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Old 15-01-2009, 09:46   #1
Hal
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Amateur (Ham) Radio on board

How many licensed Amateur Radio operators are out there and do you operate from your boat? Do you use a separate Ham rig or use your marine HF SSB rig. On VHF/UHF do you ever use a high gain beam and how far can you make contacts? Do you use amplifiers on HF or VHF/UHF? If in a foriegn port, do you get the required permit to operate or just not tell anyone?

I am planning on going to sea in three to four years and would like to know how other Hams are doing operating onboard. I plan to have high gain antennas on VHF/UHF and amplifiers around 200 watts and at least 500 watts on HF. That is unless I get alot of negative feedback. I plan on getting the required permits from any foriegn ports I may be in unless the rules allow on board operation as being in the USA.

Hal W5GHZ
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Old 15-01-2009, 10:15   #2
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Hal;

Can't answer any of your questions, but thought I would say hi. I'm taking the technician test this weekend. Wifey gave me a Kenwood ts-480sat for Christmas. I'm going to try dipoles first on the boat once I get my general License.

I cannot remember where I saw it, but there is a webite for mariners using APRS. I was surprised how many stations there were!

Chris
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Old 15-01-2009, 10:35   #3
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The boat is my shack (ICOM IC-706, Kenwood D-700A). Too much RFI at home for HF. Done voice, pactor, psk31 from the boat. No amplifiers. Have checked in to some southern (of PNW) HF nets using 40w watts. With a good setup 500w seems a lot, but I have never had a rig that big. I find, when anchored in really out of the way places, distances really improve. But I have only done coastal stuff in US/Canada in the PNW.
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Old 15-01-2009, 10:45   #4
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Hi Hal;
There are quite a number of hams on the forum. Some use Marine SSB rig for both marine and ham, some use separate rigs. Don't know of any with VHF/UHF hi gain antennas but there may be some.

You would need a pretty big battery bank or generator for a 500 watt amp. Even 200 watts will eat up the juice. Not saying it can be done but it will be costly IMO.

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Old 15-01-2009, 10:52   #5
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N6FAI here...I use the Ham for things like weather reports from WWV or cruising nets. There are a half dozen cruisers nets that I know of and if I was actively cruising, I would give daily reports to the seafarers net. Ham can be a lot of fun if you're bored and cruising. If you are a little richer, you can do e-mail with Ham also.
As far as VHF...it is 'generally' line of sight. The higher the antenna, the better the distance. The higher the gain of the antenna, the better the signal quality. Hope this helps.
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Old 15-01-2009, 11:42   #6
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I haven't had my boat in the water yet. Before this season is over it will have several ham rigs though (ok, probably two, a dual band uhf/vhf rig and an HF rig).

Right now though, that isn't the main thrust of us getting the boat in the water. And, we'll only be on lakes for this year.
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Old 15-01-2009, 11:54   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hal View Post
Do you use a separate Ham rig or use your marine HF SSB rig.
When my wife and I start cruising I will be using a rig designed for both.

Quote:
On VHF/UHF do you ever use a high gain beam and how far can you make contacts? Do you use amplifiers on HF or VHF/UHF?
As someone else pointed out, VHf/UHF are generally line of sight, and as such not that good for anything over a few miles, even with higher power. I usually carry an HT with me here in Colorado and can talk all the way to Kansas - through repeaters up in the mountains. In most places you probably won't have repeaters available.

I know Jamaica has several, I've used them. Which opens up your next question...

Quote:
If in a foriegn port, do you get the required permit to operate or just not tell anyone?
You MUST be licensed in other countries to operate with some extremely limited exceptions. If you visit any country other than US and it's territories you need to apply for, and hold a license for that location.

I mentioned Jamaica. My wife and I both obtained operating licenses there based on the class of our US licenses. Cost us about 40 dollars each and took about 3 and a half months to get our paperwork (Which arrived the DAY before we departed for Jamaica!)

Most hams that do foreign work like that (traveling out of the US) generally pre-plan to operate in a foreign location and obtain their licenses ahead of time. My Jamaica license was only good for six months and expired just prior to my next trip there, thus, I couldn't legally use my rig.

I don't think many people here will tell you 1) Operate and not tell people, or 2) Admit they probably operate and not tell people.

But to be LEGAL in a foreign port, you MUST be licensed by the local government authority that regulates the radio spectrum.

Visit the American Radio Relay League to get more information on licensing in foreign counties.

ARRLWeb: ARRL Home Page
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Old 15-01-2009, 12:08   #8
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Hal,

Ham radio and sailboats just go together naturally. Many, many cruising sailors are hams, and many operate from their boats. If you Google the words, "ham radio sailboat", you'll get 109,000 hits!

As has been mentioned, there are lots of ham nets for cruising sailors all over the world. I participate in one each morning: the Waterway Net (7268kHz LSB @ 0745 Eastern time); this net caters to sailors from Newfoundland to the Caribbean, providing weather, position reports, announcements for mariners, etc., etc.

Re: equipment, you'll not need the amplifiers either for VHF or HF. I actually carried a 500-watt HF amplifier aboard for many years in the Caribbean, but only used it a couple of times when conditions were horrid. Wound up giving it away.

Far better to concentrate on your antenna systems. These will ensure your signal gets out well.

BTW, while you CAN find VHF antennas with significant gain, it's not often a good idea to put them on a sailboat. This is because the gain comes at a price: narrower vertical beamwidth, which could mean that when heeled you'd be pumping most of your signal into the sky or the sea!

It's true that at sea you'll not have access to repeaters which can extend your range on VHF. But when coasting, you'll often find helpful repeaters (e.g., 147.105 in Davidsonville which covers most of the northern Chesapeake Bay). And, in Maine, there's a wonderful linked repeater system which covers much of the state, so you can sit at anchor in, say, Pulpit Harbor on Penobscot Bay and talk to someone way inland or way up or down the coast. Nifty.

Cheers,

Bill
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Old 15-01-2009, 12:17   #9
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We have vhf marine and 2 meter ham on our Ingrid. I will be installing our kenwood TS-430S and manual tuner this spring. On our way down the coast from Olympia, WA to Winchester Bay, OR last fall, we used the 2 meter for weather reports and to make contact with the kids mother so they could say hi after 8 days. They thought it was fantastic as they are both hams also. The contact was pretty surprising since we were 37 nm out at the time and the repeater we used was about 90-100 miles inland on a mountain top. We use no amplifiers and use only basic (vertical) antenna with the 2 meter.
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Old 15-01-2009, 12:36   #10
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I didn't think to mention the VHF/UHF repeaters. If cruising the Inside Passage to Alaska you can link all the way up the BC coast and I'm sure, by now, into Washington. I once caught the repeater at Prince Rupert from over 40 miles inland from my car.
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Old 15-01-2009, 13:16   #11
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What kind of equipment are you guys using for HF? I'm partial to ICOM and have been thinking about a PRO III and an IC-910H with the UX-910 for 1.2 GHz and the AG-2400 for 2.4 GHz downlink for satelite work. I'm not sure I could do much while underway, but I sure would like to try working the satelites while at anchor. As for the HF amp, the new solid state amps seem like a good bet. Most of the time I'm sure QRP would be good enough, but I would like to have it in case I needed it. They are small and light.
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Old 15-01-2009, 15:01   #12
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I am also a licenced radio amateur.

Have had both marine and amateur MF/HF radios on the boat and also at times had my 600 watt solid state amplifier on board as well (that mainly only when shore power was available while maintaining a radio watch for friends sailing in remote regions - but an amplifier can be a nuisance to others in a marina and is a hell of a drag on the batteries if one wants to chat with no shore power or generator available). At moment I just carry an Icom IC-M802 as it does all that is needed by me and work ssb and digital modes. Antenna is a wire on a halyard to the upper spreaders approx 1/2 wavelength on 20m band.

I don't have anything whatsoever to do with cruising nets, etc as we run an independant boat - main interest is that being on the boat gives a good introductory topic of conversation when working other amateurs around the world and so helps get away from trite "You're 59 here, name is Fred, town is Hicksville, radio is blah blah, antenna is blah blah, good luck, 73" type contacts which seem to be often the norm.

The radio (whether amateur or marine) is always used for receiving weather facsimile when out of range of internet.

Have never carried amateur VHF/UHF on the boat (and never had any need for it on land either ).
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Old 15-01-2009, 16:08   #13
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K6YOT here. My wife & I are full time liveaboards. The ham shack is an Icom M710RT, used both on the marine frequencies and on the ham bands. The M710 is also setup with a SCS IIe Pactor modem for Winlink. There is a Icom R75 that is use for casual listening/SWLing. The HF antenna is the insulated backstay. I also have a Yaesu FT2600M 2 meter rig aboard. The antenna for the 2m rig is a 2m "hamstick" mounted on the radar arch. The 2m rig is kinda fun to use while on coastal trips. Like Bill says, ham radio & sailing just go together.
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Old 15-01-2009, 16:25   #14
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The main reason most people (non-boaters) become Hams is for the fun of the hobby and to enhance the their skills as Amateur radio operators. By so called blah blahing about signal reports and so on is to keep a log of contacts and displaying to the operator the perfection of their rig. Certainly this is not for everyone. That is why Marine SSB may be the ticket. Personally I value the Ham that has been at it for 40+ years. He certainly earns my respect. A lot of these old timers have been instrumental in trouble shooting the occasional problem I come up against with my rig. During emergency times, Hams have answered the call to relay important information on land and see.
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Old 15-01-2009, 19:38   #15
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Hal,

I operate a modified ICOM IC-735 with an SGC automatic tuner, pactar modem and backstay for antenna. I basicly use the ham for email, weather and nets. Used to enjoy listening to BBC, Voice Of America, etc. but I guess they are beginning to cut back on their broadcasting.

Good Luck, Bill A.
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