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Old 15-09-2012, 07:25   #1
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Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

I've been doing lots of research to try and understand SSB (as a software nerd). Based on my research thus far I have concluded that:

I will have wifi, mini-vsat and iridium for weather, internet and communicating with family when off shore.
I do not want SSB for any of the above.

It would still be nice to be able to have radio comms with "somewhat near" vessels that are out of VHF range - other "local" cruisers etc.

Is there a portable or simple device that achieves this? I don't want to drop another 5-10K on an Icom install that allows me to talk to the south pole or Alaska.

For example would something like a Kenwood TH-F6A work? When I read the manual I really start running out of technical understanding - perhaps it only receives on the SSB frequencies and can't transmit without an external aerial?
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Old 15-09-2012, 08:23   #2
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

The Kenwood you are looking at is VHF just like the marine one just different frequencies and lower power. Also not many boats carry that type of ham radio so you are not likely to make any contacts with other boats. SSB has some great cruiser nets but it is not as easy as Sat and you need to learn some stuff. I love SSB but took the time to learn what it is and how to use it. you can get in cheaper with used gear.
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Old 15-09-2012, 08:36   #3
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Kenwood TH-F6A is line of sight, that’s what VHF is, and you need a radio amateur license. If you mount the antenna at the top of the mast, your range in miles = square root of height X 1.42. If you have a 30 foot mast you can transmit VHF about 8 miles to another boat that has a hand held unit at sea level. If both of you have a 30 foot mast with an antenna at the top, you can communicate about 16 miles. Beyond that you need SSB, but communication is influenced by sun spot activity, which influences the strength of reflection of radio waves off the ionosphere. So, maybe a boat just over the horizon cannot hear you, but one hundreds of miles away can.
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Old 15-09-2012, 08:40   #4
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Ships do monitor 16 and 13, if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. For making passing arrangements you want to try reaching them first on either of those channels.

I don't see an advantage of using a SSB over a VHF radio for doing this. Both types of radios have their advantages and both are needed at sea. One does not replace the other. You also need a backup.

Marine band VHF's can go somewhat beyond line of sight, but not much.
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Old 15-09-2012, 08:58   #5
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
I've been doing lots of research to try and understand SSB (as a software nerd). Based on my research thus far I have concluded that:

I will have wifi, mini-vsat and iridium for weather, internet and communicating with family when off shore.
I do not want SSB for any of the above.

It would still be nice to be able to have radio comms with "somewhat near" vessels that are out of VHF range - other "local" cruisers etc.

Is there a portable or simple device that achieves this? I don't want to drop another 5-10K on an Icom install that allows me to talk to the south pole or Alaska.

For example would something like a Kenwood TH-F6A work? When I read the manual I really start running out of technical understanding - perhaps it only receives on the SSB frequencies and can't transmit without an external aerial?
There are a number of older but very robust and functional SSB's often offered for sale at very low prices in the used equipment market that would fit your requirements for voice only long range comm's. For example, we have an ICOM M700 with an AT120 Tunner aboard that cannot be adapted for email but does give us good voice reach. We routinely correspond with other distant stations, Herb's Southbound II and have spoken with yachts as far off as the Yucatan and mid-Atlantic without difficulty from near our home-port in the Tampa Bay area. The radio also allows us to recieve time signals, highseas weather, weather fax and the like and so is very useful when we are out of VHF Range.

I recently saw an M700/AT120 rig offered for $500 or so and the wiring, back-stay insulators and installation costs would allow one to bring the entire rig in for less that $1,000.

FWIW...
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Old 15-09-2012, 09:02   #6
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

You're right, in the cruising community "somewhat near" communications is frequently handled by SSB. For instance, the informal nets of Puddle Jumpers who are 100s to a 1000 miles apart crossing the Pacific.

SSB radios are generally 2-30MHZ. You end up with two flavors, Ham and Marine. Some cruisers carry one, some the other, and some both. Some radios transmit with only one or the other, some radios can do dual duty. There are low power handhelds available, there's a short thread here on CF about them Handheld Transceivers.

The Kenwood you mentioned is a Ham VHF radio, so operates on different channels than marine VHF, but is still line-of-site. And you won't find many cruisers with them aboard.

There's a halfway decent Latitude 38 article on SSB Latitude 38 SSB. You probably only need to drop 2K on an Icom M710 setup if all you want is the basic SSB functions and medium range transmission capability. That's still a chunk of change, but if you are wanting to keep in touch with boats partway across the ocean from you it is probably the most ubiquitous arrangement. The other is just e-mail, as you will have that via Sat, and many (most?) of the SSB only boats will have it via Pactor.

For reference, we carry an Icom M710, antenna tuner, and Pactor modem. The M710 is "modified" to work both marine and Ham bands. This is a very common arrangement and allows pretty reliable over-the-horizon communications with other boats.
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Old 15-09-2012, 09:11   #7
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Thanks for the responses. I've only had VHF so far on boats I've owned or chartered as I've not ventured (very far) off shore before in my coastal cruising. I have my first transatlantic coming up in January which we're doing on our own, for which I'm happy to have the satellite internet connectivity for weather/emergency etc. I'm comfortable with the VHF/AIS for close ship to ship.

I think in general that I'm not likely to make much use of SSB which is why I was looking for something quite simple for possible connection with other cruisers out of VHF range.

I think either I don't bother or go the second hand route, as the use I'd be likely to make isn't worth the $$ of new. Time to google used ICOM gear
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Old 15-09-2012, 09:57   #8
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Dan,
1) You can equip you boat with an excellent Marine SSB Transceiver, its antenna tuner, connecting cables, accessories, etc. for less than $3000....(~ $1800 for the radio)
Installing an Icom M-802/AT-140, will give you a MF/HF-DSC-SSB transceiver, that if installed properly, will give you all the "ship-to-ship" capability that you desire, and then some....

Have a look here.....
Icom SSB Radio Kits & Components



2) Further, if desiring to contact and/or, signal distress to, other vessels (such as commercial shipping), you WILL need the MF/HF-DSC capabilities, as there has been NO MF/HF Voice Radio (SSB) watch required by vessels at sea since Jan 1999!!!
All ship-to-ship signaling, beyond VHF range, is now by MF/HF-DSC, Digital Selective Calling, or my INMARSAT C satellite terminal.....(or if you knew the satphone number of the vessel in question you'd call them on the phone...but that's not likely to ever happen

So, while a "non-DSC" marine SSB radio (such as an Icom M-700pro or M-710) would allow you to participate in "cruiser's nets", etc. your specific desire for "ship-to-ship" contact will require a MF/HF-DSC radio (such as the Icom M-802, Furuno FS-1570/2570, etc.)




3) Use caustion when looking for advice on-line....as there are radios and antennas that sort-of "work".....and then there are those that will really be easy to use, foolproof, and actually get the job done, and done well!!
The difference in cost between these two catagories can be ~ $1000, so again, use caution when researching!!!

For a proper ocean going cruising boat, you should install a proper marine radio.....not a ham radio....
Most "Marine SSB's" will work on the ham radio bands as well...
And, the Icom M-802 works very well on the ham radio bands, and for a "real marine radio" it isn't a bad ham radio either!!!







Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
For example would something like a Kenwood TH-F6A work?
4) But, the Kenwood TH-6a is a vhf/uhf-fm ham radio....(that has a pretty poor general coverage / hf-vhf-uhf receiver built-in), and will NOT do anything for you on the marine bands/freqs, NOR even allow any "ship-to-ship", beyond line-of-sight, communications....

I've owned one for almost 10 years, and it's not a bad radio, but it's a ham radio "handie-talkie" and is NOT anything close to what you need...






5) Your mention of the Kenwood TH-6a (above), your lack of understanding of "ship-to-ship" comms, and the following statements, make me wonder....
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
I will have wifi, mini-vsat and iridium for weather, internet and communicating with family when off shore.
I don't want to drop another 5-10K on an Icom install that allows me to talk to the south pole or Alaska.
.....It makes me wonder if your research has done much good for you???

Not trying to sound like a jerk....
You must be involved in some serious home office / work, that would require you to have a VSAT terminal (~ $20,000 plus $1000's per month) on-board.....
a) But, if you can afford the VSAT, then you should be able to swing a few thousand (< $3000) for a Icom M-802.....

b) If someone has recommended, or pointed you to, the TH-6a....then that is not someone to use as a "research guide"....

c) If you have discounted use of "SSB" (a marine MF/HF transceiver) for getting accurate weather, then you are giving up FREE and EASY access to the "gold standard" of offshore/hi-sea maritime weather data/forecasts, the US NWS/NOAA Marine weather, the UK Met Off Maritime weather, etc...
Although you can listen to these offshore and hi-seas weather forecasts (voice broadcasts) on your SSB radio, you can also use your SSB radio to get weather charts/satellite images, right on your computer screen, for free, in any weather....
As a "software nerd", you'd have NO trouble putting some simple (Free) software into your computer/laptop (such as JVComm or Viewfax, etc.), that allows you to get these.....


Again, Dan, I'm not trying to be a jerk....and I DID answer your questions first....but since I have > 40 years of offshore sailing and voyaging experience, combined with 40 years of communications experience (satellite and radio), I'd be remiss if I didn't offer some friendly observations/comments that I hope will help!!!


Fair winds...

John
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Old 15-09-2012, 10:04   #9
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With a used Icom IC-718, used Icom AH-4 tuner, and a wire antenna raised by a halyard, you could come in well under $1000. With that radio you would be legally restricted to the ham bands for which you are licensed. Actually you could get all that new for about $1000.
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Old 15-09-2012, 11:00   #10
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

To me going to sea(open ocean, blue water) without SSB would be like going without food and water!! not just for talking to folks, but for weather, and maybe for getting such info as good places to anchor and what rules are in place at your next landfall !! Sailing nets are a great source of info, and ya don't need to talk on em !! We have been able to message our family ashore at no cost except the cost of the radio and the related stuff needed for it ! Also if ya need help some time that sat phone might work but I know my SSB Ham radio will get me somebody ! Ive never had to use it for that YET but to me it's as nessasary as life jackets and life raft ! just sayin ya can't have to much comm equipment !! Just my 2 cents
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Old 15-09-2012, 12:27   #11
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It should be pointed out that the OP will have serious Internet connectivity at sea. I'm afraid despite what kj4we says the " gold standard" for weather is via the Internet these days.

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Old 15-09-2012, 13:34   #12
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Dave,
We usually agree and here we do NOT disagree...


But, there may be a misunderstanding of what I wrote....sorry abiut that...I was not refering to SSB as a "gold standard", but rather the US NWS/NOAA Ocean Prediction Center's and Tropical Prediction Center's (and UK Met Office's) Offshore and Hi-Seas weather data and forecasts...
Quote:
Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
I'm afraid despite what kj4we says the " gold standard" for weather is via the Internet these days.
I wrote:
Quote:
If you have discounted use of "SSB" (a marine MF/HF transceiver) for getting accurate weather, then you are giving up FREE and EASY access to the "gold standard" of offshore/hi-sea maritime weather data/forecasts, the US NWS/NOAA Marine weather, the UK Met Off Maritime weather, etc...
So, for clarification, I did not mean to imply that without SSB he couldn't access the "gold standard" of offshore maritime weather in other ways, such as via internet, or with low-speed satphone data connection.
I wrote FREE and EASY, in all caps to emphasize them....and I stand behind what I wrote....but maybe I wasn't too clear...

Perhaps I should have mentioned, if he has a VSAT terminal, then he obviosuly has internet access, and can get this data/forecasts that way....but in my opinion, a $20,000+ VSAT terminal, plus $1000's / month in access costs, plus the complexity of install and maintenance, etc. are hardly free and easy, at least in my opinion compared to a simple SSB set-up...


But, no worries here....

Fair winds....

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Old 15-09-2012, 16:09   #13
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

For just being in touch, I believe a satellite cellular phone can be rented, yes?
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Old 15-09-2012, 16:50   #14
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Thanks for the further replies - no offense taken. I am far from an expert on ham or marine radio.

I did figure that the Kenwood product didn't do what I wanted, but I was using it to illustrate the point of "is there something simpler than the full on SSB install". Clearly if I want SSB, then a "proper" install is the only option.

I wasn't necessarily trying to start an SSB vs Not type of debate but perhaps that was implicit in my question. I don't see SSB as a *required* emergency solution for me. I will have VHF with DSC and AIS to be able to hail ships locally within VHF range.

I forsee other emergencies - mechanical or medical issues for example, using the phone not a radio to seek advice.

If I have a scenario that really requires me to leave the vessel for a liferaft, I'm not going to be fiddlng with the SSB I'll be triggering the EPIRB and grabbing the iridium. I have consulted quite a few people who have way more off shore time than me and the only one that was a big advocate for SSB is a radio ham - hence my "nice to have" type of approach and question. It would be nice to chat with people on an SSB, but I don't see it as part of a regular watch workflow.

I appreciate that there are different answers to these questions, but I've talked to enough offshore sailors without an SSB, to think I don't *have* to have one.

I'll take a look at the additional information kindly linked here and take a view on a 3K type solution. You're right that with the other gear, the money isn't the issue necessarily, but I don't want to just throw cash into things I won't really use.

I love that one can ask a specific question here and get this kind of quality feedback, so thanks again.

I will not have a wind vane either mind you since she is a Catamaran, its not really relevant
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Old 16-09-2012, 10:20   #15
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Re: Simple SSB only for ship-to-ship?

Dan,
You're welcome....
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan360 View Post
Thanks for the further replies -I love that one can ask a specific question here and get this kind of quality feedback, so thanks again.
But, it just occured to me that since you have a VSAT terminal, etc. you probably have a larger vessel than many, so it may in fact be a 24 volt DC boat??? rather than the typical 12 vdc???

If that's the case, you'd be better off looking at 24 volt radios, albeit a bit more costly than their 12vdc cousins, but more reliable than using a voltage converter to use a 12vdc radio and/or less complex than adding a 12vdc system....

{you may also desire to be EU compliant, if you're sailing an EU flagged vessel....and get an EU compliant SSB radio....}

24vdc (and EU compliant) MF/HF-DSC-SSB radios are made my Icom, Furuno, Sailor / Thrane & Thrane, etc....
The Icom M-801E is only a bit more expensive than the US version (the M-802)....
Order the 24vdc version, if your boat is a 24vdc boat...

IC-M801E : MF/HF Marine SSB Transceiver - HF/SSB Marine Radio : Icom UK - two way radio transceivers, receivers and navigation products
Icom M801e Marine SSB transceivers - SailCom Marine
Icom M801E marine SSB transceiver


I hope this helps...

John
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