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View Poll Results: What best describes the long-range two-way communications systems you have on board?
HF-SSB is my primary means of long-range communications. 16 23.53%
I use a combination of HF-SSB and two-way satellite communications. 10 14.71%
I have two or more separate two-way satellite communications devices (such as Iridium Go plus InReach) (describe in comments) 10 14.71%
I use a handheld Iridium voice phone such as a 9555, 9575, or Extreme PLUS a permanently installed dock and external antenna 2 2.94%
I use a handheld Iridium voice phone such as a 9555, 9575, or Extreme WITHOUT any permanently installed dock or antenna 2 2.94%
I use a permanently installed Iridium voice phone such as a Lars Thrane LT-3100 0 0%
I use a self-contained handheld text-only device such as Garmin InReach 10 14.71%
I use a bluetooth-tethered handheld text-only device such as Zoleo Satellite Communicator 1 1.47%
I use Iridium Go! 7 10.29%
I use Inmarsat or VSAT 1 1.47%
Even though I make multi-day passages away from VHF and cellular I have one-way signalling only (EPIRB, PLB, etc) 3 4.41%
Even though I make multi-day passages away from VHF and cellular I have no long-distance signalling or communications equipment of any kind 1 1.47%
I use carrier pigeons, moon bounce, troposcatter, LF marine telegraph, or some other method not listed above (explain in comments) 0 0%
My cruising life keeps me close to civilization so I don't need long-distance communications 5 7.35%
Voters: 68. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 07-12-2022, 12:18   #1
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It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

Among boats that have long-range communications capabilities (beyond VHF and cellular range), there still appears to be a substantial installed base of HF together with a mixture of satellite systems.


I offer this poll and discussion to help understand the choices that other sailors are making. I am planning to install long-range communications equipment of some kind aboard my boat in the next year, and so this question has become more important to me.
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Old 07-12-2022, 13:46   #2
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

We recently set up our SSB rig, as well we have a Garmin Inreach, an EPIRB, two PLB’S, and of course an installed VHF and two hand held VHF radios. The SSB is an ICOM 706 MK2 G and AH4 tuner, with a new back stay antenna, and ground. So far we receive the east coast nets, and have chatted with cruising friends. Still learning the ins and outs as it were.

Fair winds,
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Old 07-12-2022, 14:13   #3
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

My only long-range communication tool is my inReach. My boat is actually set up for an SSB (it had one with a previous owner), but I've not found the need for it -- yet.
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Old 07-12-2022, 14:17   #4
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

I have had an inReach for years and now have Starlight in addition.
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Old 07-12-2022, 17:28   #5
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

When we were getting ready to leave for cruising, it felt really important to us to have everything working well, and up to date. We got used to using ham radio for our SSB work, and when Jim upgraded his radio, he got an optional heater, so that it would maintain frequency stability. Thereafter, it was enabled for the Maritime SSB frequencies.

At that time, SatPhone was something found only on the big bucks boats: a new Oyster might have one, for instance, or a gold plater, would, too.

Our whole vision of cruising was built around the considerable isolation of the cruising sailor of the time. We did have a computer, and used it to help with a radio based communication system for weather. Lots of changes.

Today, I'd put SatPhone in the nice to have category, for us, but for you, your needs may place the capability higher on the wants roster. It is always a balance between needs and wants, and one's own finances plays a role in the cost/benefit analysis.

Ann
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Old 07-12-2022, 17:33   #6
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

SSB + an inreach (one of those handheld thingies for hikers that can send texts)
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Old 07-12-2022, 18:44   #7
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
Among boats that have long-range communications capabilities (beyond VHF and cellular range), there still appears to be a substantial installed base of HF together with a mixture of satellite systems.


I offer this poll and discussion to help understand the choices that other sailors are making. I am planning to install long-range communications equipment of some kind aboard my boat in the next year, and so this question has become more important to me.
It seems that your "wants" (as per Ann's post) is related to communication, but, you did not mention about the "needs" such as weather.
It looks like SSB is on its way out for that purpose, and although I have one still to be installed, I am debating weather or not to do it. And again to quote Ann, the budget plays a major role.
I am planning on Iridium Go! for comms and weather. But I'll decide if I'll benefit from the SSB installation.
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Old 07-12-2022, 20:37   #8
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

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Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post
Today, I'd put SatPhone in the nice to have category, for us, but for you, your needs may place the capability higher on the wants roster. It is always a balance between needs and wants, and one's own finances plays a role in the cost/benefit analysis.

Thanks for the reply.



I think several things have changed in howevermany years.


The first is that Iridium service is now widely considered an acceptable or even superior substitute for HF from a safety and "responsible sailor" standpoint. There are now Iridium radios available that offer overall better emergency communications for the boat on which they are installed, and that also provide ability to receive alerts regarding nearby boats in need of help. It is no longer the case that satellite only is either a foolish or selfish choice.


The second thing that has changed is that the availability and utility of HF-SSB coastal stations has deteriorated and the costs have gone up. Winmail is no longer usable for cruisers. Sailmail has raised prices. WLO is gone. USCG and many other agencies have discontinued an MF watch. USCG has discontinued a voice watch on HF. Shore-based amateur radio operators on HF, who once saw SSB telephone patch for servicemen overseas as a major part of their mission, have refocused on contests and digital modes, and are no longer interested in, or in many cases, capable of helping out cruisers with a phone patch. The worldwide noise floor has gone up a dB or two.


The third thing is that a satellite-based communications strategy is now, overall, at cost parity with HF. An Icom M-803 from a reputable dealer, with tuner, is now $3300; Pactor modems are $1200-$2200 depending on source; backstay insulators and a ground plate easily add another $1000 in parts cost alone. Sailmail memberships are $275 a year. For HF-SSB, the transition to DSC watchkeeping has meant that the available pool of usable used equipment is very small.



On the other hand, a fantastic GMDSS-compliant satellite installation has a parts cost of around $5500 and an annual airtime costs typically around $600 a year; cheaper alternatives are available, down to an InReach mini for $349 plus $144 a year for basic airtime. There are many steps in between.



Fourth the expectations of the world around us have changed. Customs expects to receive a phone call from arriving boats while still at sea. Friends and family expect to receive location data and be able to get in touch for real and perceived emergencies.


Finally it's been eight years since the Rebel Heart imbroglio and since then there have been few if any reports of loss of Iridium service due to billing snafus since then. Perhaps Iridium and its dealers have cleaned up their act. Perhaps there is some other explanation. Doesn't matter, the point is that people are using Iridium and Go! and inReach and they don't have a problem.


I like HF but it increasingly looks like a voice-only amateur radio installation (which can still be done inexpensively) plus some form of satellite will end up being cheaper than a full DSC-compliant HF installation with data capabilities.
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Old 07-12-2022, 21:17   #9
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

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I think several things have changed in howevermany years.

Winmail is no longer usable for cruisers.
My experience, 15+ years ago was that Winmail/Winlink was the workhorse for email comms.

Can you elaborate on why you say it is no longer usable? Thanks.

I am getting ready to go cruising again long term and was planning to use my HF/SSB for winmail and Sailmail as I did in the past, so I am concerned that Winmail is no longer viable. My guess is the problem is lack of shore stations? I guess I should research this a bit more on my own, but since you mentioned it, please clarify!
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Old 07-12-2022, 21:29   #10
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

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My experience, 15+ years ago was that Winmail/Winlink was the workhorse for email comms.

Can you elaborate on why you say it is no longer usable? Thanks.

I am getting ready to go cruising again long term and was planning to use my HF/SSB for winmail and Sailmail as I did in the past, so I am concerned that Winmail is no longer viable. My guess is the problem is lack of shore stations? I guess I should research this a bit more on my own, but since you mentioned it, please clarify!

My mistake. I meant to write Winlink, the amateur-radio based alternative to Sailmail, that will no longer forward third-party email for US-issued call signs due to objections from within the USA amateur radio community.
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Old 07-12-2022, 21:46   #11
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

i am expecting starlink to lead to a quantum shift in long range comms for us all

fingers & toes crossed...

will continue with our trusty iridium go until then

cheers,
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Old 07-12-2022, 21:48   #12
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

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Originally Posted by jordanbigel View Post
My experience, 15+ years ago was that Winmail/Winlink was the workhorse for email comms.

Can you elaborate on why you say it is no longer usable? Thanks.

I am getting ready to go cruising again long term and was planning to use my HF/SSB for winmail and Sailmail as I did in the past, so I am concerned that Winmail is no longer viable. My guess is the problem is lack of shore stations? I guess I should research this a bit more on my own, but since you mentioned it, please clarify!
It is useable, but it is getting tougher, and you have to be careful how you use it. The winlink community doesn't like us. The argument (which IMHO is false) being that because there is a commercial service for maritime email(sailmail), using winlink for maritime comms is not lawfully permitted. There are severe restrictions on use by US FCC license holders. There are lessor restrictions on other country license holders.

For example, in 2019 I was buddy boat sailing with another boat using winlink. He had failures on passage between NZ and New Caldonia, a failure of steering and a failure of propeller shaft coupling. Together they could have resulted in a Mayday situation. He was emailing authorities in New Caldonia and his steering manufacturer. A sysop was monitoring emails, and deemed they were commercial in nature and suspended his account. Very nearly the only non-commercial use would be downloading gribs, or an email "check-in" that everything is ok on board. You can't contact authorities or a marina notifying them of arrival, suppliers, etc. Of course, you CAN do those things if a sysop isn't reading your email, but they often do.

Basically, if emails are not about the HAM radio hobby, or about terrestrial EMS and search and rescue volunteer work, they don't want anyone else using winlink. Which is ironic because the sailing community greatly contributed to it early on, but now it's been taken over by others in the HAM community who consider it theirs.

If you are unfortunate enough to hold an FCC license, then there are US laws prohibiting third party relay of traffic though a station that is not FCC licensed or part of a US treaty. This greatly limits the stations you can connect to.
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Old 07-12-2022, 21:51   #13
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

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i am expecting starlink to lead to a quantum shift in long range comms for us all

fingers & toes crossed...

will continue with our trusty iridium go until then

cheers,
I think for quite a while the answer will be to have both. I think Starlink is a long way off from being reliable enough to use in an emergency. But, certainly using it day to day for everything from weather information to streaming, and having a Go! for when things go bad and SL drops out. That day is now, apparently, at least of much of the planet.
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Old 07-12-2022, 21:59   #14
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

Starlink is here. We are impressed with it. 8 km resolution weather anytime. Iridium go is now our back up Great success well off shore. 150 miles plus
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Old 07-12-2022, 22:51   #15
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Re: It's almost 2023. Tell me about your HF or satellite communication installation

This is all about to change.

By late 2024 it looks like the backup system will be your cell phone talking to a satelite. Apple already has launched for "emergency" use. Tmobile today announced they would use the Starlink Gen 2 satelites that start launching in 2023 to provide 3Mbps+ to any Tmobile cell phone. These will do messaging, pictures, voice and limited web browsing. I expect both Inreach and Go will be on their death bed by 2025.

And Starlink is poised to be the primary system. It's already taking over for coastal use. My $135/month Starlink provided consistent unlimited 100Mbps this fall going south offshore from Cape Cod to Florida. I was watching the F1 race while talking on my Verizon cell phone 100 miles offshore in six foot seas. While the mid ocean $5000/month global Maritime system is targeted at commercial and superyachts - there are rumors that Starlink will soon release an "Ocean Data" add-on where you pay by the GB for offshore on top of the $135/month unlimited subscription for coastal use. The $600 antenna is cheaper than buying a satphone, SSB, Go, or even a good Ham rig with tuner and antenna. It would seem that this will be inexpensive for email, messaging, weather, voice, and simple web browsing - although Zoom meeetings in mid ocean might be expensive.
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