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Old 05-02-2008, 08:38   #1
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Land based ICOM 802/Pactor

My wife and I have made the decision to move aboard Dignity later this year. One of the items I know I will place aboard is a SSB. I want to go with the ICOM 802 and include a Pactor modem for Sailmail.

What is on my mind at the moment is obtaining the gear early, setting it up at home and learning how to use the equipment in advance of placing it aboard the boat. Has anyone tried this before? Is there anything different about marine SB that makes it different to a HAM rig to set up on land?
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Old 05-02-2008, 08:52   #2
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"Is there anything different about marine SB that makes it different to a HAM rig to set up on land?"

Nope. Same thing. I've got marine SSBs, military SSBs, and ham sets all operating very happily from my home QTH.

And, you're very right to want to familiarize yourself with the 802. It is not a very intuitive rig and you've got to get past its quirks to get to the excellent performance it is capable of.

Greatest challenge might be antenna system, and that's no big deal. If you get a suitable antenna tuner (the recommended AT-140 or other, like the SG-230), you can just throw up a wire antenna anywhere, run out some ground radials and, presto, you're up and running.

Note that the 802 does have some quirks, though, including extreme sensitivity to the slightest mismatch. Some units had a problem with speech clipping due to this sensitivity; Icom says they've corrected this and other such SWR problems, but some owners still report problems.

IMHO this was a terrible design parameter for a marine installation, where conditions which affect the antenna system change due to natural phenomena and to disasters, and where the SSB is an important emergency tool. I don't know what Icom engineers were thinking (or weren't).

NB: Icom 802 lovers who may be offended, but: almost all other modern SSB rigs -- marine and ham -- have built-in protection against damaging SWR levels, and DON'T have the problems the 802 has exhibited. This was definitely an Icom boo-boo :-)

Bill
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Old 05-02-2008, 10:32   #3
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Only one small problem.

To legally operate on Marine SSB frequencies from land, you need a different license from the FCC (since you're in the US).

You can operate from home on Amateur Radio frequencies if you have a General Class or higher Amateur Radio License.
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Old 05-02-2008, 11:08   #4
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Only one small problem.

To legally operate on Marine SSB frequencies from land, you need a different license from the FCC (since you're in the US).

You can operate from home on Amateur Radio frequencies if you have a General Class or higher Amateur Radio License.
Thanks. That would be a problem if I did not have a General License. I took and passed by Technician and General licenses last year. Having done that I have yet to pick up a mike. I absolutely want to be familiar with the rig before I put it on the boat and create potentially new problems. This will stretch out the learning curve. Thx for advice so far.

Steve (KC2RIY)
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Old 05-02-2008, 17:52   #5
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I think there will be significant installation differences, but no operational difference. You have far more options with your antenna configuration on land, you'll have to have a robust DC power solution on land. Since you have your general license, none of these things will be an issue.

I rather like the way I installed my ICOM 802 on the boat, but removing it and transfering it back to land would not be a pleasent undertaking. (Head unit is mounted in my nav console, speakers are wired and perm connected, main unit is mounted in a rear cabin, underneath bunk steps! AT 140 is mounted in the opposite hull near where the wire come out to connect the antenna!

Wouldn't really want to pull it out, unless I left all the wiring and control harnesses in place. Don't even get me started on the counterpoise!
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Old 05-02-2008, 17:53   #6
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Still can't bring myself to pay $800+ for the modem. I will go with portable Sat phone when I go again.
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Old 05-02-2008, 18:17   #7
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The $800 is darn cheap compared to the cost of a satphone and airtime (If it's a satphone, shouldn't it be called vacuum time?).
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Old 05-02-2008, 18:24   #8
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The sat phones look appealing until you look at the airtime costs. For a trip of a year along a well defined route I think the sat phone makes sense. For longer and less well defined trips I am very drawn to the shortwave.
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Old 05-02-2008, 18:48   #9
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Hand held Sat phones you can get for about $500. You can buy a block of prepaid minutes. Use the sat phone for email for a couple of minutes (no graphics, please!)

Modem is $800-$1200, sailmail is $250 a year. You can buy a pretty good block of minutes with the $250 + excess. If you factor in the cost of an SSB, it REALLY becomes problematic as to which is a better solution.

I like the SSB because I can chat long distance with other cruisers and listen to the nets. But email.... hmmm.... Rather take my laptop to a wireless cafe and upload and download there!
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Old 05-02-2008, 19:39   #10
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Globalstar currently has a great deal: $40 per month, unlimited use, no contract, no cancellation charge. With the launch of their spare satellites recently, service is reported to be much better.

It's a bit of a gamble, but for the moment is a cost-effective solution for many. They also promise the same service next year for $10 less per month.

Bill
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Old 06-02-2008, 01:07   #11
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Reading Latitude 38, there have apparently been a number of complaints with the 802 and worst...Icom tech support is well...unsupportive with the problems. If you're a ham, why not go ham? Sailors have been doing it for years. I am working on my General as we speak...uh...type.
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Old 06-02-2008, 04:30   #12
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I do keep wondering if I should take another look at rigs considering my unused qualification. The appeal of the Icoms are the automatic antenna tuners which remove some of the variables that can kill signal strength. Are there any HAM rigs with similar tuners?

I also thought the issues with the 802s was on the early models which has since been fixed. Do you have recent evidence?
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Old 06-02-2008, 06:15   #13
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ess105,

Some automatic tuners can be used with ANY HF radio: marine, ham, military, land-mobile, etc.

The "gold standard" of automatic tuners is the SG-230 by SGC. It's been around for 20 years and is still the best. It can be bought for $499 from HRO and AES, among others.

This tuner works by sensing the RF from the transmitter and immediately tuning to the desired frequency. It has lots of memories, and when tuning back to a previously-tuned frequency (or nearby frequency), tuning is virtually instantaneous.

There are other tuners on the market as well which work, too.

Bottom line: don't even think of choosing a radio because it "matches a tuner".

That's the short answer :-)

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Old 06-02-2008, 07:28   #14
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Globalstar is unreliable - they've had major (and continue to have) major coverage problems.

Iridium is OK, we have one, but the cheapest prepaid airtime is still over $1/min and the phone costs over $1000. We use it for emergency voice (our 3 parents are all over 90) only.

The problems with the 802 have been fixed if you buy a new one. I prefer what we have an ICOM 710. ICOM tech support is also fine, they were in denial on the now fixed clipping problem.

Sailmail is $250/year - Winlink is free (but you've got to be a General or better).

ICOM makes the only radios I would consider for Marine use. SGC makes a nice tuner but I prefer a matched set. Their radios on the other hand don't have a good track record out here.

I don't recommend illegally (in the US) modifying a ham rig for Marine use as many have done.

Regards,
Bill
p.s. We're going to lose WiFi for about a week as we anchorage hop back up the coast from Manzanillo to Puerto Vallarta, so I won't be back on for a while.
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:02   #15
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I believe there are a couple of manufacturers that do Marine SSB and Ham in one radio....legally. Although almost any Ham radio can have it's diode clipped to tranmit across band. As mentioned in some of the responses, any tuner will work and the SGC's are good. No need to match brands. Auto tuners are a must over manual ones if a modem is used for weather fax or e-mails.
As far as radios being for 'marine use'. I have seen Kenwoods, Icoms and SGC's on cruising boats. I have had in the past and have now a Yaesu FT840 on my boat and I love it. Ive also had an Icom but I feel the Yaesu finds a signal better. Never a problem. I use a manual tuner because a) it was cheap and I am toomand b) e-mails at sea is not of interest for me. I enjoy the professionalism of Ham and the friendliness of the marine nets.
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