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Old 18-01-2016, 06:00   #16
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

There is nothing wrong with having both. But cost is an issue for many cruisers. If on a 1-2 year cruise then it can almost double the cost to have both SSB and good satellite phone with data plan. One could easily spend upwards of $8K USD outfitting and paying for service charges. I don't think that expense is mandatory for the typical warm water cruiser.

If you are going to spend lots of time in desolate anchorages out of reach of WiFi, cellular and VHF range then SSB becomes critical in communicating with those around you. Many soon to be cruisers only worry about contacting friends and family back home. But the reality is that they will want to communicate with people and businesses nearby more often, even daily. For that you need email, VHF or HF radio. Sat phone calls to other cruisers is still unusual. Email by sat phone gets expensive fast.
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Old 18-01-2016, 06:01   #17
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
I think this is great advice overall, but I would make just one tiny quibble about the advice against both. If you have an SSB radio and are reasonable adept at using it, then what's wrong with having the sat phone as backup. If the SSB is your primary means of long range comms, you won't use many sat phone minutes, which means that the cost will be quite small, and you can take the sat phone into the life raft with you, unlike the SSB.
I certainly agree with that, wholeheartedly. I have both and find that the SSB is the day-in day-out workhorse, for all the reasons chuckr noted above, plus a few, including long-distance email.

There are many ham and marine SSB nets this side of the Atlantic, as well as in other parts of the world, which provide multiple services.

The daily Cruizheimers Net on 8152kHz USB has dozens of check-ins every day, from Canada to the Caribbean. It's associated Tech Net on Wednesdays and Sundays provides valuable technical help for almost any of the myriad problems which cruisers encounter. The Doo Dah net operates daily at 1700 Eastern time on the same frequency, tracking vessels on passage. There are lots of other marine SSB nets operating daily in the Caribbean, Great Lakes, and elsewhere.

The aforementioned daily WX services by Chris Parker on several HF frequencies are very valuable. Daily WX broadcasts by the USCG and WLO on multiple frequencies and at multiple times are extremely useful for long-distance cruisers. WLO and affiliated stations provide "marine operator" services, and can connect you to any telephone on earth for a very affordable price. They have a wide coverage of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, right into the Mediterranean and East Asia.

The daily ham nets are a treasure: the Waterway Net on 7268kHz LSB has been operating every single day for more than 50 years. It also covers the East Coast of the U.S., into Canada and the Maritimes, the Bahamas, Gulf of Mexico, etc. The Maritime Mobile Service Net on 14300kHz USB provides almost 24-hour service, giving WX on the half-hour, and covers a very wide area of the Atlantic and Pacific.

As has been true for several decades, and still is, the ham nets and the 700,000 plus licensed amateur radio operators worldwide regularly provide a safety net which helps mariners in distress just about anywhere in the world.

I wouldn't go to sea without a marine/ham SSB, and have not done so for the past 40 years. For me, the satphone has been an occasional convenience, e.g., when having a private conversation with a family member or service provider. It has not seen regular use, since marine/ham SSB has provided the necessary comms when offshore.

Bill
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Old 18-01-2016, 06:37   #18
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

I might comment that you do not need an hf/ssb transceiver to listen to the cruiser nets or weather transmissions or to get weather fax. You can do all that with a very inexpensive all band receiver (we had a small very inexpensive sony radio that worked perfectly for all that)
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Old 18-01-2016, 07:15   #19
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Oops...my post said "700,000 licensed amateur radio operators worldwide". That's in the U.S. alone.

There are about 3 million licensed hams worldwide. Most of these are English-speaking.

Why does that matter?

Because, if you have any radio operator skills at all, it's virtually impossible NOT to be able to make a good contact on amateur radio. And, hams worldwide are known for their ability and eagerness to be helpful. Many mariners have benefited from services provided by radio amateurs free of charge.

In a bona fide emergency, even non-hams can benefit from using the ham bands when they are unable to communicate by other means.

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Old 18-01-2016, 07:29   #20
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

^^ I honestly don't get why "3m Hams" is all that useful a feature in an emergency . . . If the alternative is to simply direct dial the RCC or a repair tech or a doctor.

If I had the choice between trying to contact some random ham some random place in the world vs direct dialing someone who could immediately address my problem, I know what I would do.
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Old 18-01-2016, 07:38   #21
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

One of the less expensive sat phone only options is the iridium go. Most sat phones don't have reasonable monthly plans so you have to forecast in advance how many minutes you might need for an upcoming passage or season, and buy a sim for that period. We last bought 500 min for $750 that lasts 12 months. But, the go has monthly plans that are adjustable on a monthly basis, or you can turn them off and have a spare sim or two to initiate when required. Plans range from $50 for basic standby to $125 for unlimited data. So for $125/month, you can use it for passages, out of the way anchorages with no wifi for all your weather gribs, emails, blog updates or Facebook, SMS messages, GPS tracking etc. I think it's more affordable than standard satphone plans. Yes one downside is you can't just grab it and jump in the liferaft, although you can grab it and an iPhone or iPad and still have satcoms.
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Old 18-01-2016, 07:39   #22
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Ideally have both.

But if it is a forced choice I would do with a sat phone with the provision that you have all of the phone numbers that you need. There is no 411 service on a sat phone. Start with numbers of all of the RCCs along the route.
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Old 18-01-2016, 07:48   #23
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

We have both SSB and two older SAT phones onboard. We never use the SSB, primarily because the person on the receiving end needs to be listening, and usually... nobody is listening, so it's useless. We don't subscribe to a SAT phone service provider, so they are also useless. We instead communicate via cell phones and the internet. Should we someday decide to cross an ocean, we will rent a SAT phone for a month as a safety device, otherwise, there's no need to have one.
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Old 18-01-2016, 07:58   #24
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

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Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
Oops...my post said "700,000 licensed amateur radio operators worldwide". That's in the U.S. alone.

There are about 3 million licensed hams worldwide. Most of these are English-speaking.

Why does that matter?

Because, if you have any radio operator skills at all, it's virtually impossible NOT to be able to make a good contact on amateur radio. And, hams worldwide are known for their ability and eagerness to be helpful. Many mariners have benefited from services provided by radio amateurs free of charge.

In a bona fide emergency, even non-hams can benefit from using the ham bands when they are unable to communicate by other means.

Bill
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In an emergency, there's no time to fool around with an SSB radio and communicate your needs to one of the 3 million worldwide amateurs and trust they will relay your problem to the right people... provided one of them happens to be listening at the precise moment you need assistance. Wishfull thinking. I have an SSB... nowadays there's rarely anyone on most of the channels. Just rent a SAT phone prior to an ocean crossing. Low cost and an immediate response (usually).
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Old 18-01-2016, 08:26   #25
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

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Originally Posted by Kenomac View Post
In an emergency, there's no time to fool around with an SSB radio and communicate your needs to one of the 3 million worldwide amateurs and trust they will relay your problem to the right people... provided one of them happens to be listening at the precise moment you need assistance. Wishful thinking. I have an SSB... nowadays there's rarely anyone on most of the channels. Just rent a SAT phone prior to an ocean crossing. Low cost and an immediate response (usually).
I don't think Bill was talking about an immediate emergency. For that you would use DSC, EPIRB, PLB, sat phone call, in whatever combination. A rented sat phone is fine for a minimalist, push-button solution. Or buy one -- they're not expensive.

The 3 million hams are useful if you need some information, or need a phone patch, from the middle of the ocean, not really so much for emergencies.

You also have email via your HF radio and Pactor modem. This is free (or modest flat annual fee in case of SailMail), so a fantastic way to keep in regular contact from the middle of the ocean. It is easy to send a single update email to a whole mailing list of people you would like to keep updated. And in any case, you're not burning up sat phone minutes as you do so.

This, and satellite text via Yellow Brick/Delorme, seem to me to be the absolutely best non-emergency comms from far offshore.


Obviously in sight of land, none of this is needed at all -- because you have voice and data via the mobile telephone networks. The new LTE networks in Northern Europe are amazingly good -- Internet more or less just like at home, for 10 euros per gigabyte on average. VOIP (like Skype) works great over these networks, so you don't even really need the voice service except to have a number where others can reach you.
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Old 18-01-2016, 08:48   #26
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

I simply can't understand why some folks -- even those with a lot of sea miles under their belt -- still have their heads stuck in the sand re: the usefulness of ham radio in an emergency. This is particularly true in the light of the many sailors who have benefited from ham radio in extreme emergencies.

Recently, for example, a Canadian vessel ran aground on the reefs in a remote area in NE Cuba. The ham community pitched in to help, even standing all-night watches, dealing with several different countries and organizations within those countries, etc. This has been well documented.

"Nobody listening". Yeah, right. You're talking about marine SSB, not the ham bands. On the ham bands, someone is ALWAYS listening; you just have to be savvy enough to choose the appropriate band for your situation. I laugh out loud at the fellow who once posted he transited the Atlantic and was unable to make a single SSB contact. This is ridiculous, and points only to ignorance and inexperience.

Evans is dead right about the need to actually learn something in order to use either ham radio or marine SSB. You can't just push a button.

Any experienced ham anywhere in the world can make a useful contact on ham radio within just a few minutes.

You're in mid-Atlantic and you have an emergency, but don't want to set off your EPIRB (which means, "rescue me"). Maybe a medical emergency. Maybe a gear breakdown which affects your ability to sail until repaired. But, you want the Coast Guard to know your situation. You fire your radio up on 14300kHz -- the Maritime Mobile Service Net. You make contact, and request a relay to the USCG. A few minutes later, the USCG comes up on 14300kHz and sounds like the voice of God, with their big power and big antennas.

Other boats/ships in the area listen in on your conversation. Maybe one has the part, fuel, knowledge, or whatever you need. The USCG now is apprised of your location and situation. They request a schedule with you on 14300kHz or one of their HF frequencies until the problem is resolved.

Is that useful? You decide.

Bill
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Old 18-01-2016, 08:56   #27
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post

You also have email via your HF radio and Pactor modem. This is free (or modest flat annual fee in case of SailMail), so a fantastic way to keep in regular contact from the middle of the ocean. It is easy to send a single update email to a whole mailing list of people you would like to keep updated. And in any case, you're not burning up sat phone minutes as you do so.

.
With SSB family can not contact you. Only people with SSB can. Where family can send Free text via any smartphone or computer to a sat phone. Replying to them is free or uses only seconds (I sent heaps and couldn't see an effect on the minutes).

Also they can ring you anytime. As well as email, of course. Emails cost a negligible amount because you send them at the same time as a Grib request. The main bit of time is connecting and disconnecting the actual transmit time is quick.
So I would shedule my emails to be sent in order: Grib request first, then normal emails.
By the time my last email was sent the reply had been received with the GRib file attached.
So a 2 minute call can achieve a lot

Most importantly, you can take a Sat phone into the dinghy, or hiking etc in any country for safety. And the life raft! So you can ring the Coast Guard and order Pizza with your rescue... and ring family to tell them to get onto the Coast guard too

FREE messaging! As many times as your friends and family want!

https://messaging.iridium.com

And its my favorite word: Free
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Old 18-01-2016, 09:02   #28
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

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With SSB family can not contact you. Only people with SSB can........
Not really. On the ham and marine nets we get requests all the time from family members as well as the Coast Guard to contact boats which have only SSB or even those which have NO MEANS OF COMMUNICATION AT ALL, other than VHF.

And, requests for boat watches, searches, etc.

And, guess what? We actually find 'em most of the time and pass along the message(s).

Pull your heads out of the sand, folks. There are multiple ways to communicate, not just SSB or ham or satphone or satellite-enabled devices. They're all valid in their own right and useful in some situations.
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Old 18-01-2016, 09:08   #29
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

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Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post

Evans is dead right about the need to actually learn something in order to use either ham radio or marine SSB. You can't just push a button.
Whereas a Sat Phone there is virtually nothing to learn:
It looks like a phone
It works like a phone
It connects immediately
It connects to a computer like a phone.

A school kid given a Sat Phone can pick it up and call Mom/mum with NO TRAINING whatsoever.

A kid can find the contacts directory and call whoever is in there without training because its exactly like their own cell phone

In this day and age people have moved from having to be trained and having instruction books to intuitive hardware and software.

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Old 18-01-2016, 09:08   #30
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

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Could I ask the community about what comms system they rely on? We are soon going to set off on our cruising adventures and we have had a lot of conflicting advice about what to get on board. I have worked with HF comms before and quite a few people have said that SSB did not provide them with the reliability and quickness of contact that their sat phone system did. So do I go fitted for SatPhone only with a good airtime package , or should I get a SSB receiver fitted as well, or should I go the whole hog which is very expensive, and get Satphone and SSB transceiver with a pastor modem? We intend spending a few months in the Caribbean before making our way to New Zealand in due course.
I would welcome the collective wisdom to help me, I hope, come to a practical decision.

Many thanks

SJFK
SJFK,

Your answer(s) will depend upon who [people, companies, agencies, etc.] and what [e.g., weather forecasts, blog posts, etc.] you want/need to communicate with, your ranking of importance [e.g., frequency of use] of voice, eMail, and SMS, whether the communication is one-to-one, or one-to-many, and of those methods, rank whether one-way and/or two-way communication is required.

Once you work out that matrix reflecting your needs, you will gain more clarity about what technology/ies might best suit your requirements.

[For another perspective to the matrix approach, look at West Marine's article on this topic.]

Our communications analysis revealed two-way eMail was the most important function for our day-to-day needs, followed by voice [mainly for emergencies] and SMS [mainly for notification of voice mail or email received.]

Next you will rank the order of importance of the technologies- based upon your above matrix- so you can rank their order of use in your day-to-day life aboard.

e.g., Our preferred order of use is Cell/WiFi, Sat phone [both using UUplus email for weather files and two-way email communications] Voice/SMS via Sat phone, SSB. Obviously that order can change depending upon what the need of the moment is... e.g., in southern climes where SSB nets are prevalent, SSB may be used more on a daily basis, and therefore slide up the order of use scale...

What do we use? Our penchant for higher latitude destinations drove us to an Iridium sat phone when cell and WiFi are not available. [This was before the release of IP Sat hot-spot devices like the Iridium Go... More on this in the blog post referenced below...]

We spend $400/yr on a discounted sat rate plan that limits us to Alaska and Canada- which suits our present needs. We rely on using UUplus email service with the phone, and it more than pays for itself with sat phone minutes saved through its efficiencies. With a passive, external mushroom antenna, we rarely are without a usable signal for long- even when transiting mountainous terrain [which is most of the time...]

If you are interested, you can read more about our satellite communication device selection process in this blog post - which also has links to other related forum posts...

If you go with two-way HF radio, given your cruising itinerary, be sure to go with a properly installed and operating DSC capable HF radio [e.g., ICOM M802 is likely the most common] so you can readily contact emergency service agencies.

We also have the ICOM 802 with Pactor modem and set it up for full time, non-emergency DSC so other friends [outside of VHF range...] who set their radios up similarly can 'hail' us. [We use the non-emergency DSC 'hailing' set-up and procedures outlined in this book.]

If we had to choose between Sat phone and SSB, the sat phone would be the easy choice for us. However, we recognize everyone's needs are different [as will become evident once you work through your communications decision matrix, above.]

In hopes this helps you focus on what is important to you...

Cheers!

Bill
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