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Old 29-07-2014, 15:32   #46
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

If all you want is quick, somewhat reliable communication with one respondent at a time, at the push of a button, Sat Phone is the way to go. It will cost you for the airtime over and above the price of the system, however.

If you want to talk with a group of people over a wide area, get phone patches, email, and just use the set without the thought of racking up large $$$$$ costs for airtime, go with a Ham SSB. Have an Icom 718 Ham radio, SGC 230 antenna tuner, two Norseman backstay insulators, copper strapping for the ground plain and a Pactor II with III upgrade modem that I've got less than $2,000 in. The radio and the modem were used. but not a huge savings over buying new. Took me an intense day of studying using exam guides from the internet to pass the tests to get a General Ham License so I could use voice. With the ham license, got email without the use limitations of Sailmail, Grib files, check-ins with the maritime mobile net, daily emails to/from my wife and an occasional talk with random hams throughout the world when I got bored on the solo sail. The system worked fine everyday when sailing to Hawaii and I didn't have to pay anyone to use it. It was not painless, however. Propagation has a big influence on getting through. Sometimes took a bit of time to find a win link station to send daily email comm. to my wife and get a Grib download. Still managed to get through every time I tried though in an hour or so. Comms with the maritime mobile net were there every time at the time.

I went with Ham because of previous experience cruising with HF. The ability to talk with other Hams either ahead or behind our cruising route was invaluable, phone patches let us talk to our parents, and made a few good friends talking with other Hams.

Would not recommend HF SSB if you are a plug and play type, however. Hard to beat the dial a number, mostly reliable, nature of SatPhone though it is for a price if you use it. Still, if you think your wife or crew cannot learn how to use an HF radio, think that's your problem, not the radio's.

Both communication systems have their place. For me, emergency communication is an Epirb. I'll deploy it as the cabin sinks below the waves and hopefully wait for rescue. For talking with someone, it's Ham radio.
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Old 29-07-2014, 17:28   #47
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
Dan,
There is NO need to be a rocket scientist at all!!

While my 40 years of experience might make this statement moot....
<snip>

So, my questions for you are:
Is there something I can do to alleviate your tentativeness??


Have you watched the videos???
First of all let me again applaud your tireless efforts to help people around here. Some of the rocks thrown are unjustified and it is clear you are an expert on this.

It may sound weird but when you state "40 years of experience" Illusion (below) states, "doing this since I was 12." It indicates that you need 30 years of practice to make this work - I know it doesn't but it is a perception that this stuff takes "years" to understand and master hence the idea that it is complicated.

I view HF/SSB as one leg of the communications stool that now includes satphone. satphone is "on the rise" in terms of lowering cost, variety of products and utility of use.

SSB is not going to get any easier and at some point may no longer be a "necessary" leg in the communications stool.

I will readily admit that I have not gone deep into your videos and instructional posts - I am not at the point where this decision needs to be made. But in the meantime I try not to be a detractor of HF. Just educating myself slowly and observing the dialog.

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Originally Posted by S/V Illusion View Post
You imply the use of an SSB is both complex and not dependable. Having built, installed and maintained one since I was 12 years old and having used one while cruising for many, many years, I disagree as do apparently most of those with similar experience.

I long ago lost count of how many times boaters in distress where helped by making general calls to anyone anywhere rather than try to rely on an intermittent phone connection to only one party.
Again not to be a detractor but stating that you have been doing it since 12 indicates that a long period of understanding and learning is required to be successful with this stuff.

The number of calls is probably related to the relatively long experience of HF vs. the fairly new phenomena of wider use of satphone on board.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
Although, I think a lesson to learn from all of this just might be:
Good comms gear, access to good weather info, and a skilled/experienced captain/crew can go a LONG way to never needing to use an EPIRB, send a DSC Distress, or call an RCC on a sat phone!!
Hoping we can all agree on that...yes??

The comms plan needs to be redundant and reliable.

Currently SSB is a separate system from VHF and satphone and that makes it a level of redundancy that is useful to have on board, if one can afford it.

I personally would choose satphone over HF if my funds limited the types of equipment I could afford.

But stick around - the world is still evolving. Who knows what's next...
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Old 30-07-2014, 06:39   #48
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

Good point, Dan. How about this? I got my HAM license five years ago, already well into my 50s. It was not hard.

A book from the library, a few weeks of reading, and I passed the tests and got my General class license. A little time with Google, a cheap used radio bought on craigslist, a few bits and pieces from Amazon, and now I can send and receive e-mail from anywhere in the world, free, using winmor or pskmail. Easy-peasy. Of course, I can also talk to people, make an emergency call, or receive all of the weather information I need using the same radio.

On the other hand, there are people out there who will still think that is too hard. They just want to buy a phone, pay for satellite service, and make calls like they always have. Fine. Let them. I really don't get why some people are such evangelists for SSB and HAM radio, even with others who clearly are not going to allow their minds to be changed. Arguing about this is silly. To each his own.

(Of course, we see the same sort of pointless arguing about anchors, guns, and most everything else, so I guess that's just the nature of the beast.)
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Old 30-07-2014, 07:03   #49
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

Like religion, often you are preaching to the converted.
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Old 30-07-2014, 08:30   #50
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

Quote:
Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
First point: would you prefer that we make up the install? Not sure what you are getting at here. It takes time to do it right the first time. Just search CF for SSB angst, there is a ton.
I don't understand your point about making anything up.

My interpretation was that you paid a professional to do the installation. Basic research shouldn't have been necessary for that person. I certainly support research to be a good customer.

With respect to angst, that is where research should help. Unfortunately there isn't the credibility associated with formal peer review. Sometimes the loudest voice wins.

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Second point: engineer and physicist with advanced degrees working the problem. We did our homework.
Great. I'm a degreed engineer with advanced degrees also. I also have substantial application experience in design (at the board and ASIC level as well as boxes), implementation, installation, and operation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
It is pretty easy to tell where the centers are using the GRIB files. One clue is that the winds spiral into the low. Use the old "if your back is to the wind the low is..." We dodged 4 major lows on the northern crossing of the Atlantic.

So in general, we were only concerned with damaging storm force and gale force weather.
Then perhaps you were lucky.

Here are some of my favorite examples.

Grib from GFS (overwhelming source of grib data)
DTG 2010/08/26 0600


Wind forecast from NWS over weather fax has a different picture
DTG 2010/08/26 0000 (note six hours earlier)
A radically different picture


Synoptic chart, also over weather fax
DTG 2010/08/26 0000
Golly


The GFS model assumes a continuous second derivative of barometric pressure over the model surface. Fronts in particular get smoothed over. I care about the location and progress of fronts. Very deep lows tend to not be properly reflected. I care about those also. Where there are fronts, close isobars, and deep lows the gribs are not very useful. That is the value of a meteorologist. Synoptic charts give you that value for free.
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Old 30-07-2014, 08:42   #51
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

Give me a weather fax any day as gribs are computer models while a weather fax has had human intervention by highly skilled meteorologists. Gribs seem to be loved when sailing in the trades in perfect weather but can at times fall into the catagory as better than nothing!
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Old 30-07-2014, 09:06   #52
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

Quote:
Originally Posted by Canibul View Post
You want the most effective audience. That's probably one person, one point of contact.
Correct. I offer that that person is not Great Aunt Mabel. The nearest RCC and any AMVER vessel within a few days would be great. Those people will get things done.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Canibul View Post
The people close enough to help you are within VHF range.
Not true. A ship within 300 miles is darn close help. Using HF/SSB with DSC you may well be talking directly to that ship within an hour. It is likely to take many hours for a direct contact by calling USCG Sector Boston (for example, because that is the number in your phone) when you are three days East of Bermuda. Wouldn't you rather talk to RCC Bermuda and M/V SaveYourButt directly?

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Originally Posted by Canibul View Post
I doubt that would happen if you made one phone call to someone who might, for example, know a couple of senators and a few admirals on a first name basis. Or who can get on the phone and immediately start making things happen. On YOUR schedule.
I don't know any Senators on a first name basis. I do know a couple of USN Admirals and a USCG Admiral on a first name basis. They aren't the people I want to talk to in extremis. I want the E-9 in a watch center.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
A properly installed satphone works perfectly below deck and taking the phone out of the cradle works perfectly above deck and when the boat batteries have shorted out the satphone is still working.
As long as the phone batteries last ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Canibul View Post
But we're in a situation that I think many cruisers are, we're a husband/wife couple sailing this boat. I ask myself, if I just underwent some major incapacitating incident, of ANY kind, and was not even conscious or able to communicate with her in any way in the midst of this emergency, which system do I want her trying to operate to save our lives, without my help, while running the boat.
If you can learn to operate a system why can't your wife? My partner is perfectly capable of operating our radios. She is studying for her ham license and her frequent comment is that it isn't nearly as hard as she expected it to be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
With your experience perhaps you could give us a count of how many times boaters in distress tried to use their SSB and found 1. no power, 2. bad propagation, 3. no response, 4. task loading prevented effective communication over a noisy channel. In other words how about some examples where the SSB was ineffective in an emergency from your experience base for a balanced response.

How many times have you used a satphone and found it to be intermittent? It was not our experience over two years and 2000 minutes.
1. No personal experience with that, but second hand reports. Applies to HF/SSB and satphones.

2. There is no bad propagation, only what is. Pick the right frequency.

3. Pick the right frequency.

4. Not clear to me at all that there is a time difference for communication over HF/SSB and satphone.

I have a great deal of personal experience with noisy connections and dropped calls on satphones. Happens all the time well offshore.

One of my favorite stories is six guys on a delivery that ran over Valentine's Day. Four of us got calls through to home using Shipcom phone patches in the time the other two took over a satphone. The satphone guys spent most of their time in some version of "can you hear me now?" which wasn't very romantic.
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Old 30-07-2014, 09:38   #53
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

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Originally Posted by BigIdea View Post
Besides cost, what are the pros and cons of Sat-fi vs. SSB?
I am considering purchasing an SSB as a way to get weather and email when offshore but have always wanted broadband internet so I could work while traveling. Satellite data subscription costs have been coming down & recent Sat-fi equipment such as the Inmarsat IsatHub iSavi bring broadband within reach.

If your budget permits, do both. If one system fails you will have a backup. Although this was a stretch in our budget, this was the option we chose. We justified the expense due to our logic that weather info and communications are too vital not have a back up.
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Old 30-07-2014, 09:38   #54
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

Look I readily admit ignorance but. I am reading lots of threads. When it doesn't work we get sort of - go read everything again because obviously you aren't educated enough about this.

In other words when it doesn't work it can be anything from failed radio, picking the wrong frequency, bad/ineffective antenna, tuner, ground plane and interference (of which there are many types)

So please be patient with the folks that think all these "moving" parts make this a complicated endeavor.

I am not afraid of taking tests and do it all the time. In fact aside from short notice I was very interested in the thread about the class being held in Davao (for those who saw the thread.

But why does DenverDons experience - took a test bought some hardware and life's good compare with the multiple, "All I get is static messages.

I am not complaining but I get this a lot at work when dealing with design engineers and subject matter experts - that is being able to "dumb down" the math and physics so those without the expertise can make forward progress.

Anyway just some musings...
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Old 30-07-2014, 11:01   #55
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
Anyway just some musings...
And reasonable ones.

There are a LOT of poorly installed SSB systems. Once in a while there is a radio or tuner failure but not often. Usually installation problems come down to connectors (like Shakespeare crimp-on PL-259s and the fragile Molex connectors on tuner control cables), inadequate power supplies, or internal RFI issues. A qualified installer can avoid and/or diagnose those problems. Antennas, again mostly connections, can be a problem also.

The other issue is operational. Tuning to the wrong frequency or the wrong band, incorrect filters on ham radios, and simply not knowing what to listen for are foremast. Frequency offsets for weather fax are a similar problem.

Learning good installation practices can be a bit time consuming. Good operational practices should not be. A reasonable bright person should be able to get fully up to speed in three hours or so if given good guidance and good materials. It simply isn't that hard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
But why does DenverDons experience - took a test bought some hardware and life's good compare with the multiple, "All I get is static messages.
In my experience more often training than anything else. I certainly get on boats with poor installations. More often we dial up WWV and get time signals. We dial up a local AM radio station and get a good signal. We dial up a remote AM radio station or a SW station and get a good signal. We try MMSN or the WWRC and get a good signal and good reports. We call a buddy hundreds of miles away by phone to get educated and experienced ears on the other end of a contact. Owners look on and can hardly believe it but within a couple of hours they can do it also. Granted experience does lead to a good "ear" - I can pull information out of a marginal contact that someone new to HF radio operation cannot. That isn't a huge deal however and the difference between a "newbie" and an old fart like me or John/KA4WJA simply isn't that significant.

I've been a ham since I was a young teenager. I wouldn't have been doing it this long if it took decades to reliably make contacts. My first one was from Virginia to the Cape Verde Islands off Africa on a Heathkit radio I built myself. What you take away is not what John and I and others do today; it is what we did as kids with low-end equipment using good practices for installation and operation.

We did it. We do it. You can too. If you can't it isn't because the technology is old or superseded. HF/SSB continues to be operational for militaries around the world and is part of GMDSS. There are good reasons.

My perception is that there are people who have chosen a solution without full understanding of the alternatives that may be better.

With two exceptions I firmly believe that HF/SSB is a the best long range communications solution for cruisers (sail or power). If you have dependents at home (like elderly parents) with significant medical issues that require inbound direct-dial access or if you have high-touch business responsibilities that similarly need direct-dial access a satphone is likely the best solution as long as you recognize that there will be issues with loss of signal and dropped calls. Otherwise HF/SSB is a better choice, in my opinion.
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Old 30-07-2014, 12:28   #56
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

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I don't understand your point about making anything up.

My interpretation was that you paid a professional to do the installation. Basic research shouldn't have been necessary for that person. I certainly support research to be a good customer.
"We worked hard to get a good install on the SSB with antenna tuner, ground plane, insulated backstay, and the research required to get it right. Conclusion: satphone 10X easier to install than a SSB."


I'm trying to figure how you could interpret this statement as having hired someone to do the install.
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Old 30-07-2014, 12:40   #57
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

No debate, there isn't much to install a sat phone but having said that I have installed 3- SSB's and while it took longer it was still easy and I am a clutz when it comes to electronics.
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Old 30-07-2014, 12:43   #58
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

Anybody know, offhand, about what a Fleet One setup costs to install and run at their premium service levels?

Some of these other comments border on the ridiculous. It's like someone told an NRA lifer that a thousand armor piercing rounds should be enough for one trip to the store.

The only one that matters :If I can eventually learn how to successfully twiddle a SSB, then why can't my wife?? This is the safety issue and the one that's important to me.

Uh, because she doesn't WANT to? She would, presented with the necessity but she's been participating in my recent attempts to get a weather fax via a sony 7600 and iPad. After watching for awhile, her question is "Why not just get a sat phone?"

So, should I go all Capt. Bligh and insist every one of our sons or guests who ever come on board take a SSB course? Uh, they already know how to operate a telephone, and are very familiar with satellite internet hookups. HF radio? not a gnat's ass of experience among them. So, do you hold weekly or monthly proficiency checks on the crew to make sure they didn't forget the lesson on SSB that they didn't want to sit though in the first place? I mean, it's great that your wife wants a Ham license.
Mine doesn't.

As for all the "When You're forty eleven miles east of Bermuda, in crashing seas, you need to forget Aunt Bertha and call Her Royal Majesty who sits by her SSB 24/7"
This all puts me out in the middle of an ocean in a storm with an emergency.
That scenario just ain't going to happen. I'm not going east of Bermuda. I'm not taking this boat to Bora Bora. We will never be further than a hundred miles from an island.
So it's pretty pointless to talk to a boat 300 miles away. And what if we did. They going to chug on over at six knots and pull us out of the water, three days later? I have to believe that the people most in a position to help coastal cruisers in an emergency are within VHF range.

Comments like I can't count how many times someone was saved by a SSB instead of a sat phone.... Oh come on. For starters, nobody's keeping count of how many times someone was saved by a flare vs a SSB.
Maybe people with sat phones don't get into the same level of distress as SSB dependents do.
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Old 30-07-2014, 12:45   #59
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

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If you are OK with the data costs I would go satellite. The Iridium Go is intriguing.

I am a tentative SSB fan - I am waiting for someone to post a thread that says - "Bought Radio Model XYZ, plugged it in and it works."

You still have to be somewhat of a rocket scientist to make HF work. I will eventually have, it, will learn to make it work but it is a skill to be learned.

I think Satphone data costs are gonna be a killer if you are truly expecting Broadband capability.
While SSB installations and usage require a certain level of technical competence they are well proven. Note that SSB means transceiver, ground plane and aerial. All must be functioning and properly integrated. There is no plug and play option for SSB on yachts.

I feel more comfortable and trust my SSB more than sat common options. Satcomm does how ever offer some tantalizing simplistic use cases. You need to be critically about marketing spin versus technical facts.

I think satcomm options tend to shine when you remove cost as a selection criteria.

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Old 30-07-2014, 13:18   #60
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Re: Sat-fi vs. SSB

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Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
"We worked hard to get a good install on the SSB with antenna tuner, ground plane, insulated backstay, and the research required to get it right. Conclusion: satphone 10X easier to install than a SSB."

I'm trying to figure how you could interpret this statement as having hired someone to do the install.
I don't know. My bad. Regardless, I'm sorry you had a bad experience with HF/SSB.

Sometimes there is a good distance between theoretical understanding and practical implementation. There are a lot of pitfalls DIYers encounter. Shakespeare (or similar) crimp-on connectors, damage to Molex connectors while pulling cables, ground loops, confusion of counterpoise and ground, voltage drops in power supplies, poor implementation of grounds (including a lack of understanding of single-point grounds), RFI with other systems, poor choices of antenna lengths, poor choices of connections between transmission line and antenna, and more show up again and again. I regularly see boats with a problem whose owners tell me "we did what the 'Dummies Guide to SSB' said to do" and then are surprised that $20 of parts (plus my time) solves the problem. Research is a good thing, but credible sources are important. Unfortunately it's hard to assess credibility when you are in the research phase. I'd prefer not to throw rocks but there is a lot of bad information out there. Some of the sources have generally good data but when they are wrong they are quite wrong. Best practice also changes with time. For example, I've seen poor installations along the lines recommended by Gordon West and Fred Maia in days gone by that didn't work well. Both have changed their tune, particularly on marine ground issues, since some of their books were published. I respect both those gentlemen greatly but they are not infallible. Of course neither am I, or John/KA4WJA. Some other visible resources are much less credible.

I suggest that in the absence of academic peer review (you talked about advanced degrees so I assume you understand the implications) you differentiate between those whose justification is "because I say so" and those who can provide some substantiation. You can also consider the decisions by those who make huge investments (like the US Navy, US Coast Guard, and US Department of Homeland Security, the International Red Cross, the United Nations, and many others) in evaluations of alternatives.

This stuff really isn't hard. There are just a number of ways to mess it up.

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Anybody know, offhand, about what a Fleet One setup costs to install and run at their premium service levels?
I'd check with GMN.
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