I have an update since this thread was active a few months ago. My PSK-31 station is now working well, and is QRP (low power, under 5 watts). It runs for many days of heavy operation on a 12-V 15-AH battery
and is about to get a lightweight lithium to make it more pleasant to carry around. The result is a backup and field radio
system, completely independent of my fancy integrated boat comm gear
that depends on ship power... yet can still provide both emergency
and fun communications
in voice, digital, and CW (Morse Code) modes on all bands from HF through UHF. (I have skipped standard packet, which is a bit passé, and used PSK-31.)
The magic trick for doing the data part of this without a computer is the NUE-PSK
, which works beautifully. It is a little box that plugs into your ham rig and any PS2 mini-keyboard, and has its own display. It takes care of all the PSK-31 processing that is normally done with a PC, sound card, and interface box.
Note that this is not in any way equivalent to the PACTOR-based networks out there that allow more-or-less unattended forwarding of email
. It is just live keyboard-to-keyboard chat (though there are projects afoot to add mail services). But let's not underestimate the value of a simple system. If I were in trouble somewhere, with my ship electronics
, my first choice of tool for getting help would depend on whether I wanted to invoke the 5-alarm fire of coast-guard rescue
operators... versus alerting a few friends to mobilize resources to help get me out of trouble more quietly.
In the latter case, I would grab my field radio
pack out of a compartment under the aft berth. It's a heavy-duty dry bag with a Buddipole
system (tripod, mast
, dipole, cable), VHF/UHF Arrow II yagi antenna
for repeaters and LEO satellites, and a soft pack containing the rig (FT-817 low-power HF/VHF/UHF radio, NUE-PSK, keyboard, Li-Ion battery
, 12-V charger
, and solar
panel). This can be set up anywhere, on or off the boat, and give me more or less unlimited opportunity to get messages out (or just play radio, which is self-justifying for an old geek).
From my experience on 40 and 20 meters during the past couple of weeks, the little 5-watt PSK-31 station is good for thousands of miles (with patience).
While this is a far cry from the integrated email-transport of the on-board "shipnet" that seamlessly falls back from EVDO to HF email
when I'm out of cellular range (with Globalstar
as an option if I want to pay for connect time), it gives me a warm cozy feeling to know that I can always call for help without it immediately being considered a "rescue."
Cheers from Nomadness