Can anyone recommend a good ham radio that is relatively inexpensive for a smaller (30') boat? I'd also like to know what kind of power draw/amp usage I should expect from a radio.. ? Are they difficult to install? Can anyone walk me through all the basic installation steps?
I have both Ham and Marine SSB license. I have a Icom 700 pro and with an AT-120 automatic antenna turner and a back stay antenna. Here it is from WM- looks like that might not carry the unit as it does not come up.
West Marine eCatalogs
Look at page 90
I would reccomend this set up for a few reasons. It is marineized and will hold up to dripping salt water (most ham radio will not survive long in the marine environment of a boat at sea), the unit will operate legally on Marine SSB and Ham bands. A marine SSB needs to be FCC type accepted- basically a marine SSB, not a ham radio operating on marine bands (which many ham radios can do- but is illegal- but probably would not get caught- has to do mainly with how stable your transmit frequency is). Two transmit a high powered marine SSB or ham signal, you need to tune the antenna to the frequency- the AT-120, or similar unit does this automatically- if antenna is not tuned, the tranmitter amplifier will be damaged. You do not need a direct path necessarily to water- grounding to one of your keel bolts might work.
You could pickup a used unit for maybe 1/2 cost of new, but be careful, it can be hard to tell if a used unit is fully functional- escpecially the transmit portion. So be prepared to spend say $2000 on a new install and maybe $1000 on used- you providing labor. The Icom is also great for recieving short wave broadcast (am) from around the world like BBC, and all other countries- interesting to listen to the perspective of world news from countries other than the US.
Installation: run supplied 5 foot 12 volt cable to your batter with 30 amp fuse. Then connect the antenna tuner with supplied cables, then hook up you antenna to your backstay (note you will need two back stay insulators- somwhat expensive and need to cut these into you backstay- alternatively you could string up a length of 30 foot wire up the rig in someway to act as your antenna, or go with a vertical antenna mounted to the stern (check WM for SSB vertical antennas).