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Old 20-08-2016, 16:06   #1
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Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

We are going to spend 5 years plus cruising from MED back to New Zealand and very much appreciate your advice on what communications systems we should have. Currently we have VHF - so not much good in the ocean. We have a 25 year old NEW never installed Codan SSB transceiver that has 8 channels - I thought probably just a back up communications system and certainly no good for emails. So what do I need going forward, Satellite Phone? New SSB?
Is yellowbrick tracker worth it?

We are now on very fixed income so we need best bang the dollars, while making sure we are safe. We want to be able to get weather forecasts readily and send emails each week

Thanks team
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Old 21-08-2016, 04:42   #2
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Caroline.
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Old 21-08-2016, 05:24   #3
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

For our Pacific crossing we used an Iridium Sat phone using RoadPost service. It provide good communications, both voice and e-mail with access to good Grib files. Occasionally we had to wait 20 mins for satellite service. We also used a Delorme for e-mails.

We were in an SSB net that re-routed a boat to a sinking cruiser, the rescuer motoring for 2 days to reach the sinking boat.

The key is redundancy and not relying on a single system...Money spent on safety is never wasted.
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Old 21-08-2016, 06:00   #4
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

We crossed the Pacific in 2004 and began with an Icom SSB, plus an Iridium phone for emergency backup. When we reached the Marquesas, we discovered that all of the anchorages are on the lee side of the islands (naturally!!) and the SSB reception was blocked by mountainous peaks when attempting to download pre-departure weather forecasts. This is simply because all of the ham or Sailmail stations were on the mainland of the Americas, behind us and to windward. We continued to use the SSB for weather downloads once we clear of the islands.

Two days after we left Tonga, my wife took a fall breaking four ribs and a collar-bone. I sought medical advice regarding a possible punctured lung but could reach no-one on the SSB. With the Iridium sat phone, I called the US Coast Guard in Annapolis, they transferred me to Pacific command in Hawaii and they in turn transferred me to the New Zealand emergency services. For the next five days we used the Iridium phone exclusively to communicate with emergency services as we made our way to New Zealand.

By the time we left NZ, with a now mended First Mate, we had purchased a second Iridium phone as a backup (used $500 on eBay) and the SSB was now relegated to the number two backup.
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Old 21-08-2016, 08:49   #5
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

An Inreach satellite texting device by Delorme with an unlimited text plan may be your best bang for the buck for keeping in touch, for emergencies and obtaining weather etc. Emails and other data hungry coms can wait until you're in port with a wifi hotspot.
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Old 21-08-2016, 09:46   #6
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

Quote:
Originally Posted by Caroline Joan View Post
We are going to spend 5 years plus cruising from MED back to New Zealand and very much appreciate your advice on what communications systems we should have. Currently we have VHF - so not much good in the ocean. We have a 25 year old NEW never installed Codan SSB transceiver that has 8 channels - I thought probably just a back up communications system and certainly no good for emails. So what do I need going forward, Satellite Phone? New SSB?
Is yellowbrick tracker worth it?

We are now on very fixed income so we need best bang the dollars, while making sure we are safe. We want to be able to get weather forecasts readily and send emails each week

Thanks team
Welcome to the forum, Caroline.

It is ironic that the simple things we take for granted on land in industrialized nations are not as cheap at sea, nor as fast or efficient. [e.g., email, texting, voice communications, weather downloads, etc.]

We went through this same exercise when we acquired our [last?] cruising sailboat in 2014. It already had a good HF/SSB radio with a packet modem, and that is how we communicated [via Sailmail] the last time around.

However, we wanted something more reliable and portable [think liferaft, traveling on land, etc.] with extended capabilities [email, text, tracking, voice comms, SOS] so we chose an Iridium 9575 sat phone [right before the Iridium GO! was released...] with UUplus mail service for email, weather, news, tracking, and anything else available on the internet via the free SailDocs service...]

We have had great success for a relatively reasonable budget. [Communications requires a lopsided proportion of the budget from our experience...]

If you are interested in a more detailed look at our decision making process [with lots of links and related resources] choices, and what we are looking ahead to, see our page about Satellite Communications.

Best wished deciding what will best suit your needs.

Cheers! Bill

PS: RE: your older SSB radio; if it works and you have all the components you need [antenna, tuner, etc.] and if all you desire are the standard Marine SSB channels, then install it to save $$. For DSC capability [which I understand is all some nation's rescue services will 'listen' for these days...] and extended MF/HF/SSB capability, you would have to spend few more thousand dollars to upgrade to a more current radio. [e.g., ICOM 802M or ?]

Here is a link to our HAM/Marine SSB Radio page if you desire more information.
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Old 21-08-2016, 11:31   #7
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

Spent 5 months in the Marquesas and never had a problem communicating with the US on my Ham Radio. This was pre email so no experience with that there. Have an ICOM 718 Ham Radio on current boat and no issues communicating with the States on the Marine Mobile Frequencies at varying times of the day. Sometimes could only get East Coast/Carribean nets but that was because of propagation issues, but always could find someone. The beauty of Ham/SSB is you can talk on nets or just in the open as you would with another cruiser sitting in your cockpit and it's free after you buy the equipment.

SatNav is easy to use, if it works and it doesn't always, but it's a phone with a phone's limitations. Dial a number and, if it goes through and usually does, you can talk to whatever number you called but you have to pay by the minute. Hard to beat the near instant connectivity but you pay for it and have to live with. Email and GRIBS can be accessed.

Personally will stick with my HAM radio for the open communications convenience and two Epirbs for emergencies. Have around $1500 in the Ham ICOM 718 radio, SGC 230 tuner, Pactor Modem, and backstay insulators. Going with an ICOM 802 SSB would add about $1500 to the cost of the setup. You have to deal with propagation issues so communication with who you want to talk to can be a no go though there always seems to be someone you can get through to though it may be on the opposite side of the world. Email capabilities are slow but good enough for short messages and downloading GRIBS. It's free with Ham Winlink but there is a monthly charge for SSB SailMail.

Have sailed thousands of miles with no communications and a few more miles with it. I'm not much of a talker so don't spend a lot of time on the radio. Nice to be able to check in with the MM nets and get weather information from the GRIBS but have found it's not the be all and end all of making a passage. For an emergency, it could be a life saver whichever way you chose to go. If I was rich, don't care about famous, would go with both satellite and SSB whether it be Ham or Marine.
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Old 21-08-2016, 11:41   #8
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

Does anybody have experience with more than one brand of satellite hardware, so as to compare?
Inmarsat
Iridium
Globalstar

UUplus service
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Old 21-08-2016, 12:04   #9
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

I'll recommend Iridium Go - but with a disclaimer that it isn't "internet" access, but a fairly reliable (provided you have a proper external antenna) way to have access to weather and basic communication. It texts well and can be a good way to get periodic shore-based updates from friends and family.

Given your 5 year time frame, I'd say Go also has the added benefit of being more future proof, as Iridum is starting to launch its Next constellation within the next 12 months on multiple Falcon 9 launches (and the Go is speced to take advantage of that), and the market is expecting significant bandwidth/reliability upgrades.
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Old 21-08-2016, 13:41   #10
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

I would get two devices, on two different platforms.

Example:

1) an InReach tracker (Iridium, tracking, 2-way comm, weather, emergency),
2) an iSat phone (Inmarsat, voice, data).

But actually how much gadgetry to carry is all up to your personal communication preferences. We carried only an SSB receiver on our passages and I never wanted anything else.

BTW If you need much data and of good quality, skip trackers/phones and go right for something like OpenPort.

Cheers,
b.
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Old 21-08-2016, 13:47   #11
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

I've read good reports of recent concerning the Iridium Go. Acts as a satellite Hotspot for up to 5 devices. Grib and weather routing. Unlimited SMS. They also have an unlimited data plan.
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Old 21-08-2016, 14:19   #12
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

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Originally Posted by SV DestinyAscen View Post
I'll recommend Iridium Go - but with a disclaimer that it isn't "internet" access, but a fairly reliable (provided you have a proper external antenna) way to have access to weather and basic communication. It texts well and can be a good way to get periodic shore-based updates from friends and family.

Given your 5 year time frame, I'd say Go also has the added benefit of being more future proof, as Iridum is starting to launch its Next constellation within the next 12 months on multiple Falcon 9 launches (and the Go is speced to take advantage of that), and the market is expecting significant bandwidth/reliability upgrades.
Where did you get the info that the GO was ready for Iridium Next data speeds?

I see this statement online
Quote:
The Iridium GO! will continue to work on the new Iridium NEXT satellites as they work today so it is forward compatible. In order to get the faster data speeds, it will require a new device.
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Old 21-08-2016, 14:31   #13
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Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

I just crossed the Atlantic May-June and used the Iridium Go in conjunction with Predict Wind offshore. It took a bit to set up and get it going but once we had it operational, it worked really well. Emails were easy enough to send and receive. It's not fast at all and times out on larger files but with persistence it handled everything we wanted it to. The vessel also had a functional SSB but we rarely bothered to turn it on.

In 2014, between the Galapagos and French Polynesia, the boat I was on had a DeLorme Inreach and functional SSB. The SSB was used a couple of times everyday to check in with a radio net. The Inreach worked fine but didn't have the capabilities of the Iridium Go.

My preference would be the Go if I were to be crossing oceans and wished to stay connected.


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Old 21-08-2016, 14:33   #14
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

you have vhf and hf ad a spot connect for safety go sailing
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Old 21-08-2016, 15:08   #15
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Re: Pacific & Atlantic cruising communications requirements

We tried with Inmarset but moved over to Iridium a frw years ago as the Inmarset was just to fiddly - having to point our anternna at the satellite. We could wait an awfully long time to get a strong enough signal.
I actually find the costs of the Iridium reasonable for the time that we use it. We buy blocks of 500 minutes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Symphony View Post
Does anybody have experience with more than one brand of satellite hardware, so as to compare?
Inmarsat
Iridium
Globalstar

UUplus service
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