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Old 18-01-2016, 09:58   #31
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
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!

And its my favorite word: Free
No one is trying to talk you out of your sat phone! To each his own!

Yes, sat phone could be good in case you need to be reachable at all times. But that is provided you have a fixed installed sat phone which you are willing to leave on most of the time. A handheld sat phone which needs to be pointed at the satellites -- not so much.

For this purpose, in my opinion, the killer app is Yellow Brick/Delorme. Always on, and always in your pocket if you like. I don't think there's any long range comms device which can compete with this, for the function of "always reachable from shore in real time". To boot you can set it up to send auto tracking messages.

If you want to be reachable not necessarily in real time, but as often as you check email, then you can indeed be reached by family and friends by SSB (via Pactor and email).

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Old 18-01-2016, 10:19   #32
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

I have opted for a sat phone, no SSB. It's a personal decision, tho, and I know a lot of people who'd never even consider leaving port w/out an SSB. Gotta know which boat caught the biggest fish while crossing that ocean

Why I opted for sat phone and not SSB: pretty much everything MarkJ said.

I personally don't see enough benefits to go through the pain and costs of installing SSB and learning how to use it.

And let's not forget: you can change your mind while underway; no need to decide, buy and install everything before you go

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Old 18-01-2016, 10:38   #33
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
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.

Personally I think you are overselling this part. In such a situation I believe it is easier AND more effective to make a phone call directly to the USCG duty officer desk.

We had both a laminated paper and programed in the phone: direct dial numbers for USCG duty desk, RCC in our cruising area, two medical contacts who had agreed to help us (one including a 24 hr manned answering service, the other a family friend), tech support for our critical equipment, two weather guys, and numbers for friends in various time zones so we could get 'google help' at pretty much any time of day.

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.

The fact that HF is a 'free party line' signal is it's fundamental advantage over phones, both for nets and in emergencies.

But I personally think the 'emergency' side of that is declining. (1) I doubt many ships monitor their HF radios very closely. If the DSC goes off they (probably) will hear you, but if it is a 'less that DSC mayday' then I doubt many will receive you. It is a plain fact that (most) ships have switched pretty much completely to sat comms for communicating with home office (and their other routine communications).

I personally think the primary reason to get a Ham is if you want to be part of the Ham community. It is a tight knit community with a good culture - much like the cruising community. There are barriers to entry (licenses and knowledge) and because of that they consider themselves to be somewhat 'elite' and are also (many of them) quite evangelical (about radios, not religion). SSB is somewhat different - more of 'just a tool' and less of a 'lifestyle' than Ham.

btrayfors, I honestly don't think your 'pull your heads out of the sand' comment is very useful in this discussion.

As a specific aside, the inreach system . . . . it is nice hardware and quite useful . . . but unfortunately my experience was that the people there were VERY difficult to deal with.
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Old 18-01-2016, 10:56   #34
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?


Coast Guard
[Docket No. USCG–2013–0521]
Termination of Radiotelephone
Medium Frequency 2182 kHz
Watchkeeping, 2187.5 kHz Digital
Selective Calling Channel Guard, and
2670 kHz Broadcasts
ACTION: Notice.
SUMMARY: The United States Coast
Guard is announcing that it will no
longer maintain a watch on 2182 kHz,
will no longer guard the Digital
Selective Calling (DSC) channel 2187.5
kHz, and will no longer transmit Marine
Information Broadcasts on 2670 kHz.
The minimal use of these channels by
mariners for distress and safety coupled
with antenna site deterioration, costly
upkeep, and extensive maintenance
required to support the medium
frequency (MF) system have led to a
Coast Guard decision to terminate the
MF services and direct the public
mariner to use more modern safety and
distress services which can be more
reliably received by the Coast Guard.
DATES: The termination announced in
this notice is effective on August 1,
ISPA Yachtmaster Ocean Instructor Evaluator
Sail Canada Advanced Cruising Instructor
IYT Yachtmaster Coastal Instructor
ASA 201, 203,204, 205, 206, 214
As I sail, I praise God, and care not. (Luke Foxe)
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Old 18-01-2016, 14:00   #35
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

There's some cheap HF SSB sets appearing which may help to do some serious rejuvenating of things HAM orientated (I lost interest in HAM radio a long time ago now, and can't see me getting interested in it again). I hope they do some good anyway. Such as this:

X1M - portable Chinese HF transceiver:

YO9IRF: X1M - portable chinese HF transceiver

$260 kit, $300 assembled.

There's some other very nice gear appearing too (same sort of price range, from about $240 built).

I'll be going the DeLorme InReach Explorer route personally though (with a Tecsun 880 receiver).
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Old 18-01-2016, 14:18   #36
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

SSB unreliable and often not available during a crisis... would be my thought.
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Old 18-01-2016, 14:30   #37

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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

I would suggest an SSB, properly installed with antenna match ("tuner") and antenna or modifications to the rig, will cost twice what the satphone will. It will also require a mot more space, it cannot be thrown into the abandon ship bag, and it requires some technical skills to maintain and use.

The satphone is compact and requires little skill. The cost difference up front may take a year or two of subscription use before it catches up to SSB.

The SSB can alert that other boat you passed yesterday, out of sight behind the next island. The satphone can't do that, but it can reach SAR operations, assuming they cover your area and can respond.

Two very different packages, and if at all possible, worth getting both.

If you do get the satphone, it might be worthwhile calling to the provide once a month just to confirm that the phone WORKS, the account is PAID UP, and there's nothing you should know about it, which could lead to it being terminated while you are at sea. (Or someone on land could routinely do that, and pass it on during routine communications.)
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Old 19-01-2016, 00:15   #38
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Originally Posted by jackdale View Post

Last year we were sailing from Lampedusa to Port Yasmine Tunisia - directly across the migrant route. As we checked out the Coast Guard asked us to call if we see anything - I asked on what frequency and they said Cannel 16 - I said that works for a few miles but what about tonight as we were doing a night crossing - I told them I had a HF radio and they smiled and gave me the 2187 frequency (I think- but even with a lot of grey hair I do remember it was a 2xxx freq) as I wrote it down but can not find it now.

BUT saying that they also gave me a phone number to which I replied I do not have a telephone

So either way --
just our thoughts and opinions
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Old 21-01-2016, 09:33   #39
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

We have a Icom 801E DSC with Pactor IV. It is more expensive than pure Satphone but IMO, more useful.

HAM networks are a great resource too.
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Old 21-01-2016, 17:38   #40
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

We sailed Florida to Australia and used both SSB and iridium satellite phone. The SSB was used for weather fax (Xaxero) and comms between boats plus weather info from Chris Parker. In the Pacific we used the iridium with Maxsea to give our projected weather conditions plus we obtained grub files for the areas other boats were sailing in then contacted them via SSB. We found that one complemented the other and with iridium we never had any connection issues.

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Old 23-01-2016, 16:23   #41
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
SSB unreliable and often not available during a crisis... would be my thought.

Not so. In fact the opposite is correct. During bad weather the SSB/HF improves and sat phone became intermittent.

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Old 23-01-2016, 19:05   #42
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Originally Posted by SimonV View Post
Not so. In fact the opposite is correct. During bad weather the SSB/HF improves and sat phone became intermittent.

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Ummm... Simon, surface weather has not much to do with propagation of HF radiation, for the controlling mechanisms for that are in the ionosphere, far above the clouds. However, often during surface storms there is significant lightning activity, and this can generate enough RF noise to interfere with SSB HF communications, sometimes to the extent that comms are not possible where otherwise they would be solid. Even distant lightning storms can be disruptive to HF comms... ask any ham!

I have no personal experience with satphones, but very heavy rain can indeed attenuate their signals as often mentioned here on CF by cruising satphone users.


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Old 23-01-2016, 21:09   #43
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post

A few minutes later, the USCG comes up on 14300kHz and sounds like the voice of God, with their big power and big antennas.

"VOICE OF GOD" that's to funny, couldn't stop laughing
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Old 23-01-2016, 22:26   #44
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Originally Posted by SJFK View Post
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

If you already have HF experience, go with HF!

Satphones have the advantages of being cheaper up front, no installation costs or hassles, simple to use, portability, no license requirements.

But if you're HF experienced, you'll be able to communicate with more people for longer for less money with HF.

I don't think you need a Pactor modem these days. There are programmes that make your laptop into an HF fax reciever for next to nothing.

Ultimately a satphone plus an HF is better.
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Old 23-01-2016, 23:23   #45
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

I am very much in the "both" camp. But these two long range comms systems are not entirely comparable. They have differing functions and modalities. The Satphone is the most important tool for swift, assured, and clear emergency long range comms, and can also be taken aboard a liferaft, which an HF unit most certainly cannot! You will get the best results with gribs, and most certain results with emergency notification, as well as remote medical advice with a satphone. The SSB provides excellent general support in the form of ready means of contact on a sched with many other boats in the general vicinity. While many may say "Ah well but that can be achieved by sat based email" a sched actually enforces a discipline wherein daily contact is maintained with others making the same transit, and position and condition of vessel and crew is noted at every sched, sometimes twice daily. This is unlikely to be the case with email, and failure to check in on a sched places a question mark over the one who has not checked in, and also allows daily discussion of developing issues aboard etc.

Further and very importantly, often overlooked, is the DSC emergency distress function of the SSB, which is lacking in a satphone. Sure you can call the coast guard direct with a satphone, and that is great, but in fact takes quite a long time to do and contacts an MRCC a long way from the vicinity (likely). Pushing the distress button on your HF sends out your position and distress (if you select cause, then cause as well (holed and sinking/piracy/fire/mob etc.) on each of these frequencies at once (in extremely close sequence): 2187.5 4207.5 6312.0 8414.5 12577.0 16804.5 (kHz).

Now, those of you who have not used marine HF may not realise it, but this will trigger an alarm on EVERY RECIEVING SET. The lower frequencies assure that the primary recieving vessels will all be within a few hundred miles of the casualty. I consider this to be a very important safety feature. The alarm is VERY LOUD and any self respecting crew will have the procedure (mandated as part of the granting of a ship radio officer's ticket) of noting down the casualty information, and determining whether it is realistic to be of assistance. If it is, then the ship will contact their MRCC, report the incident and offer assistance. This places the casualty in direct contact with many of the most likely vessels to be able to offer assistance, which is something that Satphone cannot do. It does so in a very loud and unmistakeable manner. To me this is invaluable. Even if the ship determines they are too far away to be of realistic assistance, they will generally (unless truly remote) distress relay the message along. It is not unusual to recieve DSC alarms from as far away as 3 to 4000 miles.

The latter should not be overlooked.

So… for me both. If forced to choose, tough one but the answer would have to be satphone.

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phone, ssb

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