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empresa 11-16-2006 01:21 PM

SSB- HAM commo
I am absolutely ignorant about this subject. I plan to cruise from the canal to Hawaii, and hope to use the SSB to communicate to a Ham operator in Ohio for position updates and such. From what I have been able to find out on the web, I cannot utillise the LSB (HAM) mode without an FCC license, and the unit I have has a whole bunch of modes. (It is an Icom IC-M710) So, I guess my question is, how do you go about ship to shore using a SSB and speak to HAM operators in the states without a ham license, or is it even posible to do this?
Also, what are these modes for: AFS, FSK, CW, R3E.
(I understand USB, LSB, and AM)
Any answers, advice, etc greatly appreciated, and thanks in advance.

gc1111 11-16-2006 03:05 PM

Your first sentence is absolutely correct. Most of the rest have problems.

All radio frequencies are allocated by international agreements to various usages. Most of them require a license specific to certain sets of frequencies. Marine SSB and HAM usage both require licenses, but they are completely separate. The Marine SSB license is just a matter of filling in a form and sending in a filing fee. The ham license comes in various levels and requires a certain amount of study to achieve various levels of knowledge. But the key thing is that they are separate and being licensed for one usage does not allow you to use the other. Plus they are valid for completely separate frequencies. So direct communication between ham operators and marine SSB operators is not legal.
Some other comments. SSB is a way of modulating a radio wave to carry other (i.e. voice) information. Hams use the SSB mode as well as the Marine SSB radios.
Some translations:
SSB = Single sideband.
USB = Upper sideband
LSB = Lower sideband.
AM = Amplitude modulation also known as double sideband.
FSK = Frequency shift keying (usually used for Radio TeleType (RTTY))
CW = Continuous Wave - Usually known as Morse code.
LSB and USB are different types of SSB. Which you use on ham bands is purely a convention, both are in use. But if your receiver is set up for one, transmissions in the other are not understandable. By general agreement (it may even have a legal status) all Marine SSB usage is in Upper Sideband (USB) mode.

I just noticed the Wikipedia description which is much better than I have done. See:

A lot of long distance sailors put in the effort to get a ham license. It is illegal (and frequently prosecuted) to use ham frequencies without the proper ham license.

btrayfors 11-16-2006 03:21 PM

qc1111 is absolutely correct on all points, except perhaps the "frequently prosecuted". It's pretty infrequently prosecuted, but still illegal.

Nice to see someone giving excellent advice about SSB operation. Thanks qc1111, whoever you are :-))

Just one further point: it used to be that there were a number of commercial coast stations which could arrange phone patches from your marine SSB. Unfortunately, most of these are out of business. I believe the only one remaining in full operation is in New Orleans. These stations were essentially "public phone operators", so you could make a telephone call to anyone, anywhere. However, the cost was pretty high and, apparently, it wasn't very profitable for the coast stations, so most have closed down operations.

So, how to keep in touch with your ham friends? I'd suggest you study and get a ham license, or have a crew member aboard with a valid license. Failing that, and if you have the interest and the big bucks, you could buy a Pactor III modem ($700-1200), get a SailMail account ($200/year if I remember correctly), and exchange email via the Internet with anyone.

By the way, ham radio is for NON-BUSINESS purposes can't call your office or your stock broker. It's OK to do business over marine SSB, including email via SailMail or another provider.

Another, perhaps less expensive way to go (if you use it judiciously) is with a satphone like Iridium (Globalstar does not cover Hawaii).

S/V Born Free

gc1111 11-16-2006 04:53 PM

An add-on about the non-commercial use of ham radio. This has recently been discussed a lot in the ham community (including the FCC). As I recall the result is that you can use ham radio for anything you do not have a pecuniary (sp?) interest in. That is that you do not stand to gain in any way from the transaction. Prime example is that it is OK to order parts via a ham link.

S/V Sirius

sailingdog 11-16-2006 07:03 PM

I believe most Ham operators can operate on the SSB frequencies legally, or at least monitor them. You may want to setup a schedule with the ham operator for him to monitor SSB frequencies for communications from you.

He can monitor SSB frequencies and you can listen on Ham frequencies... you just can't transmit on them...and it may not be necessary to do so.

I also believe that gc1111 is correct.. You can order parts, pizza, airline tickets, and such over Ham radio. You can even transfer funds from accounts over the HAM, although it is unwise to do so...but you can't tell your stock broker to buy or sell stocks for you over the HAM, though you could over SSB.

gc1111 11-16-2006 08:45 PM

Good point. There are no restrictions (at least in the US or high seas) on what you can listen to. And most ham operators have general coverage receivers. When I left for the Caribbean, I left my receiver tuned to Herb Hilgenbergs frequency (marine HF) and my wife could simply turn it on and wait for me to check in with him. That includes a position report so she could keep track. When it got difficult to receive me, a ham friend used his rig to listen and relayed reports to her.
Anyone that sails on the East coast probably knows about Herb. For reference, look at:


sailingwife 11-16-2006 09:01 PM

So, not to change direction of the thread which is very good info for others ignorant on this communication means, someone going out cruising it sounds like would typically have a SSB with a Pactor III modem with sailmail to access/use email and a ham license if they wanted to utilize the service of Herb? Is that correct?

I'm probably the most ignorant on this as I have trouble getting my head around all the communication equipment and means without someone pointing and describing.

sailingdog 11-16-2006 09:22 PM

Don't need a Ham license to talk to or listen to Herb. He works with SSB radios just fine.

gc1111 11-16-2006 09:26 PM

My recommendation would be to get a ham license and a transceiver that can operate on both ham and marine bands. Herb uses a marine band (ITU ch. 1253 or 12.359 Mhz). He does this with a somewhat unusual license to operate from land. (He started out doing this from his boat anchored in Bermuda) If you are going out cruising in the Atlantic/Caribbean access to Herb for weather routing is very important.
With a ham license and a Pactor modem, you have FREE email worldwide. With Sailmail it costs but you can run your business remotely. If you have any ties to shore, email becomes very important after you are gone for a while.
The solution that minimizes the equipment complexities is just a marine SSB and Sailmail. Except this is the expensive route.

sailingwife 11-16-2006 09:34 PM

Thanks gc1111, just the kind of info I was looking for!

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