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Old 25-03-2015, 10:35   #16
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

"on the channels."
Which is indeed another major difference between ham radio and marine.

The marine SSB radios use designated CHANNELS. Ham radios do not, they have "frequency bands" and if you don't happen to know just what wavelength to tune the radio to...that would be like trying to randomly guess the address to put on a postal letter. For the non-technical user, there are a lot less buttons to puzzle over, and lots less potential confusion, with marine SSB.

Either one normally requires an antenna tuner as part of the installation, an extra cost glossed over. But the actual installation process is about the same, and anyone who can install garden lighting without electrocuting the family probably can follow the instructions and DIY. (Conversely, if you need or prefer to call AAA to change tires...and would never dream of changing your own wiper blades or oil...you'd want to hire an installer and stick to marine SSB.)
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Old 25-03-2015, 10:49   #17
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

Going against the grain on this thread so far , we are a Sat Phone boat.

We had neither SSB or Satphone when we headed across the Pacific and certainly wanted something for weather/emergencies.

From my math, a Satphone is much less expensive then a full SSB/Pactor installation.

Also, the Satphone can go in the ditch bag.

Also, the fact I can just call a phone number (SAR, Coast Guard, Family, etc), is much faster then dealing with an SSB, IMO.

For us, the cost was the most important. We bought an Inmarsat iSatPhone for $600 (new), and pretty much only use the minutes when offshore, which overall, is a very small amount of time. At $100 for 100 minutes good for 6 months, which we never use, it will take a long time to reach the $3k+ cost for a full SSB setup. We use a good email compression service like UUPlus, and the calls for weather and email are always < 2 minutes.

For us it was a pretty easy decision.

We do have a $100 SSB receiver on board as well so we can listen to NOAA or "nets" when needed.
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Old 25-03-2015, 11:37   #18
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

Yup, it seems the world is changing..

Behan Gifford (SV Totem) just posted a nice blog article about why they are using an Iridium Go instead of SSB on their latest passage. Its a very good article.

Iridium GO! + PredictWind for Totem’s Indian Ocean debut | Sailfeed
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Old 25-03-2015, 11:42   #19
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

We had a marine SSB/Pactor/autotuner/backstay antenna setup. I put everything in except the backstay which came with the boat. It was intimidating at first but then became second nature for me and my wife provided we stayed with the basics. We got Grib files and other weather as often as we wanted. There were times when signals were weak and that caused some problems. But we loved the nets and actually would not go without an SSB on the new boat. It's on the list.

I would love to have a Satphone too but the cost would be too much for us. We don't need to make phone calls home and I certainly would not want to expect to reach the USCG or other navies at sea in an emergency with one. From what I hear, coverage is good around the coasts and spotty out in remote oceans. That should be a major factor in any decision making. Also what I hear is that you cannot trust what the vendors tell you - at all - regarding coverage. I would look to personal experience with others. May be it is all good right now.

And don't leave home without the EPIRB IMHO FWIW LOL. Much more reliable for a true mayday and it gives your location automatically. I would not rely upon a satphone for that. I would use it if I had it in that case if I had a signal but only after I set off the EPIRB. Of course, it would be great to have a satphone (if you had a signal and your bills were paid up) to handle a medical emergency with a discussion with a doctor. A SSB would not be the first choice for that although it can be done in the right conditions.

If you have the bucks, go with both. If only one, I vote for SSB/pactor. BTW - the new software tech looks good but the problem is coverage. It looks pretty weak right now. If you are only going coastal, or near coastal, don't need either.

And don't expect cellular Wifi to be available everywhere even coastal US unless you have the right carrier in the right location off the coast. ATT was missing in action all along the west US coast down to San Fran, even just 5 miles out for most of the trip. Verizon gave excellent coverage 10 miles out the whole way. Which meant that cell phone coverage was there too for Verizon but not ATT. We did use our SSB twice daily to keep in touch with buddy boats going down though, but it was spotty at times.
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Old 25-03-2015, 11:57   #20
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

On passage I've found the satphone to be great for email, updating the blog and GRIBS, but use SSB for weather charts, as they take up a lot of data and get expensive quickly using Iridium. GRIBs are great for daily planning, but to get the big picture and avoid embarrassing weather I really like having the surface and 500mb charts.
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Old 25-03-2015, 13:14   #21
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

There will always be those for and against anything. SSB may not come easily to some, but sailing does not come easily to some either, both are worth learning, and if learnt well SSB is VERY good. If you dumb something down enough, only idiots will use it....satphones are well down the line, but still usefull.
Be aware just as SSB may not work everywhere all the time, neither will Sat phones, so it may not be a bad idea to have both if you can afford it.
SSB has a bad rap mostly because of those who never took the time to learn. Just as you plan a cruise , you can also plan which land based stations you can use.
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Old 25-03-2015, 13:23   #22
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by exMaggieDrum View Post
We don't need to make phone calls home and I certainly would not want to expect to reach the USCG or other navies at sea in an emergency with one. From what I hear, coverage is good around the coasts and spotty out in remote oceans. That should be a major factor in any decision making.
Can you explain a bit more why you would not be willing to call the CG in an emergency with a Sat Phone? Just curious.

Regarding coverage, both Iridium and Inmarsat have worldwide coverage pretty much everywhere anyone is sailing (no coverage at poles with Inmarsat, but not many cruisers in those areas), so perhaps you data is a bit outdated.
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Old 25-03-2015, 14:15   #23
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildrose View Post
If you dumb something down enough, only idiots will use it....satphones are well down the line, but still usefull.
I'll try not to take that personally .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildrose View Post
SSB has a bad rap mostly because of those who never took the time to learn. Just as you plan a cruise , you can also plan which land based stations you can use.
After 8 years cruising, and meeting a lot of boats from all over the world, I can honestly say I have never heard anyone complain about SSB or say it was a bad decision. I don't think it has a bad rap at all, it works quite well.

For us, it was simple cost, and portability, as personally, being able to make a phone call from a life raft seems like a big bonus to me.

If you already have the SSB radio gear on your boat, a satphone is a nice luxury to be able to add to your inventory. If you don't have any SSB gear on board, IMO, I feel the sat phone is a better choice, and its not more expensive as people keep implying.
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Old 25-03-2015, 14:25   #24
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

I would say no for coastal.

Trade winds RTW probably not, instead I would get a shortwave SSB receiver and hook it up to a computer to get weatherfax. Decoder programs can be had for $0-100.

If you start going into higher latitudes the answer gets more complex.


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Old 25-03-2015, 16:22   #25
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

Have a look at the 'PREDICT WIND' site and the sat-based equipment they are offering.
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Old 25-03-2015, 17:12   #26
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

The discussion has highlighted many great points all given from their view point. As stated previously it all depends on your cruising area and style. If you are long term cruising do not underestimate the net community both cruisers and radio hams. Someone is listening all the time on the 14300 Maritime Marine band. Spend the money on good installation, ground plane and antenna. Winlink worked perfectly all across the Pacific last year and Yachts-in-Transit web site supplied weather updates daily.
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Old 26-03-2015, 06:27   #27
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

Quote:
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Can you explain a bit more why you would not be willing to call the CG in an emergency with a Sat Phone? Just curious.
He didn't say he would not be willing. He said that he would not expect to reach the USCG or other navies in an emergency.

Why? Well, first off, what number are you going to call? 911? Oops! That is the emergency number in America, but lots of other countries use different numbers. Not to mention that calling 911 from a sat-phone doesn't work for reaching the Coast Guard the way it does for getting an ambulance to your home on land. Then, too, the Coast Guard is set up to receive "mayday" calls by radio. They aren't standing by the phone expecting to receive emergency calls that way. Also, if you call on the radio, on the emergency channels, there is a fair chance that a nearby boat will hear it and respond long before the Coast Guard ever could. Sat-phone calls obviously don't work that way. Last, but not least, consider the case of Rebel Heart--when they went to make an emergency call on their sat-phone they found out that their service had been suspended.

For myself, in a real emergency that required assistance far out at sea, it would be EPIRB first, SSB second, and then sat-phone--maybe, depending on what the results of the SSB call were.
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Old 26-03-2015, 07:20   #28
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

We'd do it differently. I'd call someone in the USA tell them the situation, ask them to chase down the appropriate people wherever they needed to chase them down for our situation, and I could leave that with someone I trust to sort it out while I get back to the nature of the emergency itself. Then I don't have to sit there twiddling knobs talking to someone thousands of miles away who may or may not be any help. The person I call on the phone will DEFINITELY be helping, without letup. I'll call back later and find out what the arrangements are.

Another issue that has just affected us directly is equipment damage. We bought this boat in Jax, and it came with an Icom SSB, backstay, a pac modem still in the packaging, and a tuner. We barely had time to try to learn the system before a lightning strike took out most of the 12 volt electronics on board. Including the SSB. It was tripping it's circuit breaker when I tried to use it, so we disconnected it. That was two years ago. In two years here, I have not been able to find anyone who could repair a SSB. I've followed the debates back and forth about the SSB vs sat phone, and for all the other reasons already stated here, this week I pulled the SSB, cabling, tuner etc. off the boat. It's sitting in my garage, along with the unused pac modem. I'd be happy to package it all up and send it to someone anywhere for a fraction of it's replacement cost, but it's not going back on my boat. But it needs a radio tech to make it work again.

And that's the issue. If you have an equipment failure with a sat phone, you can easily get another sat phone wherever your next port is. If your SSB installation goes down, where are ya? You won't be Fed Exing another SSB installation, nor will you be DHL ing a radio electonics tech.
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Old 26-03-2015, 07:21   #29
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

We use a $100 receiver for weatherfax and an Isatphone for communications. Overall cost over three years for minutes, used phone, and receiver for weatherfax is around $600. Add $300 to that for an Isatphone external antenna, as reception can be hard when the weather is bad and waves are tossing you about. Still, $900 is a lot less than installing an SSB.

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Old 26-03-2015, 08:45   #30
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Re: Is an SSB/pactor modem worth it?

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We'd do it differently. I'd call someone in the USA tell them the situation, ask them to chase down the appropriate people wherever they needed to chase them down for our situation, and I could leave that with someone I trust to sort it out while I get back to the nature of the emergency itself. Then I don't have to sit there twiddling knobs talking to someone thousands of miles away who may or may not be any help. The person I call on the phone will DEFINITELY be helping, without letup. I'll call back later and find out what the arrangements are.

Another issue that has just affected us directly is equipment damage. We bought this boat in Jax, and it came with an Icom SSB, backstay, a pac modem still in the packaging, and a tuner. We barely had time to try to learn the system before a lightning strike took out most of the 12 volt electronics on board. Including the SSB. It was tripping it's circuit breaker when I tried to use it, so we disconnected it. That was two years ago. In two years here, I have not been able to find anyone who could repair a SSB. I've followed the debates back and forth about the SSB vs sat phone, and for all the other reasons already stated here, this week I pulled the SSB, cabling, tuner etc. off the boat. It's sitting in my garage, along with the unused pac modem. I'd be happy to package it all up and send it to someone anywhere for a fraction of it's replacement cost, but it's not going back on my boat. But it needs a radio tech to make it work again.

And that's the issue. If you have an equipment failure with a sat phone, you can easily get another sat phone wherever your next port is. If your SSB installation goes down, where are ya? You won't be Fed Exing another SSB installation, nor will you be DHL ing a radio electonics tech.

Hi Canibul,

Is that in your garage in Jax? If so I might take you up on the offer. I know just enough electronics to be dangerous so might give it a go to repair the stuff.

If it's in a garage in the T&C it might be a while before I'm back in that neighborhood.

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