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Old 12-02-2018, 23:01   #1
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WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

What is the situation with HF coverage in the Great Lakes? Much of this area is remote, and even the shoreline is outside cell phone range and useful VHF coverage. Are there Coast Guard shore stations in the area? Does WLO provide coverage?

I realize that HF coverage is inherently long distance but that doesn't mean it's practical if, for example, the coast stations are using directional antennas pointed some other way.
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Old 13-02-2018, 03:50   #2
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes Marine Mobile Net ➥ Great Lakes Marine Mobile Net/Great Lakes MM Net
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Old 13-02-2018, 04:03   #3
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

I have been pretty impressed with the VHF coverage up on the north end of Lake Superior. (Canadian) Sarnia Coast Guard radio seems to come in loud and clear up there even up around Isle Royale where you start to lose NOAA stations from land interference.

South across the lake, US Coast Guard Sector Soo seems to provide quite solid coverage.

Only experienced in Lake Superior personally but I tend to sail the more remote sections of it and have not yet felt out of reach even though it was rare to occasionally pick up signal on my phone.
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Old 13-02-2018, 05:29   #4
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

The Coast Guard no longer guards 2182 in any case, so if you want to use MF/HF radio for distress signalling, you will need a DSC set. The U.S. Coast guard no longer does anything on any MF frequencies anywhere, and does not do anything on HF in the Great Lakes -- no weather, no NM's, nothing.

I think it's impossible to be more than 40 miles from land on the Great Lakes, isn't it? I would bet that the VHF coverage is seamless. To be safe, I would just carry a PLB or EPIRB besides a well-installed VHF/DSC radio. I love HF radio, but I don't think it will be worth much for distress signalling on the Great Lakes.
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Old 13-02-2018, 05:56   #5
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

WLO provides service world wide...anywhere you can get propagation to them. No reason that should not include the Great Lakes. There are apps that will calculate best propagation times for you. Fire up your rig and give them a test call, they are very accomodating and will let you know how well you are received.
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Old 13-02-2018, 08:02   #6
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

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... South across the lake, US Coast Guard Sector Soo seems to provide quite solid coverage.

Only experienced in Lake Superior personally but I tend to sail the more remote sections of it and have not yet felt out of reach even though it was rare to occasionally pick up signal on my phone.
Canadian Coast Guard Sarnia MCTS Centre has four communications sites, located at Horn, Baldhead, Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay (Rabbit Mountain), which together provide VHF Radio coverage for the Canadian waters of Lake Superior.

USCG Ninth District (Soo) ➥ http://navcen.uscg.gov/images/marcom...SteStMarie.jpg
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Old 13-02-2018, 10:22   #7
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

For telephone comms I think a satphone would serve you better. If you are installing HF just for telephone comms satphone is probably a better bet.

Having said that, I have both marine SSB and Ham HF aboard. For cruising in salt water they are both valuable. Keeping in touch with cruising friends on marine SSB works well when on passage. So does Ham. And with Ham you can have free email worldwide.

IMO For the great lakes it would not be a worthwhile unless you are a radiohead like me.
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Old 13-02-2018, 12:37   #8
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

My experience shows that while cell phone calls may be a challenge, sending texts works better because the message is sent in packets when the signal allows. Worked quite well for us when in the NE Georgian Bay - not near any cell towers due to being in sparsely populated First Nation reserves and a large Provincial Park.

Iíve made cell calls from the middle of Lake Michigan and the CG hears well at great distances. Other than Lake Superior (not familiar with), one is never too far away from other boats, shore, etc. It sounds like even Superior has good reach from each nation.

Iíve been cruising the GL for decades - havenít met anyone who has HF or SSB equipment. There could be some gunkholers out there who have it, tho.
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Old 13-02-2018, 14:00   #9
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

At least on Lake Ontario there is good coverage across the lake. The main CG station is in Buffalo and I believe the tower is high enough and transmitter powerful enough to cover the lake.

I don't think the CG is constrained by the 25 watt rule.
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Old 13-02-2018, 14:20   #10
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

CG may not be restrained by transmission power regulations, but they are constrained by VHF line-of-sight. Out here, they operate a string of remote-operated base stations on inland waters - all controlled from a room at their HQ hundreds of miles away. That's how they sound like they're right in your neighborhood, and how they can hear you. There's a black box over on that mountain...
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Old 13-02-2018, 21:28   #11
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

Thanks for the advice. I didn't realize there was good VHF coverage over the entire region, but it makes sense. My ham radio experience has taught me that a well designed, well sited VHF repeater can cover an extremely large area even on land. Looking in detail at the geography and where the remote communications outlets are located, it all makes sense. That covers emergencies.

Comments about cell service, also helpful.

I'll ponder the 80m nets and the utility of HF. My inner radio geek would like an excuse to come out and play. My cruising kitty does not agree.
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Old 13-02-2018, 22:05   #12
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

A remote base station isnít exactly a repeater, though the distinction may be subtle. It isnít rebroadcasting your transmission. Itís sending it over a phone line (or the internet) to the remote control station.
With a repeater, you can always hear both sides of a conversation. With a remote, you may hear only the base station. You can also sometimes hear faint transmissions from more remote base stations, that arenít meant for your location.

Speaking of HF, Iím sure you can work the Maritime Mobile Service Net on 14300 from anywhere in the Great Lakes. If you canít get WLO for some reason. Though I myself have never sailed there.
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Old 13-02-2018, 22:24   #13
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

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What is the situation with HF coverage in the Great Lakes? Much of this area is remote, and even the shoreline is outside cell phone range and useful VHF coverage. Are there Coast Guard shore stations in the area? Does WLO provide coverage?

I realize that HF coverage is inherently long distance but that doesn't mean it's practical if, for example, the coast stations are using directional antennas pointed some other way.
Very dangerous territory, probably stay in the Chicago area.
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Old 13-02-2018, 22:51   #14
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Re: WLO and other HF coverage in the Great Lakes

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if, for example, the coast stations are using directional antennas pointed some other way.
Often as not, these days, Net Control on 14300 is in South Dakota. Not exactly coastal.
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