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Old 06-03-2014, 12:00   #16
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
A small quibble - there's no "type acceptance" for ham radio equipment. You can use any old radio on the amateur bands, if you are a licensed amateur, even something you made yourself, which is kind of the point of ham radio.
Correcto... you can use two jam tins and string if you want... just need a lot of string....
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Old 06-03-2014, 12:03   #17
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

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I'm not opposed to getting a ham license. It will just take a little studying. If I keep my ham radio, I will still probably get a marine SSB one day. If I have both units, is there a way to set up a switch to go back and forth between the radios and use only one antenna and one antenna tuner?

Yes. An MFJ 1702c is an inexpensive antenna switch at about $19. The Daiwa CS 201 is a great switch for about $35.

If I were you, I'd get the marine SSB unit you want, and keep the ham radio as backup. My Icom was very easy to modify for all bands. It's always a good idea to have a spare, especially if lightning strikes are a possibility.
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Old 06-03-2014, 12:04   #18
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
A small quibble - there's no "type acceptance" for ham radio equipment. You can use any old radio on the amateur bands, if you are a licensed amateur, even something you made yourself, which is kind of the point of ham radio.
I'm glad you said that as I was just about to retort along the same lines.
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Old 06-03-2014, 12:10   #19
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

You should get a nice price for a TS-480SAT...LL
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Old 06-03-2014, 12:26   #20
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
A small quibble - there's no "type acceptance" for ham radio equipment. You can use any old radio on the amateur bands, if you are a licensed amateur, even something you made yourself, which is kind of the point of ham radio.
Oh yes, I believe you are quibbling correctly. I should have said get a radio that's type accepted for marine bands and use it for Ham.

Now I haven't studied the ham rules for a long, long time but are there not some rules on what kind of signal you can put out even on ham bands.
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Old 06-03-2014, 12:56   #21
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

Socaldmax talked about antenna switches. I assume these are primarily intended to use one radio with two antennas. Does their design allow you to effectively use them "backwards?"
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Old 06-03-2014, 13:01   #22
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

I have a HAM Extra license.
I spent 2 (1998-2000) years cruising Mexico in with a Kenwood TS-450 ham radio opened up to broadcast on the Marine SSB channels. SGC Autotuner
Sailmail was fairly new and I used a Pactor 2 modem

Hopefully will head out again within a couple of years. If I was heading out today it would be with what Dockside suggested, an ICOM M802 Marine SSB radio opened up for the ham frequencies. Pactor 4 modem and a Sailmail account.

On the previous trip I used the radio for
1. Sending and Receiving emails via Sailmail
2. Listening to the Ham and SSB nets for weather info and keeping track of where my friends were.
3. Reporting in on the nets
4. Communicating with friends who I would initially contact on one of the nets and take it off to different frequency or schedule a date/time and freq to talk.

Sailmail subscription does have a cost but its more like $ then $$$.
Tried the HAM winlink systems but Sailmail was more reliable and for a minimal cost. Sailmail system was seldom down for any period of time. Winlink systems might go offline for periods when owner/ham operator was not at home. Email might get delivered to the winlink system but not be delivered to its ultimate destination. At the time Sailmail had the 2 radios in Palo Alto and then also had one come on line in Ft Lauderdale and I used all them easily from Pacific Mexico. Now they have serveral more stations around the world.

Pactor 4 to reduce connection time. Typically you run the connection at full power/full duty cycle so the energy consumption is a bit. Better to spend the money on a Pactor 4 then having to replace the additional energy required to send the same transmission over Pactor 2 or 3. Additional benefits would include smaller heat load into the cabin as the radio was not running as long. And since the broadcast interferes with the Autopilot less time for someone at the wheel.

Go with the marine M802 as its type certified for marine ssb and can legally transmit on the Marine SSB channels which includes the Sailmail channels.

Interface for Ham Radio frequencies is decent enough on the M802 to keep me from considering 2 radios.

Marc Hall
Crazy Fish - Maintaining, Upgrading and Sailing a Crealock 37
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Old 06-03-2014, 13:21   #23
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

FWIW:

We have used Winlink/Airmail for many years now, enjoying the free e-mail and saildoc access. Our cruising area is the SW Pacific, and we have always had access to base stations... except during periods where the ionosphere was so stuffed that no one, Sailmail included, had reliable HF comms. As someone else said, there are vastly more Winlink stations than Sailmail stations, and there are no practical limits on connect time (which Sailmail does have) and what's not to like? Only thing I know of is that one can not use ham radio for business purposes. If you anticipate that usage, it's Sailmail for you.

As to the cruiser nets, well, some areas have lots of ham nets (Mexico, for example) while others have more Marine SSB nets. In general we have enjoyed the ham nets far more than the SSB ones, but that's a personal thing. Another feature of ham radio is making connections with shore based hams in areas that you are voyaging to, before you arrive. We've made some good friends this way over the years, and it is something you simply can not do via SSB.

So, there are plenty of reasons to go ahead and get your ham licence IMO, but as always, YMMV!

Cheers and 73

Jim (N9GFT/VK4GFT)
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Old 06-03-2014, 13:30   #24
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

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Originally Posted by dandrews View Post
You really don't need that ham radio, just send it over to me.

Don
N1FVB
I agree with this 100 per cent except you should send it to me!

WH6DN
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Old 06-03-2014, 13:36   #25
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

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Originally Posted by Coutret View Post
Socaldmax talked about antenna switches. I assume these are primarily intended to use one radio with two antennas. Does their design allow you to effectively use them "backwards?"
Yes, you can connect them either way. The port that is not being used at the time is shorted ie., if "A" is selected, "B" is shorted to ground and vice versa, so be careful!
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Old 06-03-2014, 13:46   #26
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

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Originally Posted by MarcHall View Post
I have a HAM Extra license.
I spent 2 (1998-2000) years cruising Mexico in with a Kenwood TS-450 ham radio opened up to broadcast on the Marine SSB channels. SGC Autotuner
Sailmail was fairly new and I used a Pactor 2 modem

Hopefully will head out again within a couple of years. If I was heading out today it would be with what Dockside suggested, an ICOM M802 Marine SSB radio opened up for the ham frequencies. Pactor 4 modem and a Sailmail account.

On the previous trip I used the radio for
1. Sending and Receiving emails via Sailmail
2. Listening to the Ham and SSB nets for weather info and keeping track of where my friends were.
3. Reporting in on the nets
4. Communicating with friends who I would initially contact on one of the nets and take it off to different frequency or schedule a date/time and freq to talk.

Sailmail subscription does have a cost but its more like $ then $$$.
Tried the HAM winlink systems but Sailmail was more reliable and for a minimal cost. Sailmail system was seldom down for any period of time. Winlink systems might go offline for periods when owner/ham operator was not at home. Email might get delivered to the winlink system but not be delivered to its ultimate destination. At the time Sailmail had the 2 radios in Palo Alto and then also had one come on line in Ft Lauderdale and I used all them easily from Pacific Mexico. Now they have serveral more stations around the world.

Pactor 4 to reduce connection time. Typically you run the connection at full power/full duty cycle so the energy consumption is a bit. Better to spend the money on a Pactor 4 then having to replace the additional energy required to send the same transmission over Pactor 2 or 3. Additional benefits would include smaller heat load into the cabin as the radio was not running as long. And since the broadcast interferes with the Autopilot less time for someone at the wheel.

Go with the marine M802 as its type certified for marine ssb and can legally transmit on the Marine SSB channels which includes the Sailmail channels.

Interface for Ham Radio frequencies is decent enough on the M802 to keep me from considering 2 radios.

Marc Hall
Crazy Fish - Maintaining, Upgrading and Sailing a Crealock 37

There are a couple of minor things I'd like to address.

While I would also buy a Pactor IV for future compatibility, currently there are no Pactor IV stations in the US. There are some in other countries, but not the US.

While the M802 will work fine on amateur bands, I'd have a 2nd radio for backup in case something happened to the first one, like lightning, accidental shorting of the antenna, frying the output stage of the transceiver, etc. Murphy's Law is always in effect!
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Old 06-03-2014, 13:52   #27
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

What do I need to careful of? Is it a complicated installation?
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Old 06-03-2014, 15:49   #28
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

As is usual with this subject matter, there are a lot of good observations, a bunch of misleading ones, and a few dead wrong ones. There are also some missing ones, i.e., which didn't reply to the OP's initial concerns.

Here are a few I've noted in a quick reading:

The Kenwood TS-480SAT is an EXCELLENT ham radio. I'd consider keeping it.

By all means, get a ham license. The number of hams amongst cruising sailors is growing, as is the general population of hams. Over 700,000 are licensed now in the U.S. alone....about 2 million worldwide.

In an emergency, sometimes ham radio is your BEST BET. Better than a satphone, better than marine SSB. I recently participated in the rescue of a stranded ham on a reef in a remote area of Cuba. Many hams participated over a period of two days....some stayed up 24 hours a day....to maintain contact with the stranded boat, and to sustain contact with the many authorities who were involved. This included other hams & cruising sailors, diplomats, multiple countries, multiple rescue facilities, etc. In the end, help was successful. The case is being written up now for publication.

Quite simply, this could not have been done as well without ham radio.

Yes, any radio can be used on the ham bands if you have a ham license. The reverse is not true, i.e., ham radios may not be used on the marine bands (or, for that matter, on the aviation bands, military bands, land-mobile bands, or other discreet bands). Except, of course, in a dire emergency....any radio can be used on any band.

No question about it, SAILMAIL connects on the marine bands are often easier than WinLink or WINMOR or other connects on the ham bands. This is both because the marine band channels have less QRM and because the SAILMAIL stations can handle multiple connects on multiple channels simultaneously. This cannot typically be done by WinLink stations, and there's no way to tell for sure whether or not a given station is busy on another of its published channels. This may well be the case even if you hear nothing on one or another of the station's frequencies.

SAILMAIL, which costs $250 per year, can also be used for business purposes, which WinLink cannot be.

Still, many cruisers do use WinLink daily and are happy with it.

In the U.S. Marine SSB sets indeed have to be "FCC Certificated" (new term for "Type Acceptance") for use on the marine bands, and have to meet higher specifications. This includes rather strict ones dealing with spectral purity. Very few ham sets can match these standards. Marine SSB sets also need to operate with lower voltages, while some ham sets will distort or actually cut out if the supply voltage is much below 12.6 or 12.8VDC. Many cruising boats have battery voltages below this, especially in emergency situations.

Used marine SSB sets are available at favorable prices. There's no reason not to have BOTH ham and marine sets. I've had both on my boat for many years. I use a high-quality (Alpha Delta) coax switch to choose the radio I want to use. This switch is connected to a coax running to the SGC SG-230 antenna coupler.

HF/DSC can be of interest and use, but IMHO it's far from being mandatory. Suggestion: read the 39 pages of instructions on how to use HF/DSC in the Icom M-802 manual and see what you think. Then, watch the well-done instruction videos done by John (KA4WJA) and posted in several places. Many experienced cruisers and radio operators don't see the need for HF/DSC, even in Europe or other areas of the globe where we're told that "no one monitors voice transmissions any more". That is simply not true.

Installation of ham/SSB radios can be straightforward and relatively simple. However, it depends very much on the specific boat. I do this professionally, and the level of difficulty can range from simple to moderate to complicated and very difficult.

I've seen MANY bad installations, though, and I talk every day of the year to boats with installed radios. As a result, having talked to literally thousands of boats on the ham and marine SSB bands over the past 35 years, I can attest that there are many installations with problems. Some of these are easily solved, some are more fundamental....bad coax, bad connections, improper power sourcing, severe RF interference with other instruments & equipment on the boat, etc., etc.

What's essential 2-way communications for long-distance cruising? YMMV, but in my view the essentials are:

1. ham license and good ham or marine SSB installation;

2. HF email if you plan to be out of wi-fi range; and

3. Satphone.

I have and have used all three for many years on my boat, ranging from Maine to Grenada.

Bill
WA6CCA
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Old 06-03-2014, 16:08   #29
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

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What do I need to careful of? Is it a complicated installation?
No, it's not complicated. But you do need to pay attention to which radio you have selected before you trasmit.

If you have the switch selected to radio A, and accidentally transmit on radio B, you have now just shorted radio B to ground, probably blowing up the amplifier stage. If you're lucky, you might just blow the fuses, but I'm usually not that lucky.
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Old 06-03-2014, 16:15   #30
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Re: Ham Radio vs Marine SSB

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Originally Posted by socaldmax View Post
No, it's not complicated. But you do need to pay attention to which radio you have selected before you trasmit.

If you have the switch selected to radio A, and accidentally transmit on radio B, you have now just shorted radio A to ground, probably blowing up the amplifier stage. If you're lucky, you might just blow the fuses, but I'm usually not that lucky.
Yeah, could be messy. BTW, it would be radio B shorted to ground, and radio A's front end could be damaged.

EASY WAY TO AVOID THAT (worked on my boat with both HF and VHF radios -- two of each -- and in my home shack with 7 radios on Alpha Delta coax switches).

Never made a switching mistake in almost 25 years. But, hey, I'm getting up there so standby....it could happen :-)

Just make it an iron rule:

NEVER HAVE MORE THAN ONE RADIO TURNED ON AT THE SAME TIME.

Also, you should be able to tell by the background noise whether the radio you want to use is connected to an antenna. Just work the coax switch....it will be immediately apparent.

Bill
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