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Old 04-05-2009, 21:14   #1
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Ham / SSB Hell !

The previous owner of our boat installed an icom 706mkiig Ham radio. Is it just me or does becoming remotely competent on one of these things take as much energy and time as boat ownership itself? After probably 40+ hours of tooling around with the unit and reading the manual (not transmitting) I feel I know less than when I started.

Here is what I would like to know how to do in order of importance:

1) Communicate with other boaters, the coast guard, and the appropriate Mexican authorities (we're in San Diego thinking of cruising South.

2) Listen to weather forecasts

3) Be able to get a weather fax by attaching my computer via sound card to the radio

4) Have a general understanding of where different resources occur throughout the radio frequency spectrum. Ie. Does FM radio (what we tune into on our car stereos) occur only within a certain frequency range, do marine operations do the same on an adjacent set of frequencies? What is the difference between a band and I frequency? What is up with the different modes SSB/AM/FM/CW/LSB/USB?

Should I sell this unit and buy a far simpler SSB? Would a Ham class have all of this info?
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Old 04-05-2009, 21:34   #2
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Well the SSB is a subset of your HAM radio. Once you get into it that far it isn't much more. HAM adds bands that you can legally access and transmit on. SSB adds enough to get by on and requires no additional FCC licenses other than what you pay for to have an international VHF radio.

Yes, it helps to learn some more technical stuff, but as a boat owner you are already up to the eye balls on technical already. This is just a bit more. You could do this after all you have done. Access to SSB and HAM means you can contact people and data beyond the 40 mile limit of a VHF radio. Using full resources this is darn cheap access vs sat phone. If you could save money would you learn it?
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Old 04-05-2009, 21:42   #3
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I feel your pain :-)

However, you have three things going for you:

1. you have the boat;
2. you have the radio (and a good one); and
3. you're in San Diego, where there are lots of resources.

OK, maybe a fourth.....an innate intelligence that has shown you -- after only 40 hours of fooling around -- that ham/ssb isn't off-the-shelf, press-the-button kinda stuff. You really have to learn something. Congratulations, a lot of sailors give ssb/ham radio sort of half-hearted tries over even many years, and never do figure this out :-(

The 706 (not sure if you have the original 706, the Mark II, or the Mark IIG) is a fine little radio. The MKIIG is the most popular ham radio ever. However, it is menu-driven, and until you set it up correctly and learn some of the sequences it can be daunting. If you know little about SSB or ham radio, playing with a radio like this can be akin to facing the combination lock of a bank safe: "OK, let's see...maybe if I try 33 Right....etc."

My advice is to make some time, get in touch with your local ham club, and take some lessons leading to at least a General Class ham license. There are excellent home study materials available from the Amateur Radio Relay League..... ARRLWeb: ARRL Home Page.

A ham license will allow you to use the 706 on your boat, at home, on another boat, etc. ON THE DESIGNATED HAM BANDS. You don't need anything else to operate on these bands. By contrast, the 706 is illegal to use on the marine SSB bands, even if you have a ships station license and a restricted marine operator's license...both of which are required on the marine bands.

Bill
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Old 05-05-2009, 04:50   #4
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Bill, why is it illegal to have SSB installed on some ham radios?
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Old 05-05-2009, 06:53   #5
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SSB is a mode of operation. It is used on both marine radios as well as ham radios. In order to legally transmit on the marine bands, you must use a radio that is FCC certified for use on the marine bands. Ham radios are not certified for this as they do not meet the technical standards required for marine use. You can however, legally use a marine radio on the ham bands.

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Old 05-05-2009, 07:16   #6
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There are a number of technical and regulatory reasons why non FCC type accepted radio's are not allowed to be used on marine SSB frequencies. I would like to mention a practical reason that I have run into several times.

Marine SSB channels are spaced just 3kHz apart. 4.146 MHz, 4.149MHz USB (upper side band) as an example. Emissions from aradio encompasses more than the one single discreet frequency. SSB transmissions have a "Bandwidth" that can be 2.5 to 2.8kHz. SO....when you are transmitting on 4.146Mhz USB, parts of your transmission may actually be heard on 4.147, 4.148 and a few Hz higher, fading more and more as it goes up in frequency.

Among their other attributes, marine ssb transceivers are suppose to have very high frequency stability and very low side splatter. This keeps your transmission from splattering over to the adjacent marine SSB freq and interfering with other people.

Ham radio's do not have this requirement. Many new, high end radio's have very good specs and may not be a problem. Low end radio's and older radio's may have poor frequency stability and higher side splatter. Thus...it is very easy for your transmission to splatter all over other people trying to communicated on the next marine ssb freq.

There are a limited number of marine ssb simplex freqs, unlike amateur freqs, there is no wide spectrum to dial a freq on. Marine ssb simplex freqs are a limited number of specific freqs, just a handful for each band. If you are operating an amateur radio that is spattering widely, you could be killing MOST of the available freqs in a marine band.

Another exemplar: Even a new ICOM 718 amateur transceiver has a frequency stability of 200Hz (0.2Khz). So....it can quite easily shift up the 3kHz (2.8 bandwidth + 0.2 freq shift) to splatter on the next marine ssb freq in a band.

It is more than simply an annoyance when you have established a time and frequency to communicate with another station and find that the frequency you are on is being splattered all over by someone rag chewing on poor equipment.

It is a safety issue, a legal issue and a courtesy issue.

Just my 0.02, I hope this helps.

Respectfully,

John
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Old 05-05-2009, 07:22   #7
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Unbusted....there is a lot of really good info that explains much regarding marine and ham radio's and frequencies in Reed's Marine Almanac. You can also find the time and frequency of many good weather and radio nets to listen to on: docksideradio.com

ARRL.org has a number of good books on amateur radio and you can find a good basic marine ssb book at West Marine. Look for one by Capt Marti Jones.

Hope this helps

best

J
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Old 05-05-2009, 11:42   #8
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You may want to get your Ham license and join a Ham club. There are mentors that could answer your questions. An actual human on your boat showing you how, who knows his stuff would probably be the least frustrating way of getting your questions answered.

Getting a Ham license is relatively easy now.
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Old 05-05-2009, 11:56   #9
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Definately agree with getting a ham license. It is one of the best and most valuable tools you can take with you cruising.

You will also find that your local ham club has a great number of people who would be more than willing to spend long hours helping you learn the concepts, pass the test, helping you the with your radio, it's installation on the boat and it's use. You cannot imagine how incredibly helpful many folks in a local ham club are quite willing to be.

Best

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Old 05-05-2009, 12:06   #10
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It sounds to me that, according to my original requirement of a radio,
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbusted67 View Post

1) Communicate with other boaters, the coast guard, and the appropriate Mexican authorities (we're in San Diego thinking of cruising South.

2) Listen to weather forecasts

3) Be able to get a weather fax by attaching my computer via sound card to the radio,
I will be unable meet those goals. If most people I will be wanting to communicate with will be doing so on SSB frequencies, and a HAM radio (or someone with a HAM license?) can't transmit on those frequencies then maybe I should just swap the icom out for a ssb. Doesn't this make sense?

It sounds like a HAM, although a fun hobby, doesn't really have that many applications in a marine environment. Can someone give an example of when a HAM is better suited than a SSB for marine applications?

I really appreciate everyone's help on this. Judging from the warm responses I have received from this inquiry I should be haunting HAM forums instead of sailing ones.
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Old 05-05-2009, 12:09   #11
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A HAM radio is a SSB radio. Your marine SSB will automatically provide the Duplex frequencies (one freq for tx one for rx) that you would have to program into your Ham radio. HAM radios have the marine SSB frequencies on them. But they are not programmed in or labeled in the Marine SSB manner.
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Old 05-05-2009, 12:15   #12
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Quote:
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A HAM radio is a SSB radio. Your marine SSB will automatically provide the Duplex frequencies (one freq for tx one for rx) that you would have to program into your Ham radio. HAM radios have the marine SSB frequencies on them. But they are not programmed in or labeled in the Marine SSB manner.
...But someone just said it was illegal to use SSB band with a HAM radio. Is this not true if you program it to operate on duplex frequencies?
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Old 05-05-2009, 12:31   #13
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Your confusing modes with frequencies. SSB is a mode. It means Single Side-Band and is just one of several modes available for use. It has become common to use the term SSB to mean marine HF but it is really a misnomer. If your going to transmit on designated marine frequencies, you must use a marine transceiver FCC certified for marine use. You cannot use a ham radio (which can also operate in SSB mode) to transmit on marine frequencies because they are not FCC certified to do that. You can however, use a marine radio to transmit on ham frequencies.

Eric
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Old 05-05-2009, 12:39   #14
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Thanks Eric

Eric points out an area of confusion created by uninformed cruisers regarding radio technology. There are commercial SSB transceivers and HAM SSB transceivers. The term, "SSB" does not denote either type.

This is similar to the confusion regarding "lead-acid batteries". Some people think that this means only flooded-cell construction when, in fact it is the general chemistry used to describe flooded-cell, AGM, and Gel cel batteries ALL lead-acid.

HAM and commercial radios often can operate in CW, and AM modes in addition to SSB modes. Therefore, a CW radio (A1 emission, for example) is not just a HAM radio.
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Old 05-05-2009, 12:59   #15
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Quote:
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It sounds like a HAM, although a fun hobby, doesn't really have that many applications in a marine environment. Can someone give an example of when a HAM is better suited than a SSB for marine applications?
Some truly great nets (like The Pacific Seafarer's Net) where a large group of helpful folks are on hand to pass traffic, help with problems, pass along weather data, and provide support in emergencies. Being a ham also gives you access to Winlink, a free HF email alternative to Sailmail (also using PACTOR).

Ham radio is a global community that will open doors wherever you go. It's worth the learning curve...

Cheers and 73,
Steve, N4RVE
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