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Old 21-05-2014, 17:17   #31
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Quote:
Originally Posted by letsgetsailing3 View Post
I have to ask why.

I've read several threads where someone made this comment, but they never really explain why. Is it the battery life, or some other reason?
Battery life seems to be the primary reason, based on what I've read. 24 vs. 48 hours as I recall. There may have been other reasons I missed.
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Old 21-05-2014, 17:24   #32
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Quote:
Originally Posted by SV THIRD DAY View Post
For example the station I found in 35 seconds was coming out of Alabama (I'm in California) two guys just chatting away about the weather and type of antennas they were testing.
Um, first let me say that I am a proponent of HF radio, have my HAM license and we have both HAM and SSB systems on board.

But if you tune to any active HAM frequency (except 14300), at any time of day, broadcasting from anywhere, you will always find two guys just chatting away about the weather and type of antennas they are testing.

Always.

At night, I often tune through the HAM bands and Michele and I get a big laugh out of the fact that every single active frequency is having the above conversation.

It seems to be the sole purpose of HF radio.

But I do agree that if one broke into one of these conversations with an emergency, those guy's would go nuts and mobilize every HAM resource on the planet. There would be guys hiking up mountains to install antennas (inverted delta-V carolina windoms installed with a JRTolkien elve's arsenal of archery equipment, no doubt), guys setting up relay stations and schedules, and guys contacting nuclear power plants to feed them enough juice so that they can finally use the entirety of the WWII and Korean war surplus stock that they have squirreled away in shacks and bomb shelters since the 1950's just for this purpose.

Needless to say, for those without cable, you will not be watching TV for many days, and it is unlikely that you will be using your phone either...

Mark
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Old 21-05-2014, 17:25   #33
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Quote:
Originally Posted by Exile View Post
Battery life seems to be the primary reason, based on what I've read. 24 vs. 48 hours as I recall. There may have been other reasons I missed.

Cospas sarsat requires any alerting device to have a minimum of 24 hours of operation , IMO and GMDSS requirements specify that an approved EPIRB has 48 hours of operation

Hence it's quite acceptable to have a leisure Epirb with a 24 hour battery.

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Old 23-05-2014, 08:05   #34
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Hello, everyone...
I have the definitive answers (below) to the many questions you are all asking/speculating about regarding Rebel Heart's HF radio system, his ineffective use of it, and lack of knowledge/expertise in radio comms as a whole...(Eric humself, posted here on Cruiser's Forum, that he was fairly ignorant of most of the "high tech" cruising gear, and his total lack of knowledge of DSC, even remarking that he's never used the VHF-DSC, "didn't have it 'hooked-up'", and had "never heard or seen anyone use it, or even talk about it"...)
BUT...

~~~~~~~~

But, first I must write this!!!

Mark, THANK YOU!!!
This was one of the funniest things I've ever read on Cruiser's Forum!!
(and I needed a laugh this week!!)
Quote:
Originally Posted by colemj View Post
.....if you tune to any active HAM frequency (except 14300), at any time of day, broadcasting from anywhere, you will always find two guys just chatting away about the weather and type of antennas they are testing.

Always.

But I do agree that if one broke into one of these conversations with an emergency, those guy's would go nuts and mobilize every HAM resource on the planet. There would be guys hiking up mountains to install antennas (inverted delta-V carolina windoms installed with a JRTolkien elve's arsenal of archery equipment, no doubt), guys setting up relay stations and schedules, and guys contacting nuclear power plants to feed them enough juice so that they can finally use the entirety of the WWII and Korean war surplus stock that they have squirreled away in shacks and bomb shelters since the 1950's just for this purpose.

Needless to say, for those without cable, you will not be watching TV for many days, and it is unlikely that you will be using your phone either...

Mark
I am a long-time ham (since I was a teenager), and my ham buddies and I have an "inside joke" about all those "old guys" complaining about their bad backs, or detailing their latest gal bladder surgery, etc...
And, we made a vow 35 years ago, to never become like them...problem is we are all now getting older, so we are starting to wonder which one will be the first to start...

But, in all seriousness, you are SO right about even the average "rag chewing" ham's ability (and desire) to organize and mobilize every resource possible to assist someone in distress, and/or effect a rescue!!

So Mark, Thank You so much for such a funny (and insightful) post!!!!
It made my week!!


~~~~~~~~~~~


Okay, now onto the answers you all have been pondering / speculating about....(I'll use Eric's / Rebel Heart's own words from his own postings..)


Rebel Heart was equipped with an Icom M-700Pro Marine HF Transceiver (aka "SSB"), with an Icom AT-130 remote auto-tuner...
This is quite possibly THE most robust, reliable, and well-made Marine Transceiver made in the past 25 years!!
So, anyone wanting to question how reliable this rig is, you may have to look at this particular unit's age and possible internal issues, but the fact that he DID use this radio in a limited way on a few specific channels when living on-board and cruising Mexico, seems to indicate that the radio WAS in working condition....

So, this leaves lack of operator expertise and possible salt water ingress, causing the problems noted (see below, for details)....
{My "guess" is that initially it was the lack of operator skill/expertise/experience, that prevented them from raising anyone on the radio...and this includes the possibility that his particular M-700Pro was not "opened-up" for ham radio transmit??......
And then possibly some salt water damage, although Eric's description of the hull/deck leak and the water coming in (from all of the info we have: his radio interview...transcript thereof....and postings here), show that water was coming in around the batteries and radio wiring (remote auto-tuner connections), but he did not specifically mention the radio itself being drowned in sea water...}


Here are the details....(with my comments in red..)

Quote:
Originally Posted by rebel heart I haven't read everything in the thread and for my own sanity am skimming over arm chair admiralty. But in regards to distress signals, I used:

- The Pacific Puddle Jump radio net, which we had checked into for I'd say two weeks straight. Maybe not the first few days into the trip, but once we were a few hundred miles off we'd try to hop on once every day. Primary, alternate, secondary alternate.
Not exactly sure what their freqs are, but I assume they're in the 4mhz, and 6mhz, (and possibly the 8mhz) bands, which would only typically have a daytime range of a few hundred miles...

[Rebel Heart was ~1000 miles offshore]
And, I suspect that none of them had their HF Radio on (or at least not on those freqs), unless the Net was actually operating....


- 2182khz
NOBODY is listening to this freq....
12290khz (12.290mhz) would have been your best bet, daytime or evening...as this is monitored by USCG in Pt. Reyes,CA and Honolulu!!
Or possibly 8291 at night...

[Rebel Heart was made aware of this last year, as he did participate in the thread right here on Cruiser's Forum regarding the USCG's cessation of all MF monitoring (2182 / 2670 Voice, and 2187.5 DSC), so perhaps he forgot about this in the stress of the situation he was in???
And, herein lies another problem caused by operator inexperience...]


http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=cgcommsCall
This is the USCG Communications Page...


- Every HAM (I have no HAM license, but in distress I think it's allowed) channel that I had ever heard traffic on.
I VERY good idea!!
14.300mhz is the best place to start!!!

[I cannot fathom, how he wasn't able to raise anyone on 14.300mhz, or other freqs....but perhaps his particular radio was not set-up to transmit on the ham radio frequencies??? and he was not a licensed ham, and never checked this before heading offshore???]



- Every HAM/SSB traffic that I had ever jotted down in my radio log book that I heard traffic on. I don't have that log book in front of me, but I'd estimate we're talking two dozen bank+channel combinations.
Unless you had exhausted 14.300mhz....I'd not recommend trying "every other ham traffic net", nor other "SSB traffic nets", as most are SHORT-RANGE "local"/"regional" Nets...and on their freqs, would be unlikely to hear you from more than a few hundred miles away...

[Rebel Heart was ~1000 miles offshore]
[I cannot fathom, how he wasn't able to raise anyone on 14.300mhz, or other freqs....but perhaps his particular radio was not set-up to transmit on the ham radio frequencies??? and he was not a licensed ham, and never checked this before heading offshore???]


- DSC / VHF, I really don't see why anyone's talking about this; the nearest vessels were several hundred miles away, if that. No AIS/radar/VHF/visual contacts for a week. We had the squelch zeroed for a week and never even got static. The first static we heard was two minutes before the C130 rolled in.
Yeah, VHF-DSC might seem like a waste at a time like that...but the fact is that a 25-watt VHF-DSC signal will travel farther than your Voice signal (although not too much father), but certainly will travel farther than a 2-watt AISsignal...

[Eric's comment here that they had "the squelch zeroed for a week and never even got static", is very telling here, as it shows either a dead VHF receiver (unlikely) or a lack of understanding on how the radio (VHF) works, as "zeroing" the squelch would give you LOTS of static (and be very annoying for more than a minute), so perhaps they had the squelch turned UP to maximum and were therefore unable to hear anyone???]



But, here is where HF-DSC comes in!!!
And, we've already covered that!!


- Iridium emergency short codes, but none of those worked and replied with the "you cannot dial emergency numbers in your current country" voice responded.
Lessons learned here for everyone!
THANK YOU!!!


This was all prior to hitting the EPIRB, after the call to the USCG, once I realized the SIM card was bingo.




While the above gives some of the facts, we may never know everything...
And, for those specific questions...
Quote:
Originally Posted by SV THIRD DAY View Post
I'm still trying to figure out and understand why/how he wasn't able to reach anyone on the SSB/HF? We are talking about an emergecny here, and ANY station speaking English would have let him break in and you know how HAMs are...they would have worked his signal and passed on Relays to the USCG and loved to help.
[Rich, I'm with 'ya here 100%....it does seem awfully odd...]
So before I dump on the SSB/HF radio...I need a little more info as to what really happened and why he couldn't get a contact.

Quote:
Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
It would be interesting to hear a few more details of how RH's comms went south. If he had been relying on the satphone, maybe he hadn't used the SSB enough to learn what frequencies and times worked in his area (I would have tried the Mexican nets on 40 meters in the morning and the Pacific Seafarers net on 20 meters in the afternoon).
[Remember he was ~1000 miles offshore, ~1500 away from the Sea of Cortez, so it would have been VERY unlikely the 40m nets would have ever heard him...]
The time to first check into these nets is before you leave Mexico, to make sure that your equipment is working.

My experience is that the SSB tuners are pretty weatherproof, but the transceivers are not--I've seen boats where there is a plastic drape over the (replacement) transceiver to keep it dry.
[It's not clear if his radio was actually getting wet, or was it just the remote auto-tuner and wiring, which would not have been an issue...]
If your SSB is hooked through your 12v panel with an analog meter, its pretty easy to tell if its putting out a good signal by watching the amps when you transmit a long hellooooooo.
[Please do NOT recommend running the radio's power from your distribution panel....this is NOT a good idea, for many reasons discussed many times in the past....if you desire to see your radio's power output, it is displayed right on the front panel of the radio!!! And, of course if you want a specific/calibrated reading (and be able to monitor your antenna system's VSWR, then installing and external power/SWR meter is the best approach!!]


My best guess is that RH heard the plane calling him on the VHF, not the SSB, as the SSB is usually not on 24/7.
Yes, this is accurate....

Quote:
Originally Posted by msponer View Post
I want a ham radio for this boat, and the Rebel Heart story has pushed me to try and figure out one that can live in a Pelican case, or that I can tuck away in an IP65 box in a closet, and then in normal situations control from a laptop at the nav table.
[While you could do this....there is NO actual reason to do so....(my spare M-802, is wrapped in anti-static plastic, inside a few BIG Zip-Lock bags, inside a Rubbermaid tote, but this is so it can be stowed on-board and be kept clean and dry)
But, if you simply install your radio properly, you're unlikely to ever have a "moisture" / "water ingress" problem...]

I've also been wondering if there's a bunch of inexpensive used Inmarsat Mini-C terminals available somewhere, since the requirements changed a few years ago and made the older versions obsolete for GMDSS.
[I occasionally look for them, but they typically sell for $2500 used....and with a new one selling for about $3200, my thoughts are, IF you're heading off to far-flung locales and NOT near the regular cruising and shipping routes, then buy a new INMARSAT-C terminal, and then only AFTER you have installed a full MF/HF-DSC Radio....]

Quote:
Originally Posted by Exile View Post
As for RH's SSB, it's not clear how proficient he may have been when attempting to communicate a distress call, but I have to admit it's probably the least understood system on my own boat. In light of recent events and some helpful postings & youtube videos from CF members, I've recently redoubled my efforts to learn its functions & capabilities. I didn't know, for example, that a separate antenna was required to be able to automatically scan the 5-6 int'l distress channels after activating DSC (I have a M-802), or that utilizing an indpt. GPS receiver is recommended. I have found the lengthy instruction manuals difficult to decipher, and am even rather embarrassed to admit that the various "Idiot's" guides leave me struggling with their frequent acronyms & vocabulary that are completely new to me. Maybe there's a "Moron's" guide I could try? Anyway, I only mention because I would be surprised if I was alone in this regard, and I suspect this is one reason why many newer cruisers are resorting to satphones instead.
[I don't wish to seem rude or insensitive to Rebel Heart....but to keep this discussion honest I need to be blunt....so my apologies up front...
"proficient" is NOT a word I would use to describe his knowledge or experience with radio comms at all, and certainly not HF radio!! (Rebel Heart's own words here show that)...
And, in my opinion he was COMPLETELY ignorant of ALL radio comms, except for which specific channels someone told him to listen to / use for the "Mexican cruising nets"....he had NO knowledge at all of how radio comms of any kind worked...]

[And, forget the "moron's guides", you don't need that!!!
Just watch the videos, ask some specific questions here (or on the SSCA disc boards), and use the radio....the more you use it, the better you get at it...and the easier it gets!!]

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
So there are people readily listening on SSB now? I've been left with the impression that "no one's home" in the past.
[As has been posted here many times....for more than 15 years now, there are MANY MANY stations listening to MF/HF-DSC....> 80 HF-DSC shore stations 100% operational, > 450 MF-DSC shore stations 100% operational (and ~ 1000 VHF-DSC shore stations 100% operational), worldwide....
As well as 1000's of SOLAS-grade vessels at sea required to monitor these DSC frequencies...
But, aside from the USCG, Aus Maritime Auth, NZ Maritime Auth, there are NO other shore stations maintaining a VOICE radio watch, and NO vessels at sea are maintaining a VOICE radio watch...
Aside from these few stations, it is ALL "DSC", and this has been the case for more than 15 years now!!!
PLEASE read over the many threads discussing this, and you'll see a LOT more details.... ]

Then of course there is the detail of using the right freq's the right time of day etc....
[This "detail" is one that the GMDSS and DSC is specifically design to circumvent....
In practice DSC-Distress calls are done on multiple freqs automatically, and await for ACK....not to mention the s/n advantage of the narrow-band FEC-SITOR signal (DSC)....]

Not a marine SSB user much, mostly ham.
is it possible your "35 second response" was a local receiver rather than a long distance one?
[Unless propagation is unusually bad, I can find ham radio stations at just about any distance away I desire, at anytime of day/night...from 20 miles away to 100's of miles away, to 1000's of miles away....
And, FYI, just sitting at the dock waiting for Herb's weather net over the past couple years, I tune up 3 - 6khz and hear Australian maritime weather broadcasts on 12362 and 12365, and I'm 10,000 to 11,000 miles away....and that is NOT rare, I hear them day-in and day-out, for weeks/months....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Exile View Post
Very informative & helpful. I will be posting that list of distress frequencies next to my radio, and will program them into my M-802. If I understand it correctly, they are already permanently programmed into the radio as "ITU" stations?
[Yes, they ARE permanently programmed into your radio as channels 4-9, 6-9, 8-9, 12-9, and 16-9....watch the videos....it is explained there in detail...
If you desire to program them in as "user channels" you can do this as well...(and again, this is explained in the videos...)]

I just think it may be difficult for newbies, who's only experience is with VHF,to grasp some of the peculiarities of HF radio.
[The more you use the radios, the easier it gets!!]



There is a lot more...but I haven't got the time right now...more later...
(such as the FACT that there IS quite a bit of HF comm use by merchant vessels, mainly wefax and text, NOT voice....
and FACTS about EPIRB's vs. PLB's, how EPIRB's float and their antennas will get the signal out to the satellites without being held up/out-of the water like PLB's require....
the facts on how to verify your radio is working/getting out....
Clarifications of terminology, etc..._
But, now I gotta' go....


Fair winds...

John
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Old 23-05-2014, 08:34   #35
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Great post John!

Eric's post about not needing a license to operate on the HF freqs hit me as very narrowly focused. While the statement is true, I think the most importing result of going after your license is finding out how much you don't know and need to learn in order to operate the equipment properly. My partner and I just went through a local technician class and are waiting for the database to be updated and we can start practicing with our equipment. Next up will be the general. LOTS TO LEARN!!
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Old 23-05-2014, 08:34   #36
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
You think the high seas ships comms traffic uses HF, think again , then look at some Inmarsat data.

HF is all very well, but the day to day routine business comms is not carried over it airwaves.

Dave
Since Commercial/business communications are not allowed on the HF HAM frequencies, your comment of "day to day routine business comms" not using HF would of course be accurate. To imply that because commercial ships use Satcoms so cruisers should also and not relay on HF seems to me...well....and little crazy, but then again....I've been called worse.
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Old 23-05-2014, 10:06   #37
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Quote:
Originally Posted by SV THIRD DAY View Post
Since Commercial/business communications are not allowed on the HF HAM frequencies, your comment of "day to day routine business comms" not using HF would of course be accurate. To imply that because commercial ships use Satcoms so cruisers should also and not relay on HF seems to me...well....and little crazy, but then again....I've been called worse.

Why do people keep assuming only ham HF. Commercial ships have marine HF. They still don't use it for ships business

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Old 23-05-2014, 11:21   #38
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Since I wrote earlier....
There is a lot more...but I haven't got the time right now...more later...
(such as the FACT that there IS quite a bit of HF comm use by merchant vessels, mainly wefax and text, NOT voice....
and FACTS about EPIRB's vs. PLB's, how EPIRB's float and their antennas will get the signal out to the satellites without being held up/out-of the water like PLB's require....
the facts on how to verify your radio is working/getting out....
Clarifications of terminology, etc..._
But, now I gotta' go....


So, I thought I better get moving on these topics, before some of you keel-haul me...

1- First off there is the "myth" that HF comms in not used very much anymore...
I write it's a myth, because it IS a myth....i.e. NOT true...
(yes, compared to 15 years ago, maritime HF communications IS much less...but that does NOT mean that it is "rare", or "little used"...)

There was a survey done in 2012 that specifically reports that HF comms by commercial / merchant vessels IS alive and well, and in "daily and regular use" by a majority (~ 65%) of respondents....
This 2012 survey by the WMO/jcomm Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology.... is the most current factual data that I have available...
Dave's anecdotal UK-based comments notwithstanding, HF comms IS still being used "daily and regularly" by a majority of merchant / commercial vessels at sea....
(FYI, I freely admit that the majority of this is WeFax reception and "text" data transmission/reception, and NOT voice comms....but I have never stated/implied anything else!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
In my experience , there is very little marine HF traffic , even though there is a full HF DSC alert system in place. In the commercial world , since there are very very few public correspondence facilities, all ships business is being carried by sat comms, and virtually exclusively by Inmarsat.

But on Amateur bands , voice HF is quite active and especially in the US , where amateur radio has remained popular , there are significant voice resources , once you know where to look.

Despite that, for marine emergencies, the marine HF system with DSC alerting , is significantly better then any resources available on Amateur band HF.
Now, Dave is correct that a good deal of "ship's business" is being carried out via sat comm (INMARSAT)....but that does not negate the above facts, nor the real-world application that the less-funded and more budget conscience shipping companies are still using sat comm sparingly....heck, I suspect that even some of the vessels that Mersk 2nd or 3rd party charters/leases are barely GMDSS compliant and some probably don't have an INMARSAT Fleet terminal, etc. just a Sat-C...

And, further Dave's comments on how HF-DSC messaging/alerting is far superior than raising someone randomly on the ham radio bands is, spot on...

Please understand that there are currently 84 fully operational HF-DSC coast stations monitoring the HF-DSC GMDSS freqs worldwide, for Distress, Urgency, and Safety calls/message 24/7....and ~450 fully operational MF-DSC coast stations doing the same thing....(and ~1000 VHF-DSC coast stations as well...)....not to mention the 1000's of SOLAS vessels at sea also monitoring these freqs...
BUT..
But, as I have written many times before (with the exception of the USCG, Aus Maritime Auth, NZ Maritime Auth, etc.) NOBODY is listening to maritime HF VOICE communications frequencies....
It is DSC that they are monitoring..
It has been this way now for OVER 15 years!! (and even effectively for about the past 20 years now...)




2- As for EPIRB's vs. PLB's.....
At the risk of beating a dead horse....nothing wrong with using a PLB for what is was designed and intended for (a PERSONAL Locator Beacon...primarily for on-shore / on-vessel use)...

Yes, many folks comment on the differences in "battery life"....
And, YES, this IS a VERY important factor, when heading offshore....(especially taking note that it may be > 24 hours before there is actually anyone out there searching for 'ya....and if your beacon has died, they can't find 'ya!!!)

But, for most offshore mariners, the MAIN reason to not substitute a PLB for an EPIRB is:
PLB's do not float upright in the water with their antennas point towards the satellites (as EPIRB's do), so they must be held up above and out-of the water in order for them to be effective...

Then you add in the automatic strobe light that will also be blinking away > 48 hours after activation, pointing up / across the entire sky 360* around you...etc.

Understand the above, and you'll start to understand why these two items have different names.....they have different purposes...
(just like satellite phones have a VERY different purpose and capability, than HF Radio does....)
EPIRB's and PLB's are NOT an either/or decision....as they are do not do the same things....

Get an EPIRB for the boat....register it properly....and have it serviced/inspected/battery replaced/re-certified as required...
(and if you desire PLB's for your crew, that's fine....but not as a substitute for an EPIRB...)

And, here again I must ask...
How many of you have read the posting and followed and READ all the links provided (especially the COSPAS-SARSAT and "Cruising World" links)???

EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odds

All the info about EPIRB's and how the system works is right there for all of you....it is FREE and an easy read (and plenty of nice illustrations to explain things better than my ramblings...


And, please have a look at this posting as well....where is much more info about Distress signaling, EPIRB's, DSC, HF radio, etc...

Icom M-802 DSC-Distress Signaling, what really happens!



3- Clarifications of terminology....
Sorry about the "gibberish"!!! (sometimes I forget that most aren't electronic / radio / communications nuts, like me...

If you read the above referenced threads....
EPIRB Activation? What happens/How to improve rescue odds
Icom M-802 DSC-Distress Signaling, what really happens!

And, watch the Youtube videos...
http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/icom-m-802-instr-videos-basic-adv-and-live-dsc-distress-call-114734.html
http://www.youtube.com/user/captainjohn49/videos

You'll get a VERY good understanding of these systems and explanation of both the terminology and on what you MUST know and what you can ignore...
Also, if you find yourself scratching your head about some term or phrase, why not just Google it???

Until then....
GMDSS = Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (this is what SAVES lives at sea daily!!!)

DSC = Digital Selective Calling (a part of the GMDSS....and a very robust / reliable means of signaling other vessels and shore stations...)

VHF-DSC = DSC over VHF Marine Radio

MF-DSC = DSC over MF Radio (Medium Frequency Radio...used to be call "2mhz marine band" / "2 mega-hurts marine radio")

HF-DSC = DSC over HF Radio (High Frequency Radio....aka "shortwave radio"...used to be called "Hi-Seas Marine Radio"...or sometimes called "long-range marine radio"...)
FYI, this "HF radio" is useable worldwide....I regularly/daily hear the Australian Marine weather broadcasts (on 12362 and 12365) on-board at my dock in S. Florida USA....10,000 - 11,000 miles away from these Aus transmitters...

Sea Areas...
A1 = Within range of VHF-DSC coast stations, typically within 20 - 25 miles of the coast...


A2 = Outside of area A1, and within range of MF-DSC coast stations, typically within 150 miles (100 - 200miles) of the coast...


A3 = Outside of Areas A1 and A2, and between 70*N latitude and 70*S latitude, within range of INMARSAT-C satellite coverage and/or within range of HF-DSC Coast stations...


A4 = The "polar regions" beyond Sea Area A3, and/or outside of INMARSAT capability...and within range of HF-DSC Coast Stations..






4- As for what the USCG is still monitoring....we have covered this extensively here in this forum in the past, especially this past year as things changed...
But, please understand DSC is the PREFERED and RECOMMENDED method of signaling / messaging / alerting the USCG (and all other coast stations worldwide, whether they have VOICE comm capability of not...)
And, this has been the case for more than 15 years now....this is nothing new!!!

If you have a look at this page, you'll get all the details you need...

http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=cgcommsCall



5- As for determining if your radio is working....
a) Spend the time (30 minutes or so) learning about HF radio, and your radio specifically....either READ or WATCH some videos....and then ask some pointed questions...

b) Use the radio....the more you sue it, the better you'll get!!

c) Look at the radios front display....it will show you its output as you are speaking....(yes, most "Marine HF" radios will not display this in "watts", but rather a relative "1-8" or "1-10", with the high end being 150 watts, and the bottom end being zero....)

Normal human voice, WITHOUT a speech compressor / speech processor will typically show ONLY 25 - 35 watts (out of 100 - 150watts)...and WITH a speech compressor / speech processor ON, will show 50 - 70 watts (out of 100 - 150watts), and this is COMPLETELY NORMAL!!!
The "average reading" metering cannot follow human speech rapidly enough, but be assure that if are seeing these readings your radio IS transmitting its proper power output...

(although this does NOT give you any idea how good your antenna is radiating your signal, nor whether you have chosen the proper frequency/channel for your desired communications path / time-of-day, etc...
For THOSE specifics, please read the above referenced posts and watch the videos...)

d) Getting an acknowledgement ("ACK") after sending a DSC call, is one VERY effective way of testing your HF radio system...
(The USCG, Shipcom Radio WLO/KLB, etc. all will respond to DSC test calls 24/7....)

e) Install an external power/SWR meter, so that you can monitor this easily...
Have a look at the meters I have (one for HF and one for VHF)...as well as my seprate/dedicated GPS (one of 4 Garmin GPS 76's I have on-board) feeding both of my DSC radios 24/7....













6- Some have mentioned that some hams have excellent radio stations (and yes, many do!), but this does NOT mean that the HF coast stations worldwide do not also have excellent stations, antennas, higher power transmiiters, etc.
(example the USCG regular transmitters are 4000 watts, and they have 10,000 watt transmitters available)

I think some here may be trying to compare apples-to-oranges....
Comparing other boats marine radio systems to other boats ham radio systems is fair....and probably comes out even..
And, comparing ham shore stations to marine coast stations is also fair, and comes out either even or gives the edge to the maritime coast stations...
(except for the fact that there 1000's of time more ham stations on-the-air daily than maritime coast stations, the "capability" of the maritime coast stations is typically much better...)




7 - Finally please understand that I am NOT anti-sat comm....not at all, as I have made my living in commercial sat comm fro decades now....and I was one of the earliest users (beta test user) of Iridium in the 1990's...

But, please understand what Bill (btrayfors) wrote so eloquently is FACT...
Satellite phones and HF Radios do VERY different things...
They are designed and used differently...
They are not substitutes for each other at all...
(actually when it comes to "cruising boats", it's more of a "sat phone vs. PACTOR modem" debate than anything else..)

I personally cannot fathom how/why anyone would ignore installing a MF/HF-DSC Radiotelephone on-board an offshore cruising boat....
Some argue that "heck I can call the Coast Guard on my sat phone, so why bother with an HF radio..."
But, would these same folks say "heck, I can call the Coast Guard on my CELL PHONE when I'm near shore, so why bother to install (and why bother to learn how-to use) a Marine VHF-DSC Radio..."
No, I don't think they'd say that....so why in the world do so many get "sold" / "bambozzled" into buying a sat phone instead of a marine MF/HF-DSC Radio???

I don't know the answer....as it still boogles my mind....
I used to think it was just ignorance...but with the facts right at their disposal (via Google, etc.) I'm just lefty wondering????
With 84 current HF-DSC shore stations and 450 MF-DSC shore stations (and ~1000 VHF-DSC shore stations), and 1000's of SOLAS vessels (and many other vessels) listening on MF/HF-DSC 24/7....and with the 2012 survey results showing the majority of ships at sea still using HF comms "daily and regularly"....
Why is it that so many cruisers are "sold" that a sat phone is the best choice???
(and as I, Bill, and others have written...it is NOT an either/or choice....have the sat phone, if you desire...but do this AFTER you have installed a full MF/HF-DSC radio system....)




I suppose there is more....but I'm going to close now, and read some more of your questions so I don't just ramble on and on about stuff that nobody cares about....
But until then, PLEASE READ the above referenced posts and pages....ALL the info you need IS there!!!


Fair winds..

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 23-05-2014, 12:26   #39
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Dave-
There's no such thing as "too big to fail" and yes, I know that Iridium was going to go bankrupt and let all the satellites fall out of the sky. Until they were bought up for what, a nickel on the dollar? Two cents on the dollar? Solely on the strength of government contracts. That's a real deus-ex-machina solution and you can't expect it to happen every time. Big companies go poof all the time.
Then there's that other nasty thing no one likes to talk about: sabotage. You may remember the entire NE US went black for most of three days in 2003, supposedly because a low-hanging tree limb hit a powerline. Well, that grid is still vulnerable and it was recent big news that last year snipers (yes, snipers) took out a key substation in California. The Nooze sat on the story, at federal request, and to this date no one will admit understanding who did it, or why, or what was being planned. The Nooze finally talked it up after a year because no one is willing to make changes to our domestic power grid--which relies on roughly 40 key stations and transformers that each would require a full year to replace.
Power networks, communications networks...And oh, maybe you were out of the country when antifreeze prices shot up because of a key refinery fire a few years back? Or the same with other products including gasoline?
Even if a "sole source" supplier is a huge multinational player, anything "sole source" is vulnerable. You can't rely on it.
The Army recently held training sessions with ham radio operators (!) teaching military personal how to deploy and operate HF radios because "satcoms take too long to set up" and it takes "too many men too long" to set up eight foot dishes.

Yes, even the military is second-thinking some of the one-trick ponies.

We shut down NASA programs because hey the Shuttle was dangerous, replacements are expensive, and those nice Russians have plenty of boosters. Ergh...yeah, maybe you also heard Mr. Putin telling Mr. Obama he can go spread his wings and fly if he wants to put anyone back on the ISS now? Or, do you think a magic government rescue can save that program as well? It is bigger than any of the communications programs you think are too big to fail.

Pull <=== Plug.

As for how you can even ask if I think larger vessels only use HF...No, I'm quite aware of big white radomes on ships. Ask anyone on a cruise liner, a thousand feet of floating condos with money to burn, how reliable their internet is. Yeah, sure. I know very well that they don't rely on HF, but we were talking about dependency for emergency communications--not mundane traffic. Every one of those ships with the big balls up top also carries multiple EPRIBs and have multiple other options, including an HF radio station. None of them relies solely on satcoms from any private vendor for emergency traffic.

Biggest phone company is the US was AT&T. Might be Verizon now. Ever tried to place a call on Mother's Day or Thanksgiving? They BOTH run out of lines, routinely, for long distance calls on holidays. Rely on one vendor? Did you try to call in or out of NYC after Sandy? Or Miami after Wilma? POTs went down, cable went down, cellular all went down. But if you had all three, the odds were very good that at least one (often at random) was working while two were down. And that's communications services from the biggest players in the business. And in NYC, the biggest players with the most infrastructure in the business. All of whom found ways to drop the ball.
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Old 23-05-2014, 12:56   #40
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Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Hellosailor.

What You have described in a kind of Armageddon sceanario, beloved of my survivalists and off-gridders, For example despite Mr Putin statements. ( actually his space minister whose got banned from travelling to Europe and the US and might be feeling a little pissed , and that's justified IMHO ) nothing in reality has happened

leaving aside the Fox cartoon network. You will notice that Russia and the US have a space cooperation agreement valid till 2020 ( I beleive ) and in fact neither side has disavowed it.

For example Inmarsat was formed out of the IMO and supported by European governments. Then it was spun off. Do you seriously think they would stand idly bye if it got into serious commercial trouble

Yes there are many things that " are to important to fail ". ( big or small ) The last 5 years has demonstrated that repeatedly ( the Euro being one of then , read the CF posts from 2010 LOL )

While its a common theme amongst survivalists, that these systems can somehow be brought down. The reality is, despite occasional glitches, no such alternative reality has happened and short of a widespread nuclear war, never will

The US grid has several documented weaknesses based on it lack of a national fully integrated architecture. The European one is more resilient ( but both are resilient enough and that's all that matters )

I personally have no concerns about the continuing availability of major communications platforms and technical infrastructure.

Nor do I need it to last indefinitely anyway , merely for enough time as it takes me to complete each voyage !!!!

Dave
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Old 23-05-2014, 13:02   #41
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

John-
Ham radios these days are like cameras.

Give me any ham radio circa 1970, and I can work it without cracking a book. Same thing for any camera from that period.

But today? They are all computers in drag. Everything is menus and submenus and randomly organized sequential keypresses. Work one without spending time every month going through the menus and memorizing where stuff is hidden? Probably ain't gonna happen. It oculd be a simple thing that you'd forget while stressed out, like switching from upper side band to lower side band. Or an automatic offset TX/RX pair, forgotten to be enabled/disabled.

After all, there are gobs of "ham radio crib sheets" being sold for every model radio on the market, and that's to help folks who use their radios pretty much every day--but simply can't remember where all the settings are buried.

I'm a firm believer in crib sheets and checklists, because you never know who may have to operate this modern technology, which is SO opaquely designed.

As to what knocked out Eric's radios or why...salt water, electricity, random gremlins, haven't we all had a Homer Simpson Moment and said "D'OH!" on finding something real real simple and totally unobvious has gone wrong?

Taking the time, and making the extra trip, to wrap self-amalgamizing tape around connections...or getting an extra long cable to run in the most secure place...No matter how ell you prep, there's a saying in the Navy that CF won't allow me to post it. It goes along the lines of "[censored] happens."

Incredible that these SAR guys pull these things off, and it is all just another day at the office for them. Wow.
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Old 23-05-2014, 13:10   #42
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Dave-
I've been there when the infrastructure went black. Whether that's a disaster or an inconvenience, depends on how you're prepped for it.

Interesting to mention Armageddon, since that actually refers to a military invasion through the Megiddo Pass in the north of Israel. Which, historically, was the route that every invading army took when they wanted to come trample the earth there.

"Armageddons" are in fact quite common and routine. If for some reason someone wanted to shut down Iridium or Inmarsat for a couple of hours or days...I expect it could be done. And I have no idea if the appropriate agencies even have that one on their response playbooks, since those are "just" private companies, of much less concern and oversight than the power station that got shot up.

Remember, when Tom Clancy wrote about using a jumbo jet as a superbomb 25(?) years ago, everyone thought that could never happen either.
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Old 23-05-2014, 13:17   #43
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Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

But the point is, that while occasional glitches occur. These systems have not collectively failed or been " taken off line "

Even 9/11 only in effect caused a glitch in air transport and only in the US. ( not to trivialise 9/11 by calling it a glitch )

We read and watch too much fiction that's the point.

Dave
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Old 23-05-2014, 13:22   #44
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pirate Re: Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Depend on nothing but yourself.. coz when push comes to shove.. oft times that's all you've got..
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Old 23-05-2014, 13:23   #45
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Advisability of depending on Satellite Comms & knowing the transmitter works

Quote:
Originally Posted by boatman61 View Post
Depend on nothing but yourself.. coz when push comes to shove.. oft times that's all you've got..

Where we sail boaty all you need is to follow the rising or setting sun. Conviently land appears eventually.

Simples

Dave
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