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Old 24-07-2011, 22:05   #1
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Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

Below is the identical OP of a thread I started in the communications section. I'm getting the responses of a bunch of HAM guys, which is interesting, but I'd really like to see the replies of non-ham sailors, or sailors who aren't techies like that bunch and who utilize ham/ssb in their cruising. Some of the posters there don't even own a boat.

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.
I think that it is safe to say that, amongst boaters, most of us could care less about capacitors, resistors, V=I/r etc., etc.
So can anyone tell my why, nowhere in the training, is anyone taught how to actually USE a radio?
Perhaps there should be a course to qualify people who are not interested in becoming hobbyists, but who would like to be able to use a radio effectively? I really think that this emphasis on technical material is keeping a lot of people from getting involved and, in the long run, not helping the hobby at all. In fact, it's rather like making it into a club that is somewhat difficult to join.
Point in fact - my friend told me that he has NEVER had an on-air conversation with someone - that he has only ever used his radio for weather, and email. I think that's rather indicative of where the HAM enthusiasts are, (forgive the pun), missing the boat.
Your thoughts?
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Old 24-07-2011, 22:15   #2
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Re: Opinions of non HAM sailors solicited.

I'm a total techie ... however I have no desire to jawbone on the radio. I too only use my SSB for email, weather and such. I have participated in some nets when I though I could add some hard information. But I don't even bother listening. It's 99.999% worthless chatter on the nets, ham or otherwise. You could listen for and hour and all you'd have done is lost an hour of your life you'll never get back.

I'm feeling like I'll be switching to a satphone soon and mothballing the SSB rig.
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Old 24-07-2011, 22:34   #3
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Re: Opinions of non HAM sailors solicited.

From the little listening I've done, that's been about my opinion....but the hams certainly think otherwise.
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Old 24-07-2011, 22:54   #4
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Re: Opinions of non HAM sailors solicited.

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I'm a total techie ... however I have no desire to jawbone on the radio. I too only use my SSB for email, weather and such. I have participated in some nets when I though I could add some hard information. But I don't even bother listening. It's 99.999% worthless chatter on the nets, ham or otherwise. You could listen for and hour and all you'd have done is lost an hour of your life you'll never get back.

I'm feeling like I'll be switching to a satphone soon and mothballing the SSB rig.
Yet you participate on internet forums, which never exhibit the very characteristics you note above...



Just sayin...
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Old 24-07-2011, 23:01   #5
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Re: Opinions of non HAM sailors solicited.

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... So can anyone tell my why, nowhere in the training, is anyone taught how to actually USE a radio? Perhaps there should be a course to qualify people who are not interested in becoming hobbyists, but who would like to be able to use a radio effectively? ...
Good point. Perhaps it's because each radio is so different from the others, but there are comonalities. I think the US Power Squadron does something for SSB usage, & the Seven Seas University does sometimes as well. But Hams should really get more into the joys of radio now that the morse test is gone. It's been so difficult to get a Ham license for so long that Hams tend to focus on passing the tests, which do require some radio theory (but much less now).

There are, of course, a lot of dingbats out there who don't know how to use their radios & make it difficult for others, by using more power than needed or transmitting on top of someone trying to do email, etc. Using a VHF is pretty easy, but using a Ham or SSB radio effectively without annoying your neighbors does take some knowledge & experience.

Having said all that, I'll also say you're still not reaching your desired audience, as I've been a Ham since 1982 (& never needed my morse).
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Old 24-07-2011, 23:12   #6
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

Snuck in on me did you Jon? That's ok, you should see the comments at the original thread. Quite different in tone. It's becoming quite educational actually.
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Old 24-07-2011, 23:14   #7
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Re: Opinions of non HAM sailors solicited.

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Yet you participate on internet forums, which never exhibit the very characteristics you note above...
Good point. But I only do CF at work while I'm being paid. And the scroll button saves me from the long winded blatherers. Quite unlike the hams that cannot let go of the PTT once pressed.
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Old 24-07-2011, 23:26   #8
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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Quite unlike the hams that cannot let go of the PTT once pressed.
I believe that medically, it's considered a form of cramping...
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Old 25-07-2011, 06:30   #9
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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So can anyone tell my why, nowhere in the training, is anyone taught how to actually USE a radio?
That's easy. Because there are lots of different radios with lots of different purposes, and how to "use a radio" depends entirely on the specifics. Read the owners manual of your particular radio, with an eye towards what you want to do with it, and that will teach you how to use it. This is true enough about marine VHF and SSB radios--even more so about ham radios, which can be used in almost any way that you can imagine.

Now, if you're looking for some simple instructions on how a boater might use a VHF or SSB, then there are a number of books out there that will suffice.
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Old 25-07-2011, 06:43   #10
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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Read the owners manual of your particular radio,
Maybe I'm not too bright, but I have read the manual and it really doesn't give great instruction in this area - although there is an extensive section on mods.
As for some books, can you suggest a few? I suspect I'm not the only one who would appreciate knowing...
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Old 25-07-2011, 07:02   #11
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

If you are asking about "operation" of a ham radio, that is, choosing bands, dial frequencies, modes, etc, independent of your radio model, check out Gordon West's material. He has produced some audio CDs that give you an idea of what it can be like.

As for a ham radio beyond email/fax/etc, I suggest tuning your radio to some of the ham voice maritime mobile nets, like the pacific seafarers net, to get an idea of what such a thing offers. For example, depending on conditions, it can be really easy or difficult to communicate with a net controller in New Zealand from North America, sometimes requiring multiple relay stations. Hams have a protocol for this that can be very effective. In comparison, I don't know how often similar net operations occur on Marine SSB and if it is easier or harder than using ham frequencies. Maybe someone can chime in with experience?
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Old 25-07-2011, 07:08   #12
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Re: Opinions of non HAM sailors solicited.

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It's 99.999% worthless chatter on the nets, ham or otherwise. You could listen for and hour and all you'd have done is lost an hour of your life you'll never get back.
Sort of like Cruisers Forum sometimes.
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Old 25-07-2011, 08:33   #13
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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As for a ham radio beyond email/fax/etc, I suggest tuning your radio to some of the ham voice maritime mobile nets, like the pacific seafarers net, to get an idea of what such a thing offers. For example, depending on conditions, it can be really easy or difficult to communicate with a net controller in New Zealand from North America, sometimes requiring multiple relay stations. Hams have a protocol for this that can be very effective. In comparison, I don't know how often similar net operations occur on Marine SSB and if it is easier or harder than using ham frequencies. Maybe someone can chime in with experience?
VALIS has been comms vessel (net control) for the past two Pacific Cup races, and the return passage, and we often have to resort to relays -- sometimes double-hop relays or even VHF/SSB relays. At the start of the race it can get pretty confusing, but with an experienced net control (me) and a little practice, by the end of the event we get pretty good at it.

I'm not familiar with the long-standing SSB nets, but I have to assume that they have learned to communicate fairly well. I occasionally participate in the Pacific Seafarer's Net (yes, I'm a ham), and this net does a good job of managing the difficult radio paths.

This type of operation is best learned by listening and participating. I don't think any test or simple training would work nearly as well.

Listen. Learn. Participate.
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Old 25-07-2011, 08:59   #14
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

Are you sure you know the difference between using a marine SSB radio on the marine bands and using a HAM radio on the HAM bands? From my understanding you can use a marine SSB for all the things you wanted to do in your OP, no HAM licence required.

Here's some old threads to help you understand if you don't:

Ham / SSB Licensing Question

Marine SSB Licence?

HAM, Marine SSB, Other?


My opinion? If I wanted to get involved in HAM radio and use the HAM bands, I would have no problem taking the HAM exams. HAM on boats is just a small part of the HAM community, after all.

Frank (Non-HAM)
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Old 25-07-2011, 09:12   #15
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Re: Opinions of Non-HAM Sailors Solicited

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As for some books, can you suggest a few? I suspect I'm not the only one who would appreciate knowing...
Can't resist:

"Marine SSB Radio for IDI-Yachts"

We have it on board...
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