1) Well, first off a quick / direct answer....it is not
"more trouble than it's worth"! To the contrary a dedicated WeFax receiver (whether a paper-based unit, like my Furuno
FAX-408, or a computer-based unit) is still considered the gold-standard of offshore/hi-seas weather
information! (as of 2012, the last year I have data for, still used by majority of professional ocean mariners)
And....and, until you've held a weather
chart in your hand when planning a passage
, or even better when in the middle of an ocean and you're looking for better wind
, you won't grasp how nice it is!
And, since the solution to your issue is very easy! And cheap! (cost you about $20 retail...or, depending on exactly how your boat
is set-up, maybe as much as $75...) And, will take you just a few minutes! (no longer than 30 minutes!)
Here are the details:
a) You can share your MF/HF-DSC Receive Antenna
with your WeFax Receiver
. A simple coaxial "tee" connector works well for this. Remember that HF (MF and HF) receiving is all about signal-to-noise ratio (S/N), and no decent quality modern HF receiver emits enough RF noise
(nor harmful LO leakage) to adversely effect another receiver's performance. [of course in a professional comms network, there would be directional couplers / receiver-multi-couplers...but for our applications these are unnecessary]
b) In addition to doing this exact thing (using my MF/HF-DSC Receive antenna to feed both my Furuno
M-802's dedicated DSC
receiver) on my current
boat, since 2004, I have also done this on-shore for decades of HF ham receiver coupling, and did this decades ago with an old Alden MarineFAX and a shortwave receiver.
Now since MF/HF-DSC is part of the GMDSS, and have been with us now since 1992, and fully-implemented Jan 1999 (over 20 years ago!), let's not get all in huff if someone told you that a non-DSC maritime radio is "just fine"....
How many here still use the same cellphone / mobile device they used over 20 years ago? Who here is typing on the same computer they used over 20 years ago?
(Heck, there aren't many here that even use the same chartplotter for more than 10 years)
And, since Jan of 1999, there have been no HF-SSB Voice watchstanding by any merchant, coast guard, or naval vessels worldwide, rather using MF/HF-DSC as initial signaling/calling before passing two-way voice traffic via SSB-Voice....that means 1000's of SOLAS vessels worldwide are listening to the six int'l GMDSS/DSC freqs (not SSB Voice), and >80 HF-DSC Coast Stations worldwide, and > 450 MF-DSC Coast Stations worldwide....
And, except for the USCG, Australian AMSA and NZ Maritime Authority, there are no longer any Maritime SSB Voice radio watchstanding!
So, when referring to "SSB" radio / "SSB" communications here online, for most of the past 15 - 20 years, we are talking about MF/HF-DSC-SSB Radiotelephones and MF/HF-DSC-SSB radio communications...
So, everyone here with a modern boat that has "SSB" onboard probably has a MF/HF-DSC-SSB Radiotelephone (such as the Icom M-802, Furuno FS-1575/2575, or Sailor 6310/6320, or a JRC, or Skanti....MF/HF-DSC-SSB Radiotelephone)
So, that's what we all assume here-abouts....
If you do not have such a radio....please read some of the stickies here, some of my other postings, and watch some of the videos linked to below....and you have more info about this than you could dream of...
2) Secondly, with a Hylas
54 (a modern vessel) you obviously do have a MF/HF-DSC-SSB radiotelephone (probably an Icom M-802), so your solution is quite easy-peasy.
a) Just connect a short coaxial jumper cable from your HF WeFax receiver to a coaxial "tee" connector, and another coaxial jumper cable from your M-802's DSC
Receiver jack to this "tee" connector, and then the coax cable running to your MF/HF-DSC Receive antenna to the 3rd connection point of the coaxial "tee" connector....and you're all done.....but..
b) But, since we don't know what you're presently using for a MF/HF-DSC Receive antenna, we cannot know the effectiveness of your present antenna for HF WeFax reception.
c) Some will simply connect the center-conductor of a piece of coaxial cable to a chainplate or shroud tie-rod, etc., and thereby use the entire rig/mast as their MF/HF-DSC Receive and WeFax Receive antenna! (please understand that it doesn't matter if the chainplate/rigging is "grounded" or not, it will work the same)
Now, please know that this does work....and is easy-peasy....but...but, it can be problematic (it's almost impossible to know, as each boat / each set-up is different), as this can be a rather noisy antenna, meaning it can receive a good deal of radio noise
/ RFI (Radio Frequency Interference), and thereby not perform well....but, in some instances it can work very well! ?
d) The difficulty I have here in recommending that easy-peasy approach above (in "c"), is that while some might find it works well, since their primary use of this antenna is not voice comms and few sailors are experienced/trained radio operators and will usually not understand / notice the increase in received noise at some times / with some systems on-board running....so, I generally recommend using a separate antenna, even if it is just a random length of wire run up a halyard
or even if run up along a shroud (yes, there will be some coupling to the rigging
, but it's generally a much better approach than a direct connection to the standing rigging).... FYI, back in the late 70's I did just this, used a 30' length of wire (I used GTO-15, but didn't need to!), run thru a cable-clam deck
fitting adjacent to a shroud and wound the wire spirally around the shroud (but could've just ran it straight up, I just wanted to reduce possible issues with sail contacting the shroud/wire)....this worked great with no issues for more than a decade, for HF-WeFax and Shortwave (and UK Longwave shipping
forecasts), across the Atlantic, UK, the Med, and Caribbean
....heck, I even remember the US Navy
WeFax freqs, 8080khz and 10865khz, out of Norfolk, VA and Rota, Spain
...and of course the 200khz / 190khz UK Longwave shipping
forecasts...(fyi, I used a Palomar Engineering "VLF Converter" to allow reception of these Longwave signals)
e) Now, I'm a "radio nut", and have made my living in the communications industry....so, I do tend to go the extra mile....but, you can't fault me for making sure things work as best as they can...
For HF-WeFax and MF/HF-DSC reception, on my current
boat since buying
it in 2004, I've been using an insulated aft-lower shroud (~ 22' long)....it works very well!! (I get quite a few "all ships" HF-DSC calls just sitting at my dock
....and get excellent HF-WeFax reception with my Furuno FAX-408, and prior to that my Alden MarineFAX)
This might be overkill for most....so, if you don't wish to go this far, please use my recommend above in "d".
And, an old pic...showing my old Alden MarineFAX (that I replaced a few years ago, when its auto-timer function quit)...
f) Now, some will want a commercial-made solution (why? I have no clue....but some just do)....So, some have used the Metz or GAM "WeFax / HF-DSC Antennas", which are 54" SS whip antennas with an easy-to-install base / coaxial connector.....and while these do work (I used one for a month), there are better ways to do this, such as my recommendations above in "d" and "e"....
3) You cannot
easily share your backstay HF transmit/receive antenna with a second receiver....sure you can add an accessory (RF sensed T/R relay) to switch automatically, but in my opinion that is a big mistake, adding a failure point into a safety
/ communications system on-board is just not a good idea....
And, yes, you could install a manual antenna switch (at the Nav Station, into the coaxial cable going aft to the remote
tuner), to switch between your WeFax receiver and your M-802 transceiver, but this can present two problems:
a) If you "powered on" the M-802 and pressed "TUNE", or transmitted with the radio....and then wanted to switch the backstay to the WeFax receiver, the remote
tuner (AT-140 ?) will remain "tuned" to the M-802's last transmission frequency....which, if different than the WeFax freq, will reduce your WeFax signals....if you "tune" the remote tuner to the WeFax freq, this eliminates this problem, but does NOT improve reception versus simply allowing the remote tuner to operate in the "THRU" (bypass) mode (which is also done via the M-802's buttons)....
b) You have to remember to SWITCH the switch, when using the radio and/or the WeFax receiver....
c) If you use a decent antenna switch, one with adequate isolation (50db to 60db), such as a Daiwa CS-201, etc.....there will be no issues with damage to your WeFax receiver from transmit energy of the M-802....but.....But, if you use an inferior switch / one with unknown isolation, then you can risk damage to the wefax receiver.
So, as you see, there are some good reasons to not use a switch (or a relay, for that matter)....but, please note that the M-802 (like just about every modern solid-state transmitter) will fold-back its transmit power instantly if it sense a high VSWR, a shorted antenna connection, or no antenna connected at all....the M-802 (again, like just about every modern solid-state transmitter) will not "blow-up" if you transmit without the antenna connected!
Although, good operating practice is to always listen before transmitting, and if you don't hear anything / hear no static, you'd quickly remember to switch the switch! (but, in times of emergency
on-board, you're not going to be "listening first"!)
4) Please be sure to have a look at some of the "stickies" above, the Sailmail Primer, and of course the Youtube Playlists (that have videos sorted in a logical order for laypersons to follow along/learn about Offshore
Weather receiving, HF-DSC Comms, HF-SSB Comms, etc.)
Please remember that these videos are done in the real-world (not simulations), on a real offshore cruising sailboat
(not in a lab), with real LIVE operations (just like everyone experiences).....so they represent as close to your actual on-board situation/experience as possible without me actually being there teaching you personally! But, the downside to them is just that, they are real and live...and done by myself alone, no script, no director....just the radios, my fingers, and my narration (all done extemporaneously / off-the-top-of-my-head) live as-it-happens....
So, please read and watch, and enjoy! They're FREE....and nobody is selling you anything!!
(if you haven't the time to watch them all, please at least watch this first playlist....or at the very least the first couple videos in each playlist)
Maritime HF Comms
Icom M-802 Instruction Videos
Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use / proeprly-install SSB, & troubleshoot RFI, etc.)
HF-SSB Radio, Proper Installation Tips/Techniques, etc.
Sailmail Primer (lots of great HF comms / SSB install info)
5) Btw, I'm hesitant to mention the misinformation here about direct reception of 137mhz NOAA Satellites, and I'm not going to write a treatise on it here....but feel it's needed to clear up confusion.
Unless something has changed in the past few months, there are NO WeFax charts
/ weather charts
transmitted by the 137mhz signals from NOAA (and Russian) Low Earth Orbiting satellites....the 137mhz signal has the APT (Automatic Picture Transmission)...which is just what it seems, an automatic transmission of live earth images
(visible in daylight, and Infared at night), as the satellite
is flying over you!
Since the topic of discussion of this thread is HF-WeFax reception (and the synoptic weather charts drawn by experience maritime meteorologists), further discussion here about 137mhz APT reception is rather moot....but...
But, just in case some wish to know....here some brief facts: The APT signals are rather easy to receive with simple equipment
(yes, I've done this, as well as the 1691mhz signals from the GOES sats), and since costs are low, the best approach is with a dedicated receiver (designed specifically for these wideband transmissions), with either a quadrifilar or turnsytle antenna, and rather easy-to-use software
on your laptop
connected to the receiver. (some have tried with a police scanner and/or a modified 2m ham radio, and have gotten them to work, but results are poor....others have used an SDR USB dongle to good results....but better results come from a dedicated receiver designed just for this purpose....and since it costs just a couple hundred dollars, all-in....if you find yourself in need of these weather images, it makes sense to go with the best approach to reception)
I doubt many here have any need for further info here, as those sailing the areas of the world where 137mhz APT images are needed will already know most of this....but for the curious (fyi, there are many < $50 solutions found on-line...please note that I'd not recommend them for use offshore where you NEED this weather info, they're more for the hobbyist / experimenter, but if you do wish to play with this, start with the rtl-sdr.com solutions):
Now, if you're sailing the Southern Ocean (where weather systems move fast and there is little other weather info), the Indian Ocean
(where, except for those from Aus and SA, there are few sources of live offshore weather info), and/or other very high latitude sailing / NW Passage
/ etc. (where HF reception can be effected by high geomagnetic activity (northern/southern lights) and outside of the coverage of US, Japan
, Russian, or German weather bureaus), in these areas live 137mhz APT images can be of great help! Of course, you the sailor will need to understand maritime weather systems and make some of your own forecasts, but if you're sailing those areas, you are almost assuredly experienced enough with all of this.
My Holiday Wishes and fair winds to everyone!
BTW, sorry I haven't been around here in a while, I've been dealing with elderly family medical issue and other serious family matters, but it looks as though we've had somewhat of a Christmas Miracle...so, I have some time this week to check things out here-abouts.
Although it seems well-meaning, I've seen some fairly inaccurate and misleading info here in some of these posts. And, instead of detailing falsehoods and starting arguments, I thought I'd just add some helpful (?) and factual info! Hope this helped?