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Old 21-02-2021, 01:15   #1
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Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

We plan to cross the Atlantic Ocean from East to West next winter.

While in European coastal waters and the Mediterranean Sea VHF-Radios are very useful because every boat has one on board and distance are not to large I wonder about there usefulness in Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. Or with other words, how important is it to have also an HF-radio on board?

Are there recommendations to also have HF-radios (short-wave-radios) on board and why?

What kind of antenna is recommended and why?

Maybe someone can give also some recommendation of certain types of HF-radios.

Thanks in advance for helpful replies.
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Old 21-02-2021, 06:48   #2
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

HF radios would have probably been considered essential not that many years ago. Particularly for the ability to receive weather forecasts and to summon help if needed.

Now, with the availability of iridium go and some other forms of satellite comms, I don’t feel that HF provides enough value for the $$. It would be nice to have for redundancy, but the installation is quite expensive. If you have limited money, invest in satellite first. Then you can get by without HF.
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Old 21-02-2021, 08:00   #3
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

We have an SSB on board that came with the boat. We do long passages regularly, and prefer to cruise remote areas.

We never use it--ever, and kind of wonder what people DO use them for these days. Certainly nobody we have met has ever suggested that we meet for a chat on frequency XXX at 2300GMT.

I did connect it to the computer and confirmed I could receive weather faxes, but it is just so much easier and more reliable to get them by email through our Iridium, we haven't pursued it other than demonstrating it can be done.

If you are a more social kind of sailor (and not a misanthrope like me), you might need to talk to people, have buddy boats, partake of rallies, and radio nets. Then an SSB might be in your future. Otherwise, a good satellite system like an Iridium Go will probably get you everything you need.

If you are happy with a VHF radio in the Med, you'll likely find it meets your needs in the Caribbean as well. Of course if you are in Antigua, and need to chat with someone in Jamaica, that's not going to happen on a VHF. But if you are in the south of France you can't raise Turkey by VHF, so what's the difference?
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Old 21-02-2021, 08:11   #4
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Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

HF (SSB) radio is a great way to keep in touch with other cruisers in the same way VHF radio is. There are HF nets all over the world on maritime HF frequencies. For starters try the Cruizheimiers net, 8.152 @ 0830. SSCA operates their own HF Stations covering most of the world. A complete list of HF nets is maintained by Gary Jensen of Dockside Radio. Here is the "winter" list:

http://www.docksideradio.com/PDF%20F...oast%20EST.pdf

Here is info on the SSCA HF Service! https://ssca.org/content.aspx?page_i...dule_id=283983
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Old 21-02-2021, 09:34   #5
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

I'm a HAM (was AB6KL, now VE0MTA) and found HAM radio EXTREMELY useful when we were cruising - but of course that was a few years ago before satellite services were readily and economically available. It was used to get briefing advice on upcoming ports, to find doctors and other services, and for emergency communications. We relayed information on two murders, a piracy attempt (which was thwarted when a land-based HAM in Panama, listening in, had two F-16's scrambled on a "training mission") and several medical emergencies among the fleet. At that time about 10% of cruisers were HAMS and the rest of the fleet often used us to relay messages to other cruisers or back home. There were several land-based HAMS in the states and Canada who would provide "phone patches" so it was possible to call friends and family at home. It was well worth it - and not expensive once the gear was installed - which most HAMs do themselves. (HAM, at least as used on most cruising boats, is a form of HF radio).
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Old 21-02-2021, 09:53   #6
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

HF ssb radio is extremely usefull....
-1. talking with other boats
-2. getting weather products and grib files
-3. Using Pactor getting email anywhere in the world you are (requires airmail or sailmail
-4 Giving estimated eta to harbor masters in foreign ports.
-5 listening to shortwave programs, quiz shows, dramas, good music ,
DRM broadcasts.
-6. Emergency calls, etc.


Asd they say, I would not leave home without it. If y have ham license even so much the better. (no cde anymore)


Antenna..inexpensive G5RV with center at top of mast for "inverted VEE' configuration....talk to the world with that.. I cruised for many years using the G5RV antenna. Smaller antennas work, but even though they work, their efficiency is reduced. de W7KFI USSVDHARMA Susan
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Old 21-02-2021, 10:17   #7
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

I have had an ICOM 802 Single Sideband HF Marine Radio for 4 years during cruises from US to Bahamas and Grenada in the Caribbean.

I used it once to listen and talk to Chris Parker for weather forecast information. However, never had a problem in getting emails and texts anywhere using Garmin InReach (Iridium Satellite Communications). Many use Iridium Go for the same satellite services.

These are very cost effective as well as satellite phones compares to the costs of buying and installing an HF SSB radio (BTW uses a 23' Antenna or for a sailboat a backstay antenna) for a few thousand dollars.

IMO SSB is old school and not worth it compared to other better alternatives.
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Old 21-02-2021, 10:51   #8
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scorpius View Post
I'm a HAM (was AB6KL, now VE0MTA) and found HAM radio EXTREMELY useful when we were cruising.
Scorpius: I don't recall hearing you on either of the two HF HAM nets here in BC (Great Northern Boaters' Net in am; West Coast Boater's Net, in eve)? Would be good to hear from you this Summer.

We used our HAM (VA7AEP) extensively while in Mexico (radio net weather, contacts, downloading weather forecasts and gribs, short emails). We also used marine HF Sailmail (dropped when we returned to BC).

Here in BC, when cruising we regularly (daily) checkin and talk with other boaters as well as the net controllers/relays the full length of the coast (Darlene in Alaska; Ivan, now in Sointula; Erik on Quadra Island; Gord in Pender Harbour; Bill in Port Alberni; Roger in Port Townsend, and others). Good way to meet others and find out weather etc.

Also in BC, when not in cell data areas (most of BC coast) we regularly use our HAM HF/Pactor Modem to download official Environment Canada weather forecasts (text) and weather gribs, as there are many places where VHF forecasts cannot be heard. Occasionally an email (e. g., to marinas).

HF radio allows us to be in contact with many boats at a time, one of its key benefits (especially in case of emergency).

Satellite-based services are definitely easier to use (and cheaper in their initial installation cost). Some do not have email nor access to official forecasts. When email is available, it is station-to-station (one-to-one) rather than one-to-many. We enjoy the fellowship of HF (especially HAM) radio (we've good friends directly due to HAM radio) and its ability to obtain official forecasts/conditions without ongoing/monthly subscription fees.

Would we install HF/HAM on a new (to us) boat? If we never had had HF/HAM before, perhaps not (you don't know until you've had it...). But we have had it and definitely would ensure we had HAM/HF on any new boat.
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Old 21-02-2021, 10:51   #9
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

really ,I think the question is ssb and HF ? why don't have both .A SSB radio with their antenna is not expensive and you could introduce your MMSI an use like a DSC in VHF radio plus if you have a contact on earth you could talking trough a modem with any phone number and parents for a long time ,report your position and all the things previously mentioned .Until some time ago In canarias Rafael a big friend of sailor receive and transmit the new from sailor around the world .He received my last position sailing into a storm and communicate it at many places .Fortunately I don't need a rescue but this is a use of HF .Of course it depends the area in which you plan to sail but always need a plan B in your pocket .Like during Gulf War all of us loose their position because the GPS at that time were altered by USA ,Actually you have 3 net in use .
redundancy is the best word in cruising sailing
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Old 21-02-2021, 11:01   #10
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

Quote:
Originally Posted by sv_pelagia View Post
Scorpius: I don't recall hearing you on either of the two HF HAM nets here in BC (Great Northern Boaters' Net in am; West Coast Boater's Net, in eve)? Would be good to hear from you this Summer.

We used our HAM (VA7AEP) extensively while in Mexico (radio net weather, contacts, downloading weather forecasts and gribs, short emails). We also used marine HF Sailmail (dropped when we returned to BC).

Here in BC, when cruising we regularly (daily) checkin and talk with other boaters as well as the net controllers/relays the full length of the coast (Darlene in Alaska; Ivan, now in Sointula; Erik on Quadra Island; Gord in Pender Harbour; Bill in Port Alberni; Roger in Port Townsend, and others). Good way to meet others and find out weather etc.

Also in BC, when not in cell data areas (most of BC coast) we regularly use our HAM HF/Pactor Modem to download official Environment Canada weather forecasts (text) and weather gribs, as there are many places where VHF forecasts cannot be heard. Occasionally an email (e. g., to marinas).

HF radio allows us to be in contact with many boats at a time, one of its key benefits (especially in case of emergency).

Satellite-based services are definitely easier to use (and cheaper in their initial installation cost). Some do not have email nor access to official forecasts. When email is available, it is station-to-station (one-to-one) rather than one-to-many. We enjoy the fellowship of HF (especially HAM) radio (we've good friends directly due to HAM radio) and its ability to obtain official forecasts/conditions without ongoing/monthly subscription fees.

Would we install HF/HAM on a new (to us) boat? If we never had had HF/HAM before, perhaps not (you don't know until you've had it...). But we have had it and definitely would ensure we had HAM/HF on any new boat.

I became a HAM while offshore (got my US licenses up to Expert in record time at Puerto Escondido in the Baja, then talked the DOT into issuing a Canadian Advanced license on the basis of my US licenses) and used it extensively while cruising - including becoming a net controller in Central America. However, the transceiver failed shortly after we returned and I've not yet replaced it. It's a project I should get on with one of these days. Has anyone seen my round tuit? I'm sure it's somewhere in my tools but I've not seen it in years
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Old 21-02-2021, 11:03   #11
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

"We never use it--ever, and kind of wonder what people DO use them for these days. Certainly nobody we have met has ever suggested that we meet for a chat on frequency XXX at 2300GMT."

Many people do not understand HF (SSB) radio. It is mostly for long distances. (other than 2 meter). There are 'nets' from shore based folks with which folks crossing oceans or at sea can communicate, pass information etc. Through Pactor (a small box you connect your computer and radio to) you can send and receive text emails and get grib files for wx. It is a handy thing to have at sea. And there is no monthly charge, per minute charge etc.

That is why you do not hear people on boats at a marina or anchorage saying "meet for a chat on frequency XXX at 2300GMT."

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Old 21-02-2021, 11:09   #12
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

Quote:
A SSB radio with their antenna is not expensive
I donít think you should start an SSB installation without a budget of around $5000. To me, that is expensive. But almost free communication after that. I just donít think it can take the place of satellite.
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Old 21-02-2021, 11:29   #13
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

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I donít think you should start an SSB installation without a budget of around $5000. To me, that is expensive. But almost free communication after that. I just donít think it can take the place of satellite.

Five grand for a used transceiver, a tuner and a piece of wire strung to the top of the mast. That seems awfully excessive to me! Even in Canadian dollars!
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Old 21-02-2021, 11:30   #14
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

I have been very disappointed by SSB. I invested the time and money to become a HAM and to equip my boat with an SSB and modem. The reception is almost always poor and the time it takes to babysit it in order to successfully complete a GRIB download convinced me to buy an Iridium GO!. Even when you are able to call into a SSB net, the useful information is limited. Once in a while it is helpful, but the Iridium GO! works so much better. I have a SSB Pactor 4 modem (the best) but GRIB downloads are still painfully slow. Often halfway through the connection will be lost and I would have to start all over again. I did find that the connections to Sailmail (paid service) are far better than Airmail (free to HAMs). The GO! is great for getting GRIBs and email. I have the Iridium/Predict Wind package and it is so much better than trying to do weather routing using Pactor download and routing software like qtVlm. I would spend hours trying to create a routing by SSB, but with Iridium I can do it in 5 - 10 minutes. For me, the primary value of the SSB is to have a back-up off-shore communication option in the event that the Iridium doesn't work.
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Old 21-02-2021, 11:33   #15
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Re: Usefullness of HF-radio (short-wave radios) in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean

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I have been very disappointed by SSB. I invested the time and money to become a HAM and to equip my boat with an SSB and modem. The reception is almost always poor and the time it takes to babysit it in order to successfully complete a GRIB download convinced me to buy an Iridium GO!. Even when you are able to call into a SSB net, the useful information is limited. Once in a while it is helpful, but the Iridium GO! works so much better. I have a SSB Pactor 4 modem (the best) but GRIB downloads are still painfully slow. Often halfway through the connection will be lost and I would have to start all over again. I did find that the connections to Sailmail (paid service) are far better than Airmail (free to HAMs). The GO! is great for getting GRIBs and email. I have the Iridium/Predict Wind package and it is so much better than trying to do weather routing using Pactor download and routing software like qtVlm. I would spend hours trying to create a routing by SSB, but with Iridium I can do it in 5 - 10 minutes. For me, the primary value of the SSB is to have a back-up off-shore communication option in the event that the Iridium doesn't work.

An electrically or electronically noisy boat perhaps? Alternators and generators are particularly noisy. With the engine off we had no trouble offshore but it was much more difficult in port with all the electrical noise around.
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