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Old 08-25-2002
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I'm looking for a wiring or block diagram for a generic onboard e-mail system, components, interfaces, etc. I am especially interested in what ports a laptop must have to fill the need. Can you help me?

Sue & Larry respond:
Cruisers employ several different technologies to send the retrieve e-mail from the boat. If youíre coastal cruising in areas of good cell phone coverage, you can send and retrieve e-mail via cell phone. Youíll first need a cellular modem. This is usually in the form of a slide in PCMIA card. Youíll then need to cable the modem to your cell phone. The specific cable required differs according the variety of modem and the exact phone that youíre using. Donít expect to surf Internet, or send any photos as the transmission rates are terribly slow. Fast enough for regular e-mail and thatís about it.

Many long-distance cruisers manage e-mail from their boats using their SSB or HAM radios. In fact, we received an e-mail this week from a cruising friend sailing the coast of Italy. Their message was sent via Sailmail. For this type of e-mail, youíll need an SSB or HAM radio along with an antenna, ground plane and tuner, plus a laptop with a serial port and an HF-Modem like a PTC-II. There are three cables required to hook the modem to the radio. Youíll additionally need a data cable to the computer, an audio cable to the radio, and a power cable to a 12-volt supply.

For more technical information about HF e-mail, its components, and how to connect it all together, you may want to check out www.sailmail.com. On their website youíll find a 39-page manual designed to be printed out and kept on board as a memberís guide.

You might also check out a couple of articles here on SailNet. E-mail Options by Paul and Sheryl Shard and Sailing with E-mail by Kathy Barron. Best of luck with setting your boat up to stay in touch.

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