Lots of very good information, and some strong opinions in this thread. I'd like to contribute the following, with this disclaimer: I'm an Extra Class ham (active since 1967), a deepwater sailor (since 1956), and am currently in the business of helping cruisers with their communications
and boat electrical
systems needs. I also started the TransAtlantic MM Net for cruisers crossing the North Atlantic, and am currently a Net Controller for the WaterWay Net on 7268LSB beginning at 0745 Eastern.
For some, that disclaimer means that my views are either antiquated or tainted....biased in favor of the SSB
solution. Well, maybe, but I carry a satphone aboard and have two computers
capable of connecting to the Internet.
Here's my take. 1. Every well-found offshore sailing vessel should have, at a minimum, an HF radio capable of receiving and transmitting on the marine and the ham bands.
Even if the radio is not used for transmitting.
2. A fully-blown SSB system can be expensive, especially if you want to use HF email
. An 802 with an AT-140 modem
, a SCS PTC-USB modem
, suitable antenna
and ground solutions, installation
costs, etc. can easily run $5,000 or more.
3. IMHO, most coasting boats don't need HF email, though it is a convenience. This saves in two ways: (a) marine
radios not well suited for digital communications
are cheaper than those which are; and (b) the $1200 cost of the modem is eliminated. Together, these can result in your spending as much as $1,200 less for the modem and $1,300 less for the radio. Used tuners will save about $200 over new (manual tuners for hams will save another $200). Together, these differences account for almost $3,000 savings over the cost of a new 802 installation
4. A good used marine radio with HF email capability can be had for between $700 and $900 (Icom M-700Pro, M-710; Ray152, etc.). A marine HF radio
without good email capability but with great receive and transmit audio can be had for between $450 and $700. Suitable models to be found on the used market include the Icom
, M800; the Kenwood TKM-707; the Yaesu System 600; and others.
As one poster said, finding a good used radio can be difficult. I'd be happy to help anyone wishing to find one, and currently have several here which could be suitable, depending on needs.
5. Re: antennas, there's no need to cut the backstay to install insulators; there are other, cheaper and better solutions which work equally well.
6. Re: RF ground systems, there's no need in most cases to install a ground plate. There are cheaper and better solutions in most every case.
Like Dave, K0MI, I would personally never leave port on an offshore
voyage without an SSB. The kind of information we pass every day on the nets and the emergency
situations in which SSB plays a crucial part are numerous and well documented. That some will prefer the satphone is evident, but for most the SSB will be a better day-in day-out solution for most communications needs.