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Old 17-06-2016, 19:52   #1
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Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

You can't get the right answer if you don't ask the right question. I would like to know if for strictly marine purposes the far cheaper ham radio will do the job that a mariner needs to be done. Not emails and other such concerns of those safely on dry land.
First I want to get the maximum amount of information about the weather. Secondly I need collateral information about my particular passage for example what is the best way to handle passage through the Panama Canal.
Are there areas which have seen recent acts of piracy.
Can I give other cruisers useful information about my current location.
What you might call the social media aspects of HF radio have no interest for me.
The 802 with its necessary adjuncts cost about $3000.
For strictly maritime purposes is this worth the investment to a Bluewater sailor?
What's a grib?
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Old 17-06-2016, 20:08   #2
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

There are Ham nets for cruisers that you can follow and you can do email and download GRIBS with a Ham radio. You can even have a Ham radio programmed to transmit on marine channels but that isn't recommended. Ham radios are built to a much looser standard than marine HF radios and will transmit a lot more interference on the crowded marine channels than a true marine certified radio.

GRIBs are weather maps that show wind speed and direction.
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Old 17-06-2016, 20:25   #3
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

There are a couple of issues here, and the more important one is the legal issue.

Strictly speaking, it is OK to listen no matter what radio. However, it is only strictly legal to XMit on Marine SSb channels with an appropriately type-certified Marine SSB.

That said, 99.9% of the time, no one is likely to catch you.

However ...

... there are a number of reports that some countries -- Australia in particular -- are very tight on this requirement, and on checking in to the country if you have been found using marine SSB without an appropriate radio, you are in big dodo and can expect a very hefty fine.

All that said ... we are very happy to have BOTH ham and marine SSB (legal) capabilities. It is not infrequent that we get better propagation (including emails) on one and/or not the other. There are good and useful marine nets on bith.

In addition, you may NOT use ham frequencies to discuss commercial matters and that is usually interpreted to mean all financial matters -- even to the point of reminding your wife to send in the rent check ...

For many (but not all) uses, a Sat Phone is a useful (and sometime less expensive) alternative.

Make your own decisions, just be aware of the limitations/restrictions/etc.
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Old 17-06-2016, 20:33   #4
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

Say phone less expensive? Care to share the math on that...

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Old 18-06-2016, 09:15   #5
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

You can use ham radio to tell your wife to mail the rent check, or use it it order a part for your boat.

You cannot use it for matters of pure financial benefit for you or others.

Chip


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Old 18-06-2016, 09:50   #6
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

Yes, but if you transmit on HAM for ANY purpose you better have the appropriate license - and they're a fair bit of hard work to get. It takes planning and perseverance.
-Bill (VE0MTA, ex AB6KL)
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Old 18-06-2016, 10:02   #7
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

The 802 is a fantastic radio, connected to a Pactor Bluetooth modem correctly installed and away you go. You can listen to any frequency you wish and transmit on Ham if you are licensed. Your Ham transmission on the 802 is likely to be superior to many Dedicated Han radios.
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Old 18-06-2016, 10:35   #8
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

Yes, a HAM radio can do what you need. We used an Icom IC-735 HAM (~$350) with a Z100 autotuner ($100) instead of an SSB from Oregon down to Panama, hoisting our antenna (regular copper wire) on a halyard when we wanted to listen/transmit and connecting our counterpoise to our stern pulpit and metal toe rail (see my previous posts for a description of how we did this). We were able to reach as far as Wisconsin from Central America.

14300 KHz is the HAM maritime mobile channel, and it is always monitored by land-based HAMs who are happy to help you with a weather forecast. As others have said, there are also more localized SSB nets for cruisers on the 8MHz, 4MHz, and 12MHz bands that you can listen to without modifying your radio. I modified our IC-735 by clipping a specific diode on the circuit board, which allowed transmitting on the marine bands.

As others have said, it is not legal to transmit on the marine bands unless it's an emergency, but your odds of getting caught are slim. You are required to get a HAM general license, however. This is the second stage of licensure, and there are apps that help you pass the tests if you don't want to read the books (I recommend reading the books though so you understand the underlying system and basics of the HAM culture). This one is important, because you need to use your callsign when hailing a HAM net and they will look you up on their database.

GRIBs are wind and pressure maps transmitted on specific frequencies at specific times by government agencies. To the human ear they sound like screeches and beeps, but if you have a modem or a computer/smartphone/tablet with the proper app, you can convert the bleeps into images. We used an iPad app with moderate success, but more often than not we'd just hop on 14300 and ask for a weather fill.

We also carried a DeLorme InReach, which allowed 2-way satellite texting so we could just ask our friends for a weather report if we were in a bad propagation situation.

Three cheers for frugality!
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Old 18-06-2016, 10:39   #9
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

It actually isn't hard to get a General or even Extra class ham license in the USA.

The best way to do it is to use the ARRL or W5YI study guides for the Technician and then General (and ideally Extra) class license, to be sure you have a good, solid background. Of course, that body of knowledge is really only a starting point in your ham radio experience, and a minimum of what you should really know.

The other faster way to do it is to learn the question database from repeatedly taking practice tests on websites like HamTestOnline - Ham Radio Exam Courses and Practice Tests. You will be able to pass the tests with this technique, and you will absorb some knowledge doing it, but without actually studying and learning the material you will be a pretty shallow and probably less than capable ham operator. I would hope that one taking this last route would continue to improve upon what little they learn.


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Old 18-06-2016, 10:46   #10
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

First; What the others have said;
We use both a Marine Band Radio (ICOM 802) and a Ham radio (ICOM 7300) on board our 37' sailboat.

If you just want to listen to various radio stations and maritime nets, then a Ham radio transceiver will be less expensive. You will need a station & an operator's license to operate the Ham radio set in the transmit mode and a knowledge test is required to obtain said license. Of course, nothing is required if you are just listening. Also; Not all ham radio sets are capable transmitting on Marine Band frequencies but most will receive those frequencies.

The Marine Band radio operates on specific marine band channels, requires a station license ($250.00 for 10 years, plus an $60.00 operators license) and will transmit and receive on some of the Ham frequencies as well (See Dockside Radio description on technique)
But you should understand that these are two distinct applications and although the radios may overlap in coverage, they are licensed differently and designed to different technical standards.
You should know that it is illegal to use a 'Ham Radio' on the Marine Bands as stated above. To do so, is a violation of International Laws & Treaties and many countries will observe this restriction. Don't get caught !

If it were me, and if I correctly understand your question, I'd op for a Marine Band Radio like the Icom 802 over a Ham radio set for High Frequency operation. You can also listen to the ham bands with it and if you need to call for help while out at sea, you'll be talking to a freighter or a tanker that might be able to render assistance. Ham bands for that purpose are a little dicey .

One real big help in this might be contacting someone like Dockside Radio in Punta Gorda, FL. for a further discussion.

GRIB
GRIB-stands for gridded binary, and is a form of packing meteorological data.
The files contain different kinds of parameters, stretching from precipitation and cloud cover to wind speed and wave height.
GRIB data are a numeric product and are not verified by meteorologists.
From time to time the grib files will give a wrong forecast. In some situations the conditions may be significantly different than the files show.
Grib files shall only be used as a supplement to forecasts from official sources (such as GMDSS, text/radio forecasts from meteorological centers), never as a replacement.

Critical decisions should never be taken at the basis of information from this service, and any decisions made on the basis of information from this service, is entirely at the users own risk.
Hope that helps.

Bill W2CWL WDI7390 MMSI#367728250
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Old 18-06-2016, 10:53   #11
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

Get in the 21 century.
Check out Delorme InReach or Explorer devices (delorme.com).
Does all these worlwide: tracking, email, charts, emergency coverage, weather, and a few more. Using Iridium Satellite Network.
All for less than $25 a month. Been using mine for a year now, well worth the $$.
No affiliation with Delorme, just a happy customer.

One more thing, it's a very small device, but it Bluetooth connects to your phone or tablet for ease of use.
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Old 18-06-2016, 11:10   #12
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

Quote:
Originally Posted by PPLepew View Post
Get in the 21 century.
Check out Delorme InReach or Explorer devices (delorme.com).
Does all these worlwide: tracking, email, charts, emergency coverage, weather, and a few more. Using Iridium Satellite Network.
All for less than $25 a month. Been using mine for a year now, well worth the $$.
No affiliation with Delorme, just a happy customer.

One more thing, it's a very small device, but it Bluetooth connects to your phone or tablet for ease of use.
===

The Delorme InReach is an interesting product and I own one but with all due respect I don't consider it to be a replacement for an SSB radio. The SSB can connect you with a whole universe of like minded people who can frequently provide up to date information on a wide range of subjects. The SSB can also be used to download weather fax information and customized GRIB files based on the GFS weather model.
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Old 18-06-2016, 11:52   #13
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

New one for me about being illegal to use a ham radio on marine freqs. Have an ICOM IC7200 which a very reputable retail store modified for me to use on SSB freqs. Never said anything about legality.

Original system consisted of a 24' wire pulled up the mast for an antenna and a heavy wire dropped in the water for a counterpoise. Worked great (Finland from So Cal). Finally bought a KISS (which also gives good signal) because it was a pain to drop the wire in the water everytime. Know many dump on the KISS but is much easier than bonding in copper and works fine on this boat.

In case PDenton is not aware, it is legal to broadcast on any ham frequency in an emergency, and the net controllers on 14300 are good at helping when that happens.

Regarding the canal passage, did it last January and my strong recommendation is to do nothing until you get there. It is much easier than checking into or out of any country. Definitely easy to do without an agent. Have to deposit $1875 for boats under 50' and get 890 back if you don't miss your time or damage the canal. :-) VHF radio is all they use. (I have some notes I did for friends coming through after us if you want it.)
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Old 18-06-2016, 12:39   #14
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moontide View Post
New one for me about being illegal to use a ham radio on marine freqs. Have an ICOM IC7200 which a very reputable retail store modified for me to use on SSB freqs. Never said anything about legality.
Very common. Many cruisers jump right in and do this without actually doing the research. A ham radio adjusted and operated properly isn't likely to cause much interference to other users on the marine SSB frequencies - even though they are not held to a tighter standard like type certified marine transceivers. The biggest problem occurs with users that don't really understand how the many adjustments that a ham radio offers can affect their signal and increase adjacent channel interference - and this is a particular problem when they are trying to drive a pactor modem . Most ham radios are also much more sensitive to power supply voltages at the radio end than are type certified transceivers, and this can add to created interference problems.
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Old 18-06-2016, 13:13   #15
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Re: Ham vs SSB for marine purposes

Hi Jeff.
I have read all the messages which have been sent so far and there is a lot of valuable information to digest. It certainly would be weird if an SSB at its much greater cost didn't have features that the most lower cost ham radio provides, but from what you say having a ham radio would cover the needs which I imagine that I will have.

Frugality is not only a virtue, but for many of us, a necessity.

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