2014 © Graham Rabbitts [You are welcome to use original material from this site, but the source should be acknowledged]
Although weatherfax lacks colour, its great advantage is that it is very authoritative, and is available wherever there is SSB reception. We were able to get weather maps this way even in remote anchorages in Scotland where there was no mobile phone signal and certainly no chance of getting a newspaper or met report from a harbour or marina. Indeed, at times we could not even receive VHF weather forecasts, but could still get weatherfax. The service is world wide. And free.
Moreover, as Frank Singleton points out, there is some human intervention and additional information, such as the position of fronts has been added.
A small SSB receiver using the backstay (without insulators) will work, feeding to weather software on a laptop computer. It does not require an SSB licence. It is only when you want to transmit that full SSB certification, and big insulated aerials are required. In Europe this will usually receive good quality images from Northwood in England, or the Offenbach service from Germany.
We have SSB radio and weatherfax on True in New Zealand. So I went on the SSB Licence course, and we now run Mscan Meteo software, coupled with HF-
This capability will be important when we go to Fiji (though using MailaSail, weather maps via an Iridium satellite phone may be affordable. All is under review!)
We had a working weatherfax system on Ariadne, and it proved invaluable in Scotland when no other weather information was available. But in 2008, it failed completely, probably because the excellent Bonito software I was using was nudged to a higher port number than it could handle on the computer by the AIS and NMEA inputs to the computer. I could not get it to work, and it was frustrating. It is less necessary for European coastal passage making.
Unfortunately, I have upgraded my navigation computer to Windows 7 which is not supported by my ICOM PCR1000 SSB receiver, so reinstatement of weatherfax on Ariadne is on hold for the time being.