I left SF for Hawaii
with a Ham SS radio
, Pactor Modem
, SPOT, 1 self launching Epirb with GPS
, One standard older Epirb with new battery
in the ditch bag, a personal GPS
Epirb that I kept on me at all times, a handheld floating VHF, a regular VHF and a Class B AIS
If I need to make someone aware that I'm in distress, the Epirb is my go to means of getting the word out. The HF and VHF radios are to talk to people if I need to explain what the issues are and how and what kind of aid might be needed. The Ham radio
transmits on all HF freqs. It lets me talk with the various ham nets and and, in an emergency
, any Marine
HF. A Ham HF is a very useful tool for keeping in touch with other cruisers and even an occasional phone
patch to my wife. The SPOT is a backup for the Pactor Modem
so my wife can see that was still alive should something happen to email
, either because of an HF or Pactor issue.
I used all but the Epirbs on my recent TransPac. The ICOM
718 Ham Radio decided it didn't want to communicate with the ICOM
tuner as soon as I passed under the Golden Gate. Forged on continuing to transmit position with the SPOT which eased my wife's concern at not hearing from me via Email
. Had to turn back after three days because the self-steering lost
a bolt and tore up the transom. Wife got extremely anxious when she saw I'd turned back and had no communication from me. The Admiral gave very clear orders not to leave SF without two way communications
after that. Fixed the stern, bought an an SGC-230 tuner which doesn't need anything but an HF signal to tune, fixed the transom and the Self Steering
Vane and was off again. Wife was much comforted by the daily emails and a phone
call at the midpoint, the SPOT continued to do yeoman duty till the last day out of Hilo when it went out of Satellite
range. Be sure you check the coverage area for SPOT before you rely on it to cover all your wanderings. SPOT has a coverage map on their website so wife wasn't concerned when she didn't get a spot position on my last day.
Hailed a number of ships on the HF when they'd come up on the AIS, some of them over the horizon. All answered my calls and gave reports of excellent ID on their radars. Surprized at the number of ships that the AIS picked up on the trip. We'd sailed many thousands of open ocean miles without an AIS and saw only the dim lights of one ship over the horizon in months at sea before.
Personally, I wouldn't get a Marine
HF. The ability to make phone calls through them is extremely limited these days because the commercial
stations have largely gone off the air. A Ham radio that has been 'opened up' is much more verstatile in talking with the nets and other cruisers and Email is free. A Ham radio is also way cheaper. An ICOM 718 is around $600 new and $4-500 used vice the nearly $2,000 for an ICOM 802 Marine HF. The SGC is the best tuner out there and works with any HF radio
so that cost is the same, Marine or Ham. Anyone should be able to pass the General license
test using the on line study guides after a solid day of study. No more code which had kept me from getting my license
for decades. You cannont legally transmit, except in an emergency
, on the Marine HF channels. Personally don't consider the Marine HF freq's all that useful EXCEPT in an emergency. FWIH, the newer ham radios are just as frequency stable as the Marine HF radios so no one would know the difference in any case.
If you didn't have anyone that you wanted to keep in touch with, you could get by with just an Epirb in an emergency and a SPOT to track your progress. Having sailed with the AIS, find it really comforting to have with all those big guys out there, however.