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Thread: Receiving weather fax at sea (without SSB transceiver)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    Default Receiving weather fax at sea (without SSB transceiver)

    FWIW, I've had good luck receiving weather fax via a world band receiver and a smartphone or tablet.

    My current setup: Kaito KA1103 Worldband Radio ($80) [Amazon], a Nexus 7 2013 ($250) [Google Play] running Android, and a 3.5mm 2-pin to 3-pin audio cable($7) [Amazon].

    About the cable: You don't really need the cable if you are in a quiet environment as the phone or tablet can use it's mic to hear the fax transmissions sounds emitted from your receiver's speaker, but this method is subject to interference from background noise not to mention you also have to listen to that constant fax sound in the cabin. Using the cable from your receiver audio out to your computing device audio port makes everything silent and the images higher quality. It's worth noting that the audio port on your mobile device does need to also function as audio in, such as a when used with a hands free headset. The Nexus 7 2012, for instance, did not have a mic channel in it's audio port. Most any smartphone and laptop with a single audio jack works well as they are designed for headset use. Should you have a dedicated mic port on your laptop, you can just use a standard 3.5mm male-male stereo cable. Mono cables probably work equally well.

    Software: Also needed is the software for the phone, tablet, or laptop. Black Cat Systems appear to have the bases covered for iOS, Android, and OSX. NOAA provides a list of PC applications here. I believe Weather Fax 2000 is one of the more popular ones. I have only used the HF Weather Fax For Marine [Google Play] app on Android so I can speak only to it's usefulness. It's a simple program that does a great job of capturing the images and helping you fine tune your radio for best reception. It also has an auto mode so that it runs in the background and silently listens for the start and end signals from the radio to automatically record the images. Combine that with the Kaito's ability to be programmed to turn on and tune in to specified frequencies at specified times and you have an automated setup that should provide sets of weather fax images for you each day.

    Broadcast times and frequencies can be found here [NOAA].

    Online weather charts, weather fax user guides, and more info can be found at this NOAA page. The Black Cat Systems link above is also chock full of WxFx goodness.

    The final piece is an antenna. The Kaito comes with a 30 or so foot wire antenna that I run up the flag halyard. As Greg mentioned last night, a spare [Amazon] can be purchased for about $10.

    The Kaito receiver can also be used to listen to news and other broadcasts from around the world, not to mention regular AM/FM bands. I believe it should also be able to tune in other sailors who are broadcasting on SSB, but I have yet to try this. If anyone can recommend specific frequencies to monitor from the slip, I would love to try this out before the race. Even better, would anyone with an SSB transceiver aboard be up for a radio check? That would be great.

    Brian

  2. #2
    pogen's Avatar
    pogen is offline Sailing canoe "Kūʻaupaʻa"
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    Getting NAVTEX and Weather FAX with a cheapo radio and a Computer


    Thanks Standard, here is what I have found, with different links to alternate software, etc.

    Firstly DO NOT get a Eton or Grundig radio, like they sell on Defender (for about $100). I'm still looking for the best radio. The popular Grundig models have way too much preamp gain, and if you are anywhere near civilization, there will be so much noise you can not bring in a signal. Sangean and Sony radios have a better reputation, but I haven't tested personally.

    If you have a laptop, the basic scheme will be: External piece of wire (maybe 20' long) or connect to the backstay as antenna. Antenna input to radio is a 3.5 mono audio jack. Radio such as Sony or Sangean. Stereo male-to-male 1/8" patch cord to connect external audio (or headphone jack) to the microphone input of your laptop.

    The software I like is "SeaTTY RTT". It can decode NAVTEX (text-only forecast and station reporting, signal is useful within a few hundred miles of shore), and also RADIOFAX (useful all the way to Hawaii.) It is shareware (I think) for Windows. It has some pretty good features and diagnostics, and automatically saves files that it receives to a library.




    SeaTTY: http://www.dxzone.com/cgi-bin/dir/jump2.cgi?ID=6100

    Weather Sources and Schedules

    Pt Reyes Weather fax page: http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/ptreyes.shtml

    Info and Schedule for NAVTEX: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/navtex.htm

    More software choices and info

    A free NAVTEX decoder: http://www.frisnit.com/navtex/?id=decoder

    Navtex worldwide coverage: http://www.dxinfocentre.com/navtex.htm

    iPad/iPhone app for decoding signals to fax: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hf-w...394199597?mt=8

    Much more discussion at YBW.com forum: http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread...ble-sony-radio

    Even more discussion and tech info: http://www.hffax.de/html/hauptteil_beginners_guide.html

    But really

    This is all cool and fun, and a good backup, but for easy fetching of GRIBS, weather fax, text forecasts, etc. it is much easier to use the email service of SailDocs and you satphone email capability. http://www.saildocs.com/

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    I've used the small Kaito KA1103 receiver, plugged into a computer microphone input jack with some luck, but recently I tried a USB "Funcube Dongle Pro +" Software Defined Radio receiver. I love it! This is a tiny receiver that covers most of the HF, VHF, and UHF bands. It takes a little free software to make it work, but

    Here's a link to a post I made on Cruisers Forum, where I describe how I receive WFAX with the thing:

    http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...ml#post1225032.

    The Funcube is a more expensive than the Kaito receiver, but since it provides a "virtual soundcard" interface in the computer you don't have the noise and level issues that you often get when plugging a radio into the computer's mic jack.

    Of course I generally get my WX data from Saildocs via the satphone.

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    For receiving weather at sea I have a kaito radio, nexus 7 tablet with HF weather fax for marine app. Can any one tell me what frequencies and the times that come in the best. It's been interesting trying to receive a data for a map.

  5. #5
    pogen's Avatar
    pogen is offline Sailing canoe "Kūʻaupaʻa"
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    Quote Originally Posted by barry 1987 View Post
    For receiving weather at sea I have a kaito radio, nexus 7 tablet with HF weather fax for marine app. Can any one tell me what frequencies and the times that come in the best. It's been interesting trying to receive a data for a map.

    Here's the resource page:

    http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/ptreyes.shtml

    And schedule (formatted text file):

    http://weather.noaa.gov/pub/fax/hfreyes.txt

    Pics of the schedule:




  6. #6
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    Jan 2010
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    Honolulu
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    I have one of the Si-TEx SSB receiver's on my cruising yacht and on my SD- Hawaii passage in March, my set up worked, but nowhere near as I had hoped/ Pogen is showing. The antenna was a wire taped to the backstay, not the most elegant but i've used and seen similar set ups several boats with better results. i was using the iPad and it's speaker off the ssb radio speaker. I really want to get this sorted out before heading to Samoa.

    barry1987, http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/marine/rfax.pdf

    have that pdf saved on my iPad, and many apps already have the freq list in there as well. I have the black cat HF app.

    Good learning experience for me, but if you are going the simple ssb receiver route, then i learned about listening to 5.000 and 10.000 at about 48-51 minutes after the hour for the forecast in English and also any gales/ storms/ lows/ distrubnces etc for all of pacific. the voice talks really fast so a small voice recorder may be beneficial. If your smartphone or whatever gets wet, you can still draw your own weather fax that includes most relevant basic info for a transpac. good thread.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    This is not a solution for people who are very concerned about weight but I bought a Furuno Weather Fax on Craigslist for $500 with the antennae. Prints out (on paper) the noaa weather maps (on the schedule posted above) automatically (and endlessly unless you turn it off). I have been so pleased with this unit and you don't get gribs but interpreted weather maps with the meteorologists name on the chart. Having said that....my boat is too slow to actually sail out of the way of the various systems that pour endlessly across the N. Pac but it helps in a general way, call it strategic help not tactical help. Also if you're going to get a shit kicking it's good to be prepared ahead of time.

  8. #8
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    Aug 2016
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    I realize this is an old thread but I'm hoping for some insight here. I just received a Kaito KA1103 yesterday and was eagerly hoping to get some practice receiving weather fax reports before my trip to the Bahamas and I'm having trouble tuning into NOAA's frequencies. I've tuned into both Boston's and New Orleans' frequencies minus 1, 2 and 3 kHz and I get nothing but a steady hum, not the tell tale 56k modem sounds I expect to hear. I have the SSB button depressed and lit, day or night, narrow/wide seems to have no effect, external antenna is run up the mast with my sailboat battery banks off, and I roll the fine tuning wheel to the stops. Nothing. Could this be a bad unit? I've received a few voice stations on other bands.

    What am I missing?

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