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Old 05-09-2014, 06:33 PM   #1
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Default Ham radio options

I'm looking at adding a Ham radio to Southwinds electronic package. Any information, opinions, comments on current equipment availability would be welcome. I'm currently in San Francisco Bay but plan to head south in a few months. Long distance communication, e-mail, weather info etc. are my interests here.
Thanks for any help.
Al
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Old 05-11-2014, 07:05 AM   #2
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We bought our radio from Ham Radio Outlet in San Diego. They have many stores in different places in the US. They can also educate you about your options in a very nice manner. Link here Locations for the Oakland CA store. There prices are good, btw.

We did buy our SSB Pactor modem (for email) online though they may have them a HRO.

I can't really recommend a particular radio because we bought one that my husband really wanted and it was not a typical marine radio that most have aboard.

Good luck!
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Old 06-06-2014, 05:14 AM   #3
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I do hope that you are fully licensed if you need to transmit.
Getting a license is not that difficult and there are many avenues of help.
I would suggest finding out which modes and frequencies are mainly used by boating enthusiasts. This may determine what type of equipment you should purchase.
You might want to subscribe to "QST", the official publication of the American Radio Relay League, since it has valuable information regarding licensing and many ads for equipment, as well as equipment reviews.

David
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Old 06-06-2014, 05:59 AM   #4
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Ham radios are installed on many cruising boats and given the habits of cruising sailors to seek adventure in far away places, it is difficult to imagine any life saving apparatus would be used without the requisite knowledge and permissions.

Ham operators on offshore boats probably have a more serious application for the equipment than their land based peers. Many boats (mine included) now carry satellite phones and more will follow as calling prices continue to drop. Add to this the development of real time, inexpensive text only communicators which work in every corner of the world, are hand held and the size of a mobile phone; and modern alternatives to HAM, would appear almost irresistible.

It would be interesting to know what percentage of boats carry ham sets. Almost all will have digital SSB and DSC capable VHF.

Given the relaxing of the licensing requirements of the past few years, it is nice to think HAM may regain its once coveted communications foothold. However, in reality, I think it is destined to go the way of the sextant and the horse whip.

Our cruising Wiki (link on the page header) contains some information on HAM (http://www.cruiserswiki.org/wiki/Ham_Radio) and we are always seeking updates and new information from those in the know. Please look at this page and if you see an area where you are able to contribute, we will be forever in your debt.
Thanks
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Old 06-07-2014, 07:55 PM   #5
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That's all well and good, however in dire emergencies, where there is limited power available, the ability to use rudimentary Morse code to send a distress signal and possible coordinates, may well save lives. Also, for those that my have limited funds, Amateur radio equipment is far less expensive than satellite phones!
It is comforting to know that so many options are available, and it would be prudent to take advantage of any option that may help save lives.

David
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Old 06-08-2014, 01:49 AM   #6
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I understand, and I would never underestimate the value of older, well established technology (as I have mentioned, I still carry a sextant).

However, It is mandatory for all vessels operating in anything but inshore protected waterways, to be carrying at least one licensed 406mghz EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) which interfaces with Cospas-Sarsat, a dedicated satellite listening system which is internationally monitored, 24 hours a day.

These use independent power and are the ultimate distress communication device. Many sailors also use personal EPIRBs (Known as PLBs or Personal Locator Beacons) which will activate if they are thrown overboard.

However, there is always a case for redundancy and having an effective set of distress communications strategies, along with the relevant equipment, is prudent. The most simple (and ancient) is the heliograph or signal mirror which is still a requirement of Cat 1 onboard safety equipment. Next are flares which all boats must carry by law. The number and type is determined by the boat's length and intended use.

Next is the VHF radio, most of which these days are equipped with DSC (Digital Selective Calling) for use in emergencies. Obviously range is limited by the height of the aerial and most are equipped with a dual power output of 1w and 25w.

Next is the HF/SSB. Most vessels use an insulated backstay as an aerial, but many carry deck mounted whips in case of a dismasting, which would render the backstay aerial useless. I assume where a HAM set is fitted, or where the fitted HF has amateur band frequencies installed, these same aerials could be used for the HAM setup. Digital external aerial tuners I imagine would require little adaptation save perhaps for a routing switch where the head unit was not an integrated SSB/HAM device.

Following this are the new satellite communicators and satellite telephones, which, as with mobile or cell phones are largely dependent upon paid subscription. However, most satellite phones (as with cells) have a capacity for free-of-charge emergency communication when peril threatens. I am not sure whether this communicates with a person or a computer, and I am quite sure that radio location is not guaranteed.

Given the available options, it could be argued that HAM (which was never required to be fitted to voyaging boats) is of no particular benefit over newer technology. Having said that, I note that many sailors still have HAM sets fitted and are understandably very protective of them and their purpose as a means of low cost communication with like minded souls both on the water and ashore.

Radio protocol at sea requires a period of quiet of three minutes at the half hour and hour, during which time operators who are underway must maintain a listening watch on VHF 16, and/or HF 2182 (International marine distress frequency). I wonder if there is a similar monitoring requirement for HAM operators.

There is a vibrant floating HAM community, albeit on older vessels, and it is one of those links to a time which is disappearing, but which nonetheless is important. Enthusiasts such as yourself will ensure the skills are maintained, and that has to be a good thing.

It is interesting to note also the importance of the Titanic sinking to voyaging boats. This event led to the SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) convention which is regularly updated to incorporate changing technology. On most small boats, the provisions mostly deal with PFDs, liferafts, lifebuoys etc, but it makes for interesting reading. http://www.imo.org/About/Conventions...AS),-1974.aspx

It is due to these conventions which makes sailors such a bunch of safety freaks. That and the fact that if we weren't, our Mums would not be happy.
Cheers.
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Old 06-08-2014, 04:55 AM   #7
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Default Hi Tech

Thanks for all the in-depth information.
It is interesting to follow the developments in technology.
It is also noteworthy that many of the new modes of operation were developed by Hams!
Unfortunately, there are certain conditions where the advanced technology fails, such as solar flares, magnetic pulses, etc.
If you look at the major disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis,
super storms, etc., the only means of communication has been by amateur radio operators. When the World Trade towers went down,
almost all cell phone traffic ceased and emergency services lost their communications since most of their repeaters were on those towers.
At these times, what few services remain, become clogged with extreme activity. Local Hams step in immediately, set up emergency links and work closely with first responders. Hams also use automatic methods to monitor distress frequencies. Until the price of all this high tech equipment falls within the budget of the average sailor, Ham radio will still offer an inexpensive means of emergency communication, as well as e-mail, general chat and ancillary services such as weather reports and the ability to locate a great restaurant in your local vicinity!
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Old 06-09-2014, 01:05 AM   #8
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Here's a plug for the hams! We ought to look at the knowledge base a ham-operator brings to the table. In an emergency an EPIRB etc. is priceless of course but the day-to-day utility that a ham set aboard brings is also priceless. The marine HF nets, local info or invitations to people ashore are not going to happen via a sat-phone, let alone the diversion that chat and giggles banter brings during the doldrum times.

There is also the direct phone connection that some hams will set up for you via a ham radio QSO, at no cost at all.

73

Ivo KI6S on Linnupesa
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Old 06-09-2014, 02:00 AM   #9
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Here's an interesting take on the HAM vs SSB question. From a broadcast point of view, it suggests there is little benefit to cruisers, in installing HAM; apart of course from the potential increase in social contacts. However, it strongly suggests studying for the HAM license because of the technical and practical knowledge it imparts. This seems like a good idea to me.

My HF equipment is an Icom IC-718 transceiver linked to an SCG SG230 tuner and a Furuno Weatherfax, (Waiting for the good fairy to bring me a Pactor modem) and like most cruisers, I will always benefit from having more technical knowledge about the installed apparatus aboard.

Here's the link Ham Radio License vs. SSB Single Side Band marine radio | Cruising World
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Old 06-09-2014, 02:55 AM   #10
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Agree!
Hams generally have a wealth of knowledge on a wide array of topics.
Having held a Ham license for over 50 years, I can attest to that!

David - WA2EXP/FP0SS/ZF1TV
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Old 06-09-2014, 03:09 AM   #11
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Thanks for the link. I just finished reading the article and found it to be concise, accurate and interesting!
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Old 06-10-2014, 02:05 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FiOS-Dave View Post
Having held a Ham license for over 50 years, I can attest to that!

David - WA2EXP/FP0SS/ZF1TV
50 years! Well done OM. :-)

Rob - VK9VK
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