TECHNIQUE So you download SSB weather with a little radio and an offline app!


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After the first installment on how to cheaply defeat humidity on board, the second on the dangers of do-it-yourself stoves, the third on the fears of the inexperienced crew, our column continues, dedicated to you who, like me, have always had the dream of living on board. In addition to the many tips and seafaring culture found in the literature (even the Journal of Sailing has made its contribution with the manual Living on Board), we want to cover an extremely useful topic today: Receive marine weather reports in text format with only a small radio and a smartphone (no Internet!).

Shortwave radio, queen of maritime links

Unlike VHF, shortwave radio, or HF-SSB (High Frequency, Single Side Band) is the queen of maritime links, the favorite of the shipboard mariner. The shortwave range, up to 30MHz, can be hundreds of miles. SSB shortwave radio is almost always installed on board by ocean navigators.

What you need: Radio with SSB button and DroidRTTY

You need a portable shortwave radio that has an SSB button. Four models are on the market today, the Tecsun PL660, used for this article, Tecsun PL880, the Sangean AT-909X, and the Sony ICF-SW7600GR. Prices range from about 150 to 250 euros. No licensing required; these are receive-only devices. Costs are minimal compared to dedicated equipment.

The app to install on your Android smartphone is DroidRTTY, (about 5 euros), you can find it here:

Marine weather reports in RTTY text.

Transmitted with the very old (circa 1850) teletype technology, RTTY (Radio-TeleTYpe). For European seafarers, the broadcaster of choice is DWD (Deutscher WetterDienst), which broadcasts forecasts from Pinneberg, near Hamburg, for the Mediterranean, Atlantic coast, seas in the north, Baltic and Black, and tide buoy readings.

The detailed schedule with times in UTC, can be downloaded as a pdf here:

How it works: No wires, a chirp and the bulletin text appears!

Just tune the radio to a frequency of DWD: (4583kHz, 7646kHz, 10100.8kHz) and press the SSB-USB (upper side band) button. You will hear the ‘unmistakable chirping of the teletypewriter. Without connecting cables, you bring the smartphone closer to the radio. Through the phone’s microphone, the DroidRTTY application decodes the signal. The text of the bulletin appears character by character.

WeatherFax and NavText

2 other similar apps, DroidNavTex and HF-Weather decode NavTex bulletins as well as WeatherFAX with weather maps….and maps with ice thickness in the Baltic Sea! Navtex works in medium waves, worldwide always on 490kHz and 518kHz. In the image below, example of Frontal Analysis transmitted for mariners on shortwave with fax radio technology on 8040kHz from the Fleet Weather and Oceanographic center in NorthWood, England.

Meteomar receivable at great distances

Voice weather bulletins and notices to mariners are also transmitted on shortwave, preceded by call on international distress frequency 2182kHz. The frequencies of major Italian coastal radio stations are in kHz, Genoa 2642, Rome 1888, Cagliari 2680, Naples 2632, Palermo 1852, Trieste 2624, Ancona 2656, Augusta 2628, Lampedusa 1876. The complete list of “Radio Services for Navigation” can be found in the Navy Hydrographic Institute’s official publication of the same name:

Voices and sounds on board from around the world in an app

Finally, the shortwave radio will navigate you through a sea of sounds and voices from around the world. A complete catalog of all world frequencies is downloaded with the free Skywave Schedule app:

Luigi Gallerani

P.S.: Don’t feel like reading? Don’t panic! In this video I explain everything in detail:


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