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Old 04-01-2012, 20:49   #1
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HAM / SSB / SAT Phone

What should I get? I know next to nothing about any of these modes of communication. My family has a boat with an Icom 706 HAM radio that I have used once or twice for RXing Wefaxes etc. and I am aware of the icom 710 and 802 SSB radios but I only vaguely understand the benefit of having one over the other.

What are some of the benefits of having a HAM over a SSB or a Sat phone. Can you still get Wefaxes and Email on a Sat phone? Isn't it cheaper to just rent the phone for a brief period and then return it when the trip is done?
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Old 05-01-2012, 01:46   #2
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We tried using our iridium sat phone once to load a standard web page. Waited 20 minutes and gave up before page completed download. Too costly. Maybe others have had better luck.

AT&T gave me the code to unlock my old blackjack phone so I can purchase and use an alternate carrier sim card while out of the country so that will replace our sat phone in the future.

Sorry, can't help you with the other modes.
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Old 05-01-2012, 03:09   #3
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Apart from being to call or text anyone from anywhere, sat phones are all about e-mail. Keeping in touch, updating your blog and getting e-mail weather info.
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Old 05-01-2012, 07:41   #4
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

So is the general consensus that SAT phones are a good supplemental to a HAM or SSB?
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Old 05-01-2012, 08:41   #5
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Quote:
Originally Posted by lunasea.ds View Post
We tried using our iridium sat phone once to load a standard web page. Waited 20 minutes and gave up before page completed download. Too costly. Maybe others have had better luck.
If you use addons to Firefox, you can filter various content (like ads, flash video, etc), that will help speed up your browsing. Also, you should bookmark any key pages that you need so you can go right to them. For weather you can just get the txt forecasts. No way can you use a sat phone for general browsing.
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Old 05-01-2012, 08:48   #6
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So is the general consensus that SAT phones are a good supplemental to a HAM or SSB?
I think the only consensus you'll find here is that there isn't one. No sat phone for me.
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Old 05-01-2012, 08:53   #7
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

I think this deserves a more thorough answer. Of course, it all depends on what you are doing-long ocean passages or coastal cruising. But assuming ocean passages (why else have long range comms), SSB or Ham is nice in that its use is largely free and there are cruiser nets one can tap into, weather, etc. Been around for a long time and they work, lots of experienced sailors have them and swear by them. Weather info is available, but I do not personally know about modern GRIB files and the like and how one accesses that, hopefully someone with firsthand knowledge can chime in.
Satphones are still fairly expensive but quite incredible really in what they can do. Make a call or send an email from virtually anywhere and download GRIBS which you can put right on your computer and are the bees knees for accurate weather forecasting. Recent experience for me mid-atlantic was a brave new world of very accurate and up to date info, far different than the old offshore forecasts (notoriously vague) and funky weatherfaxes-incredible really. But they are still pretty expensive, between the cost of the phone and then service required-packages of minutes and the like. You makes your bets and takes your chances I guess-maybe other folks with personal offshore experience will chime in.
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Old 05-01-2012, 09:06   #8
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Had sat phone last boat with UU PLUS as provider and it was great anywhere in the world. Just about any weather maps I needed in a minute. That was 5 years ago now and I hear it is better service now with many good providers out there.

We were going to eliminate the sat phone on our new boat and go with ssb and pactor but changed my mind after talking with a lot of friends who still use ssb and pactor, none of them liked it anymore. So back to Sat phone for email and weather and ssb without pactor for communication.
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Old 05-01-2012, 09:21   #9
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Another aspect which play for sat phone is that in case of emergency you can take it with you and contact the world for help
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Old 05-01-2012, 09:34   #10
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Here are some links to previous discussions on this topic you might find interesting:
SSB or Satphone?
SSB vs Satphone

I have satphone, marine SSB, and ham capability, and use them in that order. There are many factors that you have to consider (along with your own priorities), but each of these has strengths and weaknesses, all of these can be very useful, and none of them are strictly essential.
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Old 05-01-2012, 09:50   #11
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

I had a sat phone back before WiFi. It worked fine for downloading wx maps (my primary interest) and up/downloading emails - but - I was shown how to turn off all the graphics in web pages using Internet Explorer. This eliminated all the time needed to download massive amounts of non-relevant stuff in every webpage. Basically the Internet Explorer was operating in "text-only" mode.

But I do not think that is possible anymore. The modern webpages are just loaded with megabytes of fancy graphics and frames and "make it pretty/beautiful" trash. I have complained for years to my financial outfits that their webmasters are spending too much time trying to win awards for beauty and leaving the bank customer without mega-bandwidth behind. A financial bank statement page that used to take a minute to load as a text page now takes 5 to 10 minutes or more unless you have "high-speed" access. Which is not possible with any sat phones we cruisers can afford.

So the basic question of what are the usefulness of SSB (Ham and/or Marine), sat phones, etc. has changed.

Marine SSB (non-HAM) now offers all the practical useful features that used to be only in the domain of HAM. CruiseEmail and SailMail even use the same equipment and protocols/programs and you don't need a HAM license.

For coastal and island cruisers, WiFi is now the prime vehicle for communications what with Skype and Facebook, etc. Even Chris Parker is now available on the web.

Offshore during inter-island passages there is little need for long range communications. However, extended offshore passages like the crossing the Atlantic or Pacific, etc. is where SSB is still very useful, if not required, for weather and communications. The HAM coverage is still, IMHO, better in the oceanic areas than the commercial SSB systems.

Satellite Phones - Globalstar and Iridium are viable especially when you need communications in a hurry (subject to satellite availability, etc.). So for "safety" reasons they are valuable in my opinion especially for ocean crossings and even some inter-island passages.

If I had to prioritize due to limited budget, I would put powered long range wifi antenna systems first; SSB a close second (sub-priority - Marine first and HAM second); and Satellite Phones third. The reason for the higher priority on SSB are the cruisers nets available during ocean passages. Being able to talk "live" to a group of other cruisers while making a passage is a very valuable safety capability.
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Old 05-01-2012, 09:55   #12
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Your idea of renting a Satphone for a longish passage makes good sense in my opinion. The SSB or Ham would have other uses if you were long term cruising, but you can get a lot of Satphone use for the price you'd pay for a SSB and installation, and in my experience, it's probably more reliable.
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Old 05-01-2012, 13:57   #13
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Good advice here, it really does matter what your situation is.

I was looking up costs for a pactor and the price of the iridium sat phone a few weeks ago and I think the iridium was cheaper to buy and about the same price with 500 minutes for one year. Minutes were about 650 dollars. Please correct me if that is not the case. So if that is the case I like the idea of ssb/ham radio first but get the iridium for email, weather faxes, part of your safety equipment calling home to kids once in a great while.

With the last iridium we also purchased the external antenna and mounted it on the radar pole on stern. Seemed we got full bars when using antenna then when not using it. The only thing I didn't like was that the cable was very thick and stiff and was difficult connecting to phone.
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Old 05-01-2012, 14:02   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevewrye
Good advice here, it really does matter what your situation is.

I was looking up costs for a pactor and the price of the iridium sat phone a few weeks ago and I think the iridium was cheaper to buy and about the same price with 500 minutes for one year. Minutes were about 650 dollars. Please correct me if that is not the case. So if that is the case I like the idea of ssb/ham radio first but get the iridium for email, weather faxes, part of your safety equipment calling home to kids once in a great while.

With the last iridium we also purchased the external antenna and mounted it on the radar pole on stern. Seemed we got full bars when using antenna then when not using it. The only thing I didn't like was that the cable was very thick and stiff and was difficult connecting to phone.
If you're a ham, you can use your computer and a good sound card directly -- no need for pactor. I've heard the speed is comparable to pactor 2. The program is called winmor.
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Old 05-01-2012, 14:35   #15
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevewrye View Post
With the last iridium we also purchased the external antenna and mounted it on the radar pole on stern. Seemed we got full bars when using antenna then when not using it. The only thing I didn't like was that the cable was very thick and stiff and was difficult connecting to phone.
For the final connection to the phone, use a short jumper (I have a 4 foot cable) made with thin flexible coax. Here's a typical one:
PE3425-48 - TNC Male To TNC Male; 50 Ohm; RG174A/U - Cable Assembly Wizard - Coax Cable Assemblies

I have a through-bulkhead connector at the navstation, which connects the jumper to the long thick low-loss coax to the outside antenna. The short flexible jumper has a few dB of extra attenuation, but in my opinion the convenience makes up for it.
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