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Old 28-03-2012, 13:26   #1
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Satphone & HF for Ocean Crossings?

For a new boat fit up I wondering about installing a satphone or an HF radio, or weather I should just fit both. I'm interested to hear from those who cross oceans about the usefulness of each system. My concern is that as satphones become more prevalent the HF radio services may diminish and become obsolete for recreational cruisers. Is this going to happen?
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Old 28-03-2012, 13:39   #2
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

there is a great thread on this here at:

SSB Question
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Old 28-03-2012, 17:08   #3
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

Plenty of recent threads on this and the debate is endless; mainly because (IMO), it isn't really an either/or question. They are two different systems doing essentially two different jobs. The fact that the functions of each overlap to some degree in coincidental.

If you can afford both, get both .

Will HF diminish? Yes it will, it has diminished significantly in the last 20 years in some parts of the world and not so much in others. However it continues to play a role and will certainly to continue to do so for another decade or two.

My view is that they complement each other. I only have HF (partly due to $$ and partly due to I am not so much interested in the Satphone functions).
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Old 29-03-2012, 02:11   #4
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

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Originally Posted by Wotname View Post
Plenty of recent threads on this and the debate is endless; mainly because (IMO), it isn't really an either/or question. They are two different systems doing essentially two different jobs. The fact that the functions of each overlap to some degree in coincidental.

If you can afford both, get both .

Will HF diminish? Yes it will, it has diminished significantly in the last 20 years in some parts of the world and not so much in others. However it continues to play a role and will certainly to continue to do so for another decade or two.

My view is that they complement each other. I only have HF (partly due to $$ and partly due to I am not so much interested in the Satphone functions).
Thank You, in a nutshell that's what I wanted to know. However, if I'm allowed another dumb question, for those of you that have both, which do you use for downloading emails and weatherfaxes and why?
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Old 29-03-2012, 04:12   #5
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

I've been considering the same question lately.

I'm definitely getting a sat phone for consistency, ease of use and ditch bag value.

My issue is cost of SSB + tuner + antenna + modem would probably outweigh cost of just using sat phone all the time rather than SSB for sailmail etc.

I got some great advice from someone who clearly knows the other day to the extent that they used their sat phone 99% of the time for weather and email, and the SSB was only for cruiser nets. His recommendation was that if getting SSB, forget modem (saving a couple grand) and have for broadcast capability if at all.

Feel pretty comfortable going down that road now.
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Old 29-03-2012, 04:29   #6
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

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.....I'm definitely getting a sat phone for consistency, ease of use and ditch bag value.

......
I don't want to tell you how to suck (blow??) eggs but be very cautious with satphone and ditch bags.

I have yet to see a portable satphone that is salt water friendly and storage friendly, especially when it comes to keeping the battery both charged and up to capacity.

Not saying it can't be done, but it does take some effort to work a water proof solution and to maintain full battery capacity. They just aren't storage friendly; at least not the ones I have seen. YMMV.

At the risk of stating the obvious:
Once outside VHF range;
Best radio to declare an emergency - EPIRB
Best radio for long range broadcast Tx and Rx communications - SSB (Marine or Ham)
Best radio for point to point communications - Satphone
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Old 29-03-2012, 05:13   #7
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

Agree with you on all points - but I've never seen an SSB that can go in a ditch bag either.

But as to waterproof etc, check out the description of the new Iridium Force 9575 on the Panbo blog. When I get a sat phone, I think that will be the one (but I reserve the right to change my mind until then!)

Point is, with cost of sat phone coming down and ability to do weather & minimal email by sat phone rather than SSB consistently, I think the trade off in losing SSB may be worth it if you are cost conscious and can only afford one or the other upgrade.
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Old 29-03-2012, 06:02   #8
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

In the nearly 18 months of cruising around the North Atlantic we only used the SSB in the 2nd month. We found the Iridium satphone to be way more convenient and reliable and so we use it exclusively for weather and communication with family and work when offshore. The SSB has not been turned on much.

We get email and GRIBS using the Iridium and XGATE compression software.

We tryed to participate in a SSB net out of the Canaries but a. not much value in the net other than checking in and b. it was a frustrating noisy channel when even 500 miles away and finally c. we had to be on someones elses schedule to participate.

More valuable is a good WIFI antenna for in marinas and near shore. We have used this bit of gear a 1000 times more than the SSB and satphone!

We have a waterproof bag next to the satphone cradle. US and British Coast Guard and search and rescue numbers are preprogrammed. The satphone is on a charging station so it is always at full charge.

In an abandoned ship situation the satphone goes into the waterproof bag and then into the ditch bag. Try this with an SSB.
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Old 29-03-2012, 06:16   #9
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

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Agree with you on all points - but I've never seen an SSB that can go in a ditch bag either....
Here you go, its just the ticket
http://www.codan.com.au/Portals/0/pu...2110M_data.pdf

Seriously, I agree there won't be many HF's in the ditch bag!
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Old 29-03-2012, 06:59   #10
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

I went with the inmarsat isatphone pro, less drop outs with data as the sat are geostationary.

water resistant but not proof ip54
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Old 29-03-2012, 10:47   #11
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

I like the following set up best - a sat phone with an external antenna, Xgate compression.

Simple, light on the batteries and works. No tech know-how necessary, no training, no licenses.

Inmarsat broadband is twice as good, but it is more expensive.

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Old 29-03-2012, 11:04   #12
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

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Originally Posted by stevensuf View Post
I went with the inmarsat isatphone pro, less drop outs with data as the sat are geostationary.

water resistant but not proof ip54
Steve, can you give us a review of the IsatPhone Pro? I am really interested in the email performance of this unit (and what software / email system you are using). I've heard some complaints, but those sounded like the user was perhaps unfamiliar with general satphone characteristics. Personally, I use my Iridium a lot and like it, but have some friends who are considering the IsatPhone Pro.
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Old 29-03-2012, 11:14   #13
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

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(...) a review of the IsatPhone Pro? (...)
Browse Panbo for their feature and links therein.

I believe they quoted data transfer rates slightly below Iridium.

They also speak highly of compression services. I can confirm at least one of the services speeds up transfer rate - Xgate. But I bet there are other players and they may provide even better performance.

Cheers,
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Old 29-03-2012, 11:21   #14
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

I am a nice monster:

Panbo: The Marine Electronics Weblog: IsatPhone Pro does data, XGate a must?

here for FB vs. OpenPort

Panbo: The Marine Electronics Weblog: Iridium OpenPort vs KVH FB150 testing #3, VOJ in the Pacific

Cheers,
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Old 29-03-2012, 11:55   #15
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Re: Satphone & HF for ocean crossings?

Thanks Barnakiel. Panbo is one of my "go to" resources, and over there I'm the "Paul" who asked the similar IsatPhone Pro question. I'm still looking for a solid A/B comparison, or at least some actual performance numbers.

I completely agree about XGate. Many years ago I tried using the Iridium phone with my regular email tools and it was virtually unusable. I signed up for XGate and the difference was dramatic. OCENS also provides a re-branded XGate, and SailMail also works well with satphones (although the setup is a little non-obvious when compared to XGate.) No doubt there are other good choices, but I've been quite happy with XGate.
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