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Old 09-08-2010, 01:36   #1
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Is SSB Useful for Puget Sound Cruising ?

My wife and I just acquired a 30' sailboat that came with an SSB transceiver (Icom M600) complete with AT-120 antenna tuner. The boat is fundamentally sound and originally sailed on its own bottom across the Atlantic in '93. Now it has a number of deferred maintenance issues including needing a re-do of the electrical system. Some components are slightly antiquated (radar/plotter from '99 along with this SSB radio), others are offline, and there are basic problems with batteries, lighting, and wiring.

My question is about whether it would be worthwhile to keep/re-install the SSB system when I gut and re-wire the electrical system. Is this system worth the initial effort along with the space, power, and complexity for casual cruisers in the pacific northwest? Who uses SSB in this region and for what purposes? What would be the benefits to us of keeping it?

We are based in Seattle and plan to use the boat for light coastal cruising--a few weeks each summer in Puget Sound and the San Juans and in future years further north within the inside passage. We are unfamiliar with using SSB and are not sure what we might be missing.

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Eric
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Old 09-08-2010, 03:45   #2
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Single side band is the mode that the radio transmits in. The bands of frequency that have been designated for SSB, transmits in is called the high frequency region. Choosing the right band of frequencies during the right time of the day or night in the high frequency region allows you to communicate with anyone around the world. Communicatioins with people within about a 25 mile radius (line of sight) is done with your VHF, very high frequency, radio.

Very few people in Puget Sound have a ssb radio. Those that do are either planning long distance voyages or enjoy talking to people that are far away.

John
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Old 09-08-2010, 06:20   #3
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I have not sailed in the San Juans - is my impression correct that they are in general rather remote? Can you count on being able to make VHF radio contact from that portion of your cruising grounds? If not, the SSB makes good sense.
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Old 09-08-2010, 06:32   #4
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Originally Posted by erict View Post
My wife and I just acquired a 30' sailboat . . .SSB . . . . Is this system worth the initial effort along with the space, power, and complexity for casual cruisers in the pacific northwest.
The basic simple answer is no.

With a 30' cruiser you are going to want ever cu in of stowage space possible, and for 'casual cruising in the PNW' you will have no call to use the SSB . . . there is excellent VHF coverage pretty much thru-out the inside passage.

Some people would enjoy fiddling with the radio, and there are probably some SSB cruising nets with other cruisers doing the inside passage. But you will have plenty of other stuff vying for that same space which will probably add more value and make the wife happier than the SSB.
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Old 09-08-2010, 06:53   #5
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You can sell the radio and tuner on ebay, or wherever...and help to pay for the refit. Unfortunately that radio is somewhat dated, and would be difficult to use with sailmail, etc.

Good luck!
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:41   #6
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I cruise the San Juans all the time. I have never been out of VHF range. I spotted a dead head one day, was way out there and called the coast guard. The Vancouver CG immediately responded and asked if they could help. They relayed my location and message to the USCG, then they got on and confirmed my message.
If fact the coverage in VHF is too good. I hear of ever boating emergency from Seattle to Desolation Sound. Makes me really careful.
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Old 11-08-2010, 10:53   #7
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I used to monitor HF radio (SSB) when I was in the coast guard. One time in the inland passage I picked up a 'Mayday' and began to muster the crew when I realized it was from the Gulf of Mexico. They had closer resources to render assistance!

Even then it was mostly fishboats and freighters who used SSB. You will have no need for it given your stated plans.
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Old 11-08-2010, 17:00   #8
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Thanks for all the advice. There doesn't seem to be any utility in keeping the SSB radio and we have no desire to fiddle around with it. Since I'm on a tear to simplify and reduce the electrical system as much as possible, I'll happily put the SSB with the NavSat as components to be left off the boat.

Next consideration is trading out the Electro Scan for an Airhead composter...
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Old 12-08-2010, 04:00   #9
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A contrary view.

I think that everything written above are good reasons not to make an investment in installing a SSB in a boat which doesn't already have one.

HOWEVER, that's not your situation. You already have it. And the installation (ground plates, backstay insulators, wiring) costs more than the radio.

I can't imagine why it would make sense to remove it. The used radio and tuner will be worth very little on Fleabay, and you will be basically throwing away the rest of the installation. You will gain very little if any useful space, depending on how the radio is mounted.

An SSB is at the very least a great toy, even if you don't need it for actual practical purposes. You can listen to all kinds of stuff on it, including the BBC World Service, Radio Moscow, whatever, listen to cruiser nets from half way around the world. You can also talk to people and hone your skills.

Why in the world would you just rip it out?

Two more reasons not to rip it out:

1. When you go to sell your boat someday, your potential buyer may need it.

2. Your own plans may change and you might set out on a long trip where you really will need it.
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Old 12-08-2010, 05:51   #10
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I agree with Dockhead. Keep the radio. For all the reasons he cited, and others. It would make no sense to remove it since it's already there, and the M600 is a great little radio. Someday, you'll be glad you did.

IMHO,

Bill
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Old 12-08-2010, 07:16   #11
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The M600 is somewhat rare, but considered a great radio. I believe some have modified it to xmit on ham bands. There are a couple great boating ham nets in the PNW towards Alaska. If you do extended cruising in the NW, I highly recommend participating (we do). At the very least, you may be able to re-use the antenna setup if you acquire a ham rig. I'd keep that M600.
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Old 12-08-2010, 16:41   #12
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Thanks, those are good points on the side of keeping the SSB.

I am just now starting to trace the electrical setup and have yet to confirm that the rig was installed correctly. Assuming it was, then Dockhead's points are valid.

Dockhead, since you asked why...
There is a long list of electrical problems ranging from depleted batteries, insufficient regulation, and underpowered charging capacity to unswitched, parasitic draws and shorted lights. I will need to do a lot of work on the system and at some point will have everything disconnected.

The question then becomes: is the particular component worth keeping and reconnecting? If the SSB is something I would get value from using then the answer may be yes. If not then I'd rather take estarzinger's suggestion and reclaim the space as well as simplify the electrical system. Then again, there's your point about the value to the next owner...

With your help, I'm still identifying all the variables involved in this equation.
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Old 12-08-2010, 17:16   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erict View Post
Thanks, those are good points on the side of keeping the SSB.

I am just now starting to trace the electrical setup and have yet to confirm that the rig was installed correctly. Assuming it was, then Dockhead's points are valid.

Dockhead, since you asked why...
There is a long list of electrical problems ranging from depleted batteries, insufficient regulation, and underpowered charging capacity to unswitched, parasitic draws and shorted lights. I will need to do a lot of work on the system and at some point will have everything disconnected.

The question then becomes: is the particular component worth keeping and reconnecting? If the SSB is something I would get value from using then the answer may be yes. If not then I'd rather take estarzinger's suggestion and reclaim the space as well as simplify the electrical system. Then again, there's your point about the value to the next owner...

With your help, I'm still identifying all the variables involved in this equation.
Good luck in your decisions.

Your SSB should not create any parasitic current draw or any other problems like that. It will draw good bit of power when you are transmitting, but that is a very intermittent load.

It's entirely a matter of taste whether you like messing with it or not, but many people feel that a proper ship has just got to have a radio shack. It's your link to the world from the vastness of the ocean. It's an extremely cool thing, to be able to communicate like that over such distances and with such simple, basic, ancient technology. But you know, if the idea doesn't turn you on, like it does me and many others, maybe it's not worth it. Only you can decide.
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Old 12-08-2010, 17:35   #14
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Icom M600

I agree with Dockhead. BTW: the M600 needs no modification to operate on the HAM bands and is fully type-accepted (legal) to operate on them as long as you have a License. Naturally you don't need one to listen in on the nets, etc.
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Old 12-08-2010, 19:54   #15
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Another yes vote

It can be a good backup plan in the event of vhf failiure or if you do decide to travel farther north into remote areas. My father spent time on boats and at one time when in Princess Louisa he needed to get a message home and was able to use his Ham radio to get a phone patch to the house and take care of things. If you have it, keep it, I plan on getting a ham setup just for that reason.
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