Radio confusion... SSB? HF? Shortwave? - SailNet Community

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Old 04-09-2008
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Radio confusion... SSB? HF? Shortwave?

I have been searching sailnet for the best way to keep informed of the weather if you are a budget minded cruiser, but while the topic has been touched on in reference to other issues, I couldn't find it directly addressed. I am under the impression that HF radio is a good way to go, but when I look into those they seem pretty pricey. What I don't understand is why shortwave radios are so much cheaper. Isn't high frequency and short wavelength descriptions of the same type of wave? Could I just buy a cheapish shortwave radio and pick up weather forecasts from the Coast Guard? Sorry if this is a dumb question, but I need this one explained. Thanks.
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The difference is shortwave receives only. The transmitting circuits increase expense. HF radio typically refers to Ham or amateur radio, which can receive everything a shortwave receives and transmit on frequencies allocated to amateur radio. While ham radio makes SSB (as well as AM, morse code, and sometimes FM) transmissions, the term SSB refers to a marine band high frequency radio. These can receive everything the shortwave receives and transmit on marine frequencies, and can also transmit on Ham frequencies. Ham and Marine SSB both require a license.

What kind of sailing do you do? Perhaps a VHF would be appropriate. They can transmit short distances, say 20 miles, and receive NOAA weather radio.

Last edited by mjrogers; 04-09-2008 at 07:30 AM.
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If you want a relatively inexpensive way to receive NOAA voice weather forecasts, buy a shortwave receiver. Grundig and Sony are two well-known brand names.

If you have a laptop onboard, you can run the earphone output from the receiver to the laptop's mic input and with additional software, receive weatherfaxes.
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Aha! That makes perfect sense. The HF is so much more because you can transmit. If I just want to receive weather forecasts over distances longer than 20 miles I should go with the cheaper shortwave with SSB. Thanks for the info.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hphoen View Post
If you want a relatively inexpensive way to receive NOAA voice weather forecasts, buy a shortwave receiver. Grundig and Sony are two well-known brand names.

If you have a laptop onboard, you can run the earphone output from the receiver to the laptop's mic input and with additional software, receive weatherfaxes.

Well that's pretty cool. I'd never heard that before. You got a link to some of that software?
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Old 04-09-2008
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Beej..here ya go. NOTE...your radio needs to be able to tune SSB bands and have a fine adjustment for good reception. This software also lets you receive TEXT broadcasts as well as Weather/Fax:
Weather messages decoder - RTTY, NAVTEX, WEFAX (HF-FAX), NWR SAME software

Note...this thread also contains more helpful info on this subject:
Sailmail for SSB
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A VHF handheld capable of receiving NOAA broadcasts could hear perhaps a bit more than 20 miles, a fixed mount perhaps 20-60 with a good masthead antenna. Beyond that shortwave would be best and could possibly receive world wide. Be sure to check the frequency range of the shortwave receiver to make certain it can receive the broadcast you needs to hear. Also be sure that it can receive SSB and not just AM.
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Make sure you get the right SW radio if you want to get all the info. Many won't tune accurately or have very poor antennas with no external antenna connection. Some won't receive the sidebands. I use an old Sony 2010 and it does a fantastic job.
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For software, I use JVCOMM32 -+- JVComm32 FAX SSTV RTTY SYNOP NAVTEX program -+-

The last three posters are very correct. Buy a good quality shortwave receiver that can handle Upper Sideband USB, and Lower Sideband LSB.
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Also, be prepared to tinker and get a basic knowledge of antennas. Good, useful reception can turn into poor or no reception if you don't get the principles involved.
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