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Old 25-07-2011, 20:25   #31
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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Originally Posted by dana-tenacity View Post
Another vote for satphone.
+1. Because on the satphone, if there's an emergency Mom can call me without needing to "earn" a license.
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Old 25-07-2011, 21:12   #32
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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Originally Posted by canucksailor View Post
...I was discussing the whole HAM qualification route with another cruiser last night. We both agreed that we had our radios for the purpose of communicating - not discovering how to build/tear down a radio, or to become radio hobbyists with a mind full of arcane jargon we can baffle non hobbyists with. Neither one of us cares about what is behind the knobs and dials...

A bit off the original topic, but it seems like a general trend here is that if you want the privileges of using the Ham bands you need to earn them. This seems reasonable. We started this cruise with our 2 teens on board in 2001 & I would have had a mutiny if I couldn't provide them with email to their friends. The main options here are:
  • SatPhone: $1,200+ up front & $700/yr but web access anywhere so good safety gear
  • SailMail: $700 radio + $700 modem + $300/year for short messages
  • Winlink: $700 radio + $700 modem but free with more stations & longer connect times (no business)
  • Cyber-cafés: Cheap but difficult to get to & often virus ridden, only land based
  • 3G Modem: $40 modem + ~$1/day data plan, fast internet access but only near land
We bought (& still have) a SatPhone but mostly so folks could contact us. But the costs were so high ($700/yr or $500/yr & $1.50/min) that we dropped it. I'm told that if I turn it on & punch 911 (the US emergency code) that I'll get someone, but I haven't tried it. One major safety aspect that we lost was the ability to access web pictures of storms & their tracks while at sea, but GRIBs have provided all we've needed so far.

I happen to be somewhat radio-active & wanted an SSB anyway for the weather nets, WeFax & social aspects. An additional $700 + some study time to be allowed to have free worldwide email via Winlink was a no-brainer. Winlink is a wonderful service & we've used it daily for 10 years.

3G Modems were $250 when we started using them in 2007. Now they're under $40 & faster, so they make a lot of sense for when we're near land, which we almost always are. We can usually get a usable signal 15 miles from a tower. Our son would have killed to get this sort of internet out to Ocelot when he was on board.

Friends were sailing down the S African coast, 5 miles off shore in thick fog & wanted to go into Knysna. But the entrance is very narrow & tricky, not to be attempted in anything but ideal conditions. But they had a cell signal so they plugged in their modem & went to TheHeads.co.za which has 2 webcams of the entrance. No fog & no swell, so they turned in, sailed out of the fog, & made a successful landfall. Pretty cool!
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Old 25-07-2011, 21:20   #33
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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it seems like a general trend here is that if you want the privileges of using the Ham bands you need to earn them.
No disagreement there. It's the kind of information that you need to learn to 'earn' the ticket that I think isn't relevant to today's experience. I think ham isn't doing itself any favours by not modernizing the test to recognize that there are people who aren't and don't want to be techies, but who have a use for ham and could contribute to the hobby.
Another poster pointed out that ham basically recognized a potential group of users and modified the requirements re morse. Perhaps another change is due?
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Old 25-07-2011, 21:21   #34
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

I would second GeoPowers - why are you even thinking about HAM - you don't need it as all the email, communications and weather info access functions and utility of HAM for cruising sailors is available using Marine SSB and CruiseEmail or SailMail. No frigging tests needed.
- - And for the the same money or less for a full SSB radio with SCS demodulator rig and installation you can get a satellite data link system.
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Old 25-07-2011, 21:28   #35
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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[*]SatPhone: $1,200+ up front & $700/yr but web access anywhere so good safety gear
$700 per year is what the wealthy pay for satphone. I purchase prepaid SIMS cards for $130 per month. If you make two extended passages a year, you'll only spend $260.
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Old 25-07-2011, 21:49   #36
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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...I think ham [should] recognize that there are people who aren't and don't want to be techies, but who have a use for ham and could contribute to the hobby...
A matter of opinion. I think the bar is pretty easy to get over, if you want it. And they did just lower it, by quite a bit, when they removed the code requirements. One poster said he only studied for a day. If you don't want it that much, stick with SSB. Putting the bar a bit higher keeps the Ham bands cleaner.
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Old 25-07-2011, 21:49   #37
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

GeoPowers - that's a new one on me. What is it?
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Old 25-07-2011, 21:55   #38
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

Marine SSB for $700 + $700 - a bit low unless you are buying second hand or obsolete radio. Currently an Icom M-802 is going for $1800 to $2000 and a Pactor III for over a grand. Then add in the antenna and cabling and ground plane and you are close to $3K or more for a whole system.
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Old 25-07-2011, 21:58   #39
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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and you are close to $3K or more for a whole system.
and then, when your boat gets a direct lightning hit that blows everything on board, you can simply double that!
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Old 25-07-2011, 22:30   #40
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
Marine SSB for $700 + $700 - a bit low unless you are buying second hand or obsolete radio. Currently an Icom M-802 is going for $1800 to $2000 and a Pactor III for over a grand. Then add in the antenna and cabling and ground plane and you are close to $3K or more for a whole system.
Well, I'm a Ham & an EE so I can do some things cheaper. Manual $100 tuner from a swap meet, wires up to my upper spreaders for antennas, etc. But you're right that costs have increased since I bought my gear. Costs, decisions & configuration are detailed on our Radio Emal page but I probably should have included the 2 DynaPlates in there.
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Old 26-07-2011, 07:19   #41
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

John - just pulling your chain in a friendly way, the thread header is "Non-HAM" so I checked the costs to what such a cruiser would have to pay to purchase and have installed a decent HF-SSB system that does not require much more than learning how to turn it on, select a channel, and push the mic button to tune and then transmit.
- - Accessing/using the Airmail/WinLink system which IMHO is the sole reason cruisers who could be classified as "Non-HAM's" even though they have a HAM General license, is not easy. More times than not, such folks need considerable help from experienced AirMail/WinLink users to get their systems set-up and running.
- - Compare that to Satellite or long distance WiFi/cell phone access where the systems are basically "plug and play."
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Old 26-07-2011, 08:31   #42
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
Jon - just pulling your chain in a friendly way, the thread header is "Non-HAM" so I checked the costs to what such a cruiser would have to pay to purchase and have installed a decent HF-SSB system that does not require much more than learning how to turn it on, select a channel, and push the mic button to tune and then transmit.
- - Accessing/using the Airmail/WinLink system which IMHO is the sole reason cruisers who could be classified as "Non-HAM's" even though they have a HAM General license, is not easy. More times than not, such folks need considerable help from experienced AirMail/WinLink users to get their systems set-up and running.
- - Compare that to Satellite or long distance WiFi/cell phone access where the systems are basically "plug and play."
You're probably right that I shouldn't be here. But I admitted I'm Radio-active back at the top of the first page.

Getting Winlink setup & running happily does take some knowledge, which is why I think the current Ham tests put the bar at about the right place. But I think most folks who can pass the Ham test can probably setup a Winlink station without too much help, & they'll soon learn how to keep it running well. Non-techie SailMail users might need help setting it up. Any radio installation requires some knowledge to do it right.

WiFi & 3G are pretty plug & pray, but they don't work offshore. And the concept of long distance WiFi implies pirating someone's signal, which might be OK in the US but it's not nice if other folks have to pay for bandwidth you're using.

When we setup Ocelot I still had a paying job, so I didn't mind paying a bit more if it would eliminate running costs. Winlink fits that model - SatPhones don't.

But you're absolutely right - if you don't know how, the normal answer is to throw money at the problem. It's the American Way! There's no doubt that a SatPhone is easier & cheaper initially. But I'm out here long term & SatPhone plans will quickly eat any initial savings. And emergency help is usually available 24/7 around the world on 14.313 MHz or nearby.
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Old 26-07-2011, 08:35   #43
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

Okay now! I hold a GMDSS Commercial Operator's license... Do I really need to acquire a Ham operator's license??
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Old 26-07-2011, 09:02   #44
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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Okay now! I hold a GMDSS Commercial Operator's license... Do I really need to acquire a Ham operator's license??
Yes, if you want to be an amateur and use those bands, your commercial license means nothing. There is some general overlap in the types of exam questions between your license and General/Extra class amateur licenses, but they aren't the same.
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Old 26-07-2011, 11:45   #45
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

I do love the things I learn here. What an amazing resource this site is.
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