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Old 23-04-2015, 18:31   #76
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Re: Communications equipment

So, as the OP, what I took away from this wonderful thread is that my original plan actually makes sense, but I should invest ~$700 and a weekend into a second-hand ham tranceiver, antenna tuner, antenna and ground. Because I used to be a ham operator, so there isn't much learning curve involved.

A next level option which I won't be taking is ~$2.5k for a modern marine radio, instead of used ham rig, to add DSC functionality.
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Old 23-04-2015, 19:22   #77
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Re: Communications equipment

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Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
I think the Delorme Inreach (and probably Yellowbrick too but have never used it) changes everything. I would not go offshore without mine even as crew on someone else's boat.

...


AIS - Receiver and transponder. I think the transponder is a MUST even offshore. You can't rely on large ship maintaining good radar watches when all commercial ships use AIS as the primary collision avoidance system. And since you know the name of a distant passing ship (and they know yours) it's much easier to have a chat with passing ships on VHF.
Hi Carl,

Thank you for the detailed shout out for In Reach. I am not familiar with this system but your description has made me put it on my list of things thoroughly to explore. Sounds and excellent system.

Would just like to suggest however that AIS, while a superb tool for small craft in the passive mode, must not be overly relied on as a collision avoidance system with large vessels from THEIR side. In other words I would strongly suggest that if you have a full transciever and it is on all the time that you NOT consider that this means ships necessarily will or can see you. For one thing, commercial deck officers do NOT rely upon AIS as the primary means of collision avoidance or watchkeeping as you suggest. Absolutely they rely upon radar and then Mark 1 Eyeball. AIS is well lower down the list for a number of reasons. Firstly it is unreliable, as often poorly set up on the trasmit vessels side and therefore capable of giving false data on ship's heading etc. Secondly a very large number of vessels (even those who should by international treaty) do not transmit AIS at all. This is particularly true for Asian fishing vessels and fleets, many of which are of a size and number which should mandate AIS. But they are basically pirates in many cases. I have just received data from an analysis of the siituation in the Northern Arafura alone (where I have several times been forced to cut or drive over lines floating for miles above nets and traps by illegal mostly Chinese operations anchored nearby in this very shallow sea, none of which transmit AIS for obviousl reasons) that up to 860,000 tons of ILLEGAL catch is taken from that small area alone on an annual basis. Ships CANNOT rely on AIS as their primary collision avoidance system and neither should you! Finally, do not have much confidence that a Class B system mounted on a yacht will be visible much beyond your bows. I have seen many which only transmit a readable signal VERY occasionally or not at all, despite their owner's high confidence that they are merrily transmitting (pehaps in part due to interference with the antennal placement on these very weak systems) and usually to a range of no more than a two or three miles maximum, whatever the manufacturer's claims. AIS is a superbly useful tool as a passive system primarily. A Class B transmitter may well give you a great deal of entirely false confidence!
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Old 23-04-2015, 20:18   #78
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Re: Communications equipment

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I also use my son as a shoreside weather forecaster. I send a request for a forecast for a lat/lon and he sends back a single compressed coded forecast for three days four observations a day (2212SE15E6.2218SE15E6 is April 22 12 noon SE winds 15 knots Waves 6ft from the East, April 22 6PM ...). Storm information is another text if needed.
CarlF -- I've been playing around with this ever since you mentioned having someone send you text forecasts a few days ago. This is something I want for myself, and it's trivial. NWS computers pop out XML weather forecasts given a lat/lon, and I already know the easy Twilio API to send and receive text messages...

My use case is to have a 'heads up' if the weather is going to change in direction or intensity significantly. Whether I am anchored or at sea, I tend to be a bit lazy about watching the weather. Much less fetch GRIB files multiple times a day, like some people appear to.

I came up with a <160 character format for multiday forecasts, something like this is 4x/day for 3 days:
Code:
Tue
00 ENE23 E8
06 ENE15 E5
12 ENE25 E3
18 ENE30 E5
Wed
00 ENE23 E8
06 ENE15 E5
12 ENE25 E3
18 ENE30 E5
Thu
00 ENE23 E8
06 ENE15 E5
12 ENE25 E3
18 ENE30 E5
Or the NWS also spits out 6x day forecasts for some areas.

But I've been wondering... For my use case I mostly want to know when the weather is going to change. Most cruising grounds I've been in have a cycle. The Sea of Cortez is an obvious example, where it flops between Northerly and Southerly. But other places are 'mostly stable with a few exceptional days' -- and I want to know when it will be exceptional.

So my wife thinks a rough 'curve fitting' type forecast is better. To just say when the wind or waves change significantly. But in the usual steady state (tomorrow will be the same as today...), it's just a range, as landlubber forecasts are with highs and lows (except wind and waves instead of temperature) and % chance of rain (except the % chance of some max, bad weather, or a change thats specified):
Code:
Tue ENE15-20 E2-3 0%
Wed ENE15-20 E2-3 0%
Don't know.... Any thoughts?
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Old 23-04-2015, 22:01   #79
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Re: Communications equipment

Muckle, I agree AIS is not a perfect fix. Transmit is not used by many fishing boats, any pirate worthy of the name, and the military. But that's not a reason for the OP to not install an AIS transponder. I'm much more worried about a 1000ft Maersk container ship who is most certainly monitoring AIS with modern equipment. As a white fiberglass sailboat, I know I'm more visible to him on AIS than either radar or by eye. The accident report on the loss of the Ouzo is a case in point:
https://assets.digital.cabinet-offic...OuzoReport.pdf

I frequently hail larger ships on VHF to check on AIS range. If I am within 7 miles, they invariably tell me they have already seen me. (my antenna is on a 60ft mast with LMR 400 coax)
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Old 23-04-2015, 22:10   #80
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Re: Communications equipment

Msponer, I like the idea of dropping out repeating forecasts. If the weather is a range, my son sends a midpoint that isn't divisible by 5 (e.g. 17 means 15-20.) The other challenge for which I don't have an answer is how to give an idea of nearby weather that would suggest changing course.

At the boat show">Miami boat show a person at the Inreach booth told me they were working on a better solution for marine weather as they have had a lot of requests. I must have looked disappointed because they also gave me a hat
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Old 23-04-2015, 23:34   #81
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Re: Communications equipment

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Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
Muckle, I agree AIS is not a perfect fix. Transmit is not used by many fishing boats, any pirate worthy of the name, and the military. But that's not a reason for the OP to not install an AIS transponder. I'm much more worried about a 1000ft Maersk container ship who is most certainly monitoring AIS with modern equipment. As a white fiberglass sailboat, I know I'm more visible to him on AIS than either radar or by eye. The accident report on the loss of the Ouzo is a case in point:
https://assets.digital.cabinet-offic...OuzoReport.pdf

I frequently hail larger ships on VHF to check on AIS range. If I am within 7 miles, they invariably tell me they have already seen me. (my antenna is on a 60ft mast with LMR 400 coax)
Well, good to hear. You have a good set and a correctly placed antenna. More often not that case than so. Yes I read the whole Ouzo report when it first appeared. Only one of its kind involving comprehensive tests more or less ever. On the strength of that in particular, and discussions I have had with many a deck officer secondarily, I would suggest transciever of course, receiver if more economical, and ideal to have transciever PLUS active reflector of the Echomax or SeaMe variety, in both X and S band, as Ouzo findings demonstrated very clearly that these work very well, and as far as radar is concerned pretty much nothing else does!
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Old 29-04-2015, 01:34   #82
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Re: Communications equipment

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Actually I consider SSB to be a very useful tool in the Pacific, in particular. This is because you will be able to join radio nets which will connect you with dozens of other sailing craft making the crossing, and in your vicinity. This may well prove invaluable for assistance and advice, but also possibly for rescue, as you will be very far from ordinary shipping lanes and very far beyond SAR aircraft cover. If you get into serious trouble halfway between Galapagos and the Marquesas or Gambiers, you will likely find that another sailor with whom you have been in contact daily may be your best bet for assistance, as they may only be hours or a day or so away. Further, a DSC distress sent on a properly set up SSB will light up the sets, with loud audible alarms, of every equipped yacht AND commercial vessel for thousands of miles. Most importantly it will do so for those within the ground wave vicinity, so the nearest 300 to 500 miles. The expense of installation varies, but the cost of use is, rather importantly, pragmatically nil.

With regard to EPIRBs, I would strongly encourage you to equip your craft with more than one. A compact one packed into your life raft to ensure that you have at least SOME means of comms should a fire force you suddenly from the boat (a very possible scenario), but also because MRCC stations are much more likely to initiate a long range SAR operation if the signal of distress they are receiving is adequately confirmed. I have witnessed quite a few false firings of EPIRBS, including one incident where I was stood by by the French MRCC in Biscay, along with another responding vessel, until that vessel was informed by the authorities that, not only did they happen to be right on station, but they were themselves the casualty. The weather was stinking and their EPIRB had been knocked from the rail without their knowledge. MRCCs MAY WELL merely issue an alert for one EPIRB fired in an extremely remote area, but not launch a rescue operation without corroborating evidence of a true emergency, on account of the cost of such an operation if no vessels can easily be tasked to the casualty and no corroborating other signals are received. But if two EPIRB signals are received, then this will confirm emergency and initiate a more robust response. You can always then turn the second EPIRB off after an hour or two of transmission, and stagger its signal with the operation of the first.

Corroborating signals can also be from Satphone or SSB or similar. Remember the the latter will require the rig to be intact. I would check any non GMDSS type equipment such as Spotlocators or InReach (I am not sure whether this latter is but I doubt it) for their actual coverage area. Spot relies on the Globalstar satellite system and is simply not supported through more than 50% of the whole Pacific, North and South.

I would strongly recommend a compact satellite phone to be kept in a Peli or similar hard waterproof case in the grab bag. I do not agree with the other poster about their "unreliability". They are extremely reliable and highly functional and I have used satcomms professionally for many years. Occasionally calls may be a bit unclear or dropped, but this is a minor inconvenience.

Remember NOTHING communicates long range distress and its nature like the voice, and so SSB and Satphone are invaluable tools. Your distress may well be medical. UK flagged vessels have the distinct felicity of having 3 radiomedically qualified doctors on 24/7 standby accessible by both SSB, and more reliably Satphone. Very useful in the wilderness. There may be other services you can avail youself of, similar, but not if you cant, if you get my meaning.

In any case, the ONLY guarantee of initiating a proper SAR to your distress is if it is a corroborated distress, so received from MORE than simply one EPIRB.

Of course everything costs money, but in the Pacific in particular it would be foolish to skimp on long range comms. I rather disagree with the previous poster suggesting VHF is the most important tool. In the Pacific, you will spend many days and often weeks at a time without having the slightest use for your VHF as there will be nobody remotely close to the line of sight necessary. A good VHF is very useful for Bridge to Bridge comms, especially for pilotage or to request mild assistance or intentions at close quarters. It is totally useless as a long range comms or distress system, unless close by a well equipped coast guard or other monitoring coastal station. Of course DO have one on board as standard in any case, as it is invaluable for intership and ship to shore at close quarters, particularly at anchor.
To Monte, Cheechako, Goboatingnow and other SSB doubters, please see my emphasis in bold above, and this perfect example which has materialised in reality since I said it:

Pacific Puddle Jumpers Abandon Ship €” Noonsite

The circumstances, I think you will notice are NEARLY IDENTICAL to my previously hypothetical scenario. Pay particular attention to the statement of the rescued parties:

"I would like to impress upon all that it was the communications allowed us through the SSB radio giving us access to the land-based Ham networks and other boats that saved our lives. With the popularity and attributes of satellite phones increasing I think it is still prudent for all persons voyaging offshore to be skilled in the use of the SSB radio. We will miss the boat that gave us so much joy for 18 years."
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Old 29-04-2015, 06:58   #83
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Re: Communications equipment

Good story and sad for the loss of the boat, however they didn't have a satphone on board which would have achieved the same result. I'm not against HF radio at all. If I had one on board I'd learn how to use it. I just don't intend installing one. They did say in the story that one of the boats diverted didn't have a HF radio, so I would assume they were contacted by satphone or were possibly in range of a VHF mayday relay.
Had they not had HF, and only a satphone, they would probably be praising the satphone in the same way and recommending all seafarers carry one aboard.
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Old 29-04-2015, 07:18   #84
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Re: Communications equipment

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Good story and sad for the loss of the boat, however they didn't have a satphone on board which would have achieved the same result. I'm not against HF radio at all. If I had one on board I'd learn how to use it. I just don't intend installing one. They did say in the story that one of the boats diverted didn't have a HF radio, so I would assume they were contacted by satphone or were possibly in range of a VHF mayday relay.
Had they not had HF, and only a satphone, they would probably be praising the satphone in the same way and recommending all seafarers carry one aboard.
Your post suggests rather strongly that you have never had experience with MF/HF DSC radio. If that is the case, how is it that on the first page of this thread you decided to dismiss this essential tool? In this case you can have no idea how actually useful it is, and your paralelling it with satphone demonstrates pretty clearly to me that you do not. They are intrinsically different. There are no lists of satellite phone numbers of long distance sailors and there are no daily scheds or check in services to allow long range sailors to keep in contact by their use. Perhaps satellite based email might act in this way, but its expense means that, to date, it does not. They are fundamentally different tools and fulfill different roles. Those who travel the deep oceans and long range it CURRENTLY with SSB on board are far more aware of the other vessels in their vicinity and those within several thousand miles than those who simply rely upon Satphone. The radio nets mean that they are aware of and are in regular contact with a high percentage of all the craft moving in their general area of Ocean. This is simply a fact. The survivors in this story SPECIFIED SSB as distinct from other means of communication, specifically Satphone, as being vital as their primary take home message from the incident, which was indeed almost precisely the hypothetical case I outlined in my original post on this thread, in response to your dismissal. Is it really true that you have no actual working knowledge of the system you advised to be discounted?
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Old 29-04-2015, 07:26   #85
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Re: Communications equipment

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Good story and sad for the loss of the boat, however they didn't have a satphone on board which would have achieved the same result. I'm not against HF radio at all. If I had one on board I'd learn how to use it. I just don't intend installing one. They did say in the story that one of the boats diverted didn't have a HF radio, so I would assume they were contacted by satphone or were possibly in range of a VHF mayday relay.
Had they not had HF, and only a satphone, they would probably be praising the satphone in the same way and recommending all seafarers carry one aboard.
Further, what on earth makes you state this? Given the very different natures and capabilities of these systems and style of their use, how is it the case that you can assert this when the survivors THEMSELVES go out of their way to specify very particularly that it clearly is not!?
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Old 29-04-2015, 07:49   #86
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Re: Communications equipment

Sorry Muckle, I thought I made my opinion pretty clear but perhaps not. I'm not dismissing HF as a valuable form of communication and not saying that a satphone is the be all end all device for safety at sea either. I'm simply saying that in the case mentioned, a sat call to search and rescue would have been more direct, communication would have been as efficient, the coastguard would still relay the mayday to all ships in the area in range, the skipper would have direct communication with any other satphone users in the area or email contact with HF users. They did mention they were part of the pacific puddle jump, which probably means other vessels taking part share email and satphone numbers and keep in contact enroute as well, whether it be by email, sat, VHF or HF.
There was no mention of an EPIRB deployed so I guess they were saving it for later if need be.
I wonder what would have happened if the forestay broke before they noticed the damage. No HF, no satphone...
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