Well, you've got it mostly right. Except for the distance thing: ham and marine SSB are exactly the same technology, and both use a number of bands capable of very long distances. In fact, when 10 meters ham opens up with the emerging sunspot cycle -- as it did a few days ago -- ham radio
will have a slight edge in distance. But it's insignificant.
Yes, marine radios are generally more tolerant of lower voltages. They are easier to use. They have great audio, both receive and transmit, and voice quality often exceeds that of many ham rigs. They also have better supression of spurious emissions, so cause less "splatter" on the bands.
Marine radios are not necessarily built better than ham rigs to withstand the marine environment
, witness the very expensive Icom
M802 which doesn't even make an attempt to be splashproof much less waterproof.
Generally marine radios output about 150 watts PEP, while ham rigs output generally about 100 watts. The difference of 50 watts output is rarely if ever significant, amounting to less than half an S-unit on receive.
Some marine radios are better adapted to ham use than others, though most any can be made to transmit on the ham bands. Among the better ones for both ham and marine use are the Icom M-802, the Yaesu System 600, the Kenwood TKM-707, and a handful of others. If you're mostly going to operate on fixed net frequencies -- as contrasted with tuning up and down the bands to see what's going on -- then any marine radio
will be just fine.
Ham radios have a lot more adjustments -- knobs and dials. Some of these are actually helpful, but they can make the radios quite intimidating for novices and non-radio people.
If you want or need to do email
, then there are only a couple of marine radios which fit the bill: the 802 and the System 600. Others can be made to work, but require additional effort and sometimes modification.
If you want a marine radio with a separate control head
, you're stuck with the 802 amongst new radios; the now discontinued Icom M710RT has a removable head
and is a generally robust radio, but sometimes suffers from the dreaded "Error" message which means a bad non-replaceable CPU.
If you want/need HF DSC
, the 802 is the only game
in town. Don't know what it is or why you'd want it? Download the 802 manual and read the 39 pages of instructions :-) Six months from now when you're knee deep in water
there'll be a real test to see how much you remember :-)
The 706MKIIG is a great little radio and does very well in the marine environment
. Lots of other ham rigs do well, too. One of my favorites is the Yaesu FT-900AT. The older Yaesu FT-757GXII is a great rig, too, as well as the tiny Kenwood TS-50S, several Icom rigs, etc., etc. Keep 'em in a dry location and they'll all do very well on a boat.
Tuners: best of the lot is still the SGC SG-230. It's $495 and you can't get a discount. Occasionally, they turn up on the used market, but beware: if anything is wrong SGC charges a flat $250 plus shipping
The Icom tuners, especially the AT-130 and AT-140 are very good, too. They connect directly to Icom radios, with a control cable for tuning (the SG-230 doesn't require a control cable -- it senses the RF). Like the SG-230, they'll tune the proverbial wet noodle. The SGC tuner has lots of non-volatile memories -- it remembers the frequencies you've tuned to -- while the Icom tuners have smaller volatile memories maintained by a capacitor which retains settings for a few weeks only.
Hope some of this helps. As you said, there are dozens of posts on HF operation on this Board, as well as on the SSCA Board, Sailnet, and others.
PS...I see you're local to the Chesapeake. My home/shop is in Arlington VA near National Airport
. I'd be happy to discuss further options with you, show you some radios, etc. if you're coming this way.