|* Bob Cook, a professional sailor
& weather router, offers expert passage planning
* Precision weather routing for the Atlantic, Caribbean, Pacific and Indian oceans
* Global resources for tracking weather: highs, lows, fronts, winds, seas and storms
* Optimal weather windows, Gulf Stream routing, hurricane and storm avoidance
* Regular in-route communications via telephone, sat phone, email and HF SSB
* Private Marine Coast Station: Freqs: 6224, 8294, 12353, 16528 and 18840 khz
* Office: Naples, Florida; +239-775-7435; Email: 'oceanpro.weather @ gmail.com'
|Offshore having reliable, long
range, two-way communications is key:
For extended offshore passages, having reliable, two-way, long range, voice & data communications is absolutely essential for getting the most out of your working relationship with a weather router. For inshore communications (less than about 5 nms from shore), Wifi, cell phones & portable computers, are very common. Today almost every cruiser carries multiple cell phones and one or more computers, and almost every marina worldwide now offers WiFi service for a very limited range around the marina property. Having a WiFi boosting antenna can extend WiFi range up to a mile. Once away from a marina, close in coastal cruising or island hopping (when within 5 nms of shore and cell towers), a cell phone, tablet or laptop can provide quite good marine weather information. Also from 0-about 50 nms from shore a standard marine VHF two-way tranceiver can provide reliable radio communications and at least reception of VHF weather forecasts. In the US NOAA Marine VHF weather broadcasts can provide mariners with regional marine weather forecasts & warning information. But, beyond about 50 nms from shore and especially in the open ocean, hundreds or even thousands of miles from shore, having some form of reliable, two-way, long range comunications is essential. Thre are three communications systems available, satellite phone (voice/data), HF SSB (marine or ham, voice/data) or satellite broadband equipment, (voice/data).
Global, open ocean communications via satellite telephone or HF SSB:
The world map at the right shows the popular ocean cruising routes of the world. (You can click on the image to enlarge it). In the Pacific the major ocean cruising routes between ports on the west coast of North America, Central America and South America south and west to Hawaii, the Marquesas, French Polynesia, New Zealand & Australia. In the Atlantic the major ocean cruising routes between ports on the US east coast and Bermuda and the Caribbean, between the Caribbean, US east coast and Bermuda transAtlantic to the Azores, the UK, Portugal and Gibraltar, and from Gibraltar to the Canaries, Cape Verdes and west to the Easten Caribbean, Panama and US east coast. Some vessels continue west from Australia to Indonesia, the Red Sea, islands in the Indian Ocean, to South Africa and NW to Brazil and Caribbean. These and other ocean cruising passages are 1000 to 4000 nms in the open ocean and require vessels have one or more means of reliable, two-way, long range, communications, preferrably by voice and by email. (The cruising routes chart is courtesy of Pangolin/YOTREPS).
For long range, open ocean two-way communications there are basically three options available, 1. small, inexpensive handheld satellite phones, such as Iridium, Inmarsat & Globalstar, 2. permentally installed high frequency Single Sideband radio, (HF SSB) systems. and 3. the most expensive option, permanently installed satellite broadband systems such as BGAN, FleetBroadband or KVH TracPhone. Whatever system you may choose you should know its capabilities and limitations. Iridium is the dominant service and offers true global coverage. Globalstar though inexpensive its coverage is unreliable and not global by any means. Globalstar coverage does not include the South Pacific Ocean, the South Atlantic Ocean or the Indian Ocean and in the areas it is reported to cover, communications is unreliable. Some sat phone handsets can enable email but some do not. HF SSB communications is dependant on the solar cycle, the time of day, the distance between vessels, and other factors. Satellite based systems can enable point to point communications but not group or "net" communications. You must know the sat phone number to make the point to point call. HF SSB systems, (Marine or Ham) enable point to point and group or "net" communications. Depending on the type of equipment and service the various systems can enable the two-way exchange of voice, E-mail, short SMS/text messages, GRIB files & digital images. The question is really more a matter of cost, coverage, level of service and redundancy that you want to have. Cell phones are inexpensive but very limited in range. Sat phones can provide regional or global coverage but cost more. Of the three satellite phone service providers Iridium is the best from a coverage and reliability standpoint. HF SSB can permit free airtime and a wonderful mix of personal, weather information and cruiser resources like regional SSB nets. Whatever system you choose its best to have a backup system should the primary system become inoperable for any reason. Many cruisers have both a satellite based system like Iridium for point to point voice and email, and an HF SSB system, (Marine or ham), for point to point or "net" operation, voice and email. Almost all cruisers these days have cell phones and one or more computers aboard, (tablet, notebook, or laptop).
FCC licensed HF SSB Marine Coast Station: "Ocean-Pro Weather"
Ocean-Pro operates an FCC licensed "Private Marine HF SSB Coast Station" at our office location in Southwest, Florida. The station and office are located just east of downtown Naples, Florida. Our cordinates are 26 08N, 81 48W. The station is licensed to operate on all marine bands from 4 mhz thru 18 mhz, with a power of 150 watts. Our FCC callsign is WQCN860. From our south Florida location, we can provide two-way SSB communications and weather routing assistance to vessels over a wide cruising region, including the Western North Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, the entire Caribbean and the Eastern North Pacific. Our primary operating frequencies are: 6224, 8294, 12353, 16528 and 18840 khz, (simplex). We provide HF SSB communications on a pre-arranged, scheduled basis only. If you would like to communicate with us by HF SSB, it's best is to email or call us by phone well ahead of your planned passage to test your SSB radio installation and signal propagation and to agree to the best times and frequencies.
HF SSB is a time proven and reliable platform but needs to be well understood. It can provide reliable, two-way, long range, voice and email communications. However HF SSB voice has some issues, (best frequencies, propagation, (distance & time of day), no written record, etc), that require time and experience to learn and be able to work with. HF SSB email can be a great tool to enhance offshore communications. For more on HF SSB email chek into (SCS Pactor modems, Sailmail & Winlink). In my opinion, if you do not have a deep understanding of how HF SSB works, (ham or marine), it is essential that you have a sat phone system either as your primary system or as a backup system. You should learn about and understand your HF SSB installation (tranceiver, antenna, tuner & ground), and should take the time to learn about the intricacies of HF signal propagation, and the differences betwen ham and marine SSB, what SSB nets and services are available, how to make calls, how to participate in nets, etc. Otherwise you could miss scheduled communications and could miss critical weather and routing updates. I have been an amateur radio operator for over 55 years, (call sign K9KKY, QRZ info). I have operated SSBs, (marine and ham) on land and aboard vessels offshore for decades. As a ham I am an active participant in two marine ham nets, the InterContinental Traffic Net and the Maritime Mobile Service Net. As far as recommended HF SSB equipment, most people nowdays are using the Icom M-802 HF SSB transceiver, pictured to the right. Click on the image to go directly to the Icom web site for the M-802 transceiver.
Satellite telephones and service providers:
There are several sat phone service options, (Iridium, Globalstar tand Inmarsat). These services all have advantages and disadvantages. 95% of my weather routing clients use Iridium sat phones & service for their offshore communications. For detailed and reliable communications, vessel position reports, weather forecasts and routing advice, email (not text messaging!) for many reasons, is much better than voice. The newest and best sat phone I have seen to date, (for email & voice) is the Iridium #9555. Iridium phones The sat phone to the left is the newer Iridium 9555 sat phone with built in GPS and one touch SOS. To the right is an older but very good Iridium 9505A sat phone. Clicking on the phones image will take you to the Iridium Phones information page. A new device worth considering is the Iridium "Go" unit. Iridium "Go". Iridium also sells a wifi "hot spot" device, Iridium Access Point which creats a wifi "hot spot"aboard your boat accessable by wifi enabled devices such as cell phones and laptops.
There are many satellite phone & service providers. A good provider I know and have worked with for many years is Don Rickerson who owns and operates Personal Satellite Network located in Manassas, Virginia. Don offers a variety of satellite phone products and services and has been in the business a long time. Don is knowledgeable, capable and understands the needs of vessels needing reliable offshore data and voice communications. Don and I work closely together to provide my clients with reliable satellite phone equipment and service. Equipment can be purchased or rented by the day. Don's web site is www.skyhelp.net. Don's phone numbers are 1-800-590-2089 or 1-703-330-9028.
GlobalCom - http://www.globalcomsatphone.com/
Blue Cos Mo - http://www.bluecosmo.com/
Global Marine Networks - http://www.globalmarinenet.com/
Sail smart. Sail safe.
Capt Bob (Robert) Cook
Office: 239-775-7435, Cell: 239-877-4094
Fax: (Same as above numbers. Call first)
Mail: 3012 Sandpiper Bay Cr. D-301, Naples, FL 34112