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post #1 of 68 Old 01-09-2009 Thread Starter
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hf radio modified marine or modified ham

I'm contemplating putting a hf radio on my catamaran. Choices seem to be between a marine SSB or a HF Ham radio. Ham radios can be modified for use on marine frequencies. Marine rigs can be modified for use on Ham frequencies. My problem is which way to go. Two major questions are (1) Can these radios be used to legally transmit outside their FCC approved frequencies (and if not legal, do many people do it anyway); and (2) how practical is it to use a modified marine radio on ham freqs (convenience, etc) and how practical is it to use a modified ham radio on marine freqs? In terms of cost, it seems less expensive to modify a ham radio such as an Icom 418 than to modify a marine radio. Any guidance would be appreciated. TIA, Dan
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post #2 of 68 Old 01-09-2009
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Duck Tape and Bailing wire. Works every time.

Or you could use the proper tools for the job at hand.

Forget it. Grab an old CB, and a 1500W linear and talk on all freqs. simultaneously.

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post #3 of 68 Old 01-09-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dancarol View Post
I'm contemplating putting a hf radio on my catamaran. Choices seem to be between a marine SSB or a HF Ham radio. Ham radios can be modified for use on marine frequencies. Marine rigs can be modified for use on Ham frequencies. My problem is which way to go. Two major questions are (1) Can these radios be used to legally transmit outside their FCC approved frequencies (and if not legal, do many people do it anyway); and (2) how practical is it to use a modified marine radio on ham freqs (convenience, etc) and how practical is it to use a modified ham radio on marine freqs? In terms of cost, it seems less expensive to modify a ham radio such as an Icom 418 than to modify a marine radio. Any guidance would be appreciated. TIA, Dan
Since this IS my field and I AM an expert on this.. I'll state that a "modified ham radio rig" is legal to use in ham bands only.

It it not legal for amateurs or anyone else to modify radios to operate in "out of band" operation.

That does not mean you can't purchase radios that can operate in all bands though. You can.

I have a radio that CAN operate in both marine bands (actually it can pretty much transmit in any band) but it is ONLY operated in Amateur bands as that is what it was designed to do.

There's a little thing called "FCC Type acceptance".

Amateur radio gear is NOT(necessarily) FCC type accepted. Nearly all other equipment is. (Again, some ham radios are type accepted).

What this means is they meet certain specifications to prevent interference to other radio services.

If I'm not mistaken, you can find a few radios from several large manufacturers that will cover, legally, both the amateur bands and the marine frequencies you require.

Personally, I'd do a bit more research on the radio gear.

Lastly - you need to decide what you need to use the radio for. If you are a ham, you need to have an Amateur Radio Operators license. If you are going to use Marine, you need a restricted operators license (no test, just a fee) and a ships radio station license (fee, no test). Ham radio requires you have at minimum a General class license (not a HARD test, but not EASY either).

(For the record I hold a RR license, and I hold an Amateur Extra license. I've held a First Class Radio Telephone Operators license in the past - no longer issued these days, and Second Class and a Third Class. Also for the record I've been involved in using, setting up and training radio systems for nearly forty years now.)

Rick Donaldson, NØNJY

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post #4 of 68 Old 01-09-2009
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Sorry one other thing I need to add here to make this easy....

If you have a radio that is capable of being used on Marine frequencies, it CAN be legally modified to work in HAM bands (if you're a ham radio operator).

Any radio can be legally modified by amateurs to work in the ham bands. But you can't modify a "ham only" to work in OTHER bands (legally).

Make sense?

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post #5 of 68 Old 01-09-2009
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Did a little quick research.

There is a radio that can do both things for you - it's a little expensive, at nearly $2000 bucks. The Icom M802, but it supposedly has other things you might want including some built in stuff for email. I didn't get a chance to read much on that radio, but you might want to look in that direction.

Rick

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post #6 of 68 Old 01-09-2009
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Kudos to Rick. When I read the initial post in this thread my first thought was "Oh no, not again." Rick said about everything I would and very well.

A couple thoughts:

Type acceptance is not universal; it is application specific. So a manufacturer might apply for type-acceptance on a radio for use on amateur frequencies. That doesn't make it acceptable for use in other services.

The Icom M802 is a good radio. It's a great marine SSB and a good ham radio. I'm thrilled with mine. The built-in e-mail stuff isn't particularly useful for most installations - if you want to do e-mail the near-universal setup is an SCS Pactor modem and Airmail on a laptop or other computer. With the 802/SCS/Airmail combination all frequency and mode control is by the laptop and the e-mail functionality built into the radio isn't necessary.

Finally, the type-acceptance requirement and other legal limitations are not Not NOT bureaucracy run amok. There are very good reasons to require radios used in a life-critical service like marine SSB to meet particular standards for frequency stability and signal purity that a fundamentally experimental service like ham radio simply need not meet.

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post #7 of 68 Old 01-09-2009
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Cool. Thanks for the verification. I did all that "off the top of me head"!

LOL

Yeah, I didn't go into extreme detail on the type acceptance. That's a US and Canadian thing. I'm not sure honestly how other countries do things.

For everyone else, radios built in other countries are indeed, 'type accepted' in the US by FCC standards. And as Dave pointed out, they are done this way to PREVENT interference to services outside the bands they are designed to operate in.

This comes down specifically to prevent harmful interference especially to life-saving services, but also to prevent most kinds of interference.

The problem with modifying a ham radio into another service comes from the fact that amateur gear - when commercially produced may well be within all standards, FOR the Ham Bands, but when you push the envelop, so to speak, you can cause spurious emissions. Those emissions can cause signals in other bands to be over-ridden by your radio signal which could place others in jeopardy.

But for Dan... there's inexpensive, there's cheap and there's frugal.

While it might seem "cheaper" to modify a ham rig (and then use it) on marine frequencies - it won't be IF you get caught doing so. If I remember rightly the rules state something about the fines being up to $10,000 dollars and jail time.

If you're a foreign operator (Say from Canada) you have to have a reciprocal operating license (not difficult to obtain, if you're licensed already in your country).

I honestly don't know if the Coast Guard would check your license or not, but they don't actually have authority to fine you for not having one. The ONLY authority over US frequency allocation and usage is the Federal Communications Commission.

I know that the RCMP will confiscate radios that are "illegally modified" themselves, usually ham gear modified to hold commercial stuff. I don't know if they grab US radios for this, as I have several radios that are capable of holding many frequencies, and my main HT is capable of pretty much transmitting anywhere, not LEGALLY, but it can.

(That radio can, if necessary, broadcast on marine frequencies, but would not be used to do so except in emergencies. In the US ANY ONE and ANY RADIO system can be used to assist in emergencies where safety and preservation of life is a factor)

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post #8 of 68 Old 01-09-2009
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If I remember rightly the rules state something about the fines being up to $10,000 dollars and jail time.
Depends.

Caveat: It's been a long time since I let my Advanced Class license lapse, much less since I studied for it. It's been a long time since I studied for, and passed, my First Class Commercial License class and obtained my Second Class Commercial License, but, IIRC and things haven't changed:

A violation of your FCC license is US$500/day, per violation. N.B.: IIRC: Because of the way the Rules are written and because of your licensing terms, Violating the rules for any class of service is always a violation of any licenses you hold. Violating the terms of any FCC license(s) you hold reflects on all licenses you hold. All can be suspended or (perhaps permanently) revoked.

No license(s)? Well (and this always comes as a surprise to people): Then they can't fine you under the Rules. Pretty neat, eh? Nope, instead they get you for violating the Communications Act. (Well, it's the Telecommunications Act, now, but I'm an old timer.) That one is, or used to be, a penalty of up to US$10,000 and (or?) a year as a guest of Uncle Sam. It's probably a Pretty Safe Bet that getting nailed for violating this Act will preclude your ever obtaining an FCC license for any service.

Jim
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post #9 of 68 Old 01-09-2009
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I have heard, no direct knowledge, that you can hear the difference in a ham radio TXing on a marine band...so detection can be fairly easy, altho I've never heard of anybody getting busted.
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post #10 of 68 Old 01-09-2009
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Dan, your best bet to stay 100% legal is to buy a radio like an older Icom 710 or a new 802(?) which is manufactured and approved for both services. It will have drawbacks, but so will anything else.

As long as your radio is legal for use in your home country, it will be legal around the world by reciprocal treaties via the ITU. (Of course, if you are visiting "Red" China you'll need a permit, because bringing in an unlicensed ham radio is quite literally an espionage conviction there.)

Marine HF radios are "channelized" so you can dial up a channel number. Ham radios use tuning dials/pads, because hams don't use numbered channels. A case can be made for having two radios--unless the new Icom gives you both options.

As xort mentions, it is rare for anyone to get busted for offshore use of anything--as long as there are no complaints. INshore...that's something else, since marine radios are much 'cleaner' than ham radios with regard to spurious emissions, and have a more limited audio range--so a good ear can quite literally tell what you are using by the sound of it, and the frequncy spatter.

I'm sure you'll find older threads on this subject here, if not on other web and ham forums.

If you are not technically inclined, and don't want to invest in one of the dual-purposed ICOMs (I don't know if any other vendor makes similar radios), I'd suggest spending money on the marine HF, and then adding a lower cost used ham radio form a reputable source (i.e. one of the stores) to supplement it. That way you are fully legal, fully redundant (if you use two antennas) as well. And there are plenty of HF ham radios, used, at reasonable prices.
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