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Old 30-03-2012, 15:10   #31
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

While I have nothing against Satphone and appreciate it features (one of which BTW, is its privacy), it strikes me that once fitted, you are committed to a single provider. You are putting all your eggs in one basket.

Anyone remember the first time Iridium failed financially and went off the air.

To my mind, the biggest disadvantage of HF is the steep learning curve for new entrants and an ongoing commitment to stay current with who is operating where and when.

Enthusiasts (& Hams) tend to forget that others see either of these services simply as a tool for communications and just want the right tool for their particular requirement.
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Old 30-03-2012, 20:41   #32
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

The only proper radio for a ditch bag (out of VHF range) is a handheld aviation radio. You can be 1000 miles offshore but within 5-7 miles of the aircraft overhead.
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Old 30-03-2012, 20:59   #33
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

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Originally Posted by conachair View Post
Well will take a few years to know for sure but going the ham route
There is a difference isnt there?
Ham radio being 1/3rd the cost of the marine version and lacking the marine frequencies?
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Old 30-03-2012, 21:30   #34
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

G'Day Greg,

Lots of passionate opinions posted above, and I'm not brave enough to get into that bunfight... which is best and so on. But,designing ones communications package around the highly unlikely event of calling for help instead of one's day to day needs does not seem right to me. Perhaps I'm naive, but the advantage of a satphone over an EPIRB when in extremis seems ephemeral.

The cost issue really depends on your own usage pattern and the future price shifts by the providers... not a one size fits all situation. I can say that a combination of Ham and Marine SSB have served Ann and I well for all our years at sea, and that I don't recall any burning desires to place phone calls while on passage... but that's just me: YMMV, and by big margins at that! The addition of the digital connections for HF e-mail has been a huge improvement in our ability to keep up with things, and the zero incremental cost factor means we have no worries about verbosity! And FWIW, Winlink has had very good coverage in the areas we've visited.

One specific advantage of Ham communications that no one has mentioned so far: it is a means of making shore-based contacts in places that you are voyaging towards, long before you get there. Over the years we've had the pleasure of knowing that we'll be greeted by someone that we sorta "know" when we arrive in some exotic location... someone we met over the radio and have had enough conversations with to consider a friend. Try that with SSB or satphone! For instance, right there on Lake Macquarie we have three friends that we encountered on the air, and with whom we have spent many an interesting hour face-to-face when visiting the lake. This may not be a factor for some folks, but it has been good for us.

So, you will have to really consider what your own communications needs will be and choose accordingly. If you can escape the rhetoric, there has been some good info posted to help you decide.

And BTW, the perennial query: when will she be launched? We'll be heading north soon... maybe this time we'll get to the launch party!!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 30-03-2012, 23:52   #35
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

So can HAM radios have (some) marine frequencies programmed into them?
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Old 31-03-2012, 04:01   #36
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

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G'Day Greg,


And BTW, the perennial query: when will she be launched? We'll be heading north soon... maybe this time we'll get to the launch party!!

Cheers,

Jim
Soon ............the perennial answer to match. We have certainly had our frustrations but the builder has requested that he be able to display the boat at the Sydney boatshow (end of July). As you know I had really hoped to be out sailing well before that, but at least I now know it has to be ready before then. Lets hope I can get it out the channel.
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Old 31-03-2012, 04:56   #37
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

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Originally Posted by cat man do View Post
There is a difference isnt there?
Ham radio being 1/3rd the cost of the marine version and lacking the marine frequencies?
Never done a comparison so not sure how it pans out. I went that route mainly for winlink email (no modem required) and to get away from sat phone running costs.Last time I had a sim it worked out about 35UKP a month just to keep the sim active if the airtime bundle time ran out.Might be less now. But over a year it isn't far off a decent ham set on ebay. Then if you let the sim run out just getting another one leaves you at the mercy of local customs offices where and overnight delivery can mean a month with no indication which office it might turn up in.

I mentioned it as an option running a sat phone. Mine's opened up so if I don't care being technically illegal I can still chat on the marine ssb nets. Doubt that will happen, though. Never been too bother about that sort of thing.
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Old 31-03-2012, 05:01   #38
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 44'cruisingcat View Post
So can HAM radios have (some) marine frequencies programmed into them?
Yes all of them. just a snip of a wire.
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Old 31-03-2012, 10:38   #39
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

Here are some thoughts on the satphone vs HF/SSB radio question, based on over twenty years as a yacht owner, forty five years as a sailor, twenty years as a Yachtmaster Instructor, and as an educator who's spent twenty five years working in not-for-profit organisations, accountable for others' safety in high-risk adventure activities, and defending the ability to conduct such beneficial educational programmes. Apologies in advance for the length. I hope this is useful for peoples' deliberations and decision making.

A sat phone is certainly cheaper to buy; like a mobile phone contract. But they get you further down the track with the call costs. Satellite phones use high financial risk technologies and leading edge technical expertise. This all costs big time and you'll be paying for it in the call costs and hidden arrangements. For example:

1. Iridium is a great system as far as the available, portable, satellite comms options are concerned. But it is also well known for call drop outs, especially in warm low latitude areas where we like to go cruising and where the polar orbiting Iridium satellites are spaced furthest apart. The drop out rate is exacerbated by the fact Iridium calls are routed from one satellite to another before being brought down to earth. And because the satellites are moving, this routing must constantly change from one string of satellites to another string. An absolutely magical piece of technology when all those bits work perfectly.

If you use Iridium for data - emails, weather info etc - you can expect to pay a lot. Because - unlike the really high cost satellite systems with big dishes that fit on cruise ships - when you are 95% through sending an email or receiving a weather chart on your Iridium phone, and get one of those routine dropped connections, you begin the entire message transfer all over again, from the start. If the transfer succeeds on the second try, you pay almost double to get the message through. You can do the maths if it takes the 3rd of 4th attempt before your entire message gets through.

2. On the other hand, SailMail – based on HF/SSB radio transmission to a worldwide network of 20 linked stations - has smart message management. If your connection is lost, or you drop the connection to change to a different frequency to get a faster link, the system remembers where you got to previously, and you begin from that point. The satellite systems with significantly higher equipment and connection costs can offer that feature too.

With SailMail, you have a limited amount of daily connection time. And you pay a fixed fee once a year; no nasty monthly connection time bills. So everyone - users and the not-for-profit Association – are interested in optimising the use of the service resources, to lower the operating cost and maximise equipment and service efficiency for everyone. SailMail wants you operating efficiently, so you are off the shared system resources as quickly as possible, so it's available for another member to use. With the satellite operators, it is in their financial interest that you are inefficient, spending as much time connected as possible.

A satellite phone simply cannot substitute for a Marine HF/SSB radio. It lacks the broadcast capability that is so important for safety and shared information distribution which helps facilitate low-cost cruising. If there are 20 yachts out there in a self-help or rally group, distributing common information requires either 20 satellite phone calls at significant expense and time use, or one short HF/SSB radio voice broadcast for free.

If you have an emergency, - such as a broken skin fitting or a damaged rudder – and you need to call an MRCC to summon assistance, remember that in the middle of the Atlantic, Pacific or Indian Oceans there are no Coast Guard cutters or inshore rescue craft. Getting help to you depends on the MRCC being able to contact commercial vessels (ie: via the marine HF/SSB radio with DSC which they are required to carry, and maintain a 24/7 watch for DSC emergency alert calls) or other cruising yachts that have taken the trouble to install a modern marine band HF/SSB radio, and are maintaining a 24/7 watch for emergency DSC alerts.

If you have only the satellite phone, MRCCs and other yachts or ships will not necessarily know you are nearby the yacht in distress and will not necessarily know your satellite phone number to call you to ask your help for those in distress. If you have a modern marine HF/SSB radio with DSC, neither the MRCC or the yacht in distress needs to know you are nearby, or your individual MMSI number; they can send an all-call DSC emergency alert and ask anyone in the vicinity to help.

Maritime authorities, commercial ship owners and crew, government ships, fishing trawlers and other maritime professionals routinely dedicate their time and money and put themselves at risk, to help private yachts in difficulty. There is a professional understanding that all who go to sea will do their utmost to help any other mariner in distress. This notion is part of the training and spirit of professional seamen. It is also implemented in aspects of commercial shipping regulations – such as maintaining a radio watch for DSC emergency calls on HF/SSB radio. If a vessel in survey does not have the equipment and follow the watch keeping regulations, the operating permit of the commercial vessel can be cancelled.

Assisting other sailors is also built into the yacht racing rules of every national yachting association. It is rule No1 of yacht racing in every nation under the ISAF (International Sailing Federation), and ranks way above winning the race: “A boat or competitor shall give all possible help to any boat or person in danger”. This fundamental ideal that underpin the safety of yacht racing is equally as applicable to yacht cruising.

Communications that enables a yacht to listen for a call for assistance from others is essential to implement these commercial shipping and recreational yachting commitments to help fellow mariners in distress. A satellite phone simply does not facilitate that process. A marine HF/SSB radio with DSC does, because the vessel in distress can quickly broadcast an emergency alarm to anyone nearby, without needing to pay, regardless of the credit in their phone account or credit card status, and without knowing the individual sat phone number of all the nearby yachts, ships, fishing trawlers etc. Any of those vessels maintaining a listening watch on their HF/SB radio with DSC can receive that alarm and respond.

You could be the closest source of potential help to a family on a sinking or disabled yacht. But because you only have a satellite phone, you'll be a potential but useless resource; just like the nearby ships when the Titanic sank in calm seas. Because you are not contactable.

Cruising yachts are afforded great freedom by maritime authorities to choose their equipment, and to go to sea without a seaworthiness survey. It strains that relationship to carry only a communication system that requires additional – satellite phone call – expense on the part of the authorities, fishing trawlers, commercial vessels, rescue agencies etc who are obliged and committed to help you – as a fellow mariner – if you have a problem, or make a mistake. And it strains the relationship because with only a satphone, you are not contactable to help others in distress; commercial or recreational mariners or passengers.

When you fit out your yacht, you make decisions that impact not only yourself, your crew and your family, but the people who you will expect to come to your assistance. Make it a little easier and less costly for them; allocate the money in your boat budget for a modern marine HF/SSB radio with DSC (or marine VHF radio with DSC if only cruising coastal areas).

In my high seas cruising areas:
  1. The last time I checked, I was advised the MRCC has no budget for sat phone calls in the vast area where they are responsible for search and rescue. If you want their help - and support from the million $ resources and professional mariners they can direct to assist you - for free, you need to talk to them using the communication system they operate – marine HF/SSB; with DSC alarm to alert their operators.
  2. If you phone them on your satphone to ask for help, they will tell you they will call you back on your marine HF/SSB radio; because that costs them nothing extra. If they spend their limited budget on sat phone calls to help you, what gets chopped and who misses out on their help in the future? And what recommendations might they feel the need to make regarding controlling future expenditures on yacht rescues?
  3. MRCC Australia makes it clear on their website that “While satellites and satellite-compatible distress beacons have significantly improved the effectiveness of SAR operations, the system is NOT a substitute for carrying appropriate marine or aviation radio.

    Depending on the circumstances, your initial distress alert should still be made by radio if possible. You should activate your distress beacon only if contact cannot be made by any other means or when told to do so by a rescue authority.

    Whilst there may be other Governments establishing HF facilities in the Indian and Pacific Ocean areas, Australia aims to cover the Australian Search and Rescue Region (SRR) to a high level of probability with its own stations.”

Maritime authorities are changing their attitudes to the freedoms extended to recreational yachting. For example, and just from my knowledge in this region alone:

1. A few years ago, New Zealand introduced what were seen as draconian and unfair inspections on visiting international cruising yachts to verify they had suitable equipment; before they were given a port clearance and allowed to depart New Zealand. The frequency, cost and risk to other mariners of yacht rescues in their search and rescue area had triggered a response.

2. Marine authorities in Australia decided a few years ago to ignore further claims by yachts that they have no space and it is unnecessary to carry life-jackets and other safety related gear in their tenders. The tender is proven to be the most dangerous component of yachting; especially when returning to an anchored yacht at night, after dinner and drinks ashore. People just disappear, or bodies are sometimes found a few days later.

Now it's compulsory to wear a life-jacket in a tender and you can be fined if you ignore the rule. The frequency and cost of mounting searches for yacht crews missing following a short tender trip – along with the loss of life – became unacceptable.



With these developments in mind, its worth considering this modern-day definition of freedom, in the context of a drama driven TV news environment, nations administered by butt-covering and ladder climbing bureaucrats, harassed by ambulance chasing lawyers backed by empire building accountants who need to create government budget savings to justify their salaries:

“Freedom is the opportunity to police yourself, before someone else – who cares absolutely nothing for the community or personal benefits your activity might create – does it for you.”

It's true, a satphone is far easier to get into the liferaft than a HF radio. And it can be used for personal and private calls to family, work etc. So a satphone certainly has its unique benefits.

It's also true, from a short term perspective, that a satphone is cheaper than an effective marine HF/SSB radio with DSC. But the long term costs can be quite expensive; for calls, for emails, for the safety at sea of all mariners (not just yourself), and for cruising yacht freedoms.

Something to consider.
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Old 31-03-2012, 13:30   #40
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Quote:
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Some thoughts for consideration.

HF radio is far from dead. HF radio sales around the world have leapt over the last ten years, since natural and man-made disasters made it clear that sophisticated satellite and shore phone systems are not very resilient. And that satellite phones create big monthly bills, which works against the desire/need to communicate in order to get information to help yourself, or to help others.

Maritime authorities, search and rescue operations, natural disaster relief groups, aid agencies, small commercial vessels, met offices and the military utilize more HF/SSB radios now than they did ten years ago.

The official communications system for maritime distress and emergency response co-ordination, used by all the official Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCCs) around the world, continues to be based on HF/SSB radio. If you plan to make offshore passages and do not have a Marine HF/SSB radio on-board, you are not linked into that system.

The free communication features of HF/SSB make it especially attractive for cruising in company or maintaining self-help skids amongst cruisers crossing oceans. Yes, there are fewer maritime stations on the air these days - serving the needs of big commercial vessels - but that has actually freed up the HF/SSB frequencies for yachts and other small-craft to use. Your HF/SSB radio will help lower cruising costs and improve cruising safety, for you and others.

The fundamental operating principles of HF/SSB radio and satellite phones are at two extreme opposite ends of the spectrum. Satellite phone calls are designed to make someone a lot of money from your need to communicate. HF/SSB radio calls are designed to be free. Satellite phone services are based on private point to point calls; so fees can be charged and profits can be made from your need to communicate. Marine HF/SSB radio is based on the broadcast feature that allows everyone to listen to updates about weather, where to get cheap fuel, port entry procedures etc, requests for advice about equipment problems in mid ocean or requests for a spare part from another yacht; for free.

Happy cruising.

Perhaps you could give examples of where the sat phone infrastructure failed recently in a disaster.

As to HF usage , please show stats to backup claims. I run a HF receiver on the marine bands. There not a lot going on. As an example of dying traffic there have been widespread closures of MF and HF , there is now only one HF station in Europe. I beleive the situation is not dissimilar in the usa.

In my opinion as a ham radio operator HF is great particular, amateur, even if that hobby is aging and may not survive in sn internet age ( and spectrum grab) But if you want a easy to use occasional ocean capable system, then undeniably sat comms gives you that. I use mine to make calls to my wife when I'm at sea. As the Visa ad say ..... Priceless. In practice in Europe I have no way to do the same thing with HF. ( well not easily )

The HF argument is fine , but the HF people see sat comms as a death sentence for HF and so go on about it. Purple with sat comms just make a phone call.

Both systems have advantages. But the undeniable fact is sat coms is going "market share" .

But yes HF is great too.

Dave
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Old 31-03-2012, 14:01   #41
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

So, as the OP, what have I decided?

HF/Pactor/Sailmail
Blog for general chat because it I don't have one wifey will want a satphone to do it
Mobile phones and buy local pre-paid sims because then there's no surprises
Epirb - for really important messages - less important can't wait until in port

A special thanks to those who put considerable thought and effort into their posts.
Oh.......maybe a satphone for the ditchbag.....don't tell SWMBO
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Old 31-03-2012, 14:17   #42
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalinka1 View Post
Yes all of them. just a snip of a wire.
That simple?
More information as to how and where I could get it done thanks.
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Old 31-03-2012, 15:07   #43
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

What I'd like to know is why this $500 ($1000 new ) unit which is ham that supposedly does marine is such a neat compact unit

YAESU FT-857D HF VHF UHF,ham bands + VKS 737, Flying Docter, Codan alt | eBay

Compared to this $3800 "marine" HF which has multiple parts

Outback Marine Icom IC-801E HF Radio Set

Why the big difference in size and cost?
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Old 31-03-2012, 15:08   #44
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

I have used ssb since 1983 all over the world. Now have Sail mail no problems.
Sat phone as back up. However does not work in all areas.Go with Both.
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Old 31-03-2012, 15:09   #45
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How many times has it to be said. A ham system on Marine HF bands is illegal.

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