Sailor praises weather reports via Navtex

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To the editor: Two winters ago, I voyaged from the United States to Grenada with an English couple who had a Navtex unit on their cutter, and in reference to a recent article on Navtex (Automatic weather service, Issue No. 122, May/June 2002), I found this simple device was a revelation.

We sailed past the Bahamas (down 65° west to the Virgin Islands), and on through the islands, "reading" the position of fronts and general synopsis broadcasts at our leisure, without having to endure static-filled SSB signals or wait and wait for voice transmissions. It was so great, when far at sea, to scroll through the display and select the category of transmission we wanted, at any time we wanted.

This past winter, sailing south on another boat, I convinced the U.S. owner to install one. He selected the (paperless-model) Furuno pictured on page 70 of the Navtex story. In the Exumas and later in the Turks and Caicos, fellow voyagers would come aboard to check out our unit — and get the weather!

Notwithstanding the range specs, we were never without a signal from somewhere, even with the little (mushroom) antenna installed low-down on the stern pulpit. At Providenciales, for example, we were receiving weather and emergency marine broadcasts 24 hours a day from Miami, Tortola and even the Netherlands Antilles.

Of the voyagers we met, Europeans more than likely had one, while North Americans tended to gravitate to SSB receivers and weatherfax; thus, the under-$400 Navtex system we had was a "new" thing, and visitors, frustrated with SSB reception, wondered why they'd not heard of Navtex previously.

Peter D. Brown is self-employed and lives in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

By Ocean Navigator