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Old 17-02-2016, 14:22   #16
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Re: Simple communications offshore

Vassil,
Sorry to come in here late, but perhaps I can add some further info/recommendation that will help..

BTW, this has all been discussed over and over, many times....some times there are some specifics that are different, but it is usually this:
"I need good weather, and reliable communications, when offshore....and I don't want to spend a lot of $$$, what should I do?"


And, Vassil, in your case....
The Bottom line is:
1-Watch the videos..
2-Read all below AND all the linked pages...
3-Use what you have...
4-Buy / install an M-802 (if budget allows), or an M-700Pro...



For the long answer, read on!


Actually, what I'd like to do is:
a) Give you some links to recent discussions directly on-point, where you will find that this topic comes up quite often, and you'll learn a LOT!

b) If I have the time, answer you in detail, point-by-point, right here....(but that could take a while!


These I should be able to do now....this next one....well, I'm not sure when...
c) Write up a "sticky" about "simple and inexpensive offshore comms", like Dockhead did recently about data comms....(and that is going to take a long while!




Quote:
Originally Posted by Pizzazz View Post
I do occasional cruising (LA to SF, planning a trip to Hawaii soon) and I have been thinking about a good setup for reliable communications at sea. My criteria are low cost, suitable for occasional use and safety (weather). Any thoughts and experiences would be appreciated.
1) So, first off....how about some quick and simple "facts"?
a) For offshore and hi-seas comms (and weather) along the US West Coast, out to Hawaii, and beyond (including the entire eastern, central and tropical Pacific), you are luckily in one of the best areas for direct weather info/forecasts directly from the US NWS/NOAA, and safety comms directly from the USCG....
Both via HF radio (HF-DSC, HF-SSB Voice, HF-SITOR, and HF-WeFax)!!
{Unlike other parts of the world, where there is no "SSB Voice" radio watchkeeping (only MF/HF-DSC watchkeeping), nor multiple stations monitoring / standing-by (NMC, NMO, NOJ, and USCG Guam), nor even the added flexibility of having 2 public coast stations (WLO/KLB) available 24/7....you are in one the best Marine HF comms areas around! And, it is all FREE....you just need to use it!}

http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=cgcommsCall

http://www.shipcom.com/frequencies.html


http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfvoice.htm

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/radiofax.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/marine.shtml
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfreyes_links.htm
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfhi_links.htm
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfgulf_links.htm

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/rfax.pdf

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfsitor.htm

Offshore / Hi-Seas Weather data / forecasts

http://www.docksideradio.com/west_coast.htm


http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/vhfvoice.htm
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/wxradio.htm

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/home.htm

http://www.shipcom.com/frequencies.html



b) The Icom M-802 costs $1800 new, and about $1000 used....completely comparable to similarly-featured "ham" radios.....
A "full SSB set-up", such as an Icom M-802 / AT-140, etc.
would set you back about $2600, all-in, including all necessary parts/pieces/etc...
{I find it hard to understand how the myth of "$5000 for an SSB" is still being propagated....but, the facts do not support the myth!}
BUT...
But, what is wrong with using your current system (portable rec and APP, for WeFax), as your "back-up" and use an M-802, etc. as primary??? (if budget allows)
And, if budget doesn't allow, then equipping with a good, working, Icom M-700Pro or M-710??? (either of which will cost about $400 - $600, and be a MUCH better choice than an IC-718!!!)
Convert Icom 718 to SSB

After all, as I wrote above (in "a"), you are in a unique location where SSB Voice radiowatch is still being done 24/7 by multiple USCG stations as well as by WLO/KLB....
Now, without the MF/HF-DSC capability of the M-802, using a M-700Pro or M-710, you would not be able to contact other vessels at sea, nor use the preferred method of contacting the USCG (HF-DSC), you would still be able to raise them via one of the GMDSS SSB Voice simplex freqs, as well as contact WLO/KLB, as well as check into HF cruiser's nets, and contact other cruisers (and hams, should you decide to get your ham radio license...and note the M-802 works as an excellent ham radio as well, and the M-700Pro is pretty good too, but the M-710 isn't really too "ham friendly")
http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=cgcommsCall



c) Your comment about being surprised that you get better reception turning off the LED cabin lights, tells me you are somewhat new to HF radio comms, and need some further info/education....(nothing wrong with that, we all started somewhere!)
Please see some referenced videos and stickys here, for LOTS of helpful info...

The radio noise / RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) that some LED fixture voltage regulators produce is quite high....and it can wipe out all but the strongest HF radio signals...
The good news is that these are typically the low-cost import lights, sold in discount houses and on-line....most reputable dealers will have fixtures that don't cause this type of interference!



d) Here are some Youtube videos that you watch at your leisure (they are all FREE, and all done LIVE, in the real-world, on a real cruising boat, no simulations, etc.), that will help....just please watch them in order....

And, some pages of directly related info and references...

Yes, you may need to watch/read and learn some things here, in order to actually figure out both what is best for you and how it all works....
{opinion alert: If you are already using US NWS/NOAA WeFax (from the USCG), you would be taking a serious step down and backwards to go to using GRIB's (the raw computer model data)....and I cannot fathom why anyone would choose to do that???}

Maritime HF Comms
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2nPNdApNsZDo_Jk3NB_Bt1y

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/marine-ssb-stuff-how-to-better-use-proeprly-install-ssb-and-troubleshoot-rfi-etc-133496.html


HF-DSC Comms
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2n3z5nlv-ga2zYuPozhUXZX

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/new-hf-dsc-explanation-and-live-demonstration-videos-141406.html



Offshore Weather
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2mPZAx2vWzdjTJjHlChruyY

Offshore / Hi-Seas Weather data / forecasts



M-802 Instructions
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2npivDjoFrC-8QKVyMb4tVr

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/icom-m-802-instr-videos-basic-adv-and-live-dsc-distress-call-114734.html




2) Now some specifics, in red...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pizzazz View Post
I do occasional cruising (LA to SF, planning a trip to Hawaii soon) and I have been thinking about a good setup for reliable communications at sea. My criteria are low cost, suitable for occasional use and safety (weather). Any thoughts and experiences would be appreciated.
See above.


Option 1
Portable SW receiver (PL-660 in my case) with an android app to decode weatherfax and navtex messages. This is what I have now and works well. Interestingly, I get much better reception when I turn off the cabin LED lights. It is also low power since both the radio and the tablet are very efficient during receive.
See above and learn about RFI, etc. (especially watch the videos about Offshore Weather)...

You are already using the "gold standard" of offshore and hi-seas marine weather info/forecast (the US NWS/NOAA marine meteorologists' WeFax charts), there is nothing better available out there, anywhere, for any price!!!



Option 2
Sirius Weather to my Raymarine C80. This works very well for coastal cruising and the weather info is nicely shown on the chartplotter. $30/month.
Sirius Marine's weather provider (WSI) uses the US NWS/NOAA Offshore marine weather forecasts (as well as their coastal forecasts and US NEXRAD radar, for their coastal weather)....which you already use...
And, Sirius coverage is excellent out a few hundred miles off the US West Coast, but you will loose signal about 1/3 to 1/2 way to Hawaii....



Option 3
Iridium. I have not tried this but it looks expensive for occasional use at $1000 setup, monthly fee and $1/minute. Does voice and data and I believe it is faster to download GRIBs (2-3 minutes) but I have not tried it.
Iridium is a great company, and the provide wonderful services....BUT....
But, you are already using the "gold standard" of offshore and hi-seas marine weather info/forecast (the US NWS/NOAA marine meteorologists' WeFax charts), there is nothing better available out there, anywhere, for any price!!!

And, GRIB charts are the raw computer model data, with no human interaction at all...

And, whether an Iridium phone or Go device, the data rates are VERY slow (2.4kb, 20-30 times slower than "dial-up")

So, while downloading a GRIB file might be "faster" than the 8 minutes needed to grab the typical WeFax chart, most sailboats don't travel fast enough to need "instant info", and besides it doesn't make sense to take a step backward / down, and use a raw computer model data instead of the forecast prepared by a seasoned, experience marine meteorologist....(and the US NWS/NOAA guys sign their name to each forecast....so each and everyone one of them puts their name/reputation on the line each day...)



Option 4
Delorme Inreach, also based on Iridium. It only does text (160 characters per message) costs only $250 and very easy to go to a higher or lower plan. You get unlimited messaging for $50/month so you can keep in touch with friends, send position reports, ask for advice, etc.

I have been wondering if it would be possible to request GRIBs via a message, then the GRIB to be split into 20-30 short messages that are later combined into one file on the tablet? It should not be too difficult to do and I could have a friend onshore do this manually for me but it would be much nicer to write a program to automate this.
Yes, works thru the Iridium network....and it does work very well (like all Iridium products/services)...
But, in addition to the above info/comments about GRIB's, etc., the InReach is not designed to do what you desire to do...

Besides, you are already using the "gold standard" of offshore and hi-seas marine weather info/forecast (the US NWS/NOAA marine meteorologists' WeFax charts), there is nothing better available out there, anywhere, for any price!!!



Option 5
Traditional SSB. Either an Icom 802 or a 718 based on personal/legal preference (let's not go there). The benefit is high transmit power but the drawbacks are high cost, older technology and high current draw.
If you read my rather detailed explanation of the M-802 vs. the IC-718, I think you'll quickly see how/why these are two VERY different animals, and do not compare well at all...

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/convert-icom-718-to-ssb-161057.html#post2047889

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/convert-icom-718-to-ssb-161057.html#post2047889

But, for sake of staying on-point...
Yes, the M-802 sells for $1800 new (and about $1000 used), comparable to other similarly-featured ham radios (at ~ $1500 - $3000 new, and ~ $750 - $1500 used)...


And, FYI, when you write "older technology", I'm not sure what you are referring to??
The HF-DSC system was actually designed and implemented AFTER the Iridium system!! So, HF-DSC is actually the "newer technology" when compared to Iriidium, and MUCH newer than the non-DSC IC-718!!


Also, note that while the M-802 does draw 2amps on receive (more than your portable receiver), it doesn't need to run 24/7....just like your current set-up, you can turn it on when needed to grab a few WeFax's, listen to the weather forecasts, etc...and on transmit, while on peaks it does draw more than the typical "ham" radio at full power, this represents only one or two A/H's per day of power used if you're into talking on the radio....and of course you can switch to medium power (or low power) should you feel you need to conserve battery power, but still talk on the radio!



Also, one still needs a laptop/tablet to receive weatherfax or do some of the advanced digital modes with it. It is good for voice communications but that is not a priority for me. $4000 all-in, slightly cheaper for the 718.
Here again, we have some misinformation....
The M-802 sells for $1800 new, and about $1000 used....
The IC-718 sells for $600 - $700, new...(and once you add the TXCO and Filters, you're at about $1000)....and the basic IC-718, used is about $400....

Everything else being equal (which they are not, as the M-802 is 5 times the radio versus the IC-718), the M-802 costs about $800 - $1000 more than the IC-718...
Yes, that is a LOT of money, but NOT the $3000 - $4000 difference that many seem to think...

And, remember if you wish to compare apples to apples, why not buy an Icom M-700Pro (or M-710) for $400 - $500.....and have an excellent HF radio, for less than the IC-718????

Please read this recent posting:
http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/convert-icom-718-to-ssb-161057.html#post2047889
Please....I do not have the time to repost it all here!!!
Please read it!!



Option 6
Software SSB.
SDR's are nice to play with, on-shore.....but on a boat?? At sea??
Not my recommendation at all!!!
NO!

The idea here is to get an SDR (software defined radio) that can do a lot more than a traditional SSB. You get cheap ham hardware (i.e. Flex-1500 for $600 or Elecraft KX3 for $800) that interfaces with the laptop for all control functions. On the laptop there are many features available such as decoding of all sorts of digital data including weather, pictures, high definition pictures, etc. even satellite info since these radio's go all the way up to 2 Ghz. Advanced DSP functions that are supposed to significantly improve reception and transmission. The downside is that the output power is 5-10W vs. 150W for the Icom 802. The cost is $1,000 for the receiver and tuner and the rest is done by the laptop (i.e. no need for Pactor).
I'm noticing two or three themes here...
1- You seem to looking at price...
2- You seem to looking at the "power outputs" of the radios...(and maybe you also were comparing the IC-718's with the M-802's???)
3- You seem to have little actual radio experience...

Please understand that being on a budget (like I am and most everyone else is) and needing to learn some stuff, are not bad things!!!
But, I think your inexperience is getting in the way of your understanding that you are grasping at straws looking for a "bargain" and comparing rather meaningless specs, without understanding the great capability of the systems available!
(nor the truly superior weather info/forecast you'd be giving up, chasing some "fancy app")
Vassil, PLEASE forgive my bluntness, I mean no offense....but as I read more of what you write (and answer more), I'm more convinced than ever that you should take a breath, read all of what I write here, watch the videos, read the linked thread on the M-802 vs. IC-718, AND....
And, also read the following threads (see links below)...

Any thoughts if 5W would be enough at sea if matched with a top notch antenna setup? Another benefit I see of the lower power is that you can use it for much longer, i.e. send pictures or even slow scan TV to a ham friend onshore. Has anyone tried these advanced ham radios on a boat?

Thank you for your comments.

Vassil
Please read over these further threads....(please not that they are all different posts, even if they show the same titles)

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/the-perfect-setup-142805.html#post1776278

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/cruising-comms-set-up-147193.html#post1838788

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/communications-equipment-144756-2.html#post1805253

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/communications-equipment-144756-2.html#post1804858

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/communications-equipment-144756-5.html#post1807334

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/guide-to-marine-electronics-142136.html#post1771912

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/the-perfect-setup-142805.html#post1776278

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/connecting-vhf-ais-gps-nmea0183-and-nmea2000-150482.html

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/ais-all-in-one-radio-or-computer-opencpn-144617.html#post1802098

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/ais-with-vhf-ssb-155170-2.html#post1949807

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/have-to-haves-and-wants-142290-4.html#post1766411

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/electronics-update-advice-159151.html#post2014172


As you can see, this has all been discussed over and over, many times....some times there are some specifics that are different, but it is usually this:
"I need good weather, and reliable communications, when offshore....and I don't want to spend a lot of $$$, what should I do?"


[Bottom line:
Watch the videos..
Read all above AND all the linked pages...
Use what you have...
Buy / install an M-802 (if budget allows), or an M-700Pro...]


I do hope this helps....

Fair winds..

John
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Old 17-02-2016, 17:23   #17
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Re: Simple communications offshore

Quote:
Originally Posted by StuM View Post
A not too expensive way to get regular weather updates on your Inreach:

SpotCast Weather
We are planning to use Inreach with SpotCast weather (OCENS forecasting) and waves option. It is very cheap. And we really liked the unlimited texting for the Inreach, and the ability for family to track our movements.

This also looks promising for the Inreach, and is free:

http://wx2inreach.weebly.com/

We also plan to purchase a receive-only SSB, so we can get Chris Parkers weather. We are planning April and May in the Bahamas.
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Old 03-03-2016, 12:09   #18
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Re: Simple communications offshore

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Elliott View Post
Anything with Iridium will work in the middle of the ocean, or anywhere else that you have a relatively unobstructed view of the sky. There are other satellite systems that only try to cover the land areas, so their mid-ocean coverage is spotty.
The Iridium GO works, but do the proms or Gribb files also work with it ? is it easy to download. ? and what do work the best.
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Old 03-03-2016, 13:39   #19
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Re: Simple communications offshore

Vassil,
Haven't heard anything back from you since posting all of the above a couple weeks ago...
Hope you found it all helpful??

A few brief comments/clarifications...

1) More robust and higher speed net access is available (and has been for many years), whether at sea / in far remote locales, etc....
It just costs... $$$$$
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pizzazz View Post
I expect that we shall get more robust and higher speed net access with the next batch of Iridium satellites scheduled to be deployed in 2017-18.
Iridium's future services (such as NEXT), will be better, but no less expensive (or only slightly so) than what is available now...
(where have you heard otherwise?)






2) ---SSB Transmit is not very power hungry at all!!
You are only transmitting for a few seconds, every minute your radio is receiving....whether Voice SSB o HF-data...
--- And, "SSB data" / HF-data via PACTOR III is faster than Iridium sat phone data / Iridium GO data....and PACTOR IV is 3 - 4 times faster!!!
--- Installation "from scratch" is no more difficult than any other marine electronics device, and as long as you follow the rules / recommendations well, it is damn near foolproof!!
(who has been saying otherwise??)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pizzazz View Post
SSB transmit seems to be too much effort for too little gain today. It is power hungry, takes time to get longer emails and the installation from scratch is a pain.






3) But, FYI....I trust you understand that your idea here is very illegal??? (broadcasting is not a legal use of the amateur radio service, and except for brief clearly-identified transmissions, no one-way transmissions are allowed, at all...)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pizzazz View Post
Another option that came to mind is to have friends at local amateur clubs send me the info I need. In this way I can request the info over the Delorme (narrow band) and they can send it over SSB (broadband) at a specified frequency time. May be too much effort again. Will see.
There are other radio services for this, and here the Maritime Mobile Radio Service (what we commonly call "Marine SSB") is not only designed for "broadcasting" of information / weather, etc., but is also designed for "two-way" connectivity....as well as its primary function, "safety" and "distress" calling/communictions...

And, understand that there are Maritime Coast Stations (in the US, and worldwide), public, private, and gov't....that do
"broadcast" this information for you, and for 10's of 1000's of mariners worldwide, multiple times each day....365days/year! (have a look at my post above, read thru the links, and you'll see!)





I do hope this helps...

Fair winds..

John
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Old 03-03-2016, 13:43   #20
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Re: Simple communications offshore

careka,
Not knowing what your application is, we cannot give you specifics, but the short answer is, yes...it does work...
Just use the appropriate app / software...
BUT...
Quote:
Originally Posted by careka View Post
The Iridium GO works, but do the proms or Gribb files also work with it ? is it easy to download. ? and what do work the best.
But, understand that GRIB weather files are raw computer model data, un-touched / un-viewed by humans....and in addition to the GRIB's not being actual weather charts / forecasts made by seasoned marine meteorologists, many sailors unfortunately place themselves at further disadvantage by using only one model's data...(since cost is usually an important criteria)

For more details on Iridium / Iridium Go / GRIB's etc....have a look at these pages and follow more links there for even more info.:
https://www.iridium.com/products/types/iridium-go-1

Iridium GO!

7 Steps To Get Satellite Email and GRIB Files on iPad or Android




I hope this helps...

Fair winds..

John
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Old 03-03-2016, 15:38   #21
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Re: Simple communications offshore

Dear all,


Thank you for the wealth of info provided. I particularly liked the comment that Pactor III is faster than Iridium. So I did find a used SEA 235R SSB radio that I installed on my boat ($300 incl. tuner and two insulators). I love it so far but the learning curve was steep! However, once installed and configured, it is a joy to use. Now everything is easy: Weatherfax comes out nice and clean, even with the LEDs on . Airmail works great, although it was a pain to setup with a software packet modem. Now looking for a used Pactor II/III. I am also writing a rig control instruction set to interface the radio to a ham SDR app.


Looking back, it was a great project but for *occasional use* I would not devote as much time and effort again. I still think Delorme and an SSB receiver is a faster and easier solution.


Regarding the cost, a new ssb radio incl. the tuner, antenna, insulators, cutting and re-rigging the backstay, connectors, grounding, etc. does come around $4000 if you are not DIY/ebayer.


Take care,
Pizzazz
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Old 03-03-2016, 23:41   #22
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Re: Simple communications offshore

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
--- And, "SSB data" / HF-data via PACTOR III is faster than Iridium sat phone data / Iridium GO data....and PACTOR IV is 3 - 4 times faster!!!
PACTOR IV may be faster, but in my experience Iridium is substantially faster than PACTOR III, and this is with uncompressable data. You need the proper software with Iridium (something like XGate) -- using a standard email package won't work well in anything but perfect conditions.
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Old 04-03-2016, 09:18   #23
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Re: Simple communications offshore

Quote:
Originally Posted by careka View Post
The Iridium GO works, but do the proms or Gribb files also work with it ? is it easy to download. ? and what do work the best.
Careka,

Another source, and the one we use with an Iridium sat phone, is UUplus Satellite email. [Personal Edition] [UUplus works over any internet connection- i.e., it is not limited to sat phone use...]

I know for a fact their current beta version is compatible with the Iridium Go.

For us it saves a lot of air time through efficiencies gained via compression and connection efficiency using Iridium Rubrics modem protocols built-in to the Iridium phones. [Rubrics protocol is not available in the Iridium Go since that is an IP device, but the unlimited data plan mitigates the advantage of quicker dial-in connection time... ]

They built-in a pretty complete database of web data and SailDocs requests [and you can create your own requests] so you can download GRIBs, WeFax, NAVTEX, text Wx forecasts, etc.

Just something else for you to be aware of. We are very happy with the software and the support.

In case you are interested.

Cheers!

Bill
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Old 07-04-2016, 06:04   #24
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Re: Simple communications offshore

We have been using the inreach for the past 3 years and won't leave port without it. Anywhere, anytime unlimited texting, sharing our location every hour where family can see where we are, and now for 10$ more you get 72hrs of weather data, and this where ever and when ever you want. Just click where you want the weather from and there you have it. Sailing from Granada to the Bahamas last year, had one of our daughters, (stay home mom) give us a larger scale weather report 3 times a day, where she was monitoring depressions and hurricanes all the way. Never felt safer than with this little contraption.
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Old 07-04-2016, 16:56   #25
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Re: Simple communications offshore

Your cost estimate for ICOM 718 ham rig is way high. Bought my 718 used for $400 opened up for transmit on all HF SSB frequencies; SGC230 tuner new for $480; Backstay insulator off Ebay for $150, only need one; and Copper grounding strap about $100. Could have saved a couple hundred dollars using an ICOM AH-4 tuner. Later bought Pactor 2 modem with the 3 upgrade for $400. Had email, HF Voice comms, and GRIB downloads all the way to Hawaii.

If you can make HF radio to computer work it's the cheapest way to go but you will be receive only.
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