Outernet for sailors (weather forecast grib files)

Has there been any movement on broadcasting grib files on outernet l-band?

I feel that the reception challenges by small vessels has been dealt with in the past and can be dealt with in the future - but there is no point or no drive to address this if there is no data to receive.

I think that grib file broadcast will directly address/enhance safety at sea concerns and seems therefore to fit well with the ethos of outernet …

We have been sending grib files for the last month or so. It’s a daily update of gribs.

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The sailmail system documentation gives a pretty good overview of then required licensing and network construction. The land stations in the US are licensed as “private coast stations” to serve a particular affinity group. Licensing for the coast stations is mainly a paperwork and money drill. You can even find very nice Icom IC-710 Marine HF SSB radios for good prices. The coverage for a 150W SSB radio is obviously going to be much less for consumer-grade radios and highly compromised antennas relative a 100KW shortwave broadcaster.

Hi Gary,

Do you have a functioning Outernet satellite receiver?

I am not sure if the old forum files are still here but months ago we spent ages on gribs. Looking into Sizes, compression, splitting up the world into the three satellite footprints etc.

And Outernet agreed we would have a grib service and then magically The NOAA animated Weather Grib service appeared on Outernet.

This is a magnificent product with 4 day forecast of animated data any where on the planet.

I don’t think we need to use the old arrow grib files.

I would love to see a plugin for this data in OpenCPN.

So on option could be a Marine HF back channel for Outernet messaging?

Thanks Seasalt, i don’t have a receiver yet but I’ve just ordered a kit.

Stations which can transmit are pretty well covered by WL2K (ham) and Sailmail (marine). What role do you see for user-side message transmission? Sending reqeusts for content to come down via the L-band feed? As a ham, I use WL2K on a regular basis. Sometimes for requesting data via email autoresponders.

Where I see Marine HF coming into play is in more localized data distribution. The channel rate will be much lower, but if you’re only trying to cover a single are of ocean and coastal areas, the lower rate may not matter as much. The ability to receive the data without pointing at a satellite is a big win. How well consumer-grade RTL-SDR + Upconverter rigs can receive such a feed is something I don’t have a good feel for.

I am amazed by where Outernet has already been able to go.

The old temporary Ku / C band Outernet service offered a $2 or $5 monthly fee to have your twitter messages “scrapped” and sent over the Outernet service.

Assuming a similar service is going to be offered again then remote users without internet could possibly have the following ways of sending a forward message and Outernet being the back or return channel. Currently any Amateur Radio (HAM) OUTNET APRS messages sent to the AMSAT Satellites or the International space station are being back channeled every hour on Outernet.

Ways to send remote messages for people who do not have Internet.

APRS vie HF Radio (2000km to 3000KM maybe) (free to HAM)
APRS Via Terrestrial VHF (40KM Maybe) (Free to HAM)
APRS VHF or HF Satellite ISS (Overhead several times a day)Free to HAM)

PSKMAIL HF Radio Messaging / Internet. Some worldwide stations. 2000 to 3000km (Free to HAM)

WInlink Winmor HF Radio 1000 - 2000km Free to HAM)
Winlink Pactor HF Radio 2000-3000km (Free to HAM)

SAILMAIL. Marine 150 W HF Radio 2000 to 3000Km $250 a year.

Iridium Go Messaging service. 2.4k (slowwwww)Satellites Overhead all the time. approx $20 to $125 month for unlimited.

Sat Phone companies have some messaging capability but expensive.

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This is a game changer for cruising sailors Syed. Looking forward to the Lantern becoming available. Keep up the good work!


Marine SSB radio does allow the operator to use it for personal business related purposes (banking,ordering products, financial, etc.). However, using the Winmore data structure on marine SSB might get tricky as it would have to be approved for such use, and I am not sure this has been done yet as has the Pactor format for sailmail, . There is no test in U.S. for a Ship Station License which is issued by the F.C.C. to the vessel directly. It does require that the vessel to which the license is attached is a “documented” vessel and that a fairly large fee be paid. There is a short and easy test for the" limited operator’s" permit which is separate from the “ship station license” That permit allows someone to operate the “ship’s station” radio equipment on the maritime bands. Both can be applied for at the same time.

Do you know what the marine channels or frequencies that allow for digital communication on the marine bands?

…returning to antenna trackers for a moment, anyone game enough on doing some hacking to adapt this cutie for our tracking needs?
https://www.banggood.com/Zhiyun-Smooth-Q-3-Axis-Brushless-Handheld-Gimbal… not cheap but you can buy 10 of these for the price of a Pactor modem…

Hello, I am new to this site. I found it because I was looking for a possibility to recieve weather data for free via sattelite.

Since I have no clue about antenna physics, could anyone tell me how precisely an antenna tracker would need to point the antenna in the direction of the satellite to compensate the yaw and pitch of the vessel? I mean do I have a window of some Degrees? And does the Antenna also need to be rotated to compensate the rolling of the boat?

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The antenna for the DreamCatcher 3.0 will have a beam width of about 20 degrees. It looks like you will be able to set the elevation relative to the latitude you are in and re-adjust it once in a while. The azimuth will need to point towards the satellite within the same 20 degrees. While it’s not set and forget, you won’t need a fancy setup to actively and precisely aim the antenna. However, it will need periodic adjustment.

One of my upcoming project will be to look at modifying a KVH tracvision antenna for outernet. I think a much, much simpler automatic antenna aiming mechanism for outernet is possible.

–Konrad, WA4OSH

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Saw this that may be of interest to sailors – Get your Dreamcatcher’s ready

NOTICE: Proposed discontinuation of storm warning announcements on wwv and wwvh
The National Weather Service is seeking comments on the proposed discontinuation of Atlantic and Pacific high seas storm warning announcements on the WWV and WWVH broadcasts. These announcements are heard on minutes 8, 9 and 10 of each hour of WWV, and minutes 48, 49, 50 and 51 of each hour on WWVH. Questions, comments or concerns about this proposed change should be emailed to [email protected] (link sends e-mail) with NIST MARINE WARNING in the subject line, no later than February 23, 2018.

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I am not sure that the new Ku Dreamcatcher technology without a stabilized antenna will work on a boat.

The L-Band Dreamcatcher had a little bit wider reception and may have coped with a moving boat. In the tropics (near equator) a flat mounted L-Band Antenna pointing straight up picked up the L-Band Outernet signal.

Even on the equater, I am not sure a flat mounted Ku Antenna (I.e. one pointing straight up ) will continue to work as a anchored boat drifts with the current. (assuming the satellite is not directly overhead.)

I guess the question is going to be how forgiving in terms of aiming will Ku Outernet be compared to L-Band Outernet.

Thanks for the fast answer! 20 Degrees shouldn’t be too hard. I think I will try that much much simpler automatic aiming mechanism that you mentioned.

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I have a few ideas. I’m still thinking about it.

My first objective would be to get it to work on a road vehicle where there is not wave action to add to the problem.


The beam width of the horn antenna on an LNB is 30-degrees. I believe the L-band patch was 60-degrees. The single element Ku-patch has a 90-degree beam width, but the bitrate is way too low for general usage.

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For increasing the area of sky to aim at, could we offset 4 Ku Horn antennas and connect them together and then feed the combined signal it into the Dreamcather 3 Ku board. On a boat it would increase probability of at least one of the four horn antenna’s being pointed at the Outernet Ku LoRa signal.

One thought is that as the boat drifts around (on the equator) the horn antenna that is now aimed north or south will not be picking up a Geostationary GEO KU satellite. It will only be a Horn antenna that is either directly above or aimed ease or west that will pick up a Ku Signal.

So i guess four offset aimed Horn antennas would quadruple the chance of seeing a Ku Outernet signal but only double the amount of unwanted signals on the equator.

North or south of the equator only one of the four antennas would see the Clark Belt GEO Ku Satellites as a boat drifted around. So North or South of the equator 4 Offset antennas would quadruple the chance of a drifting boat picking up a Outernet signal and not increase the background noise level.