Hello, John...and congrats on closing in on the fateful (wonderful!) day. Also, congrats on the General ticket; good for you!
I'm not sure where you got your advice to hold off on a boat
until closer to retirement as you're already quite close, but if your plans are for extended cruising
then I think you will find you will be spending up to a year getting a new-to-you boat truly ready. Some of us take much longer than that. I mention this not to persuade you to rush out and start shopping
- after all, you ARE in Colorado - but just to adjust your expectations a bit. It the basic Plan A after retirement is to relocate, move aboard a boat, and then shove off...step 3 isn't likely to happen anytime soon after step 2.
Re: ham radio, I think there's a lot to be said for getting into the activity sooner rather than later. Talking about voice comms on a boat is a big topic so this will be pretty top-line, but let's see where it leads...
1. There is nothing that will significantly change the technology in the next 2 years. Inmarsat by that point will have intro'd a basic internet
connectivity system that will truly be revolutionary...but all the satcomm systems do not do the same things as the SSB
systems, and you will find many satcomm equipped boats with SSB
for just this reason. So...first of all, things won't suddenly make your efforts obsolete.
2. There's an unavoidable learning
curve with SSB, and it has to do with learning how to use the hardware
, learning how to use the airwaves, learning how to make the whole affair meet your needs, AND then transferring this learning to the boat by installing the gear
. This is clearly one of those areas where you can be doing something that will have to be done, sooner or later, but save yourself from having it compete for your precious time later when on the boat and a thousand projects beckon.
3. While in CO and a house, think 'boat' from the very beginning and the only hardware
purchases that will not be transferable will likely be the antenna
and a 12V power supply...which you may well choose to use later in your life, anyway. To leave open the most options for what you can do with a SSB, you will want to choose one of the most capable and most common of the marine
or ham SSB transceivers. Those currently are the Icom
710, 802 and 706. The latter one is a ham radio, far less expensive, very capable, the smallest (and most easily installed) of the choices, but not initially the easiest to learn because it is a true ham radio. You will want to 'open it up' (have a qualified tech do it) so it can be used on ALL frequencies for transmitting, not just receiving. I have used one of these for all our onboard email
and wx product downloading since 1999 (I have an earlier version) and think it's a great choice...but if you have the deeper pockets, an 802 is the more common does-everything choice these days. Consider visiting the SSCA Discussion Board (in fact, you should consider joining the organization which is quite inexpensive...) at http://ssca.org/sscabb/index.php
and reading some of the threads that relate to using a SSB on a boat. Lots of differing views and comments but I think you will find them very helpful.
4. Join your local club, attend the meetings, let your inexperience and need for help be widely recognized, and you'll learn a lot and get helpful advice and extra hands to the extent you need them. Hams are quite an odd bunch to look at...but with very good hearts and a love of their hobby; try to benefit from their willingness to pitch
Hope this is a bit helpful. We're cruising in Europe
right now, having started our shakedown from St. Pete in early 2000. Come on in, the water's fine!
WHOOSH, lying St. Katharine's Haven, London