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At the 2009 Southampton Boat Show, I explored the possibility of getting an Iridium phone. The economics are beginning to get quite interesting! But not yet. However, the same company offer through Mailasail an SMS  weather service that is truly amazing.

If I download a week’s weather from most sites, it requires at least 1Mb of data.

By sending a brief message to to Mailasail, I get nearly the same quality for a few kilobytes. The compression algorithms must be extremely efficient.

If you click here, you can find the details for yourself

I had some fascinating email conversations with Frank Singleton. Exploring the links that Frank gave  in that discussion is extremely interesting. Clearly there are many options for getting weather over the Internet, even using a mobile phone when roaming(!), and it is not easy to decide on the best combination. So to start another discussion going, here is what I did…

After a weekend of experimenting, I have had some success with getting grib weather maps over the internet using mobile phone and no browser (which automatically downloads a lot of information you do not need).

Frank Singleton's information is invaluable, and it has enabled me to think out a pattern of that suits my usage. It may be of interest to others.

1: I am keeping my main email account as gmail, and will only use this when I have wifi access. This account is run as webmail (so gmail handles all the email storage)

It is normally accessed via a browser.

Mailasail grib responder

Go for it!  >>


Frank Singleton’s website


Go for it!  >>

2: I have created a new gmail account that is managed using Outlook (and therefore does not need a browser). I will also give this email address to close friends and family.

This can be updated cost effectively using either a wifi connection or by using the mobile phone as a gprs modem. grib files or weather charts can then be displayed on the computer using my navigational software (Digiboat Software on Board) or any picture viewer.

3: Frank also identified some smart phone applications that are under development. I have tested the Passage Weather application on my Android phone (I like their main site, but it is too complex over a mobile phone). They have simplified the procedures, and it is easy to use. The great points are (a) it is worldwide in coverage and (b) it includes wave height and direction forecasts.

4: For cartography I have also loaded the Navionics app to my Android phone giving me full chart coverage for UK, Ireland and N France. Using this is the quickest way to get tidal height and tidal stream data for time now and in the future. (e.g. answer the question "When will the tide turn in my favour at Hurst next Saturday")

The net result is that I have sufficient access to weather and navigational information on the phone for quick access and lookup. Only if I need to keep a weather map for inclusion in a Log, or for later reference, do I need to download to the computer.

On my next cruise I expect to set up a repeat grib menu from Saildocs, but I shall probably use Mailasail for weather maps because they have a useful and simple selection. (see attached document) I like them because (as Frank recommends) they have had some human intervention and the fronts have been drawn on. Frank also gives some access to filenames that could be used to get weather charts showing fronts etc. Interestingly, the filenames he gives as .png files are identical (it seems) to those listed in the Mailasail help file. Maybe I will try Saildocs using those filenames.…

(To get the full menu of weather charts from mailsail send an email to weather [at] mailasail [dot] com with the words help-graphic in the subject box. For more general help just send a blank email to weather [at] mailasail [dot] com)

Saildocs weather service

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