A definite decision : Predictwind

..It is 100% guaranteed that we will be basing all of our communication hardware choices; Single Side Band, Sat Phone, Sat device,  Cell Phone…. on being able to best use Predictwind Offshore.

 

Many choose their hardware and then see which software applications perform with that device. But we are doing it in reverse order. We are choosing our software and then, and only then, buying the hardware we need to support it.

Our most recent in-depth comparisons of both Predictwind Offshore and every other weather product I could find on my Ipad and Android, has Predictwind Offshore coming out at the top. I spent way too much money and effort trying them all, but I needed to be sure.

There are certainly a lot of very pretty weather applications out there, but only if you have a strong internet connection. Whatever flavor you want, based on your own visual preferences, is on offer. I can not claim that Predictwind Offshore is the absolute prettiest or elegant out there, but for our needs as full time cruisers, on a limited budget, on a modest sailboat, sailing offshore frequently, “Predictwind Offshore” definitely offers the best option once we leave the coast and fast internet.

There are 5 characteristics a weather product needs to have to fulfill our requirements, and only Predictwind Offshore fulfills ALL 5 of these. These are:

1. Accessible from far out at sea…while on passages, away from internet for extended periods. Whether we choose the Iridium GO, the Iridium GLOW, Single Side Band/Pactor, a satellite phone or any other more expensive product, or just wifi/internet when we have it, PREDICTWIND will work, and work well.

2. Offers more than just 1 forecast model. GFS (Global Marine Forecast system) is a good model, and it’s offered by every weather software package out there because it’s free. But we want other good models too, even the ones that are not free. The ECMWF (European Center for Medium range Weather Forecasts) forecast model is the most important one to us, and probably the most respected and expensive for a weather software provider to offer.  Any weather forecasting product we use MUST have ECMWF, or we don’t want it. I think of this model, after experimenting with it for years, as the “worst case scenario” model. It often shows more wind or higher waves than what we actually get. And it’s almost never worse. GFS forecasts often show no indication of these extremes so many people ask why we bother paying for weather..it’s always wrong! Predictwind offers not only the GFS, and ECMWF forecasts, but  2 more models that are proprietary, based on a completely different algorithm that starts with current conditions, and then produces higher resolution, more accurate forecasts. All 4 of the Predictwind Forecast Models that Predictwind offers are a primary draw for us, and worth the price tag. Yes if you use only GFS forecasting products, you will wonder why the weather forecasts seems to be wrong so often! Get Predictwind Offshore with access to the forecast models that the pros use, spend time learning how to use the software and understand the models it provides, and weather will be accurate much more often.

3. We would like the weather to be accurate, with few exceptions, and for us to see the possibility of it being not on the mark. We can compare the 4 models that Predictwind Offshore provides, and if they all agree, we can be quite sure of the forecast. If they greatly differ, then we had better brace ourselves for unpredictable weather up ahead!

4.  Affordable. Predictwind Offshore is not the cheapest, but it is not the most expensive by far. Their Standard package at about $20 per month offers everything we need for the big Ocean passages we have ahead of us.  We will upgrade to the pricier Professional package when we need serious information about the Ocean currents, and even better resolution GRIBS, like right before a passage to Bermuda or around South Africa.

5. We can receive the weather forecasts on our laptop, on our Android devices or on our IPad….all while at sea…. Predictwind Offshore is a Multi-device application, giving us flexibility like we have never had before. We can view Predictwind on all of our devices in a beautiful graphic presentation. We can receive forecasts via Our SSB  radio/Pactor modem/laptop.

Predictwind Offshore! offers so many other features that are remarkable time savers, like Weather Routing, and Departure Planning. Describing them would require a whole separate blog.  This wealth of feature, along with fulfilling our 5 basic requirements are why we INSIST ON using Predictwind Offshore and building our hardware around it.

We have ruled out using a satellite phone. Airtime is way too expensive. Creating the necessary permanent installation of it is also too expensive. 

We no longer wish to wrestle with our SSB/Pactor setup because when we need weather reports, we need them now, and we need to be certain we can get them, and not leave it up the Propogation gods. SSB/Pactor will still be maintained, but demoted to being our backup system. 

The Communication Hardware we have decided on in the last few hours, but after much deliberation is the  Iridium GO!…a kind of satellite wifi hotspot. It is currently the only hardware offered for sale right on the Predictwind web site, signifying that it is the most obvious, well integrated choice to use with their software. Predictwind provides complete support for both their software and the GO! so there will be no fingerpointing at the other guy when something doesn’t work. The Iridium GO! offers so much more too. SV Totem has written one of the best blogs about its features at Sailing Totem.

The “Unlimited Data Plan” on the Iridium GO! is far less expensive than other satellite plans, but is still a bit pricey for us. It seems though to be the best way to go if you want no lack of information. There is so much to worry about on a passage…why worry about how much time you have left on your satellite phone to get your weather (and email, among other things)?  We will most definitely exercise the right of stopping and starting service as needed that Predictwind’s NO CONTRACT Iridium GO! data plans offer! 

Concluding all my research, our Iridium GO! order will be in the mail tomorrow!

I thought Public wifi was a thing of the past…Ancient History…

Boy was I wrong!

I can not even begin to tell you the tangle of wires and pile of contraptions that I have accumulated on this boat trying to get useable wifi signals in the last 10 years. I’ve done better than a lot of boats, but in the past 5 years I just assumed it was the lack of maintenance of the routers ashore, and the general infrastructure that supports wifi, that was toppling to extinction. I thought the world had converted to 3G and 4G cellular devices, and wifi was just a rusty relic in my bilge.

I asked friends all over the world if they were experiencing the same thing. And guess what, wifi is still alive and well, and improving all the time, the world over. There is no good reason to stop chasing the wifi signals because they are most often your least expensive option, not to mention your only hope of a signal at all. Some countries are even starting to limit who can have a SIM card, and it may not be as easy going forward, for cruisers to even obtain SIM cards!  I find that so hard to believe, but rather find out the hard way, I decided to get a good rig up, and the bad gear off the boat, once and for all.

I have a wifi hotspot with a SIM card in it. I am embarrassed to tell you how much money I lose when I go over my limit; money flies out of my wallet keeping this topped up.

Today arrived a Redport Halo Long Range Wifi Extender.

 

What a gorgeous piece of hardware! This morning, the only signal any of my devices could see, with my best rig up, was the marina’s wifi. It could not hold the signal long enough to actually bring up a page. There were 1-2 bars of signal strength.

Eager to start saving money, and approaching another plan end…I did a temporary install of this Extender,  and found it very easy to set up on our horizontal Bimini bar. Within 10 minutes, I had 25 signals showing. Now, the marina signal was not just useable, but lightening fast.

What’s nice about this device too, is that once I activate the built in firewall and service, I can be sure that my computer won’t do automatic updates, or that running background apps won’t suck down the data while I am attached to expensive wifi or  3G/4G data plans, never mind my Inmarsat satellite phone. I have all but decided to sell my Inmarsat Isatphone Pro since every time I have used that for data, I’ve run my data out before I’ve even gotten the weather or my emails while at sea.

If anyone wants a bundle of wifi devices, come’n get em…free for the taking. I will likely be replacing my Inmarsat IsatphonePro sat phone with an Iridium GO, so if anyone wants a good deal on a an Inmarsat Isatphone Pro, let me know that too. It has the latest firmware with it, and a data connection kit.

Yeah…I’ve always liked my gadgets!