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Old 06-12-2006, 04:02   #1
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Location: I live & sail alone full-time, on the East coast of Australia, on my Cat `Tsunami' and after 2 years still feel happy to be on the water.
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HOW IMPORTANT IS `HF' RADIO?

Following the Cyclone Season on the East coast of Australia (approx. April '07, I think?) I will be sailing east to Vanuatu, or Fiji ... and have been concerned about `How importamt it is to have HF Radio communication ... as opposed to Satellite 'phone?'

Also ... can I have feed-back on `Sail Mail' connected through HF radio ... please?

I sail a great, tough, little 10 metre Cat ... and need to keep in touch with Family at home. Plus I appreciate the need to keep in touch with what the weather is doing.
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Old 06-12-2006, 04:19   #2
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Lloyd, you should review the description of the Sailmail service at www.sailmail.com as their comments are relevant, thorough and not inflated. Cruising sailors all over the world are using Sailmail and also its amateur radio 'cousin', Winlink (www.winlink.org) to download current, digital quality weather files as well as send/receive email. Sailmail is ~$300 USD/year and operates as a non-profit entity; Winlink is free. Both systems rely on the same hardware, software (www.airmail2000.com for your free client software) and technology.

Sat phone comms offer the most reliability, ease of use for voice comms, and so are optimum for safety & emergency comms traffic. Pulling down a wide variety of weather info is more complicated and more limited than if using an HF transceiver. The Sat Phone hardware can cost much less than or about the same as an HF installation, depending on what you want it to do. It's the operational costs which most people complain about.

HF radio (SSB) is more challenging to use effectively but offers far more day-to-day utility. You can participate in cruiser nets and weather nets, can pull down a variety of weather data that's being transmitted by govt. authorities, and it gives you access to the 'party line' which operates out of most boats. Most boats in your planned cruising area will have a SSB radio aboard. Even among those boats that have a Sat phone, they won't be using it to call one another nor would they even know each others number. If you want to know whether the Immigration folks at your planned destination are helpful, or grumpy, or what their hours are (to avoid after-hours fees), you can get that info on SSB easily. That kind of local info will never be available via Sat phone.

Jack
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Old 06-12-2006, 05:39   #3
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Hi LLoyd, we had times when the sat phone did'nt work on our trip to New Cal.

Not sure if it was the phone or the operator, hideously expensive for calls though, even when we did'nt get through and vise-versa.

That was 3 years ago, so I'm hopeing they have improved.

Try Penta - Comstat as well, they can help with HF coms as well

http://web.mac.com/pentacomstat/iWeb...20Comstat.html

Dave
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Old 06-12-2006, 05:52   #4
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Just a few weeks ago, north of Bermuda, a group of Saint Johners aboard Magique had get assistance and make arrangements to abandon ship just north of Bermuda, after losing all the glass and plastic off their rudder post and having a foul system envelope them. The satphone got no reception, and all arrangements, contacts with friends and family etc., were done by Ham radio.
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Old 06-12-2006, 06:33   #5
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Crew plucked to safety after 24-hour ordeal ~ By Matthew Taylor
http://www.theroyalgazette.com/apps/.../NEWS/11110015
Crew aboard three stricken yachts bound for Bermuda were picked up in separate rescue missions (November 9/06) as 30-foot waves battered the vulnerable craft.

The “Magique” was only one of several boats experiencing difficulties in the area.
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1735870/posts
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Old 06-12-2006, 06:42   #6
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Actually LLoyd, Penta -Comstat have closed recently, so look at this site.

http://www.pca.cc/

Should have all your HF needs covered.

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Old 06-12-2006, 07:40   #7
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Gord inadvertently cut short the URL reference to the stricken yachts. The full URL is:

http://www.theroyalgazette.com/apps/...73265138012703

Bill
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Old 06-12-2006, 12:34   #8
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To answer the original question, it is not essential to have it. If you choose to have it then see all the answers above.
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Old 06-12-2006, 12:36   #9
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This may annoy some people but I suspect those "rescued" sailors all would have survived had they stayed on their boats. Hope I'm wrong.
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Old 06-12-2006, 15:53   #10
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This may annoy some people but I suspect those "rescued" sailors all would have survived had they stayed on their boats.
Actually boats often survive quite well after they haul the people off. It's just one of those things where if you were there at the time you might not feel the same way.

You can be in situations where you need to decide and not making a decision is the only wrong thing to do. If everyone comes back fine then it's hard to second guess and actually quite pointless. The outcome was intended through action and not accidental by doing nothing.
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Old 06-12-2006, 21:35   #11
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Is a HF radio necessary? Of course not. Best to first decide what you want to be able to do, then figure out how to do it.

You mentioned communications and weather, and asked about Sailmail. A shortwave receiver can get you the weather (voice broadcasts, and weatherfax charts, using a computer). Your main choices for two-way communications are HF radio (marine-band SSB or ham radio), and satellite phone. I use both, but if I had to choose just one it would be the SSB set. Sailmail is a great addition to the SSB, and is a good way to get some of the weather info you will want. SSB is probably the best way to communicate with other boats, or with emergency personnel (assuming that you're out of VHF range).

I typically use an Iridium satphone for most of my email and weather info, but it is definitely more expensive than sailmail over SSB. Satphone can't be beat if you want to make a phone call to the people at home. A minor issue with the satphone is that the coverage near the equator isn't as good as it is closer to the poles. This is for the Iridium system, which has the satellites in a circumpolar orbit. You get coverage world-wide, but the connection is more likely to be dropped as you get nearer to the equator. It remains very usable, though. Some other satphone systems use geosynchronous satellites, which will have different coverage problems.
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Old 06-12-2006, 22:17   #12
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Gee Paul, now i'm confused.

My very first boat had an old GME VHF that had SSB capabilities, but was playing up and the repairer said it was cheaper to buy a new VHF and no one used SSB anyway.

Now i'm looking at Radio's and you can get VHF or HF/SSB combo's.

Can I actually get a SSB by itself and does Coastguard listen to it and can I speak to them, and does Sailmail really work.

I know you say it does above , but everything I see talk's about HF and Sailmail, not SSB and Sailmail

Dave
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Old 06-12-2006, 22:44   #13
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Dave:

I think the source of your confusion has to do with the terms "HF", "VHF", and "SSB". Let me try to explain.

"HF" and "VHF" (high frequency and very high frequency) refer to portions of the radio spectrum. The HF portion of the spectrum lies just above the familiar AM broadcast band, occupying the space between 3.0 MHz and 30.O MHz. The VHF portion of the band lies above the HF portion, from 30.0 MHz to 300 MHz.

"SSB" or single sideband, refers not to any particular part of the radio spectrum, but to the type of emission....i.e., the type of signal transmitted by your radio. It's possible to use SSB in any portion of the radio spectrum, but by convention and regulation it is generally used mostly in the HF portion. SSB is used both by mariners on the HF marine bands and by hams on the HF ham bands, as well as by other services such as commercial aircraft, the military, etc.

In outfitting your boat, the first choice is almost always for a good VHF radio, since that is extremely useful for communicating with other boats, rescue aircraft, and shore stations within its limited range.

For long-distance radio communications -- say over 30 miles or so -- you need an HF/SSB radio, either ham (with the appropriate license) or marine.

Both ham radio and marine radio can be used for email: SailMail is the commercial version, used with marine radios on the designated marine bands. WinLink is the nearly identical ham version used on the designated ham bands, with appropriate license.

Do they work? You bet! They work like gangbusters.

While ham radio requires a license you earn after taking a technical proficiency test, marine radio requires only licenses you apply for and pay a fee for, but no tests. Both, however, have a learning curve before you can use them effectively and begin to realize their amazing potential.

Yes, you can contact the Coast Guard using HF radio, both ham and marine. The USCG and other coast authorities regularly monitor certain HF frequencies in the marine bands. When there's an emergency, the USCG regularly comes up on the ham bands as well, after being notified by a ham radio station hearing the emergency.

Hope this helps a bit.

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Old 06-12-2006, 23:01   #14
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Thanks for that Bill, I know that the coasties listen to VHF and HF, just had a problem with the SSB.

The way I read Pauls post was i could buy a HF, or a SSB radio, and I thought that may be a cheaper option than a HF/SSB combo.

So seems i'll be shelling out the bucks for the flash jobby afterall.

Thanks
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Old 06-12-2006, 23:14   #15
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Dave:

Well, the cheapest way to go would be to buy just a HF RECEIVER capable of receiving SSB broadcasts. These can be had for as little as $80 new (like the Kaito on eBay) and could, as Paul said, serve to provide you with news, weather, weather faxes (when used with a computer), etc.

However, for 2-way long-distance communication, you have only to choose between a ham radio transceiver (HF/SSB) or a marine radio transceiver (also HF/SSB).

The ham radio is the cheaper of the two, but requires a license you have to study for. And, by the time you get done with the installation of the radio, an automatic antenna tuner, an antenna (usually an insulated backstay), and an effective ground system....there's not all that much difference in cost, since everything except the radio itself costs about the same for ham or marine radio.

For some mariners, an Iridium satphone is the way to go, depending on your needs and preferences. Satphones are great for keeping in touch, they're OK for email and limited weather products, and they're often good in emergencies. HF radio is much more fun, more useful for keeping in touch with other boats and finding out useful things, great for email and weather products, good for emergencies, etc.

Choices, choices, choices :-)

Bill
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