About this page
The following notes have been provided by Allan Riches of Brunei Bay Radio, Small Craft HF radio services. they were intended for people trying to get the software operational on their yachts. They are a more complete set of instructions than I have provided above and there will be some duplication as they are copied here unedited by me.
Download the (free) Viewfax software (or complete fax software - which is Viewfax and Getfax) from Jim Corenman's Mad Science Projects link on the downloads section of the SailMail website. If you want to receive weather faxes, the full (Viewfax & Getfax) version is designed to integrate with the AirMail software to control the radio frequencies from the software, if you have that feature working in AirMail.
Viewfax is the software used to read the (free) grib files you can request from Jim Corenman's (free) SailDocs service. These grib files display as a map of the requested region with isobars and wind speed/directions. It is created from the NOAA (the USA's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) database and within the one transmitted file you can request a series of "pictures" up to 5 days ahead. In effect you get weather faxes via SailMail without needing to worry about transmission times, propagation, activities on board, changing modem set up, urgent sail changes etc.
SailMail allows grib file attachments up to 10 kb; sufficient for most uses. The more future "pictures" you request and the larger the area, the bigger the file gets. If the file is larger than 10 kb the SailMail server removes it.
Get info about how to use and request grib files by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org No subject required. On separate lines in the message enter "send gribinfo" and "send gribnews" - without the parenthesis.
You need the latest version of Airmail (3.0.897 or later) to get the integration of both products (Airmail and Viewfax with/without Getfax) and to get the neat map feature to select the grib file area you need, and automatically create the request file to e-mail to SailDocs. You also get easy point and click display of the received grib file, direct from the received message in the AirMail in box; just open the message and click on the attached file icon.
Viewfax, or the full Weather Fax software (Viewfax with Getfax), must be installed into the same directory (folder) as AirMail.
Here are the steps I sorted out to get it to work:
1. Get both download files (ie: Airmail 3.0.897 or later, AND either Viewfax OR the complete Viewfax/Getfax) into your PC
2. Click on the AirMail (3.0.897 or later) download file to install it first. This is an upgrade file only, it won't destroy your existing e-mail address book etc. Install it into the default directory (folder) and accept all the defaults offered during the install process. Don't change anything so the software can't get confused (computers still can't think!).
3. Click on the Viewfax or Viewfax/Getfax download file to install it. Accept all the offered defaults so everything goes into the right place and it all integrates properly.
4. In the Airmail software, select Windows - Catalogs. Click (left mouse button twice) on the Catalog folder icon to expand it to Saildocs, and click (left mouse button twice) on that to expand it to Grib Files. Click (left mouse button once) on that folder and bingo, you get a map of the world. (Having done this expansion of folders/directories once, the system remembers, so next time you click on Windows - Catalogs, it immediately displays the map.)
5. Move the mouse pointer over the map. Press and hold the left button at the point you want to be the top-left corner of the area of land/sea you want the grib file to cover. Move the pointer across and down to the bottom right corner of the area. There will be a blue shaded box created to show you the area. (Repeat this process if you want to change the area.)
6. Look at the Grib Parameters section. Check the approx file size - make sure it's less than 10K so the file is not too big for SailMail. (The SailMail server will chop it off if over 10K.)
7. Look at the Request from Saildocs section. You can choose one only send, or set up a regular send. REMEMBER, the NOAA information base is MASSIVE and it takes up to 6 hours for the computers to recalculate the new database to create the predictions SailDocs sends. The source database is updated twice daily. So the new information gathered from around the world at the 0000 UTC update may not be processed and reliably available for SailDocs to access till about 0600 UTC. Similarly the new information gathered at the 1200 UTC update may not be reliably available till about 1800 UTC. If you request a grib file at say 0500 or 1700 you will get a picture based on old information. Best to request at about 0700 to 0800 and 1900 to 2000, to get updated predictions based on the latest information.
8. The standard grib file request from Saildocs includes the predicted isobars and wind speed/direction for 24 hours, and 48 hours, and 72 hours after the latest update (ie: either 0000 or 12000 utc). This gives a useful view into the future. BUT, the NOAA database may not include local storms (including localised tropical storms/cyclones/typhoons, or sudden fronts). So it's also important to access local storm warning information via some other method.
9. On some extremely uncommon occasions, the NOAA system has a problem and the data is not available, or not completely available.