh5DKgTCj15iyl6qoY





6) And, BTW, if you desire to read more about these things, in addition to the thread referenced above...have a look here...

As, I also have some info on the GMDSS, and our pleasure boat use of it, etc...as well as some info on weather reception (but, I do need to update it some)...
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/marine-hf-dsc-ssb-the-gmdss-communications-stool-legs-130640.html


https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/obtaining-accurate-offshore-hi-seas-weather-data-forecasts-while-at-sea-103555.html


And, if you want to read more details, on HF We-Fax, maritime HF comms, etc., please have a look at these "stickies" here:

Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use / properly-install SSB, & troubleshoot RFI, etc.)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/marine-ssb-stuff-how-to-better-use-properly-install-ssb-and-troubleshoot-rfi-etc-133496.html


HF-SSB Radio, Proper Installation Tips/Techniques, etc. https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/hf-ssb-radio-proper-installation-tips-techniques-etc-198305.html




~~~~~~~~~~~~


I hope this helps, but please tell us where you're located and where you're sailing/cruising, etc...(and where/who recommended those VHF/UHF antennas!! or even the SDR)

fair winds

John
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Old 06-08-2020, 05:00   #3
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Re: SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

Wow KA4WJA, that was an outstanding response....
I was an HF comms guy on a SF team back in the day. Did SIGINT for 20 yrs. Sailed to the Med and back with a Sony rx'r and Wefax...wasn't the greatest, but it worked. Had an ssb on the return trip and did daily faxes from NMF Boston. Upgraded to a larger ketch and
I have a used 802 aboard and never hooked it up... because cellphones, wifi....PredictWind, Windy and new one called Marine WX (aggregater of all the NWS reports you choose for a region)...
That said, I'm having this ongoing debate with myself to sell or install, you certainly tickled my itch....
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Old 06-08-2020, 05:25   #4
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Re: SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

In other words, to be a little more concise, just about any wire placed up in the air will suffice. Length isn’t critical but longer is better.
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Old 06-08-2020, 12:00   #5
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Re: SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

John, I just cut and pasted your encyclopedic response to Dave....thanks, and oh, by the way I am in Guilford, CT, town marina, F dock...just saying if you are in the area, up from Florida for some cooler weather.

Can you just come down to my boat and enable her to receive offshore weather?

that way I wont have to learn/understand all that you documented!
thnks
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Old 06-08-2020, 17:47   #6
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Re: SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

I'm with Dave on that one ! I'm going to cut and paste that in my files for future reference. Outstanding response on that John. Might have to have you down to Cayo Costa for lunch........please bring your tools. LOL
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Old 07-08-2020, 17:42   #7
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Re: SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

Tony, Dave, Bill, et al,

1) I appreciate the compliments....and you're all very welcome!
And, maybe someday if circumstances allow, I'll take you all up on lunch and a drink (iced tea is fine....although, if you have a nice Napa Valley Cab, well you might not rid of me....LOL)



But, the above posting is really not that big of a deal....it's just a brief overview of the subject...so...



2) So, if you really wish to copy and paste some info on Maritime Communications, Offshore Communications and Weather, RFI, etc. etc...please have a look at the two "stickies" right at the top of the Marine Electronics page here on Cruiser's Forum ('cuz those are like the encyclopedia!!) ....as well as a few other things...

Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use / properly-install SSB, & troubleshoot RFI, etc.)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...tc-133496.html


HF-SSB Radio, Proper Installation Tips/Techniques, etc.
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...tc-198305.html


Eliminating static on SSB (there is a LOT here, so you might need to wade thru it a while)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...sb-235938.html


Offshore Weather
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...zdjTJjHlChruyY


Maritime HF Communications
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2nPNdApNsZDo_Jk3NB_Bt1y




3) And, if you're looking for some tips on Offshore Sailing, how to be prepared and what to expect, etc., including, but absolutely not limited to, weather and routing...(primarily discussing eastbound Trans-Atlantic crossings....but cool video of Tropical Storm Olga on my return)
You may wish to have a look here...

azores 2014 how safe is it? (lots of great info)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...-122743-5.html


Offshore Sailing (apologies for poor camera work and editing)
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...KgTCj15iyl6qoY




4) Or, if you want to see my take on the GMDSS and how we can better use it......HF-DSC, etc....EPIRB's, info on how our EPIRB system works, and how-to increase odds of rescue, etc...

Marine HF-DSC-SSB, the GMDSS, "communications stool legs"
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...gs-130640.html


EPIRB's are NOT dead! / EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odds!!
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/epirbs-are-not-dead-epirb-activation-what-happens-how-to-improve-rescue-odds-146617.html


DSC (Digital Selective Calling) Explanation (mainly HF-DSC)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...on-169164.html


HF-DSC Communications (surprising that after 20+ years, many sailors still aren't well informed about HF-DSC)
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...ga2zYuPozhUXZX


Maritime HF Communications
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...ZDo_Jk3NB_Bt1y




5) Or, how about a discussion on weather and routing...as well as some heated discussion when I erroneously used the word "accurate" when trying to point fellow sailors to some reliable info/forecasts...

Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making... (should've been S/S El Faro)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ng-154191.html


Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea (needs a tiny bit of updating, but 95% good-to-go, just ignore the word "accurate", and you'll get lots of good info)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ea-103555.html


Offshore Weather
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...zdjTJjHlChruyY




6) Or, how about VHF-DSC Operations.....VHF Radio and AIS Range.... VHF Radiowave Propagation....Vesper SP-160...etc..

VHF and AIS Radiowave Propagation and VHF and AIS Radio Range
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ge-149499.html

Vesper AIS SP-160 "relay/splitter" test results, lab/real world
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ld-130803.html


VHF-DSC Comms
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...J6QugtO2epizxF





7) Icom M-802 Instructions....(although, the "stickies" have a good deal of info on the M-802 and operating HF radios, including the M-802, here are step-by-step, instructions, for each knob / button / feature, of the M-802)

Icom M-802 Instruction Videos
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...rC-8QKVyMb4tVr




8) On-board Energy / Solar / Towed-Water-gen / etc...(I know there are a lot threads on these....so, here is just one that is recent / this week)

Could someone check my math please? (post #77)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ml#post3202272


Could someone check my math please? (post #39 and 35)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ml#post3198461

https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ml#post3198173


Could someone check my math please? (post #75)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ml#post3201613




And, a couple other posts in those threads and others....


Please note that in each of those video playlists are individual videos on specific topics/system/issues/features....
And, as long as they are for your own personal use, you can download 'em, store 'em on your computer, and refer to them as needed even when away from internet access....
(please just don't use them to teach radio seminars with, as I had a report of some fellow cruiser out there doing that, and charging a fee for it....I do this for FREE!)

Also, as I mentioned earlier, my videos are all done LIVE as-it-happens, in the real-world not a lab (no simulations)...just like everyone does it, on their boat, in real time....
Further, please forgive my poor editing and occasional repetition....
I did these myself, with no script, no director, no notes....just me, my fingers, my radios, and my extemporaneous narration...all while on-board my offshore cruising boat.



Pick your topic of interest, and copy/paste/download as needed...


Hope some of the above is useful.

Fair winds

John
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Old 09-08-2020, 08:15   #8
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Thumbs up Re: SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

John ka4wja,

Thank you for the incredible knowledge and information you shared.

I have watched many of the videos you have provided and want to say they are very informative and useful.

I owe you several refreshments as you have saved me $$'s with your insight into the antennas suggested by GPS Central in Calgary, AB Canada. I actually bought the SDRplay in Toronto, ON at Radio World. The sales person was hesitant to sale me anything but a simple dipole but they were out of stock so I reached out to the Calgary store. Super informative sales support but lacked the idea of space on a 36' and what I really needed.

I am very pleased I reached out to CF for expertise and advise.

I currently am in Burlington, ON having purchased a restored Cheoy Lee 36 in Indiantown, Florida. I had planned to cruise the Caribbean in the new year but time well tell given the current situation.

Thanks again and good cruising.
Dave
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Old 10-08-2020, 12:29   #9
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Re: SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

Dave,
You're very welcome!


BTW, my general advice is always to get used to HF comms using Voice communications first!!!
And, while I don't know your experience level here, I assume it's a beginner level??
If so, please listen to the USCG SSB Voice Broadcasts before you attempt to receive WeFax....it will give you a better understanding of HF Comms, Radiowave Propagation , RFI (interfering noise), etc...

Tune into NMG and NMN during their SSB Voice weather broadcasts....on various channels at different times....and get used to what it sounds like....
Then tune into NMG during their WeFax broadcasts....
And, you'll quickly see / hear what's what....


NMN and NMG, SSB Voice (USCG SSB Voice Weather Broadcasts):
https://www.weather.gov/marine/uscg_broadcasts
(note that NMN also uses 6mhz, which can be good for your location in Ontario...especially because the USCG beams their signals out across the oceans, not inland....and the lower freqs antennas are less directional... so, use my recommendations here, below, as a guideline....'cuz, I'm not inland in Canada, so I don't know how well you'll receive all of these, not the least of reasons, is because of Rule #1 of HF communications: receive S/N is almost always governed these days by your local RFI / local noise...)

NMG:
--- Daytime: on their 12mhz and 8mhz channels (8mhz in early morning....12mhz mid-day thru afternoon)
--- Nighttime: on their 8mhz channel, and late night on 4mhz...

NMN:
--- Daytime: on their 8mhz and 6mhz channels...(8mhz mid-day, 6mhz early morning and late afternoon...and even try 4mhz early morning and late afternoon)
--- Nighttime: on their 4mhz channel...(and maybe the 6mhz)



If, you're experienced in HF comms....then ignore the above and go-for-it...and read the specifics here....
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skipper dave View Post
<snip> bought the SDRplay in Toronto, ON at Radio World. The sales person was hesitant to sale me anything but a simple dipole but they were out of stock .....
<snip>
I currently am in Burlington, ON having purchased a restored Cheoy Lee 36 in Indiantown, Florida. I had planned to cruise the Caribbean in the new year but time well tell given the current situation.
If you're still in Burlington?
You can try the SDRPlay there at home...

Not sure what you have for an antenna there, but just about any wire that is up and away from the house will do....
Even just an approx. 25' - 30' piece of wire, thrown up over a tree branch...and connected to the center-conductor of a piece of coax, and the coax run into the house / connected to your SDRPlay....should work for you.
As you see, you'll need something that works well, from 4mhz thru 12mhz....yep, three octaves! No biggies, huh?
(this is why there is no "one" choice that is cheap, easy, simple, effective, etc....)


For cruising Bahamas, Caribbean, etc...from Florida....USCG station NMG (New Orleans) will be your go-to WeFax station, as well as their simulcasts of USCG SSB Voice weather....(along with NMN (Chesapeake, VA) for SSB Voice weather)
{While there are overlaps in their weather info / charts, and they both provide excellent Atlantic weather....NMG has great "Tropical Atlantic" Weather....with NMF focusing more on the "northern" Atlantic weather....so NMG is great for SE US, Gulf or Mexico, Bahamas, Caribbean, Tropical (southern) North Atlantic, and some central N. Atlantic....NMF (Boston) is good for a passage from US mid-atl / NE, etc...or Atlantic crossing, etc...}

Use this info here...
Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
....the US NWS/NOAA We-Fax charts (broadcast by the USCG on HF), will be your go-to!

https://www.weather.gov/marine/
https://www.weather.gov/marine/radiofax_charts


NMG WeFax:
https://www.weather.gov/marine/gulf
https://www.weather.gov/media/marine/hfgulf.txt


NMF WeFax:
https://www.weather.gov/marine/marsh
https://www.weather.gov/media/marine/hfmarsh.txt


NMN and NMG, SSB Voice (USCG SSB Voice Weather Broadcasts):
https://www.weather.gov/marine/uscg_broadcasts


And, other USCG HF communications:
https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=cgcommsCall

And, for USCG NAVTEX station,etc. schedule:
https://www.weather.gov/marine/gmdss
From Burlington, have a look/listen for NMG (New Orleans)....
--- Daytime: on their 12mhz and 8mhz channels (8mhz in early morning....12mhz mid-day thru afternoon)
--- Nighttime: on their 8mhz channel, and late night on 4mhz...
But, check the schedules (see above) to make sure they're transmitting (WeFax or SSB Voice), otherwise you won't hear anything...
[Take note that these will also be a general recommendation when you're cruising the Caribbean.]


You can also have a look/listen for NMF (Boston)...
--- Daytime: on their 6mhz channel...(and 9mhz?)
--- Nighttime: on their 4mhz channel...


I do hope this helps.

Fair winds...and good listening...

John
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Old 10-08-2020, 13:05   #10
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Re: SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

On our sailboat in the Mediterranean, I made an active antenna installed on the flagpole. I was inspired by the active AMRAD antenna. Our SDR receiver is a WIBE Wheatherinfobox which is fully automatic to receive TTY messages, weather maps, NAVTEXT messages.
The antenna works great to receive all these frequencies
Attached Files
File Type: pdf AMRAD avtive antenna.pdf (635.0 KB, 14 views)
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Old 10-08-2020, 18:15   #11
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Re: SDR Play - Weather Fax Antenna for 36'

John,

I am in Burlington, ON with the boat in Florida.

I will try your suggestion for a 25' wire hung from a tree to get get some practice.

Cheers
David
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