Join Date: Jul 2002
Thanked 4 Times in 4 Posts
Rep Power: 14
Long Range Communications ? Which one
Especially since you are gravitating to ''group cruising'', you will very much regret not having a SSB transceiver aboard. This composes the bigger half (along with a good VHF + antenna system) of a basic comms suite on a cruising boat, even if the budget supports the high-end SatCom systems - the reason simply being that it''s the lowest common denominator for long distance communication.
Given a SSB, you have several options:
1. Wx Fax products from NWS, UK etc.; only extras needed are cable and software
2. Move up to a TNC (a ''modem'' that allows the radio''s analog signal to work with your laptop''s digital data...and vice versa) and you can use Sailmail (and also Winlink if you have or are willing to get a ham license), which in turn will provide email capability and at least minimal (in the case of Winlink, huge gobs of) wx products. The TNC will cost you $500 or so, and your SSB will need to be capable of working in this fashion. You can ''buy'' technical support from outfits like HF Radio (www.hfradio.com). The software is free, thanks to Jim Corenman. See www.sailmail.com and www.airmail2000.com and www.winlink.org for more info.
A basic SSB system will consist of a radio, tuner, good ground plane, and a good antenna on deck, either separate from or as part of your backstay.
Lots of folks with smaller budgets enjoy using Iridium, 24/7 and anywhere offshore. But this is like a cell phone with text messaging; it won''t give you access to wx products unless Uncle Joe is surfing the web each evening for you.
Getting ''set up'' with long distance comms may sound like buying any other boat project but it requires a lot more from the operator than using charting software or dialing in the autopilot. So spend some time researching the many choices and see what you are ready to invest in - re: personal commitment more than $$ - before making decisions.
You''re right about the SatCom costs; even the rich folks we run into try to minimize use of their system, falling back on SSB, Sailmail/Winlink, and perhaps an Iridium phone whenever it will do the job...which is most of the time.