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  #11  
Old 08-22-2012
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Re: SSB vs sat phone for weather reports

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Originally Posted by SeaQuinn View Post
I would also like to get more info on the SSB. can someone explain what is required to use it and how to obtain those items?
Two very good sources come to mind and there are many others..

Gordon West Radio School | 714-549-5000 | Ham It Up!

American Radio Relay League | ARRL - The national association for AMATEUR RADIO

All though the info above is mainly Amateur Radio oriented..IMHO..learning the basic electrical theories and regulations put licensed amateurs above those that just simply get a marine SSB station license. It will pay dividends in the long run not only maintaining and operating a ships HF radio but also understanding and trouble shooting ships electrical problems.

Last edited by aa3jy; 08-22-2012 at 08:18 PM.
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Old 08-22-2012
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Re: SSB vs sat phone for weather reports

If I already have a restricted radio operators permit (obtained when flying aircraft) do I need a different one for the marine radio? Or are they one and the same....lifetime license? This was not clear when I looked it up.
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Old 08-23-2012
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Re: SSB vs sat phone for weather reports

The restricted permit is the only one you need for an SSB radio aboard a boat if using only the marine frequencies. Radios like ICOMs and FURUNOs can transmit on all frequencies. If you want to use the HAM frequencies, you need a HAM license but if you're going to use only marine frequencies, the restricted license is all you need for VHF and SSB. I have only the restricted which is good for Sailmail but not for using Winlink, which requires a HAM license. One consideration in using an SSB is that they use a LOT of power. On an energy budget, you have to plan your use carefully. It's really not good for a lot of chit-chat unless you have a large charging system. They'll run your house batteries down pretty quickly. I turn mine (ICOM 700) on only to get Wfax at predetermined times and to quickly send/fetch Sailmail if I'm using Sailmail. If going offshore, it's really the least expensive way to maintain contact.

I installed copper through the bilge and connected to deck fittings to form a ground plane but would probably use one of the small units they selling now if doing it again. I also used a twin lead antenna which just slides up the backstay and eliminates the need for insulators. It works well.
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Last edited by smurphny; 08-23-2012 at 06:19 AM. Reason: more info
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Old 08-23-2012
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Re: SSB vs sat phone for weather reports

On the last trip from Annapolis to St. Martin I loved using the SSB rather than having to get gribs via satphone. There are excellent paid-for weather routing services (Chris Parker at Marine Weather Center - Bahamas & Caribbean Marine Weather Services for example) and also excellent free services (Herb's Southbound II at South Bound II VAX498 - Ship routing and weather forecasting) plus numerous other sources.
My Iridium has trouble getting more than 4800 throughput, and at just over $1 per minute with regular broken connections and lengthy sync times it can take quite a while to get electronic weather by that means.
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Old 08-23-2012
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Re: SSB vs sat phone for weather reports

I totally agree with Sea Hunter. I am currently in the process of outfitting my boat as well. SSB Transceivers are pretty cool if you want to actively participate in the "net". However, I find the system (Radio, Pactor Modem, etc) very expensive (USD 4,000+) in relation to the benefits and complex to install. You also need a license and a call sign, which is not related to the radio but to yourself. Here is what I will do on my boat to get the best of both worlds. I am going to buy a SSB Receiver (listen-in only), which you can get for USD 200 (+/-). This enables me to download grib files for free and listen to the net. I don't need a license for this. As a second device I will buy an Isatphone Pro (satellite phone), with pre-paid minutes. Cost? USD 700 or less excl. the minutes. I will use this for receiving and sending emails as well as a back-up for receiving grib-files when offshore. Total cost approx. 1- 1,500 USD. If anyone is interested in more information. The guys over at Lunatronic helped me a lot with the whole subject. It's a German company and the initiator is actually cruising in South America right now with his family. Apparently he is also the one who delivers such solutions to you directly on the boat and only leaves if the whole system works. BTW. I am not related to this company. Good luck. kosta
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Old 08-23-2012
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Re: SSB vs sat phone for weather reports

I'm going to ping this idea for the programmers out there. Someone needs to produce a patch cable from an iPad to a pacor modem so Grib files can be downloaded directly, then have a simple app that transmits the request and displays the results graphically. I use WeatherTrack today, which grabs the file using a 3G connection and provides the graphic display. For 90% of the cruising we do, that is fine. Beng able to use the SSB would be a huge advantage.

The SSB-pacor-PC-reader process today is ridiculously antiquated. You should be able to open an app that tells you what freq to dial, choose your boundaries and settings visually and then literally click one button and let it go. I see no reason that can't be done. Must not be a large enough market demand to justify the development.
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Old 08-23-2012
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Re: SSB vs sat phone for weather reports

I have both here, but always use the SSB for weather reception reports, when in receive mode the radio only takes a small amount of power, if you press the PTT key and start to talk, it use's a lot more. However you should only use the amount of power needed to make the contact and more often than not, its a lot less than the 100watts the radio is putting out, so turn the Transmit power down and your power consumption also goes down. Simples (but yes you will use more power than on just receive).

As for the tablet idea, well most radios do have DATA ports and CAT ports on them now and back home my radio shack is nearly all controlled by my PCs, so an actual interface between them is not hard to do, getting the correct APP and interfacing so they communicate to each other will be a little more tricky.

I had thought on similar lines to the tablet idea, but its easier to have the output from the SSB radio decoded by the ships computer/netbook using various software, save it as a picture file and simply transfer that file to the tablet and then you have it on the ships main computer and on a tablet if you choose.

Thats what I do, easier way and it works fine and with the SSB radio on receive when I need a weather chart, uses very little power, and yes I do hold all the certificates needed, but there real easy to take the classes and pass the exams, biggest problem is just your nerves haha.

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Re: SSB vs sat phone for weather reports

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Originally Posted by sea_hunter View Post
Your SSB needs to be registered to a ship, but first it needs an MMSI. There are a number of ways to do it, none of them too complicated, just Google MMSI. Next you need to set up a ship's license and this is done through the FCC. Then you'll need to program the radio with the MMSI. Then you'll need to get an RROP operator's licence, again from the FCC. I could certainly be more specific but get online and do some research.
There is only one way to get the MMSI number if you have HF radio on board your vessel and that is the FCC. The official MMSI is issued with the Ships Station License. The other sources like Boat US are for US waters only and can not be used with HF radio The FCC MMSI is included in an international database held by the ITU and made available to all Search and Rescue units around the world. The Boat US numbers are in a US Database only. Again the Boat US numbers may not be used for HF as HF is a long range radio.

I hope that helps
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Re: SSB vs sat phone for weather reports

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Originally Posted by kosta.k View Post
I totally agree with Sea Hunter. I am currently in the process of outfitting my boat as well. SSB Transceivers are pretty cool if you want to actively participate in the "net". However, I find the system (Radio, Pactor Modem, etc) very expensive (USD 4,000+) in relation to the benefits and complex to install. You also need a license and a call sign, which is not related to the radio but to yourself. Here is what I will do on my boat to get the best of both worlds. I am going to buy a SSB Receiver (listen-in only), which you can get for USD 200 (+/-). This enables me to download grib files for free and listen to the net. I don't need a license for this. As a second device I will buy an Isatphone Pro (satellite phone), with pre-paid minutes. Cost? USD 700 or less excl. the minutes. I will use this for receiving and sending emails as well as a back-up for receiving grib-files when offshore. Total cost approx. 1- 1,500 USD. If anyone is interested in more information. The guys over at Lunatronic helped me a lot with the whole subject. It's a German company and the initiator is actually cruising in South America right now with his family. Apparently he is also the one who delivers such solutions to you directly on the boat and only leaves if the whole system works. BTW. I am not related to this company. Good luck. kosta
This is a reasonable approach as long as your are a US Coastal Sailor. However, if you are going to other countries and or out in blue water, this is not a good plan. The Sat phone sales people get paid for ever as you buy minutes so they push them as the answer. If you are a serious sailor the best safety tool is HF SSB. I say that as it is a one to many device. It is also important for cruisers to invest in a Marine Radio with DSC calling. If you get into trouble at sea, DSC will hail for help almost around the world. Most importantly it will go over the horizon to commercial ships up to 150 miles away. Commercial ships are mandated to carry DSC equipment. They may be the closest and could actually help.
Look on my web site under the communications and Icom IC M802 tabs. I post a lot of free stuff about the benifits of HF radio and have links to other sites. As a side note, with a KISS ground and Gam backstay antenna, installation is much easier than in the past.
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Old 08-23-2012
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Re: SSB vs sat phone for weather reports

Thanks for the remarks Terry. I am actually sailing in Europe with Bluewater Cruising in mind. My answer to the original question was more related to ways of receiving weather information. If we extend this discussion to security, I totally agree with you. Especially with regards to the "one-to-many-device". I also have a Marine Radio setup with DSC calling, which I see as mandatory. However, I have a slightly different view on SSB "Transceivers", which I find over-priced. My overall security concept (for now and after some bluewater experience across the Atlantic) includes the Marine Radio with DSC, SatPhone and EPIRB (and the mentioned SSB receiver). I don't know (I might be wrong and its just a gut feeling), but if the worst comes to the worst and you are about to loose your boat offshore, the electronics won't work anymore anyways. Apart from all the stress in this very moment. I would rather rely on the EPIRB and my SatPhone, which I would have in my grab bag. On the other hand - as said - I totally agree with you, it's just not for me. By the way. Your website and the contents are pretty cool. I bookmarked your site and will have a closer look at it over the weekend. Finally, sorry for my English - I am not a native speaker, so things might sound a bit different :-).
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