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Old 24-03-2012, 20:55   #61
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

Hi Don and Fairbanks56,

Perhaps I should clarify, I'm talking about official MRCCs in my area - Australia and SE Asia. MRCC Australia does not maintain a listening watch for MAYDAY, PAN-PAN etc calls on the official Maritime Emergency frequencies, and neither do any countries in SE Asia. They only maintain a DSC watch. The only way to initiate contact is with a DSC call from a DSC equipped radio.

The use of DSC helps make the maritime emergency communications network work more effectively and by using it in yachts, cruisers also get all the advantages, including the ability to initiate contact with commercial ships that might be nearby to provide assistance. Commercial ships arer no longer required to maintain a voice watch for MAYDAY or PAn-PAN calls; they only maintain a DSC watch.

My experience around here is that a lot of circumnavigating cruisers starting from North America are not aware of the differences in services available.

I'm not sure if the M801(E or A) is available from ICOM in the USA. The M802 is, and one version of it has DSC, so at least that gives USA cruisers the opportunity to get into a DSC radio and it's advantages once they move beyond the USA.

I get to meet numerous cruisers when they are in SE Asia, and I've learnt that many North American cruisers have communication difficulties and limitations once they are away from North America, because of the radio equipment they are carrying. And I think this sometimes limits the cruising experience they can enjoy. And it can certainly fall short of what might be their expectations in an emergency situation, when they need to contact an MRCC. If the information I can share here helps them to be more appropriately prepared for this larger and less congested side of the world, where there are no or very limited voice watches (New Zealand and South Africa, and Papua New Guinea still monitor some emergency voice frequencies, although PNG only till they have the money to change to DSC equipment) on the Marine Emergency Frequencies - by buying a suitable HF/SSB radio before they leave - I'm happy to do so.

I hope this helps.
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Old 24-03-2012, 21:24   #62
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

The M801 is not authorized for use on U.S. registered vessels. I agree that DSC is a good thing but to say "you cannot play your part in the self-help marine rescue network without a DSC equipped marine radio" is highly mis-leading. While it may be true that MRCC Australia does not monitor voice frequencies, that does not mean nobody is listening. From the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, "The maritime authorities in the States and Northern Territory provide safety communications services for small craft. A network of 9 HF voice Limited Coast Radio Stations have been established at: Darwin, Cairns, Gladstone, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth and Port Hedland. These stations keep a watch on 4125, 6215 and 8291 kHz." In addition, "Each State/Territory has an extensive volunteer marine radio network. Many of these stations do not operate 24 hours but do operate in the 27 MHz, VHF and MF bands".

The Maritime Mobile Service Network has coordinated many distress calls over the years via the 20 meter ham frequency at 14.300Mhz. Vessels in distress may use any means of communications to get help, regardless of station/operator licenses or equipment used. (i.e. you can legally use your ham radio to make a distress call on marine frequencies)

Other than DSC, what are the other difficulties/limitations of radio equipment used by North American cruisers? DSC is a nice feature to have, but it is not a requirement. You can still summon for help and indicate that you can render assistance to others in distress via voice.

Eric


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Old 25-03-2012, 04:48   #63
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

Hi Eric,

I take your point about the State run HF stations with voice watch. These were implemented following the introduction of GMDSS for big ships, and the subsequent closure of the main Coast Stations around Australia, which had been financed by the income from HF/SSB telephone interconnect.

Unfortunately, as an Australian yacht owner, I can tell you the actual performance of the state run services has been largely ineffective and unreliable. Perhaps part of the problem is the same issue that DSC is designed to overcome; listening constantly to the background noise and irelevent calls on the marine emergency frequencies is a big ask. People tend to turn down the volume or set the squelch threshold too high - so actual MAYDAY and PAN-PAN calls are not heard.

I expect this is part of the reason why the Australian Communications Authority requires all commercial small-craft to fit as minimum something like an ICOM M801 GMDSS (DSC and electrical isolation in addition to the fanless body) and new recreational vessel installaions to be minimum ICOM 801A (fanless body and DSC) radios. Too many reports of no response from the state run stations supposedly monitoring for voice emergency calls.

It could be the working arrangement too. For example the remote WA scanning radio was linked by landline to a Police Station in Perth. I expect the Police have other more immediate and pressing matters than to listen to a spluttering HF radio, and probably turn down the volume. In Sydney, the single scanning radio was located in the port control comms tower, in the centre of Sydney, next to the Harbour Bridge. Just too much electrical background noise to hear distant emergency calls, and being busy managing commercial traffic in the harbour, they probably also turned down the volume.

And for the volunteer groups, they are presently under forced amalgamation and somewhat dysfunctional, with a principal focus on local boats and VHF operations. They also have only limited coverage, with the best coverage along the NSW and QLD coasts. Beyond there, vast sections of the Australian coast simply have no people around, so there cannot be volunteer groups monitoring VHF, MF or 27meg frequencies.

When Derek and Janine provided the Penta Comstat voice service for recreational vessels, their service covered the entire Australian coast and the South Pacific with a reliable presence, recording all emergency communications,broadcasting weather information, taking position reports etc. They had a legal responsibility to provide the emergency service. They even provided regular daily HF/SSB voice contact for Kay Cottee throughout her entire journey to be the first worman to sail solo, non-stop, around the world. But since Penta closed, there is a significant gap.

Prior to the advent of GMDSS for ships over 300 tonnes, there were major Coast Radio Stations at Sydney, Perth and Darwin. These were financed by the income from telephone interconnects, principally from merchant ships and cruise ships. But these coast stations would also respond to calls from recreational vessels and they maintained 24/7 voice monitoring of all the official marine emergency voice frequencies, for everyone - commercial and recreation - as part of their legal obligation. But once the larger commercial vessels were forced to fit big dish satellite comms as part of the new GMDSS system, all their phone traffic shifted to the satellite link and the coast stations were closed due to lack of money.

Singapore Radio had a similar function, but from experience, they never responded to calls from recreational vessels. Singapore Radio also closed when they lost their telephone interconnect income.

Monitoring the HF/SSB emergency frequencies for MAYDAY and PAN-PAN calls in a yacht 24/7 is not something I've encountered often in many years of cruising and racing. The noise is just too pesky and incompatible with many of the reasons we go to sea to enjoy our recreation. If you ask yachts to do it, it's almost inevitable the volume will be turned down, and therefore no monitoring actually occurs.

But every yacht can maintain a DSC watch with no intrusive imposition on their time at sea, or when relaxing in an anchorage. The DSC watch includes muting of the radio speaker, so there is no pesky background noise from the speaker. When a DSC alert is received the speaker opens and the radio goes into an alarm state. It really is a major improvement and enables every yacht to be part of the official marine safety network. Every yacht with an approved marine HF/SSB radio - with DSC - can be listening for emergency calls from other vessels in distress, or from MRCCs.

No countries in SE Asia maintian a voice watch on the marine emergency frequencies. They only maintain a DSC watch. This is part of an inevitable worldwide changeover.

Taupo Radio (New Zealand) still provides voice monitoring of the 2 to 16 Meg marine emergency voice frequencies, Honiara (Solomons) and Tahiti monitor SOME of the marine emergency frequencies. As I mentioned previously, PNG still does, but only until their DSC radios arrive. Guam Coast Guard maintains a DSC watch and a limited voice watch on 2 emergency frequencies at certain times of day. Seychelles and Mauritius still maintian a voice watch on certain frequenceis at certain periods of day. But it's inevitable this will change solely to a DSC watch, just as it has elsewhere.

Departing North America for a lengthy circumnavigation expecting to rely solely on voice calls for emergency communications 24/7 is not practical. The services simply are no longer there.

I'm certainly aware that HAM operators have been instrumental in facilitating assistance to yachts - HAM and non HAM - in numerous emergency situations. I also know that MRCC Australia contacts known HAM operators to help locate "missing" boats.

I'm also aware that HAMs who operate the nets go on vacation, or change jobs and leave the area, or change their phone number or email address so MRCC Australia cannot find them, or sell their equipment (eg: the Sydney, Darwin and Perth WinLink stations). I think it's hard to expect that a volunteer HAM can guarantee to maintain a 24/7 listening watch for emergency calls - MAYDAY and PAN-PAN - on the official marine emergency frequencies. (I expect they would need a marine radio and to license a Limited Coast Station to do so.) Nor accept legal responsibility for their service; like the NZ contractor which provides AMSA's DSC based 24/7 emergency service.

Fitting a proper marine HF/SSB with DSC now allows cruisers to take advantage of the existing - professionally operated - worldwide network of 24/7 MRCC stations. These stations are required to maintain a dependable DSC service, and they are legally accountable for their service.

Plus there are the tens of thousands of commercial vessels out there which are required by their marine survey regulations to monitor for DSC alerts, 24/7. And progressively, hundreds of thousands of recreational vessels also monitoring for DSC calls 24/7. The USA is behind in this DSC development for recreational vessels, but such developments which have already occurred in recreational vessels in other part of the world are available for North American cruisers to utilise - for most of their circumnavigation - if they have equipped their boat with a DSC HF/SSB radio. That's really a very big emergency communications advantage for cruisers, and very cheap insurance, just for the price of a proper marine HF/SSB radio with DSC.

Regarding problems I've seen here with North American boats:

1. Yachts with HAM radios sold to unsuspecting buyers by the previous - licensed HAM - owner. The new owner does not have a HAM license, is therefore not authorised to operate the radio, and has very limited knowlege how to successfully operate the radio.

2. Licensed HAMS with a HAM radio but with limited knowlege of the marine HF/SSB radio service, and unable to program in marine frequencies into their - legal, unmodified - HAM radio. They become a real problem in rally groups, yacht races etc. They are compelled to make the illegal modification to their HAM radio to operate it - illegally - on the marine frequencies, to communicate with other yachts and thereby risk interferrence to normal marine HF/SSB radio operations and safety communications.

3. Yachts fitted with radios without DSC failing to make contact with MRCCs. For example, I received an email at 0200 local time from a yacht in the South China Sea. The skipper was very concerned about being followed by fishing boats. It was lucky I was up at that time. He had been calling PAN-PAN on the marine emergency frequencies for hours and (predictably) getting no response. I emailed the IMO's Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur and they immediatly arranged to open the DSC mutes on their radios and talk to the rather frantic yacht skipper and his wife.


When GMDSS was introduced I was very concerned that this system for ships over 300 tonnes lead to the closure of Coast Radio Stations and abandonment of voice monitoring of the emergency frequencies for small-craft. It looked like safety communications for non-GMDSS vessels - including recreational vessels - had been abandoned by the relevent authorities.

But as the DSC system has been refined and the problems smoothed out, the price of DSC equipped radios has dropped, and manufacturers like ICOM have created DSC radios suitable for small-craft, so I've come to see that tapping into this now well established and dependable emergency communications system presents great advantages for recreational vessel owners and their crews.

One of those advantages is that yachts with DSC can leave their radios muted, in standby mode, monitoring the emergency frequencies for DSC calls, and call each other using their MMSI number; similar to dialing a phone number. It's like having SelCall in a land HF/SSB network. A call will definately be heard because the radio goes into an alarm state, unlike a voice call that will probably be missed, because someone turned down the speaker volume and/or the background noise level is too high.

I hope I've explained this adequately. Always appreciate other comments.
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Old 25-03-2012, 08:06   #64
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

Point well taken about the advantages of HF DSC. As far as tens of thousands of commercial vessels monitoring 24/7 and hundreds of thousands of recreational vessels monitoring 24/7???

You continue to go on about the fanless M801. I have since learned through a colleague that the 801 does in fact have a large internal cooling fan and have seen reference to that on various websites advertising the M801. I also noticed a drawing of the bottom of the transceiver that shows a small circle of holes (ventilation?). I do not have first hand experience with the 801 but do have extensive servicing experience with the 802 and 710. Each have ventilation slots and internal fans that ONLY operate during transmit. Without firsthand experience or service manual, I can only assume the 801 operates the same way. Your selling point (twice in your last post) about radio's during receive mode other than the 801 having power sucking fans is a irrelevant. I will say based on the photo's Iv'e seen, that the 801 appears well sealed as compared to other marine SSB's. Perhaps this is why the 801 operates at a lower power than most other's.

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Old 25-03-2012, 15:20   #65
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

Hi Eric,

Thanks for the heads-up on the M801 fan. I will check again with the people who advise me. Perhaps the reason why UK/Europe and Australian regulations for the minimal standard of HF/SSB radio for fitting to new yacht installations is M801 rather then the DSC model of the M802 is linked to constant or more regular fan operation, or some other factors? I'll ask more questions. There should be a safety related reason.

Regarding the question of whether commercial vessels are complying with their survey requirement to maintain a 24/7 DSC watch, I expect there are millions of vessels around the world in survey carrying a modern radio specifically to guard the DSC emergency frequencies. If only tens of thousands of them correctly and properly maintain that 24/7 DSC watch, that's still tens of thousands more that in the past, when human nature meant they turned down the volume of the radio they were required to operate to monitor for voice MAYDAY and PAN-PAN calls.

The same applies to recreational users. We all know we should be good marine citizens and monitor the VHF and HF/SSB emergency frequencies for voice emergency calls from other boats; like we'd hope they are doing for us if we have a problem. But human nature applies again. It's a lot more realistic to monitor for emergency calls when those calls will be DSC alarms, and at all other times, the radio is muted; so we can enjoy our recreational time. DSC equipped marine HF/SSB radios make it a lot easier to create a network of hundreds of thousands (out of the millions that exist) of recreational small-craft around the world looking out for each other at any moment. It's as simple as switching on the DSC equipped radio when on-board.

Allan
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Old 25-03-2012, 16:04   #66
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

Allan,

Your main point seems to be that if you don't have a marine type-accepted HF/SSB transceiver AND you're not in North America then....you are either screwed (out of luck) or have to operate illegally. Or, perhaps, if you're 'just' a ham, you're pretty much in the same category.

I don't have the energy to get into a long debate with you about this, but as Eric said, this basic premise is VERY misleading at best.

There are both marine and ham nets which operate regionally all over the world, and which offer pretty good coverage. With over 700,000 licensed hams worldwide there is ALWAYS someone who will hear you...if you have the skill and experience to know how and where to call.

Email services are worldwide via Pactor III and, now, Pactor IV (Dragon).

The Brunei Bay Radio setup is very comprehensive and offers voice, WX, and email services all over SE Asia and the Western Pacific on a number of marine HF bands. http://www.bruneibay.net/bbradio/

The US Coast Guard has 24-hour watches on HF in a number of places, including Hawaii and Guam.

'Marine Operator' stations, like ShipCom, operate stations in several locations which cover much of the world's oceans. They offer 24/7 watchkeeping, regular WX broadcasts (great for checking propagation), and voice and data services.

Aircraft enroute ground and airborne services still operate on many HF frequencies all over the world, with 24/7 watch standing. In an extreme emergency, they might be useful.

And, all those DSC-only stations which are part of GDMSS in fact do have VOICE SSB capability, and can come up in A3J mode when they know of an emergency. All that's necessary is to have someone, somewhere, notify the Coast Guard or one of these stations that there is an emergency.

In much of the world, 14300 kHz amateur radio capability is, arguably, more reliable and more responsive than are the HF/SSB marine frequencies.

By the way, it is NOT illegal to modify a ham radio to operate on other than ham frequencies. It is illegal to USE them outside the ham bands EXCEPT in an extreme emergency, whence ANY FREQUENCY (ANY MEANS) may be used to attract attention and obtain assistance.

Bill
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Old 25-03-2012, 16:22   #67
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

btrayfors, whatever you claim , AllanR is right in regards DSC HF. Since the mandatory voice watch is no longer required under ITU/COMSAR ( It has been maintained on HF for the moment) I have found not difficult to get MRCCs or Ships to respond without DSC calls .

In fact there is very little going on on Marine HF anyway at all.

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Old 25-03-2012, 16:44   #68
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

Dave,

In fact, quite a lot is going on on HF Marine as well as HF ham.

The Cruizheimer's Net on 8152 each morning has 60-80 boats checking in.

There are a number of weather nets, regional safety and security nets, etc. which are quite busy each day.

The DooDah net on 8152 is lively.

Herb's famous weather routing net on 12359 is busy during the active Atlantic season.

The USCG broadcasts weather several times a day on several HF marine frequencies.

So, too, do the ShipComm stations on the Gulf Coast and the West Coast of North America.

For a partial list of ongoing Nets, both ham and marine, check out: Net / SSB Frequencies

There are many international broadcast stations with news, sports, and other programming on the HF frequencies.

And, the 700,000 hams are quite busy on HF/SSB, CW, the data modes, and other modes. etc., etc.

If you're having trouble contacting ships without HF/DSC, try VHF Channel 16 or 13. If you have AIS, call 'em by name. If they're too far away for VHF contact, why do you want to contact them anyway???

Bill
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Old 25-03-2012, 16:56   #69
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

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If you're having trouble contacting ships without HF/DSC, try VHF Channel 16 or 13. If you have AIS, call 'em by name. If they're too far away for VHF contact, why do you want to contact them anyway???
yes your right and since my AIS unit been fitted thats what I do. but I was across the Atlantic recently on a boat with a HF receiver, little was received.

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Old 25-03-2012, 17:15   #70
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

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Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
..................
If you're having trouble contacting ships without HF/DSC, try VHF Channel 16 or 13. If you have AIS, call 'em by name. If they're too far away for VHF contact, why do you want to contact them anyway???

Bill
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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
yes your right and since my AIS unit been fitted thats what I do. but I was across the Atlantic recently on a boat with a HF receiver, little was received.

Dave
And no, not always right; around the SW parts of Aus (offshore) it can be very had to find a VHF contact most of the time and without DSC you would be hard pressed to make a marine HF contact. I can't comment on Ham.

The only sure way of making a radio contact in this area is EPRIB and if I needed a voice contact in an emergency, I would use airband HF frequencies as "channel of choice", at least they would wake up someone in the RCC! Or dare I say it, consider the satphone!

I agree that in the busier parts of the world, VHF does the trick.
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Old 25-03-2012, 23:34   #71
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

For a pretty good description of GMDSS and DSC, particularly its flaws, see

GMDSS information by Dunstan and Associates

Reading about the current status of MF/HF DSC, I wouldn't count on it working outside the first world, and chances are the whole system is going to be scrapped or extensively modified.

One of the DSC flaws is the high percentage of false alarms. The US coastguard statistics for the Atlantic RCC area for 2010 are given at

http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/gmdss...s_Dec_2010.pdf

They received 115 VHF DSC calls in 2010, of which 105 were false alarms. For the MF DSC they got 12 calls, ALL of which were false alarms, and on HF had 48 calls of which 40 were false. Contrast this to Inmarsat B where they got 15 distress calls, all of which were valid.
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Old 26-03-2012, 00:58   #72
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

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Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
AllanR, you go to great lengths to promote the use of marine SSB's over modified ham rigs, but a lot of your arguments are pure fantasy. A little disclosure is in order--do you make money selling SSB's??

The only upsetting news about using a modified ham rig is that their prices are rising--I just checked Ebay and a 20 year old Icom 735 now sells for about the same as it did new.
Lengthy is an understatement here. I have had a few of my rigs "clipped" in the past with no problems. I always find dealers selling SSB tend to be elitists.
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Old 26-03-2012, 02:17   #73
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Originally Posted by donradcliffe
For a pretty good description of GMDSS and DSC, particularly its flaws, see

GMDSS information by Dunstan and Associates

Reading about the current status of MF/HF DSC, I wouldn't count on it working outside the first world, and chances are the whole system is going to be scrapped or extensively modified.

One of the DSC flaws is the high percentage of false alarms. The US coastguard statistics for the Atlantic RCC area for 2010 are given at

http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/gmdss...s_Dec_2010.pdf

They received 115 VHF DSC calls in 2010, of which 105 were false alarms. For the MF DSC they got 12 calls, ALL of which were false alarms, and on HF had 48 calls of which 40 were false. Contrast this to Inmarsat B where they got 15 distress calls, all of which were valid.
False alarm rates are typically high when the system is being introduced, which is effectively now in the US. As user experience grows. It will decease, that is what happened in Europe. ( but the lack of formal VHF training is going to dog US VHF usage ).

HF DSC. has some serious technical shortcomings, and I suspect will be changed to ensure better reliability it was poorly thought out ( as was all DSC ) and poorly implemented.

Dave
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Old 26-03-2012, 08:00   #74
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I'm incredibly confused. We have an icom m710 with a pactor modem that came with our boat, and I thought it would be nice to use it for email, weather and voice communication. So I got my technicians license, but the guys who administered the ham test told me that I'd need the general license to use marine frequencies. I'm taking the test tomorrow.

But from reading this thread, it looks as though I can't use marine bands and that we need a ship's license from the FCC to even use our VHF overseas. We are leaving in a week, not nearly enough time to receive a ship's license. I kind of understand that it is illegal to use a ham radio on marine frequencies, but how will that affect our ability to email, check the weather, etc. on our specific radio? And will I get arrested for hailing the harbor master on our handheld VHF in some foreign port? Thanks in advance for the clarification!
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Old 26-03-2012, 08:19   #75
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Re: HF SSB Ham Radio Option

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....... And will I get arrested for hailing the harbor master on our handheld VHF in some foreign port? Thanks in advance for the clarification!
Probably not (unless you sound guilty ). OK, lets make that very very unlikely!
And you can always use your SSB to receive weather.
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