I will follow your progress with interest, as I am seriously considering purchasing an ICOM M802 Marine SSB, an AT-140 tuner and a Pactor III modem, even though it's about a $3,300 investment.
I will post here after I get it and have a chance to play around with it.
One thing I have found about all of this radio equipment is that the biggest investment in it for me has been time. It wasn't cheap in terms of money either, but it has taken lots and lots of time. It takes time to get the gear set up, time fooling around with antennas and the like, power, all that, noise filters, everything about the equipment starts out a hassle. Then it takes time to figure out how to use it all. Time to find interesting frequencies and get them tuned in, learn their schedules, learn how to get your signal out there, just on and on. Antennas break, connections come loose, atmospheric conditions change, propagation, getting licensed, learning cw, learning all the modes and what they are for, on and on. You really seem to have to like playing with gear, which fortunately I do. I have a feeling Pactor is going to be the same way, constant tinkering to get it to work right and to keep it working.
I was never that interested in radio before I got into sailing, and I wasn't that interested after I got into sailing either. But somehow through sheer frustration I've gotten into it, one painful lesson at a time. It's like one of those games where you just can't stand to lose so you keep playing it.
Brak, please give more details of the alternatives, I think you would have a very interested crowd here.