SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.
We are not gadget people, and electronics certainly aren't a priority on board our little traveling home, but weather is of upmost importance. Anything that helps the captain get accurate weather forecasts makes our lives easier and safer. We have a Radio Shack DX 390 SSB receiver that we use to pick up Chris Parker and NMN which works better than some high priced variations. But sometimes it's nice to see a picture. Enter weather fax.
When we were in Panama a few year ago, a fellow boater gave us software that allowed our laptop to decipher weather fax reports from our SSB and turn them into weather charts. While it worked adequately, it just wasn't our thing at the time. Our laptop had limited battery life and plugging it in interfered with reception. When we are off shore there really isn't any place to put a laptop for an extended period of time and expect it to stay there long enough to receive an entire report. The time and hassle of booting up the laptop and tuning the radio and getting everything set up just didn't seem worth it. We promptly forgot we even had it.
A few weeks ago Dave said, "I wonder if there's an app for my iPad that would let me download weather fax?" I grunted some noncommittal response, sure that he was just spouting dreams. Until he found the perfect app from Black Cat. Still, I didn't even join in his excitement when he got the radio tuned and the app started receiving the data. But when he showed me a weather chart he had loaded without the internet, using nothing other than our SSB receiver, I was sold.
His first attempt shows that the radio was not perfectly tuned. The next time a report came on we turned off all the lights and the picture was even clearer. According to their site, "HF Weather Fax lets you receive marine weather radiofascimile transmissions on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, using the audio from your HF marine radio. Just set it next to the radio's speaker or headphones, tune in a weather fax frequency, and watch the images come in.
HF Weather Fax is perfect for mariners who want to be able to view the latest weather reports and forecasts.
Received fax images can be manually or automatically saved, and viewed later. You can also export them to your computer using iTunes.
There is also a built in copy of the NOAA/NWS Radiofacsimile schedule, and an option to download the latest copy of the schedule from the NWS website."
The schedule is particularly handy when sailing in and out of time zones, since it tells you how long until the next broadcast. The app comes in a package that includes an app for downloading Navtex, which is a weather forecast in words rather than pictures.
The screen on the iPad Mini is big enough to view the weather fax, but smaller devices are a bit more difficult. Now that we don't have to hassle with booting the laptop and trying to stabilize it somewhere, I don't doubt that we will use this as an additional weather resource.
A word of warning. Judging from the reviews of this app, it is apparently not obvious that the app itself does not provide weather. It is simply a decoder for the broadcast on your radio. You still have to have a SSB receiver that you can tune correctly. Once the transmission begins, a headphone plugged into the radio and held up to the iPad is sufficient, though you can buy a plug that will physically connect the two.
In the 6 years I've owned an iDevice, I have paid for a total of 3 apps. This one is well worth the few dollars' investment. When it comes to getting accurate weather, what could be simpler?
Since we will soon be leaving the continent again, MONDAY we will share a reminder about what it's like to be an American abroad.
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