It hasn’t been really necessary on my last trip, being mostly within range of VHF weather forecasts, but getting offshore weather via HF WeatherFax has intrigued me.
If you’re carrying a notebook computer anyway, the only thing you need is an HF receiver with SSB (Single-Side Band) capability. Most people think megabucks when they hear “HF” and “SSB”, but a very inexpensive receiver will actually do the job. I bought a Degen DE1103 off E-Bay. You simply connect the output from the receiver to your notebook’s microphone input and then use one of the available software packages to decode the fax data received on the appropriate frequency at the given time! I use SEATTY from DXsoft, an amazing piece of software that literally does everything for you!
I was amazed at the ability of the little Degen DE1103 receiver (read some reviews here). Even at home, with the supplied 12 metre long wire antenna strung among trees, I can usually get quite clear fax reception. Out at Curlew Island one night, I strung the wire antenna from the forestay to the backstay, and found the receiver was overloaded with the sensitivity switched to “DX”. On “LO” I had perfect reception!