Elec­tron­ics

A Sir­iusXM Ma­rine Weather re­ceiver is easy to in­stall, easy to use, and hand­ier than a boathook dur­ing a dicey dock­ing.

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Capt. Bill Pike

Capt Bill Pike’s take on in­stalling Sir­iusXM Ma­rine Weather and us­ing the fore­cast­ing sys­tem like a pro.

Sev­eral years ago, I was part of a three-man de­liv­ery crew tasked with tak­ing a 42-foot trawler from Ft. Laud­erdale to St. Thomas in the Vir­gin Is­lands. The trip be­gan in early Novem­ber, stretched on for days and co­in­cided with the ap­pear­ance of a hur­ri­cane in the cen­tral Caribbean that pro­ceeded west (in­stead of east, the typ­i­cal di­rec­tion of cy­clonic storms in the north­ern hemi­sphere), a con­fus­ing sort of be­hav­ior that earned it the nick­name “Wrong Way Lenny.”

Lenny was bad—so bad that the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­ga­ni­za­tion ul­ti­mately de­cided, in def­er­ence to the hor­rific dam­ages the storm caused, never to ap­ply its name to a hur­ri­cane in the At­lantic Ocean again.

But here’s the deal. Through­out much of our de­liv­ery to St. Thomas, as Lenny’s long-range ef­fects wors­ened all around us, we had vir­tu­ally no weather in­for­ma­tion to use for rout­ing. No sin­gle-side­band ra­dio. No cell­phone re­cep­tion. And no VHF ma­rine weather broad­casts. In essence, we wound up fly­ing dan­ger­ously blind, be­yond the range of all me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal help.

This taught me two in­deli­ble lessons. First, weather in­for­ma­tion is ex­is­ten­tially im­por­tant when you sus­pect a storm is close but don’t know its ex­act po­si­tion and di­rec­tion. And sec­ond, the weather info we take for granted ashore—from smart­phones, tablets, hotspots and VHF ra­dios—is of­ten sur­pris­ingly ab­sent on open wa­ter. Wi-Fi sig­nals fade be­tween five and 10 nau­ti­cal miles out. And VHF and cell sig­nals can do the same within a few short miles as well, de­pend­ing upon an­tenna heights and other specifics.

The Satel­lite So­lu­tion

Modern satel­lite tech­nol­ogy is a dif­fer­ent story, how­ever. Al- though of­ten pricier than the other types of con­nec­tiv­ity I’ve just men­tioned, it seems to work re­li­ably just about any­where in the world. And be­cause Sir­iusXM Ma­rine Weather is satel­lite-based it’s a game changer with re­spect to range. In­deed, all four ver­sions of the ser­vice—from Garmin, Ray­ma­rine, Fu­runo and Nav­ico (Sim­rad, Lowrance and B&G)—ex­tend their sig­nals, ac­cord­ing to Sir­ius, to all of con­ti­nen­tal North Amer­ica as well as hun­dreds of miles into the At­lantic and Pa­cific oceans, the Gulf of Mex­ico and Caribbean Sea.

Of course, the de­liv­ery trip to St. Thomas was on my mind when I re­cently in­stalled a GXM53 mod­ule, Garmin’s satel­lite re­ceiver for the Sir­ius sys­tem, on the Betty Jane II. Had we had such a nifty piece of elec­tron­ics linked to a plot­ter on­board that 42-footer long ago, stress would have been im­mea­sur­ably re­duced and rout­ing fa­cil­i­tated.

The unit’s in­stall was ba­si­cally plug-and-play. I sim­ply used a cou­ple of screws to mount the mod­ule in­side a cab­i­net near the lower helm, in­stalled the an­tenna at the rear of the cock­pit (where a full view of the sky would be avail­able), and ran three ca­bles—one to my Garmin 742xs plot­ter, one to a fuse block un­der the helm sta­tion (for 12-volt power) and one to the an­tenna. I ig­nored a fourth ca­ble that would have fed a Sir­ius ra­dio sig­nal to my al­ready-Sir­ius-en­abled Clar­ion stereo. Un­nec­es­sary.

The fi­nan­cials in­volved? The Garmin GXM53 costs about $800 and the Sir­ius “Off­shore” sub­scrip­tion I chose costs $54.99 per month, al­though in the fu­ture I will likely go with the more pop­u­lar “Coastal” pro­gram, for $29.99 per month, which ex­cludes sea-sur­face tem­per­a­ture data and ex­tended wind and wave fore­casts fa­vored by hard­core off­shore fish­er­men. I will also ab­jure the third, “In­land” op­tion, which costs $12.99 per

Sir­iusXM weather changed the way Capt. Pike plans a cruise. Catch his full video review at pmy­mag.com.

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