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Old 19-01-2021, 09:00   #1
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Current state of weather service options?

Hi all - I've been down the rabbit hole here for two days now reading all about weather Grib files, on-shore services, SSB, inreach, iridium go, Elon Musk, etc.

The problem is everything gets related to "packages", "options", and cost. For example people LOVE the Inreach, but fully half the comments say the weather info is sketchy at best - so it's really about the other options it provides, and weather info isn't a reason to buy it...

It's really hard to find some definitive opinions on the most accurate and best way to get weather information while under way.

Believe me, I understand that cost is ALWAYS a factor, but if YOU could choose ANY weather planning / information delivery system for a circumnavigation (primarily tradewinds, but would very much like the option of exploring as far north/south as a fiberglass hull can safely go - so let's just say global weather access)

WHAT would you choose and why? Thanks!
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Old 22-01-2021, 17:14   #2
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

Alright - if the theoretical question isn't a good one, how about:

What weather service do you use for long passages and why?
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Old 22-01-2021, 17:54   #3
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

To me the first part of the question is "what weather tools do you like to use onboard?" For me that comes down to synoptic charts, GRIBs, and sometimes the weather service forecast discussions (not the forecast, but the text discussion by the forecasters about how/why they came up with the forecast - it usually highlights broad divergences in the models and areas of uncertainty).

Assuming you are out of cell phone range, to get those you need a two-way data service. So, InReach doesn't qualify. SSB by itself can get you the charts, but not the other two. You can get those by SSB if you have a data connection (Pactor, or VARA, or....). Iridium GO also gets you all of those products. And they're all relatively low-bandwidth friendly so you don't need more.

The cost of entry into SSB is pretty high once you get radio, antenna, tuner, maybe Pactor, installation... If you already have the SSB (I do) and/or want it for other reasons (ham - I am, general voice communications, distress) then fine, but otherwise IMO the GO is the cheaper, easier, more reliable option.

I'm still waiting for Mr. Musk's Starlink. If/when it becomes reality on a boat then the GO becomes a paper weight.
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Old 23-01-2021, 10:21   #4
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

Thanks for the reply. I am leaning towards the iridiumgo myself, but I'm a little bit of an early adopter kind of guy and would LOVE to see starlink become viable this year.

I have noticed an increasing number of people advocating for an "on-shore" company or person to do the weather and sending it to them. Just how much of an advantage might that be? and how much does something like that cost? Anyone have any ideas?
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Old 23-01-2021, 23:46   #5
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

Yeah, I’m signed up for the Starlink beta, waiting for them to decide they have coverage in the area and then I’ll see what happens on the boat.

I think the question of an on shore router/forecaster depends on your own confidence in putting together a forecast. Absent Starlink they will almost always have more information than you will offshore. And they’re probably better rested. And possibly better trained. On the flip side, they don’t know your boat as well as you do, nor you and your crew, or how you might decide to sail when there’s a cross-swell that’s making things uncomfortably lumpy even though from shore it looks pretty innocuous.

We used a weather router on three passages; New Zealand to the Australs, Fiji to NZ, and Reunion to South Africa. While I was glad to have their input in the end it didn’t do much for us. Sometimes it was nice having the second opinion, but we never got a forecast or information that was much different than what we had worked out for ourselves.

I haven’t yet tried Predictwind or any of the other similar services so I can’t say anything about them.
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Old 24-01-2021, 05:58   #6
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

Buy a sat phone and a friend with the internet. ! That’s what I use. Worked flawlessly for years.
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Old 24-01-2021, 08:41   #7
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
Buy a sat phone and a friend with the internet. ! Thatís what I use. Worked flawlessly for years.
My momma always taught me you can't buy your friends...was she wrong?

But seriously, with this setup of yours, does your friend simply give you all the info they can see on their end and some suggestions? or do they send you some Gribs, or a suggested plotted course?

Thanks for the replies so far, you two.
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Old 24-01-2021, 08:54   #8
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

IMHO, you want a suggestion on a weather delivery system.

Until Musk sells access to his sat network I would suggest an Iridium sat phone with uplink and down link support (mail), GRIBs, and a laptop computer with mapping software to display the data. An efficient and most importantly, reliable system. We were able to get weather anytime no excuses.

We found a well installed, tested SSB to be somewhat near useless to get weather or Herb mid-Atlantic.
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Old 24-01-2021, 08:59   #9
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

The reality is simple, you want to see the big stuff far enough ahead of time so that you can take measures like step out of the way or take the sails off.

You are not planning a picnic that you don't want rained out.

GRIB weather is what all the forecasters start with and they show the big stuff.
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Old 24-01-2021, 09:05   #10
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

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IMHO, you want a suggestion on a weather delivery system.
Yes - that's exactly what I'm asking for. And there are so many ways to do it, and so many of them offer "other options" that most conversations start to get bogged down in those options and monthly subscription fee comparisons, and then somebody else throws in their retired Uncle in Nebraska with a HAM and then suddenly there's 3 pages of people discussing the hidden costs of SSB...

That's why I was asking people what they would use to get their weather info if they could pick anything, and why would they use it?

Honestly, it seems like there are two main options while we all wait for the Starlink - IridiumGo or a reliable person on shore.
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Old 24-01-2021, 09:37   #11
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

Forget the reliable person on shore. What if he goes out for the day, or gets sick, or whatever. What if you want an update at 3:00 AM. You going to wake him up so he can start parsing the forecasts where you are? What if he goofs up. Who will you blame when you are looking at 60 knots expecting 30.

You are just going to lose a friend in the end.

Go with the GRIB download and then you are totally self sufficient.

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Old 24-01-2021, 09:47   #12
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Re: Current state of weather service options?

How do you communicate with the reliable person on shore? You’re back to the same choices for data delivery, could use SSB, or GO, or full satellite phone, or broadband satellite, or Starlink.

Decide what data it is that you want - wfax only? GRIBs? Person on shore? then use that to inform your decision on the required data delivery service/equipment/options.
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