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Old 23-08-2015, 04:30   #1
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OK, I am HF certified... now what?

So I have finally got around to doing my HF marine radio certification.

The training material was pretty light weight, focusing mostly on procedural stuff rather than the practical. Fair enough, it's a license after all, not a how-to course, but I am now unsure what to do next.

At the moment I do not have a HF radio on the boat. We need to buy a radio, clearly, but what to buy and when is still uncertain. The boat came with a very complex and pretty old array of radios, all of which, after some consideration, I sold off on Ebay. In the end the logic that dominated my thinking was that there was nothing on the boat that I felt I could TRUST, so I was going to have to buy new stuff anyway.

The plan is for some serious cruising in 4 and a half years, until then it's all mostly VHF range stuff, with the chance of a shot at Tasmania somewhere in the mix. So the current VHF setup will see us through for a least the medium term though it would be nice to have HF for Tasmania if we get to do it sooner.

But doing the HF course made me feel that there is a bit of a black-art, or at least some skill required to operate marine HF and now I am wondering if I should bring the HF forward a bit. And if I do bring it forward, how do I learn to use it. I mean, I would kind of feel silly trying to join a cruisers net from the pen at the yacht club. Or is that OK? I feel I need to USE the radio to know how to use it.

Can anyone enlighten me?

Matt
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Old 23-08-2015, 05:18   #2
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

Remember the two ears, one mouth story!

More than 80% of what you need to learn about HF can be done by listerning to others operating on the air. So if you go the route of getting an HF tx/rx unit, you can learn a ship load without ever keying the mic, expect maybe to tune the load box.
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Old 23-08-2015, 05:48   #3
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

I'd wait. Keep an eye out for a good second hand set. A few years is a long time in electronics. Satphones are probably going to be way cheaper in a few years, or way better or probably both. Not a lot happening on HF in Aussie at the moment other than a few scheds and wx forecasts.

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Old 23-08-2015, 06:02   #4
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

A secondhand set sounds like a good idea.


I take the point about Satellite phones, but I'm a belts and braces kind of guy and when we leave I want every option I can find. Working with technology for a living has not given me great faith in its reliability.


I, er... seem to remember some significant problems with a satellite phone on a recent high profile thread too...
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Old 23-08-2015, 06:11   #5
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

I'll follow this thread as well as the questions you asked are the same I wan to know. And whilst I'm familiar with Satphone, I too think I'd like a HF on board.

I got my certificate quite a few years ago and have never used a HF radio.

My boat obviously had one once because one of my mizzen stays is an antenna for HF, but the rest of it is long since gone.
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Old 23-08-2015, 06:32   #6
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

When I sailed south I had a old crystal set in a waterproof box, a much newer $100 ham set, that worked on ham and HF bands (I had both licenses) and a satphone. My hf setup cost less than $200, and reliably let me talk from Antarctica to Hobart most nights. You don't have to spend big dollars to get safety, and redundancy. Much of the old gear is pretty rugged.

Crystal sets are very simple but generally only have very limited channels. Great for a backup.

I use manual tuners because I am cheap, but I also think they're more reliable . If you want to use a pactor modem things get much more complex.

Thing is I think a HF is probably the least reliable bit of safety gear around, it's not very waterproof and relies on good batteries, antenna and ground. It only takes one knockdown, or dismasting to kill one. And during daylight hours transmission is poor on lower frequencies, and the high bands are full of foreign language chatter. If you want to be sure to get through outside sched times you really need DSC HF $$ to have much hope. At least down this neck of the woods IMHO.

So I will probably continue carrying my old trusty sets, but I'll carry a Satphones as well.

Interested to hear how others go with pactor modems down here, do you have much luck during the day?

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Old 23-08-2015, 09:29   #7
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

Could I ask what you mean by 'ham and HF, you had both licenses'? Does the General grade license not cover all those bands?
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Old 23-08-2015, 09:50   #8
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

Tasmania is very well covered by VHF. You will not be embarrassed by not having HF.
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Old 23-08-2015, 10:58   #9
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

I would be most concerned about buying an HF unit off Fleabay. Many times its for sale because there have been problems, and you wind up with a boat anchor versus a communications tool.

Now, if you can find one from someone local that you or someone you know well can vouch for - big difference and more better comfort level.

In any event, your first question to the seller should be, "what's wrong with it," If there answer doesn't ring true, run away. Also, if you buy local, you can get them to fire it up and see if when they key it - it doesn't catch fire I wouldn't buy any radio I didn't see in operation.

If you are going to rely on an HF radio for safety at sea, I would save up and buy new, if for nothing more than the comfort level.

And, I would also study and earn my General HAM ticket to really put your HF to work for you. With a HAM license, the HF rig will pay for itself many times over
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Old 23-08-2015, 11:34   #10
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

Because of the key factors having HF Marine radio on board, there is only one real choice for HF SSB on your boat. That is the Icom IC M802 with an AT 140 tuner. The factors include:

1. The radio is Digital Selective Calling (DSC) capable and compliant
2. DSC capable significantly enhances those listening for a call for help as a result of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety system (GMDSS). Shore stations and all ships at sea use only DSC. Large ships are not required to monitor GMDSS voice channels, but are required to scan the 6 DSC emergency frequencies and respond to emergencies.
3. Cost as compared to other DSC capable Marine radios is much less.
4.The radio may be opened up legally to all HF and part of the MF band.
5. IC M802 is only Marine radio with DSC at a cruiser's price range. The older units have all the other capability, but you loose theDSC calling for help.
6. Some people may try to get you to buy a ham radio and illegally modify it so it works on Marine frequencies.

Ham vs IC M802 (for most Ham radios)
1. Can be difficult to operate vs simple to use has built in functions to make sure you are always transmitting legally. (easy to get lost in the knobs and switches on most Ham radios)
2. 100 watts vs 150 watts
3. Shore designed hardware vs Sea environment hardware
4. DSC not available on any Ham radio vs DSC on IC M802
5. 100 user channels vs 150 plus 150 email channels
6. No marine ITU channels programmed vs The marine ITU channels are programmed by factory
7. email is possible vs email is no problem and easily setup
8. Not legal to open up a Ham radio for Marine (often requires a circuit change) vs 4 buttons will open up an IC M802 for Ham radio.

Also Ham Vs Marine are just different frequency assignments for HF SSB radio and each requires a separate license.
These are just a few of the key reasons to go IC M802.
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Old 23-08-2015, 12:20   #11
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

When you say HF Certified does that mean HAM License? There are many HAM Clubs that will work with you to get up to speed.

Best HF Radio for simplicity of use:
Icom M802 Marine Ssb
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Old 23-08-2015, 12:54   #12
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

You will need to sell your first born to a white slaver to afford an Icom 802 in Oz... Marine Radio Packages - Marine HF SSB Radios - Icom M801E HF SSB marine Radio with Icom AT-141 auto tuner (package and save) - radios.net.au shop what with the fall in the dollar and all.....

And what do you get for your dollar..... DSC ..... also the ability to have Sailmail email.

However quite a few cruising nets in the SW Pacific work on the Marine HF bands so if heading that way I would be looking to have marine band capability.

I suspect that there are quite a few using 'opened up' Ham radios such as the Icom ic-718 which can be found for under $A1000

What I would suggest is that you carry on and get a ham ticket even if only a Foundation one. Also learn all about band plans and propagation etc.

You need to start looking for someone who has just bought a boat and is selling off their radio station for cents in the dollar...
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Old 23-08-2015, 13:07   #13
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

The 801E has been discontinued at Icom, but were originally much more expensive by about 1000 USD as a result of many features. They did put out less power than an M802, but had a voltage regulation circuit that allowed you to maintain power at low battery levels. They were also more water tight.

If you are a Ham or just want to talk on the radio, a Ham radio is fine. If you are buying HFSSB for your boat to get help in an emergency, DSC is probably the only way you will get help. If you do not believe it, I suggest you learn more about GMDSS, ITU, and the laws of the sea. As a side note since 2005, commercial ships are not required to monitor channel 16 on VHF so DSC is the best way to get help at sea if you can see a container ship on the horizon. This is my last post to try and help this track, if anyone needs more help: p-t_on_sunyside@live.com
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Old 23-08-2015, 17:20   #14
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

Been sailing and a ham both for 40 years.
If you're trying to get saved then get a handheld icom to call an aircraft.
They're a bit more frequent than ships.
A big part of HF radio is the pride in developing the skills. In an emergency anyone can operate on any frequency but as others have said you may already have your hands full.
Good sites for buying radios are Qth.com. And Qth.com. Both ham sites but plenty of used marine radios.
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Old 23-08-2015, 18:00   #15
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Re: OK, I am HF certified... now what?

Thanks for the ideas one and all. I probably should have been a bit more specific in my original question. Although I need to buy a radio at some stage, and there are some good suggestions here, I am most concerned with getting some meaningful use of it in the interim once I have bought one. I am wondering how I should go about getting practiced at using HF. But maybe the answer is to go down the HAM path instead, and get some time that way? It appears that the skills are transferrable?


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