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Old 17-01-2016, 13:32   #1
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SSB or SatPhone?

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
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Old 17-01-2016, 13:48   #2
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

You will get a preponderance of people telling you to go for the SSB. But that's because many people who have come back from world cruising went quite some time ago.

I think SSB is out dated tech

A day phone you can drag into the liferaft. Be in few are more easily available and you can call, email anyone instantly.

Anyway there's millions of threads already about this, and people will fill this thread too.

Weird this interweb thingy
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Old 17-01-2016, 14:20   #3
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

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Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
You will get a preponderance of people telling you to go for the SSB. But that's because many people who have come back from world cruising went quite some time ago.

I think SSB is out dated tech

A day phone you can drag into the liferaft. Be in few are more easily available and you can call, email anyone instantly.

Anyway there's millions of threads already about this, and people will fill this thread too.

Weird this interweb thingy
Sort of agree/disagree on this one. If you are in the Med or Caribbean you don't need a SSB but the S Pacific is a place you can really use one. If you only want to call back home or get grib files then a Sat phone will do the trick. If you are a bit social and like to stay in touch with other cruisers, get grib files/weather faxes then a SSB does the trick. When we crossed the Atlantic I heard several cruisers complain about dropped calls on their Sat nav phones and I expect in some parts of the South Pacific it's worse. We have both aboard, I prefer the SSB.
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Old 17-01-2016, 14:21   #4
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

We sailed Panama to New Zealand in 2015 and relied heavily on a sat phone for communications with family and grib files via Access Point. However we sometimes had to wait for 10-20 mins to get a signal.

One boat that was sinking 1,500 nm off-shore got rescued by communicating via SSB.

Latitude 38 - 'Lectronic Latitude

Therefore, buy both if you can afford them otherwise I would go with a sat phone.
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Old 17-01-2016, 14:24   #5
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

To Mark's point - based on my 2006-07 experience I would say SSB no brainer. With that said I would likely find a way to stretch the budget for both for the next cruise. I would vote ham + Sat

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Old 17-01-2016, 14:26   #6
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Should have mentioned that they both do email quite well most of the time. Long term the SSB is cheaper to use but very expensive to buy and install so unless you are planning on staying out there for a few years the Sat ph would make more sense financially. Enjoy your dream and planning stage.
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Old 17-01-2016, 15:10   #7
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

you will find folks on both sides of this, with logical reasons for both positions.

We have been round the world twice once with an SSB and once with a sat phone, and I am entirely on the side of the sat phone.

If you like chatting on cruising nets and tinkering with radios then the HF radio makes sense.
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Old 17-01-2016, 15:25   #8
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

either way it's worth considering getting a little stand alone ssb receiver for weather fax and short wave off shore.
Degen 1103 is my favarite though there are a few others popular among cruisers.
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Old 17-01-2016, 15:40   #9
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Long term I prefer the SSB. Its cheaper. But I understand those who like sat phones. However, Have you considered an iridium Go? Low cost, and effectively turns all the smartphones on board into sat phones. I'm considering one to ad to boat, already equipped with SSB.
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Old 17-01-2016, 15:48   #10
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

What about using SSB and then a cheap Delorme Inreach? Inreach unlimited text plans go for $69 per months which can be used for basic communications, then your email and grib system can be SSB based. This would be a great combo in my opinion.
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Old 17-01-2016, 16:01   #11
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

it isn't an either or question to me; I can't imagine a well founded boat without both VHF and HF radios== and satellite connection makes sense as well. We are strongly in the both community; self sufficiency mandates, at least to us, the ability to get weather and other info without relying on someone else's network.
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Old 17-01-2016, 16:05   #12
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

If you are the type person that enjoys working on something like a radio system and are willing to do a little research then HF SSB might be for you. You have to do a little work and get some training to get your SSB setup working well. It is not plug and play. However, no one back in some office will ever turn off your SSB communications capability while you are at sea.

On the other hand, if you are the type person that just wants to push a button and have someone answer on the other end then get a high quality sat phone and buy the minutes you need. It helps if you are good with computers. You may want to get grib files from the satphone to your laptop for weather routing.

Either satphone or SSB will work. For a 1-2 year cruise they cost about the same overall. I don't think I would get both unless you really plan to stay out on long passages anchored in desolated places over many years.

No matter what you decide for daily communications get an EPIRB and if you can afford it also have a class B AIS transponder.
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Old 18-01-2016, 00:35   #13
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Well in our uninformed and unintelligent opinion maybe both.

We have an SSB that works great and in the Caribbean it was used almost everyday and sometimes more than once a day. Great way to get weather from Chris Parker and if you subscribe he will give you weather for exactly what you are going to do. There a several cruiser nets in the Caribbean and we were able to keep up with friends and make new ones on the nets. Also when we left one area and our friends we stayed on other nets and suddenly an old friend would show up on the net and we would make contact.
We used ssb for gribs in our Atlantic crossing and Chris Parker was a daily contact until we were out of voice range and then we gave him our coordinates and he gave us the next few days wx that we combined with the gribs for decision making.
In the Med there is not a lot of need for the SSB but there are occasions when we need wx and can not get a wifi signal even with a dongle so we rely on ssb as a back up.

NOW saying all that when we head back across the Atlantic I will get some sort of sat phone as a back up for the ssb as not sure on the winlink stations and their reach. So our preference is ssb first and sat phone back up.
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Old 18-01-2016, 02:10   #14
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Berg View Post
it isn't an either or question to me; I can't imagine a well founded boat without both VHF and HF radios== and satellite connection makes sense as well. We are strongly in the both community; self sufficiency mandates, at least to us, the ability to get weather and other info without relying on someone else's network.
Me, too. Why should it be "either, or"?

I have both a fixed installed sat phone and a HF radio (with DSC).

The sat phone has never been activated, but I haven't yet sailed this boat more than about 200 miles from shore so haven't felt the need so far.

I love the Yellow Brick/DeLorme satellite text devices and will definitely add one of those when I start to venture further out. This is an absolutely beautiful concept, since probably 90% of your real life comms can be done using a few text messages.

Meanwhile HF radio seems to me the most powerful, versatile, and flexible single means of communication offshore, but as Estarzinger said, you need to have some interest in radio and willingness to acquire some skills, to use it effectively, and the capital expense is significant. Also, you can't take it into the life raft with you, so it should not be your only means of long range comms.
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Old 18-01-2016, 02:15   #15
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Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Quote:
Originally Posted by transmitterdan View Post
If you are the type person that enjoys working on something like a radio system and are willing to do a little research then HF SSB might be for you. You have to do a little work and get some training to get your SSB setup working well. It is not plug and play. However, no one back in some office will ever turn off your SSB communications capability while you are at sea.

On the other hand, if you are the type person that just wants to push a button and have someone answer on the other end then get a high quality sat phone and buy the minutes you need. It helps if you are good with computers. You may want to get grib files from the satphone to your laptop for weather routing.

Either satphone or SSB will work. For a 1-2 year cruise they cost about the same overall. I don't think I would get both unless you really plan to stay out on long passages anchored in desolated places over many years.

No matter what you decide for daily communications get an EPIRB and if you can afford it also have a class B AIS transponder.
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.
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