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Old 04-11-2013, 16:27   #31
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Re: Newbe to ssb, anybody help me with some basic info?

Chris,
I'm hoping that you are still reading this thread!!
As I have some info for you that is directly on-point....
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrismin View Post
I am thinking of adding a SSB receiver only for picking up weather enroute accross the Atlantic, and need some basic information on what to avoid and what to lookout for when buying. I have attached a picture of a unit that seems to be priced well, but realy don't know much about this model apart from the blurb that the sellers website. I have a satphone and had thought of using that to pick up weather but the software seems either not very good or very expensive. Hense my thinking a HF/SSB may be the best way to go.
1) First off the "Nasa Marine" HF-receiver is a waste of money....
It is NOT a very good unit, and you would be better served with either a Sangean 909 or Sony SW-7600...actually their newer versions, the Sangean 909X or the Sony SW-7600GR...

I wrote in detail about this in this thread....
Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea
Please read it over, and ask any further questions you have...


2) Secondly, the recent thread on having affordable access to weather info/forecasts when offshore, should really help...
Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea
Here gain, please read it over, and ask any further questions you have...

3) Next, the title of your thread is "Newbe to ssb, anybody help me with some basic info?", which tells me that I must clue you in to the three most important things that you must do in order to have an easy and successful experience with HF Radio weather broadcasts...
a) Spend as little as 30 - 60 minutes reading, and/or as little as 15 - 30 minutes learning about HF radiowave propagation and frequency/channel choice, so that you'll receive excellent weather forecasts from 1000's of miles at sea...
Please have a look at this thread....
Icom M-802 Instr Videos(basic-adv) & LIVE DSC-Distress Call
And, watch videos 4, 5, and 9....

b) Understand that much of the consumer electronics that surround us these days, even on-board our boats (and a surprising amount of electrical devices on-board boats), can generate Radio Frequency Interference (RFI), and ridding your boat of devices that do this, and/or shielding/filtering this interference, and/or simply removing the electrical power from these devices while using the HF radio, will make a substantial difference in your ease and success in using HF radio on-board....
Here again video #9 (and #4, and #5, as well) on this thread will be of help...
Icom M-802 Instr Videos(basic-adv) & LIVE DSC-Distress Call

c) Use an outside antenna....a simple 25' - 30' long piece of wire (any scrap wire, that's big enough not to snap under tension....usually 18ga insulated copper is fine...but it is NOT critical!!!)...
Attach this wire to the proper plug, and plug this wire into the "external antenna" jack of your receiver (Sangean or Sony, etc.), and string up the other end using a flag halyard, etc...

Or, many just clip a short wire onto a shroud or backstay, etc. and plug this short wire into the receiver's "external antenna" jack...and have excellent results...


~~~~

Chris, if you read the threads referenced above, and do the things I write above, you should have excellent results...

Please read and ask questions....and we'll help 'ya out...

Fair winds and good luck...


John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
MMSI# 366933110

http://www.qrz.com/db/KA4WJA

C470 Projects by Boat Name




P.S.
Lake Superior, you have made mention of your personal difficulties with HF radio on-board, many times in the past....
And, like in the past I apologize again for your difficulties and, although very rare, unfortunately I have heard some with similar difficulties....and while my own personal excellent experiences with HF Radios on-board for 40 some years, and many, many others excellent results over many decades, do NOT make your difficulties go away...
So, while some may disagree with you and most have had excellent results (rather than your disappointing results), and some may wish to "argue" your points....I will not....
I will simply again offer to help, and advise....and reiterate the facts that even with "terrible propagation" you should have had excellent results, and as such I must assume that there was a significant problem/issue on-board

Yes, in the past you have said that there was not...but if I had a dollar for every time I found a simple problem/issue, (usually some obscure RFI, and/or a minor operator error, and/or a simple connections issue, etc. etc.), I'd be sailing a new Hinckley SW-52!!!

And, yes, I know that you've made mention that others voyaging near you, also had similar issues...but this does NOT make my points moot, nor less valid, as I have been using HF radio on-board (ham and maritime) for 40 years, and have NEVER failed to obtain offshore / hi-seas weather from HF Radio when at sea.....
AND, I've been tied to the dock here in S. Florida for a few years now, communicating with vessels sailing across the Atlantic (for most of the Atlantic passing seasons from 2008 thru last year, 2012), and I never had a problem communicating with most of these vessels....(although some never had a good signal, no matter how good the propagation was)....and I can back-up the facts that the years 2008 / 2009 were some of the worst HF propagation that have been recorded in > 80 years!!!
But, here still I did not have any of the problems/issues that you have been mentioning here for years....
{I do not wish this to seem in any way confrontational.....but usually this is a sign that the HF Radio user was not well trained and/or there was some simple problem/issue...}
And, here again, I was going to offer my assistance to you...but I see now that you have sold your boat (and are no longer out there voyaging???)....so that idea is moot...
But, PLEASE accept my sincere offer of assistance in any further issues/problems you may encounter with HF Radio....

It REALLY isn't that frustrating.....hey, even though I majored in physics, this ain't rocket science!!

Fair winds...

John
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Old 05-11-2013, 12:11   #32
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Re: Newbe to ssb, anybody help me with some basic info?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
P.S.
Lake Superior, you have made mention of your personal difficulties with HF radio on-board, many times in the past....
And, like in the past I apologize again for your difficulties and, although very rare, unfortunately I have heard some with similar difficulties....and while my own personal excellent experiences with HF Radios on-board for 40 some years, and many, many others excellent results over many decades, do NOT make your difficulties go away...
So, while some may disagree with you and most have had excellent results (rather than your disappointing results), and some may wish to "argue" your points....I will not....
I will simply again offer to help, and advise....and reiterate the facts that even with "terrible propagation" you should have had excellent results, and as such I must assume that there was a significant problem/issue on-board

Yes, in the past you have said that there was not...but if I had a dollar for every time I found a simple problem/issue, (usually some obscure RFI, and/or a minor operator error, and/or a simple connections issue, etc. etc.), I'd be sailing a new Hinckley SW-52!!!

And, yes, I know that you've made mention that others voyaging near you, also had similar issues...but this does NOT make my points moot, nor less valid, as I have been using HF radio on-board (ham and maritime) for 40 years, and have NEVER failed to obtain offshore / hi-seas weather from HF Radio when at sea.....
AND, I've been tied to the dock here in S. Florida for a few years now, communicating with vessels sailing across the Atlantic (for most of the Atlantic passing seasons from 2008 thru last year, 2012), and I never had a problem communicating with most of these vessels....(although some never had a good signal, no matter how good the propagation was)....and I can back-up the facts that the years 2008 / 2009 were some of the worst HF propagation that have been recorded in > 80 years!!!
But, here still I did not have any of the problems/issues that you have been mentioning here for years....
{I do not wish this to seem in any way confrontational.....but usually this is a sign that the HF Radio user was not well trained and/or there was some simple problem/issue...}
And, here again, I was going to offer my assistance to you...but I see now that you have sold your boat (and are no longer out there voyaging???)....so that idea is moot...
But, PLEASE accept my sincere offer of assistance in any further issues/problems you may encounter with HF Radio....

It REALLY isn't that frustrating.....hey, even though I majored in physics, this ain't rocket science!!

Fair winds...

John
John, Thank you for your kind words and willingness to lend a hand.

I have to disagree with your assessment of our installation. With a physics major and engineer onboard, both with graduate degrees, we were very confident that our installation was top shelf. We drew this conclusion after performance comparisons on two separate occasions with different yachts in different countries. Additionally, when in the Atlantic our poor SSB performance was identical to several other yachts in our immediate vicinity. In fact, that summer Herb prefaced each of his evening broadcasts by apologizing for the poor atmosphere/propagation.

I believe the homework required and the technical level needed to understand the physics that stands in the way of good SSB performance is beyond what most sailors these days want to deal with or care to achieve.

When an SSB radio was the only option then the cruisers went up the learning curve and allocated required time/money resources to make it work.

In our case we just wanted the GRIBs and to listen to Herb on the way east. The Iridium got us the GRIBs with no effort. Half way across Herb was "in the noise" no training was required as there was no signal. This did not even count the number of evenings a signal from the far East stepped on Herb's transmissions. That was pure aggravation and no ones fault really.

On the return from the Canaries we lost the informal west crossing SSB net out of La Gomera after 5 days out. Not so good as there was still 14 days left on the crossing.

The bottom line was no one on our crew wanted to mess around with comms. All interests were in other aspects of voyaging. So we just wanted the easiest way to get the data and the Iridium did it the quickest, on our schedule, and so that is what we used.

For me SSB radios are like the sport of golf, I can appreciate the skill required to be good at golf and it is a good game, but I prefer to go diving instead.

Thank you again as I do appreciate you taking time to address some of my comments.
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Old 05-11-2013, 15:17   #33
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Re: Newbe to ssb, anybody help me with some basic info?

Lake Superior,
I REALLY do NOT want to drift poor Chris' thread anymore!!!
(Sorry Chris!)

And, I think we should just politely agree to disagree???



But, one last comment...a funny one at that...
I laughed when I read your "crew list" and explanation...
Quote:
Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
I have to disagree with your assessment of our installation. With a physics major and engineer onboard, both with graduate degrees, we were very confident that our installation was top shelf.
As I was also a physics major (and at a Ivy-League science and engineering school, not some community college ....and when I think of the few dozen classmates of mine from 30 years ago, the first things that come to mind is a group of total dunderheads!!
Not one, not one of them had any clue about radios, radio waves, etc....
And, in all my years since then, I've never solved a diff eq in order to work out a radio issue!!
(FYI, I've made my living in the sat comm industry)

And, when I think of the engineers in some of my engineering classes, or even my two brothers (both have BSEE degrees from Northwestern and one has a MS Ind Eng from Northwestern as well), both of who have worked for hi-tech communications companies for decades (Motorola and GTE)...and neither of whom has any clue at all about how radios work, let alone how to optimally use, install, nor troubleshoot an HF radio!!!
I literally laughed out loud!!!

And absolutely true story:
A few years ago, when he retired, I sent my one brother a Sangean 909 portable receiver, with my own hand-written instructions, down to him in the Caribbean so he could get some offshore weather when cruising the Caribbean and doing some deliveries....
He told me that "everyone" (his fellow cruisers and charter-boat captains) told him that it would never work, and he should "just buy a sat phone"....well he being as cheap as they come, decided to actually follow his baby-brother's advice and see if it would work...
And, whatca' know, it worked GREAT!!!
He followed my directions line-by-line and he even had excellent weather reports (Voice) and almost perfect charts (wefax), while still tied to the dock, and even better when at anchor or at sea...
He used that radio daily for years, without fail....

So, when I read that you had a crew consisting of physicist and graduate engineers....I just had to laugh...
As, not only have I met, lived with and grew up with some truly intelligent and well educated people (including physicists and graduate engineers), but I've only met a rare few that had ANY clue at all about how radios work, how HF radio works, etc...(one was my late friend Walt Maxwell.....but he was truly one-in-a-billion!!)
So, please do NOT take my laughter personally....as I was also a physics major and my brothers engineers....and my two best friends currently work as RF-EMC compliance engineers....
And not to sound like a jerk, but I have more knowledge/expertise in radio communications in my little finger than my two brothers and my two best friends have combined, in their whole bodies!!!

And, that is why I laughed!!!

I'm sure your installation was done correctly, but there is SO VERY MUCH MORE to all of this....and over the years, so much that I have been unable to 'splain to so many that are "too intelligent" to accept that there are things that they do not understand....if that makes sense???

In a nutshell, I still believe 100% that what you and others vessels in your vicinity experienced a few years ago was NOT typical and I'm 100% ABSOLUTELY convinced that I could've made things work perfectly for you!!!
(I fully appreciate that it is now years later and all my chest thumping here might seem to be arrogance run amok....but please understand I'm not trying to sound like a jerk, it is just that I truly am 100% certain and I'm almost never 100% of anything!!


Just a few specifics to clarify WHY I'm so certain:
1) Now that Herb has retired, I feel I can be more open...
Herb's radio system SUCKED!!!
No question about it....
Despite his preface on the Net....the fact was propagation was poor, but NOT that bad!!! (see below for more details)

Yes, his main antenna system was ripped apart and rebuilt many times, but even at his best, his signal was truly horrible...
As example, before his net on 12mhz and 16mzh, I would search around on 20m (14mhz) for stations near Buffalo, NY / Toronto, CA area....and consistently find excellent propagation and strong signals to/from those stations (usually only using 100 watts and simple antennas), but just minutes later find Herb's signal to be 20db - 30db (even 40db or more) WORSE!!!
And, many times DURING his net, when he was disseminating his weather briefings, I would quickly switch back 'n forth to 14mhz, and contact some of those stations again (or many times, just listen to them, if they were still on-the-air), and I ALWAYS found the same thing...Herb's signal was always worse, and consistently much worse...

And, then over the past 3 years, when assisting Herb on his net (doing multiple relays daily), he would become frustrated that many vessels were calling me, because my signal was "loud and clear" and they had NO copy at all on Herb!! (This happened so often that Herb asked me to not transmit at all, until he asked....we even had some heated e-mail discussions about it)
And, understand that although I tried an amp for a while, 99% of the time all I was using was my 150 watt Icom M-802 and my backstay, while tied to the dock here in S. Florida....

Anyone, with HF communications experience would quickly and easily recognize that what was always lamented as "bad propagation" was actually a very poor radio / antenna system (as well as some hearing and other issues in later years)
Heck, Lake Superior, even you mentioned that Herb's signal was being interfered with by much stronger signals..
Quote:
Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
This did not even count the number of evenings a signal from the far East stepped on Herb's transmissions.
Which proves that it was NOT bad propagation at all....and actually goes a LONG WAY in proving my point that KNOWING how-to properly use (and utilize) HF Radio is a VERY important part of making the bloody things work properly when you need 'em to!!!
(and here again, it is not solely your fault, but that of Herb's as well..)


This was, and still is, the ONLY thing I can find fault with regarding Herb's 25 years of weather forecasting / briefings...



2) Secondarily, anyone with sufficient HF Radio knowledge / experience and some HF ham radio experience (NO need for us physicists, nor engineers like my brothers or best friends), would also quickly and easily recognize the facts that Winlink stations are notoriously unreliable when propagation is "iffy", and together with the much more reliable Sailmail stations they are all only running 150 watts maximum (typically WINLINK stations are 40 - 100 watts...and Sailmail stations are 100 - 150 watts), with possibly compromise antenna systems, etc....
And, that these few facts would also tip you off to possible connection issues / speed issues, should you be trying to use stations too close to you, and/or use "computer propagation charts", etc. and/or when propagation is "iffy"....

And, anyone with adequate training / experience (again NO need for us physicists, nor those practicing engineers!), would quickly find that the 4000 watt transmitters (and BIG antennas) of the USCG (in Virginia, Boston, and New Orleans), to provide MUCH better signals and provide them with some of the best offshore / hi-seas weather available in the world (rather than raw computer-generated GRIBS)....





3) Again, I'm truly attempting to not be critical here, but rather just reinforce my certainty that it doesn't take any physicists nor engineers to make HF Radio work....But, it does take someone willing to learn...not someone that thinks they've done everything correctly and they're smart and educated, so there must be a problem elsewhere..
I'm sincerely sorry if that sounds harsh, but as we say in the south...."them's the facts, ma'm"

I mean if my late father (who fought in the 10th Mountain Div in WWII, with Sen Bob Dole), who was only a high school graduate, and had NO radio knowledge / expertise at all, could learn in a couple hours how-to use his radios, anyone willing to learn can!!!
My Dad, used to refer to his shortwave receiver (an old Yaesu FRG-7) as the "Yah Who Zee"...and I rigged up an LW converter to allow them to receive the 198kz/200khz BBC shipping forecasts when sailing the UK and N. Europe in the late 1970's....and he learned how to make that thing work, and work well...and years after, they used the FRG-7 to listen to the BBC on SW for years and years...
And, I taught my Dad how-to use his HF Radio (an old SGC Intercontinental One) and place phone calls from the boat (in the Med and across the Atlantic, and in the Caribbean) using WOO and WOM....
And, how to use it it contact the USCG and Portishead Radio (who shared ITU channel 816), he learned how to choose the correct channel to make contact with stations depending on their distance, time-of-day, etc....
And, remember my late father had NO radio experience or training (other than my few hours teaching him), and he was one of the least "hi-tech", least "electronic" guys I've ever met...
[BTW, he taught me how to navigate back in the 1960's (DR and coastal) and then in the early 70's taught me how to use a sextant and take sun and moon sites....my Dad retired from voyaging almost 20 years ago (in his mid 70's), and he never used a GPS in his life...and he and Mom (and many times myself as well) voyaged half-way around the world with a watch, a compass, and a sextant....anyway I digress...sorry about that...}
My point is that if my Dad (the least electronic person I've ever met) could learn how to use an HF radio and learn how to work around "bad propagation", etc. then anyone can!!!

Fact is there is VERY little "homework" to do, in order to actually learn these things....(my late father is an example of this, but he is only one of 1000's of examples!!)
The constant propagation of this "myth" that it is hard work, or that it takes too much time to learn the details, etc. REALLY gets to me...
As I wrote above...it ain't rocket science!!!
(and it does NOT take a physicist!!!)

What is does take, is someone who is "smart enough and humble enough" to want to learn and be accepting that they are NOT smart enough to "just figure things out", nor make assumptions that their set-up is done correctly and that they know what they're doing, so the problem must be somewhere else, or with someone else!!!

Despite my rambling on about facts above, here is just my opinion, and I could be wrong...but in 40 years of doing this, here is my opinion...
What really stands in the way of some sailors getting excellent results from their HF Radios is their own egos!!!
(And this is also something my Dad tried to teach me as a kid....he would say that I don't always have to be the smartest guy in the room....and when I asked why, he said because "someday I might not be"....now as an adolescent it didn't really "stick"....but as a young adult, in physics classes, etc. it started to make sense....and while I'm far from perfect, and I never learned everything he tried to teach me, the one thing I did learn was that someday I might not be the smartest person in the room, and then I will ask a LOT of questions...

And here again, I do not wish to sound harsh, but it really is that simple....
The people I find that have the most to actually learn are the ones who:
a) already think they know enough...
b) the ones that throw their education and/or cv in your face to "prove" they are correct...

When it comes to HF Radio, that has been my experience for about 40 years now...(I assisted in my first HF Radio install on-board in 1973....also joined the ARRL in '73....and started designing / building antennas about the same time..and I can tell you again that I have never used any of my formal univ. (physics) education in radio communications...and probably never will...

Again, there is little "time/effort" to be expelled here....it ain't rocket science!!





4) As for loosing the "informal west crossing SSB Net"....
I'm not surprised...as here again this is quite common with folks (the Net organizers) that have NO clue how to properly use HF Radio...
I wrote a quite detailed description of this exact problem, including details of radiowave propagation and antenna patterns, etc...
But, the gist is that sailors CAN learn how to choose, quite easily, the correct channel/frequency for their application for a wide variations of distances (and for any specific time-of-day)....but they will have to spend a few minutes reading with an open mind...and after they are educated on this subject, a willingness to inform others and speak their mind if/when someone suggests an erroneous choice!!!

Have a read here...
HF Radio Freqs, summertime Atlantic crossing, offshore Net..

And, have a look at video #4 here...
Icom M-802 Instr Videos(basic-adv) & LIVE DSC-Distress Call





5) To sum up, my point is:
HF RADIO WORKS AND WORKS VERY WELL.....99% of those with problems with it, will find quick/easy solutions IF they are willing to learn!!!

And, BTW, as I wrote in an earlier thread....there is a myth floating around that HF radio is a dying feature of ocean going vessels...
But, this is NOT true...
If you read the recent 2012 WMO/jcomm report, you'll find HF radio (particularly HF-DSC and WeFax, and even HF-Voice comms) to still be used daily by the majority of ocean-going commercial vessels and an overwhelming majority of all SOLAS-grade vessels!!!
These is NOT my data, but rather that from the WMO/jcomm report from their 2012 survey....

Fact is HF Radio is alive an well, and being used daily, on-board 1000's of vessels worldwide....
Again, this is NOT my opinion, but factual data compiled by WMO/jcomm!!!

Here is something I wrote recently on another thread, specifically discussing HF-DSC signaling, but close on-point:
Quote:
Understand that the GMDSS includes: EPIRB; MF/HF-DSC, VHF-DSC, (as well as HF-Voice for coordination, after comms are established via DSC); NAVTEX; INMARSAT-C; SART (a X-Band-Radar SAR Transponder);
As well as affiliated non-GMDSS systems, such as HF-WeFax, shoreside and ship-to-ship HF-Voice, HF-SITOR, etc. and these latter systems (WeFax and HF-Voice) STILL in 2012, have a surprisingly high usage among commercial shipping on the high-seas (see the 2012 survey by the WMO/jcomm Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology, for details), where a large majority of commercial shipping is STILL using HF radio EVERYDAY..and not just WeFax, but HF-Voice and some HF-SITOR according to the WMO/jcomm report....

http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=GMDSS
http://www.gmdss.org/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Mar ... _Frequency



Don't get me wrong, I truly love Iridium, I've used Iridium phones on-land and at sea on/off for business for years, but that is NOT part of the GMDSS!!!
(I used one of the very first Iridium phones in the late 90's....my brother was a senior engineer for Motorola back then, and we had phones before the service was available to the commercial market / general public.)
And, I've made a living in the sat comm industry for the past 30 years (the past 15 years in the commercial/industrial sat comm business).....so, I'm not anti-satellite!!!

But, it still amazes me that so many proponents of "sat phones", want to put down HF radio and erroneously state things like "nobody uses that anymore", or "it's too noisy, and never works rights", etc...
When the FACTS are public record (read the WMO/jcomm report), and they support opposite....that there are many commercial users of HF comms at sea, and while hi-res color graphics from an INMARSAT B, M, or FB system (or even a VSAT terminal) are nice to have, the FACTS are that even commercial shipping is budget conscience these days, and HF radio STILL gets the job done, and done very cheaply, and many times for FREE!!!

And, while most of us have limited capacities on-board, and don't have the room, nor the budget to be GMDSS compliant (especially the "multiple power supply" requirement), it simply makes sense to use as much of the "system" of GMDSS as possible....(and HF-DSC is part of GMDSS)




6) I accept your frustrations on face value, and I'm sorry I wasn't there to assist you back then....
(and, being an ocean sailor myself, I DO know how frustrating it can be to have problems at sea....mine have never been radio related, but I DO understand, searching for an easier solution....and I do love Iridium....but that doesn't mean there is anything wrong with HF Radio!!!)

But, if you could possibly budge just a little bit, and read all the above...and read all the links....and watch the videos....and read the WMO/jcomm report...etc. etc.
You may find that I am correct....

And even if you can't go that far, maybe you'll give others here the benefit-of-the-doubt and allow them to learn the facts rather than anecdotal reports / thoughts....




``


I'm sorry, there is so much more....but I just don't have the time right now....
Maybe, I should've just stopped with my first thought...agree to politely disagree??

Fair winds..

John
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