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Old 02-11-2011, 12:54   #1
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Yet Another HAM vs Marine SSB Question

I hesitate to post this because I'm sure it has all been covered in the past, but I can't really find answers to my specific questions.

Some background: There are no HF systems presently on our boat. Unless I win the Powerball tonight we will likely only coastal cruise for the next 6 years, but I think it would be fun to learn how to use, become familiar with and play with whatever system I get. I'm not currently HAM licenced, but wouldn't mind the process. I understand a marine SSB can be opened up to HAM freq's, but HAM radios may not use the Marine SSB channels except in emergencies. I wouldn't be using anything for "commerical interests".

My question is really why go Marine SSB instead of HAM? I understand marine SSB has Sailmail, but HAM has Winlink. I think that Marine SSB has a farther range, but again I am coastal cruising for the foreseeable future. I know some nets are HAM and some are marine SSB. Are you allowed to listen-only on the marine SSB nets? Can't you still get weatherfax on HAM? I understand that marine SSB's can be more user-friendly to novices. Also I read here on CF that they are more voltage-tolerant. Are there any other advantages to Marine SSB?

Specifically, I'm looking at something middle of the road like a used ICOM 706 w/ used tuner, maybe a used Pactor modem if I see one cheap but again wouldn't need it for a while except to play around.

By the way, thanks for all the previous posts on HF. I've learned a lot from many of you.

Thanks,

Frank
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Old 02-11-2011, 13:26   #2
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Re: Yet another HAM vs. Marine SSB question.

Hi, Frank...

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 for repair.

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.

Bill
WA6CCA

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.

B.
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Old 02-11-2011, 17:17   #3
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Re: Yet Another HAM vs Marine SSB Question

G'day, Frank. I lucked out and came across an ICOM 706, AT-140 tuner and a Pactor II Pro upgraded to Pactor III for $1,100 a few years ago advertised on Latitude 38. I didn't hesitate for a moment to purchase the lot. I already had a ICOM 751 and SEA 223 rigs wired to a SGC-230 tuner. I use the ICOM 706 most of the time. Keeping the SEA 223 around for anybody that want's to get technical about using the 706 on the SSB bands. The 706 works flawlessly with the Pactor in doing winlink email. For the money, the 706 is the way to go. Cheers
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Old 02-11-2011, 19:00   #4
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Re: Yet Another HAM vs Marine SSB Question

Here is a link to some good SSB info >>> SSB
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Old 02-11-2011, 19:27   #5
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Re: Yet Another HAM vs Marine SSB Question

For the Bahamas and Caribbean you will find that you will be mostly using Marine SSB frequencies rather than HAM. HAM is used by those with Winlink/Airmail and some others who just like to talk to other HAMS.
Here is a listing of the frequently used SSB nets for weather, etc. (it does take some time to load) http://www.caribbeancompass.com/ssb_radio.pdf
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Old 02-11-2011, 19:45   #6
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Re: Yet Another HAM vs Marine SSB Question

@ Bill, Thank you very much for responding- I was hoping to get your valuable input, as your posts in particular have helped me gain at least a basic understanding of HF. Yes, that did help. Just a few more questions: 1) Can you operate (legally) on the marine SSB bands with a HAM rig in a "listen-only"/no xmit mode? Or does that also interfere with the bands? For example, could I listen to the Cruisheimer's Net with an ICOM 706? 2) I got a little confused when you said that only the ICOM 802 and Yaesu System 600 could do email without extra effort/mods. Is this in reference to only marine SSB's?

Don't get me wrong, I'd take an 802 any day of the week, but I just can justify that price for the type of sailing we're doing. I will keep an eye out for some of the radios you recommended. I do like the capability to participate in either marine or HAM bands, just don't like the price.

@matauwhi- Yep, I saw your previous posts on the subject while perusing threads on HF today and thought to myself, "That guy really has a good head on his shoulders. I like the way he thinks!" Good to hear feedback that my tentative gear plan works well "out there".

@Del marrey- thanks! Missing Everett/PNW a little. Missed pink salmon runs in particular. And catching blue crabs just isn't the same as hauling up big ol' dungeness from 60 ft.

Thanks again,

Frank
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Old 02-11-2011, 19:49   #7
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Re: Yet Another HAM vs Marine SSB Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
For the Bahamas and Caribbean you will find that you will be mostly using Marine SSB frequencies rather than HAM. HAM is used by those with Winlink/Airmail and some others who just like to talk to other HAMS.
Here is a listing of the frequently used SSB nets for weather, etc. (it does take some time to load) http://www.caribbeancompass.com/ssb_radio.pdf
Wow, that's a lot more marine band nets than I thought- thanks for the link. This is where we will be cruising until the kids are likely much older (as in out of our hair...lol).

Frank
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Old 02-11-2011, 22:08   #8
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Re: Yet Another HAM vs Marine SSB Question

Frank:

You can listen on any HF frequency you like, and with any radio of your choice. No restrictions.

You can transmit on the ham bands only with a ham license. You can use any radio for this purpose, even one you build yourself.

You can transmit on the marine bands only if you have:

(1) a restricted radiotelephone operators permit (or higher commercial one);
(2) a station license covering the transmitting equipment aboard your boat; and
(3) a type-accepted marine transceiver.

My comment re: email capability was directed towards marine radios which are also pretty good as ham radios. There are other marine radios, like the M710 and the M700Pro which do email just fine, but which aren't very convenient for use on the ham bands because they lack true VFOs. Many ham radios, including the 706 series, can handle email just fine.

Bill
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Old 02-11-2011, 23:18   #9
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Re: Yet Another HAM vs Marine SSB Question

Ham and SSB have the same range. It is determined by output power (wattage). Both generally are 100 watts. Yes, you can get weatherfax on Ham. I buy my Hams used for around $500 and a manual tuner for $100 used. My antenna and ground plane cost less than $30. With a Ham, the radio has more features hence it seem too complex at first. But as you learn you come to appreciate them. Although it is not "technically" legal. A few diodes can be clipped on a Ham to cross into SSB.
I have a Yaesu FT 840. It seems to be bullet proof.
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