Ham Radio a Necessity? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 43 Old 12-31-2013 Thread Starter
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Ham Radio a Necessity?

Seems like every so often a post pops in about ham radio operation here on SN, so I'm wondering. If one were to entertain the thought of blue water cruising, would it be considered a necessary skill to have or is it more of a hobby with those who do it? I can see where it would extend the range of communication, especially in a critical situation, but how many sailors consider it necessary to have aboard. Seems to me that a sat phone or similar device would do the same.

This is jsut an observation, don't anybody shoot me, jsut asking for opinion here--cause SNetters always have opinions! HEHEHE

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post #2 of 43 Old 12-31-2013
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Re: Ham Radio a Necessity?

I would have SSB (Single Side Band) rather than ham (aka short wave). SSB is designed for maritime use, does not require much in the way of skills (no morse code), and opens up all the maritime cruisers/safety/weather nets.
You do need to learn the mechanics of operating the system, and have a good installation of good equipment.
Some new radios can utilize both the SSB frequencies and the ham frequencies if you're licensed for both, or in case of a serious emergency.
I would rather have an SSB than a satphone, but that's just me.
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post #3 of 43 Old 12-31-2013
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Re: Ham Radio a Necessity?

Ah....SSB is a type of modulation used by ham radios and marine radios. Most modern marine SSB radios are capable of operating on the ham bands as well. It isn't an either/or choice
That said, no kind of radio is NEEDED to get from point A to B. You can just go and not talk to anyone. That said, it is very nice and sometimes a huge safety factor to be able to talk to other boats and shore stations. You can get all kinds of information, advice, and help if need be. Getting a ham license is pretty easy now. All that is required is a written test and you will learn things that are a huge help with marine radios as well.
You will find that radio <> sat phone. They just don't do the same thing. You can call the Coast Guard on a phone for sure, but you can't talk to the boats/ships around you. You also can't get on a net and find out what the best place to anchor is in Georgetown.
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post #4 of 43 Old 12-31-2013
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Re: Ham Radio a Necessity?

Pretty much standard equipment on a well founded off shore vessel. Still like talking to my friends half a world away on the SSB. Passage making radio calls a way to break up the monotony, also real time weather info from vessels making the same passage. Not to mention on board email, weatherr fax etc. Don't leave home without it.


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post #5 of 43 Old 12-31-2013
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Re: Ham Radio a Necessity?

As Coquina mentioned, SSB is a mode. There are also certain VHF ham transceivers that have it too.

Personally, I would go for the ham license. The studies you need in order to take the test will be beneficial when it comes to using the marine HF radio. Might help you to understand why propagation isn't in your favor or what the best frequency is to reach a certain place, how to build a simple wire antenna, MUF/LUF (Maximum/Lowest Usable Frequency), etc. With the digital modes available now, there is so much you can do on the ham bands. Getting a ham license will at least open up a lot more bands for you to operate with a lot more people to talk to.

I got licensed in the middle of high school in '95 and while not as active as I used to be, I still enjoy it very much.
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post #6 of 43 Old 12-31-2013
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Re: Ham Radio a Necessity?

Nighthawk,

As has been said, a HAM ticket is not “necessary” in the same way an engine is not. BUT, it can sure ADD to your capability when at sea if you are doing more than day hops.

A sat phone will not allow you to check on what's in front of you from other vessels on the same course. And, there are a LOT more HAM radio operators out there listening in than there are people listening on the SSB bands.

A short, true story.....
We were about 100 miles off the Baja coast heading south. I came down with a toothache! We have 3 types of antibiotic in the first aid kit, witch one to use? I make a short call on the HAM to a friend who is a ham, his wife is a dental assistant. Within a short time I know the type to take and for how long. All is good in the end!

And, with HAM you get FREE (after the equipment purchase) Winlink e-mail. The first time we got e-mail 50 miles at sea was like magic. With that email is also weather reports targeted to the area you are in. Note that Sailmail (uses the same hardware) has a yearly cost to it, but works the same.

Greg
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post #7 of 43 Old 12-31-2013
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Re: Ham Radio a Necessity?

Robert redford only had a vhf to call sos. So that should suffice for you mere mortals
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post #8 of 43 Old 01-01-2014
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Re: Ham Radio a Necessity?

Necessary vs. Desirable


SSB for me is quite desirable when off shore. Having a Ham license would be even more so, which I do not. While helpful information can be received on Ham only frequencies as described in previous posts, much is available on SSB marine frequencies as well.

I have a Pactor modem and using sail-mail I down load GRIB charts which is the main reason for my installation. It takes a lot of the surprises out of a voyage. Email to family is also a benefit.

There are very good SSB units available on eBay (IC-700, IC-700 Pro, IC-710) at reasonable prices as well as tuners. Additionally lots of folks buy mobile Ham radios and "open them up" or ones that have been "opened up" so that they can use the SSB frequencies (yes, it is not legal. So, please never exceed the posted speed limits. Or you can use these radios only when outside US waters.). Icom IC-706 is a very popular radio in this category that has wide spread marine use.

(I won't get into a discussion on ground planes as in comparison the recent 500+ posts on rallies, SDR vs. Caribbean 1500, and the war between SmackDaddy and Jon on this issue would seem like high tea.)

But between weather charts, Chris Parker here on the East coast and Herb, oh do I miss Herb, I have found that and SSB valuable not only for safety but for pleasure. Add morning nets at various locations as an available option. All in all, it enhances the off shore experience for me.

BTW in a real emergency Ham license or not, I would not hesitate to use the Ham frequencies.
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post #9 of 43 Old 01-01-2014
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Re: Ham Radio a Necessity?

I think HF/SSB/HAM whatever is undesirable on a long range cruising boat.

I would never have it, and council people against it.

Satellite phone is cheaper, more reliable, portable for a life raft.

HF/SSB/HAM radio nets for cruisers spread fear and loathing of a passage by its insistant emphasis on trying to find something wrong with the people or boats at sea and taking the fewest possible days for a passage.

Especially for new cruisers its imperative for enjoyment of sailing to shove the fear factor as far overboard as possible. Being at sea is safe, fun and exciting and passages should be an enjoyment not a thing to have the days counted off like in a jail cell. Further, happy sailors are safe sailors. Fear intoxicated panicked crew are dangerous.


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post #10 of 43 Old 01-01-2014
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Re: Ham Radio a Necessity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by luv4sailin View Post
Necessary vs. Desirable

BTW in a real emergency Ham license or not, I would not hesitate to use the Ham frequencies.
Quick FYI...
In a true emergency, (NOT running out of ice ) using ANY and ALL radio IS legal!

Greg

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