Author Archives: Jim Corenman

Getting Position-Report Data From Coastal Explorer

Position-report data for Sailmail can be shared from Coastal Explorer, a popular charting program from Rose Point Navigation. Coastal Explorer and our Airmail software can be running on the same computer or connected via a wired or WiFi network. Data can be made available by either creating a UDP port for sending data or a TCP “Data Server” to allow Airmail to connect and retrieve data.

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Getting Position-Report Data From Expedition

Position-report data for Sailmail can be obtained from Expedition, a popular program for ocean racing and cruising. Expedition can be running on the same computer, or connected via a wired or WiFi network. Data is shared by creating a new network connection in Expedition to send the data in NMEA-0183 format, and setting up Airmail’s Position Reports module to receive the data. Data can be sent either via TCP or UDP network connections, see below.

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Using Airmail’s Mail Client window

When internet access is available, you can use Airmail’s “Mail Client” window to connect to Sailmail to retrieve and send messages over a standard POP3/SMTP email connection. This is not useful for satellite or other low-speed connections, but is an alternative when shore-based internet is available (marina WiFi, cellular hotspot, etc).’

Open Airmail’s Mail Client window from the “Modules” menu. If you don’t see “Mail Client” listed, then open the “Options” window (“wrench” button or from Airmail’s Tools menu), select the “Modules” tab, and then check the box to the left of “Mail (pop/smtp) client”.

Options window showing Mail-Client setting

For Airmail 3.5, the Mail Client window will be pre-configured for Sailmail. Simply click the “Check All” button to check each account (“Sailmail” in this case) and send/receive email.

For earlier versions of Airmail you may need to add the settings for Sailmail. If there is a “Sailmail” tab at the top then click “Settings”, if not then click “New” and enter “Sailmail” as the account name. Enter the following settings:

For SMTP (Outgoing Mail (SMTP) Connection:

  • Server address: smtp.sailmail.com
  • Port 2525 (no SSL or TLS, see note below)
  • TImeout: normally 60 seconds
  • Authorization: check “Login”
  • Login Name: Your Sailmail callsign or ID (without the “@sailmail.com”)
  • Password: Your Sailmail Password (from your “Welcome” message)
  • The “Default from-address” will be your complete Sailmail address.

For POP3 (Incoming Mail) Connection:

  • Server address: pop3.sailmail.com
  • Port 110 (no SSL or TLS, see note below)
  • Timeout: normally 60 seconds
  • Login Name and Password, same as above
  • If you want messages to remain available on the server for radio or satellite download then check “Leave mail on server”. If “days” is blank then messages are held for up to 30 days, or until retrieved.
  • If you don’t want to download large messages then enter a limit (KB = 1024 bytes).

These settings will work also for other email clients, e.g. checking from GMail or Outlook accounts, etc. Sailmail now supports SSL/TLS and setup is straightforward.

A note on SSL/TLS: These terms refer to secure connections, SSL (Secure Socket Layer) generally refers to the earlier implementations (SSL 1.0, 2.0, 3.0). TLS (Transport Layer Security) refers to updated versions.

Sailmail’s mail server supports SSL ver 3.0 and TLS 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2. Servers and clients always negotiate the highest level that both sides understand. For SMTP, port 465 was previously SSL and 587 was TLS, but they are now interchangeable and either can be used. POP3 SSL/TLS connections use port 995. Future Airmail versions will show only the TLS option.

Note: SSL/TLS connections can be used with Airmail’s mail-client, for SMTP enter port 465 or 587 and check SSL (or TLS if available). For POP3, enter port 995 and check SSL (or TLS).

Troubleshooting Airmail 3.5 Internet settings

Sailmail Internet / Satellite gateway settings were updated in June 2020, click here for info. If you need help with Airmail 3.5 then this page is for you, for Airmail 3.4 either update to ver 3.5 (strongly recommended for satellite use) or see this page.

This only applies to satellite or Internet connections using Airmail’s internet/satellite (Telnet) access window. Radio connections, webmail, and pop/smtp email are not affected.

If you have internet access then the best option is to update your Airmail ver 3.5 version, downloads since May 22, 2020 include the new gateway addresses. If you downloaded before then, then do it again– same software, new internet gateway settings.

If that is not possible then the rest of this is for you. It is organized from simplest to more complicated, keep going until success is achieved.

Airmail 3.5 will auto-update its internet settings from a special “update” message which was sent to all members, so if you received an update message into Airmail and clicked “Yes” to confirm the update, then you are finished. Skip down to “Checking” below.

If you can connect to Sailmail from Airmail via radio or Airmail’s internet window (not webmail or some other email), but have NOT seen an “update” message, then:

  1. Create a new, blank message to: satgates@saildocs.com and post that via Sailmail.
  2. Connect to Sailmail and send the message, wait a moment, connect again for the reply.
  3. Open that message, and click “Yes” to accept the update.
  4. Skip down to “Checking” below.

If you cannot connect to Sailmail via Airmail’s internet window, then try each server listed in the selection box at the top, next to the green “Connect” button. One of the backups should connect, then proceed as above.

If you CANNOT connect via radio or any of the servers from Airmail’s internet window, but you DO have internet access to Airmail, then use Airmai’s Mail Client window to send your update message to satgates@saildocs.com. For details on using Airmail’s Mail Client, click here.

If STILL no luck, and you don’t have internet access to update Sailmail (never mind that you are somehow reading this), then do this:

  1. Click Airmail’s “Window” menu, then “Files”, then “INI files”, and select “System.SAILMAIL.ini”. This opens the Sailmail settings file.
  2. This is a settings file, with various sections each marked with a square-bracket heading. Scroll down and find the “[Internet Gateway]” heading.
  3. Below that heading, and before the next square-bracket heading, is a section of server settings. Delete those, and replace the [Internet Gateway] section with the following:
... some other section data...
[Internet Gateway]
Server1=SMSG1,18.208.67.17,50
Server2=SMSG2,44.232.19.175,50
Backup1=WQAB964,174.67.172.21,50
... the next section heading ...

Click “File” Menu, Save (or Ctrl + S keys), then close and re-open the internet window and check as follows:

To check settings:

The new gateways are designated Server1 (SMSG1) and Server2 (SMSG2), and the backup is Backup1 (WQAB964, our San Diego station). To check, open Airmail’s Internet window and select each server “Server1”, “Server2”, and “Backup1” in turn and confirm that each connects. “Server1” should identify itself as “SMSG1” in the log text, check that for each.

Troubleshooting Airmail 3.4 Internet settings

Sailmail Internet / Satellite gateway settings were updated in June 2020, click here for info. If you need help with Airmail 3.4 then this page is for you, for Airmail 3.5 click here.

Note that this only applies to satellite or Internet connections using Airmail’s internet/satellite (Telnet) access window. Radio connections, webmail, and pop/smtp email are not affected.

If you have internet access then the best option is to update to Airmail ver 3.5. Airmail 3.5 downloads since May 22, 2020 include the new gateway addresses. If you downloaded previous to that, then do it again– same software, new internet gateway settings. (NOTE: The older Airmail 3.4 download is NOT updated– use ver 3.5).

An important note for sat-phone users: Airmail 3.5 includes a “dedicated route” feature for connecting via satellite, which limits access to Sailmail servers when the connection is open. This means much faster connections because other programs will be blocked from using your satellite connection for automatic updates. This is a huge advantage in terms of airtime usage. This is not available for Airmail 3.4, so if at all possible update to Airmail 3.5.

If updating is not possible, or if you prefer to stick with ver 3.4, then the rest of this is for you:

The default configuration for Airmail 3.4 uses domain names for the server (for example pop3.sailmail.com), which do not need updating. Open Airmail’s Internet Access window (yellow “lightning-bolt” button), and check the server selections– default is WRD719 and WHV382. Select WRD719 and click “settings”, if the server is “pop3.sailmail.com” then you are all set.

If you see a numeric IP address for “Remote host”, then you can either update the settings as detailed below or delete the current settings and re-open the Internet Access window– which will restore the default settings.

To manually update settings: Open Airmail’s Internet window (yellow “lightning bolt” button) and at the top, will be a selection-box for the available servers. Click the “Delete” button to delete each current setting.

Now click the “New” button, this opens a “Telnet settings” box. Make entries as follows (without the quotes):

  1. The first box is “Remote Callsign”, enter “SMSG1”
  2. The second box is “Remote-Host” enter “18.208.67.17”
  3. Next is “Port”, enter “50”
  4. Leave “Timeout (sec)” empty
  5. The “Local Callsign” will show your Sailmail callsign in a gray box– from the Options window.
  6. The “Password” box will show your Sailmail password– also from the Options window.

Click OK, and then click “New” again, and repeat those steps for the second server:
For Remote Callsign enter “SMSG2”, for Remote-Host enter “44.232.19.175”, for Port enter “50”.

Click OK, and then click “New” again, and repeat for the backup server:
For Remote Callsign enter “WQAB964”, for Remote-Host enter “174.67.172.21”, for Port enter “50”.

Click OK, and you’re done. If you have internet connected to the boat computer (marina wifi, cell-phone hotspot, or via the Iridium) then check each of the selections. Click the green “connect” button, it should connect to the server and check mail without any error.

Also please open Airmail’s Options window (Tools menu), Settings tab, and verify that your Sailmail password is correctly entered in the “System Password” box.

Then select each server in turn (SMSG1, SNSG2, and the backup WQAB964, click the green “Connect” button and verify that is connects without error. This can be via local internet, or your satphone or GO terminal– any internet connection.

If you have any questions, please send a new message to: support@sailmail.com

Good Sailing, and be safe!

Troubleshooting Internet / Satellite gateway settings

Of the various ways to connect to Sailmail via the internet, using Airmail’s satellite access (internet/telnet window) is by far the most efficient. It is ideal for satellite connections as well as “challenging” marina wifi connections as it supports the same compression, error-checking, and resume functions used for radio connections. This connection also uses static-IP addresses for the gateway connections for speed and security.

The only drawback is that addresses change when we move, and we recently (May-June 2020) upgraded our main servers which changed the IP addresses. We have established separate gateway servers (also with static IP addresses), and posted notices on the old servers and sent update notes to all members.

This only applies to satellite or Internet connections using Airmail’s internet/satellite (Telnet) access window. Radio connections, webmail, and pop/smtp email are not affected.

If you missed it, here is what to do:

  • If you have internet access, click here to go to our download page for Airmail software for Sailmail. Download and install version 3.5 (either the regular release or beta), that will also update your Airmail software and also update the gateway settings (for downloads since May 22, 2020). Do this, if possible, even if you already have Airmail ver 3.5, because it will update the internet settings.
  • If you don’t have internet, or don’t want to update Airmail at this time, then check which version of Airmail software you currently have: Click on the “Help” menu, then select “About”.
    • If you currently have Airmail version 3.5 installed (and downloaded prior to May 22) then click here for the Airmail 3.5 notes.
    • If you currently have Airmail version 3.4 installed then click here for the Airmail 3.4 notes.

And if you just want to check it, then open Airmail’s Internet/satellite window (yellow “lightning bolt” button, select “Server1”, and click the green connect button. It should connect and identify as “SMSG1” (Sailmail SateGate-1). Then select “Server2”, and connect- it should identify as “SMSG2”, and “Backup1” should identify as “WQAB964” (our San Diego station masquerading as a backup gateway). There may be additional entries, ignore those.

Using SailMail’s Satellite Gateways

There are many ways to connect to SailMail to to send and receive messages. For satellite and other low-speed internet connections, connect via the Satellite Gateways using our Airmail software. Formerly called Telnet servers, these are optimized for low-speed and/or expensive connections and use compression and error-checking for reliability and efficiency.

Current versions of Airmail will be pre-configured for gateway access, although previous downloads may need updating– see below.

Connecting is simple: Open Airmail’s internet gateway window (yellow lightning-bolt button) and click the green “connect” button. There are selections for which server, and some settings at the bottom for satellite connections, but it’s just about that simple. If you have internet access (marina WiFi, hotspot, etc) Airmail will connect, login and secure the connection, and send and receive all pending messages.

A couple of other things to note: You can set a max limit on message size, and larger messages will be held on the servers until you either increase the limit or right-click on the message in Airmail’s index and select it to be downloaded. This is useful for large messages on slow connections, which can wait until later.

You can also check the “check every XX minutes” box and Airmail will automatically check for mail (whenever it is running of course). Use this with great caution with metered (per-minute airtime) connections.

And see these pages for information on setting up satellite connections:

Settings: For Airmail ver 3.5 or later, you can update the gateway servers (and radio stations) at any time by sending a (blank) email to: stations@saildocs.com — the reply message contains a coded server/station list which will update Airmail settings.

Internet settings for satellite connections were updated in June 2020, for more info on settings or to troubleshoot a connection problem click here for the Internet troubleshooting page.

Using the Icom M803 with Sailmail

Icom’s new M803 Marine SSB Radio began shipping in early 2020 and is a terrific radio for use with Sailmail. It supports the latest DSC standard, incorporates Icom’s latest SDR radio designs, and also includes GPS (internal or external) and provides that data for position reporting. Any of the SCS modems are supported.

Connection is similar to Icom’s previous marine radios, with audio and control cables commecting radio to modem: One for the audio signals and a second cable for radio frequency control. While the M803 has the same “ACC” connector as the earlier M802 and M710/700pro radios, it is not compatible and a different cable is needed for the AF/MOD connector. Here are the details:

Modems: Any of the SCS Pactor modems including the DR-7400 or DR-7800 Pactor-4 modems, the PTC-IIIusb Pactor-2 modem, and any of the earlier PTC-II modem-series.

Cables: The audio cable is Farallon #9098 (2M, or 9099 for 4M). This is a new cable for the M803 (details below). Connect this from the modem’s “Audio” (“Main Audio” for the DR-7800) to the radio’s “AF/MOD” connector and plug the 8-pin DIN plug into the radio’s “ACC” connector (for 12V power).  The 9090 cable used on most Icom radios for the “ACC” connector cannot be used. The audio level settings should be 900/1200 for FSK/PSK respectively. Airmail’s “autoset” function has been updated and works well for the M803.

Frequency Control: The radio’s “REMOTE” frequency-control connection is via a standard RS232 serial port and can be connected to the modem with a Farallon #8083 cable (2M, or 8084 for 4M). Connect this from the modems “Control” connector to the radio’s “REMOTE” connector. Alternately use a standard serial cable from a computer serial port (or USB/serial adapter) to the radio’s REMOTE port (9-pin male-female). The M803’s Remote-ID is 20, and the baud rate is 4800 (avoid the higher rates).

Ferrites: It is important (with any radio installation!) that ferrite chokes be installed at each end of both cables from the modem to radio, and also at both ends of the USB cable from computer to modem (does not apply with a bluetooth connection). The ferrites should be located near each end, use a small cable-tie to prevent them from sliding down the cable. It is also a good idea to add a cable-tie around the ferrite itself to make sure it stays closed. The recommended ferrites are Type-31 material from Fair-Rite.

Modem setup: The only setup required is for a PTC-IIIusb/DR-7400/DR-7800, if you want it to power-on with the radio (and of course you do): Set Dip Switch #1 on the back of the modem to the DOWN position to power on automatically when the radio is powered on. 

Radio settings: Check the following settings in the radio’s setup menu. To change a setting press the radio’s MENU button , then use the arrows or the big knob select the setting and press the “enter” (ENT) key, then repeat for each sub-menu:

  • MENU > Configuration > Remote > Interface: Select RS-232C. Leave baud rate set to 4800 bps. Verify that MOD is set to AF/MOD.
  • MENU > Configuration > GPS > Internal GPS: Verify GPS, GLONASS and SBAS are set to On if using the external GPS antenna (see below).  
  • MENU > Configuration > GPS > External GPS: If an external GPS is connected via the BNC connector then verify the baud rate: 4800 for most connected GPS receivers, 38400 for a connected AIS receiver.
  • MENU > Radio Settings > Auto Tune: Select ON (assuming the AT-140 Icom auto-tuner is used). 

Other notes: The M803 has a Noise Reduction feature (under Radio Settings menu), it is recommended to leave this off for radio email– the modem has its own digital signal processing. Similarly leave the NB Level (noise-blanker) setting at minimum, and leave the RF-Gain setting set to max (9). Also use high TX-power mode (soft-key menu)– reducing transmit power will slow the connection.

Position Reporting: The M803 needs to be connected to a GPS in order for the DSC distress function to work– either using the radio’s internal GPS with a connected antenna, or (same as the M802) via the GPS-Data BNC connector from an external GPS. Where the M802 kept this data to itself, the M803 transmits the GPS data (from either source) via the REMOTE connector to the computer where Airmail (ver 3.5.054 or later) will pick it up.

What this means is that once GPS is connected to the radio for DSC, Airmail can update your lat-lon whenever Terminal window is opened, and Position Reports are updated automatically. Multiple formats are available including MarineTraffic to continue your AIS track offshore, CruisersCafe for Yotreps-style updates, and Sailblogs for a comprehensive tracking/blogging site.

 

PredictWind Weather via Sailmail

The PredictWind weather service is popular with offshore sailors, and with a paid PredictWind subscription  weather forecasts and routing can be requested via email including access via Sailmail. Our Airmail software version 3.5.054 onward (from January 2020) streamlines access, but any older version can also provide simple access to PredictWind forecasts. Any method of connection can be used: SSB radio, Iridium or Inmarsat handsets or terminals including the Iridium GO.

The first step is to create an account on the PredictWind website, http://PredictWind.com. A free account can be used to access basic weather via the web, but a paid account is required to request weather via email (or direct with the Iridium GO).  Then download and install the PredictWind Offshore app, this is used to both request and display weather data.

Then read the how-to info in the Offshore help menu or on the PredictWind website to set your waypoints, adjust the grib area and request files. Pay attention to file size, large files are fine via wired or WiFi internet but small files are needed via satellite or radio. And while an unlimited data plan for the Iridium GO avoids unexpected airtime charges, the connection is still pretty slow.

Practice with Offshore via a WiFI connection. Adjust waypoints and the grib area as needed, click “Download” and make the desired selections , then select “Web” and click “Download All”. This will fetch weather directly via the web, great for planning but useless at sea.

To access PredictWind via Sailmail, first create a folder (if not already done) for exchanging requests and data. Do this by opening Windows Explorer, open the “Documents” folder and create a folder called “PredictWind”. Airmail (from ver 3.5.054) will find this and use it automatically.

To send a request via Sailmail, proceed as above except select “Email” instead of “Web”. Click “Save File” and save the “EmailRequest.pwr” file in the “PredictWind” folder under Documents.

Airmail 3.5.054 automatically creates an outgoing message with the request-file attached. Connect to Sailmail to send the request, wait a few minutes and connect again to retrieve the reply files, which will be saved into the same PredictWind folder. Now go back to Offshore and use the File menu to open the files.  Sort by date (click the “Date” column in the file-open box), and select the files that were just retrieved– a “pwu” file and one or more “grb” files. Offshore will show a wind graph, click “Map” to see the grib display.

For earlier Airmail versions, create an address-book entry for “PredictWind” with an address of offshore@predictwind.com. Use this to create a new outgoing message, and then attach the request file using Airmail’s “File” menu and “Attach FIle”. in the file-open box, open the PredictWind folder under “Documents” and select “EmailRequest.pwr”. Connect to Sailmail to send the request, wait a few minutes and connect again to retrieve the reply files. Then open each reply message and copy the attached file to the PredictWind folder under Documents. Then open them from Offshore’s File menu as above.

PW gribs are standard grib files and can be viewed with any viewer including our Viewfax software, and likewise grib-files from our Saildocs server or other sources can be opened and displayed in PW Offshore.

And again,  pay attention to file size. Large files are terrific  for planning when you have wired or WiFi internet, but offshore communications are slow (and expensive for satellite airtime), so small files are needed via satellite or radio.

And remember that if you are using PredictWind from a phone or tablet, you can also access Sailmail via that phone or tablet using your PC as an onboard mailserver with Airmail’s MailServer function.