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post #21 of 34 Old 02-15-2016
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Re: License question for hams with SSB

This is a very informative thread and I appreciate the time put into it.

So, I am in the process of buying a corporation that owns a yacht and the corporation is the licensee. ULS SA - Ship Recreational or Voluntarily Equipped.

I plan to use the yacht for a live-aboard and recreational travel. I have never used a ham or marine SSB.

Can anyone recommend a good source of information such as a book or website where I can become more informed and be a courteous and responsible operator?
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post #22 of 34 Old 02-15-2016
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Re: License question for hams with SSB

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A little off subject since the original post has been answered. If I want to request a weather map (i.e. 24 hr surface forecast) from Saildocs, which is free, using Sailmail via SSB offshore do I have to become a member of Sailmail, i.e. pay the $250.?
The NOAA forecasts are available without any subscription/cost. As I understand it, all you need is a radio receiver that will tune in the USB frequency from one of the transmitters (Boston, New Orleans, etc.) and you can get the maps to your computer via the mike input using free software. I use a Pactor modem but understand that these signals can be received very simply, without a lot of expensive equipment.

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Re: License question for hams with SSB

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Originally Posted by Rob Patterson View Post
...
Can anyone recommend a good source of information such as a book or website where I can become more informed and be a courteous and responsible operator?
Here's a good place to start:

What is Ham Radio

The American Radio Relay League is the U.S. national association for ham radio operators. I'm assuming that you're in the U.S. unless you didn't add your location info to your profile. If not one of our international members can probably help you.

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post #24 of 34 Old 11-10-2019
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It might be awhile before I get out on the water again so I'm looking to get my home based ham station back on the air. This will allow me to play on the radio this winter, and check into cruisers nets.

The squirrels chewed through my support cords for my 135 foot Carolina Windom wire antenna. It fell only partially, because the insulator ends got hung up in the trees. It was still suspended in the trees, but was hanging too low to tune up properly. It was only good for SW listening. I injured myself in a fall exactly a year ago and never got the antenna back up in trees so I've been without an antenna.

Today was a nice day so I worked at getting the wire freed from the trees. I got it down, but it needs a little repair to the ladder line. After I repair it, I will shoot support lines back in the trees. I should be back on the air next weekend. This will give me contact with other sailors while I'm stuck on land for the winter.
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post #25 of 34 Old 11-11-2019
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Re: License question for hams with SSB

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You need appropriate licensing for the service in which you operate.

On the marine bands you need a ship station license (for the boat), which conveys a call sign and a Federal MMSI. The ship station license is good for 10 years between renewals. At least one person aboard should have a restricted radio operators permit (RP) for the operator. The RP is good for life. You can use your ship station license and RP anywhere in the world (consider the mind-boggling international agreements it took to make that happen!).

On the ham bands you need a ham license. Ham licenses are both a station license and an operator license in one document. You can use your ham license ON THE HAM BANDS anywhere in US territory, international waters, or in accordance with reciprocity agreements in some other countries. See International Operating

In an emergency you can use any service. An emergency means someone is at risk of dying. It does not include running short on Grey Poupon, making marina reservations, asking for weather information (unless you are in the midst of a hurricane or cyclone), or anything else that a reasonable person would consider a convenience.

The FCC licenses are issued for specific services and any given license is only good for operation in that service: marine, air, ham, GMRS, broadcast radio, broadcast TV, cell, WiFi, etc. In the US there are blanket waivers for many services including ship's radar and WiFi and the client side of cell.
All good answers here. But a couple of clarifications...

You do NOT need either an FCC license or MMSI for operation on the marine VHF band when operating voice communications within US waters (this includes adjacent international waters. i.e. just offshore of US territories) and while communicating with US stations. (You can't talk to a Mexican station while offshore of San Diego, CA - but I doubt the FCC will send in paratroopers.) The FCC made this exception years ago to get recreational boaters off the Citizens Band - the purgatory to which they were previously consigned. There were some real tragedies when boaters couldn't reach the CG on chaotic Citizens Band.

A restricted operator license is the minimum requirement elsewhere on VHF -- but that is a minimum level of license. I hold both a commercial radiotelephone operator's license and a GMDSS operator license, which supersedes (is "above") the restricted license, so saying a restricted permit is "required" doesn't apply to everyone. The FCC won't issue a restricted license to someone who holds the licenses that I (and may other people) hold. We had to take lengthy exams to get our licenses - and the FCC would only respond with a quizzical gaze if I applied for an RP license. I've had some heated conversations with authorities who demanded my RP license. It's kinda like demanding an Airline Transport Pilot produce his Student Pilot License.

If you are in distress, use your vessel name and marine call sign (assuming you have one) on the Ham bands. Not because you have to - if you're in distress you can use your first name if you want - but you'll be taken more seriously by the rescue agencies if they can look up your vessel information. It isn't part of the common body of knowledge for Hams to know that in a distress situation you can use "any frequency, any mode, and any power" to attract attention (I'd even try using the international aviation distress frequency: 121.5 MHz, AM modulation), so someone might yell at you. Ignore them, or better yet, invite them to come out and arrest you.

And if you have an HF SSB radio on board, remember this frequency: 14.300 MHz, upper sideband. It's monitored by Hams specifically for marine distress calls. If there's a conversation in progress on that frequency, wait for a pause and say: "BREAK - MAYDAY." They'll stop talking.

More here: http://14300.net/netinfoa.htm. And here's an example rescue: http://14300.net/windchild.html. The Hams there know the ropes of marine distress communications, and they'll move heaven and earth to assist you.

And in answer to the Rob Patterson's question: I suggest any of Gordon West's books. Although they are aimed at Ham radio operations, they contain plenty of general radio operating information. To practice radio operations, I suggest getting a Technician Class Ham license and practicing in your area. Also, spend some time monitoring marine channel 16. You'll hear some good, and occasionally very bad, communications techniques there. Also, if there's a Vessel Traffic Service frequency in your area, monitor that to hear how some of the pros use their radios, and you'll hear nearby bridge-to-bridge communications on channel 13.

N8QH, Commercial Radio Operator, GMDSS Operator and Maintainer

Last edited by patrickbryant; 11-11-2019 at 02:56 AM.
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Re: License question for hams with SSB

Excuse my ignorance. At present what frequencies are monitored for distress calls? Is this limited to USCG? Heard monitoring is less than in past. Is this true?
I get my weather via voice from paid weather router, and data via a 802 and pacnor modem. I also use this for email. Particularly for voice often stepped on. What if any policing is done? Seems to be no consequences for rude behavior. Nice to have rules. Meaningless if no consequences for violations.

s/v Hippocampus
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Re: License question for hams with SSB

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Excuse my ignorance. At present what frequencies are monitored for distress calls? Is this limited to USCG? Heard monitoring is less than in past. Is this true?
I get my weather via voice from paid weather router, and data via a 802 and pacnor modem. I also use this for email. Particularly for voice often stepped on. What if any policing is done? Seems to be no consequences for rude behavior. Nice to have rules. Meaningless if no consequences for violations.
Here is the US Coast Guard's frequency and watch list: https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=cgcommsCall

I would try 8291 KHz at night and 12290 KHz during daylight. Make sure your MMSI is programmed and GPS is fed to your transceiver to enable a DSC call (in a distress condition, manually programming your position into the 802 isn't very practical in my opinion). Without DSC capability, I wouldn't have high expectations of getting any response to a voice call. The watchkeepers don't just sit there and listen to empty static noise (using squelch isn't practical on the HF band) - they expect your distress call to be initiated by a DSC data burst.

Here is the 802 manual: https://www.icomamerica.com/en/downl...x?Document=103

Personally, if I had time, I would become a total pest on the radio if I were in distress and couldn't reach a distress agency. I wouldn't stop with those frequencies above. Next, I'd place a distress call on 121.5 MHz, which is monitored by transoceanic commercial flights with incredible range (due to the aircraft's altitude). I'd ask for a relay of my information to ATC (air traffic control). And I'd keep transmitting until I got a confirmation that the USCG has been notified (in others words, I'd make it clear I'm not going away on the frequency until I'm convinced of that). I have a handheld aviation band transceiver in my ditch bag. http://www.icomamerica.com/en/produc...6/default.aspx. I cycle out the batteries once a month to recycle into flashlights. It's worth repeating that you can't transmit on that radio without having a life-and-death emergency.

If I chose to communicate on 121.5 MHz, I'd have to turn off my EPIRB or delay activating it because the EPIRB also transmits a low power (50 mW) beacon on 121.5 MHz, preventing me from receiving any reply. If you prefer not to delay EPIRB activation, you can still transmit voice distress messages "in the blind" on 121.5, but the first reaction of flightdeck crews to hearing the annoying EPIRB signal is to either twist the volume knob down on their receiver or raise the squelch threshold. You'll have to transmit frequently to be heard before the EPIRB beacon intrudes. The handheld will override the very low EPIRB transmitter power. I'd also activate my PLB (it won't interfere with the EPIRB) just to convey: "This is not an accidental activation. Really, I'm in trouble here." I'd activate my AIS MOB beacon whenever I could hear an engine, and just for good measure, I'd activate the distress function on my inReach sat. messenger. (Caution: the Spot Messenger doesn't work on large swaths of ocean.) I'd pester as many people as possible! My goal is for the Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center (USCG RCC) to be constantly answering the phone to say: "Yes, we already know about that." I also have an RCC phone number programmed into my sat. phone - but I consider sat. phone comms. to be the least reliable.

I keep a continuous listening watch on 121.5 MHz using my VHF Ham radio in case someone nearby has an active EPIRB. I have about a 10 mile reception radius. But maybe I'm the only sailor on the planet who does that. I'm not equipped, nor do I know of any other vessel that is equipped, to receive and decode 406 MHz EPIRB burst transmissions. Don't expect a surface vessel response to your EPIRB that isn't coordinated by the CG RCC.

Policing? The last time I knew the number of FCC enforcement officers, it was embarrassingly low. Here's a congressional report: https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/687171.pdf. On the airwaves, piracy is alive and well. The quality of communications dropped precipitously when the FCC removed the licensing requirement for using marine VHF. Without a license, the idiots have nothing to lose. It opened the floodgates to CBers on the band. It's the same effect that turned the Internet into a rude troll-infested cesspool when AOL started signing up anyone who knew how to insert a CD or a floppy disk. Back in those days, we who were politely using the Internet called "AOL"... A**holes On line. Now, those same AHoles are invading the Ham 2 meter band without licenses. Anyone who can read can get a Ham Technician Class license to legally use that band, but they don't bother. Ah, Democracy... "where horses and asses walk side-by-side as equals." - Socrates
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Re: License question for hams with SSB

Thanks. A really useful post.

How about outside US waters? Does USCG relay to local authorities? We have the phone numbers for chessie, Newport and PR programmed into the fleet one satphone. My on shore support (one of my daughters) has them in her phone.
Still, when coastal usually in windwards or leewards for 8 of 12 months. Have some of the SAR phone numbers for the various islands. But is there any list of phone numbers for the Caribbean and frequencies they pay attention to on marine SSB beyond the usual distress on 16vhf ? Do straight shots between and skipping islands so beyond land based vhf.

Just curious- why do you consider satphone least reliable? Often will skip through 4,8,12 and get nowhere so go to the satphone and be done in less than a minute while cursing the expense for data.

s/v Hippocampus
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Re: License question for hams with SSB

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Thanks. A really useful post.

How about outside US waters? Does USCG relay to local authorities? We have the phone numbers for chessie, Newport and PR programmed into the fleet one satphone. My on shore support (one of my daughters) has them in her phone.
Still, when coastal usually in windwards or leewards for 8 of 12 months. Have some of the SAR phone numbers for the various islands. But is there any list of phone numbers for the Caribbean and frequencies they pay attention to on marine SSB beyond the usual distress on 16vhf ? Do straight shots between and skipping islands so beyond land based vhf.

Just curious- why do you consider satphone least reliable? Often will skip through 4,8,12 and get nowhere so go to the satphone and be done in less than a minute while cursing the expense for data.
Yes, the USCG will relay distress data to any agency for anyone. I'm sure an Internet search will reveal the other frequencies for non-US locales.

The biggest problem with sat phones is the communications are point-to-point, as opposed to radio distress messages that are point-to-anyone listening. If there's a vessel nearby who could help, they will be completely unaware of your messages without agency coordination. I'd also keep the phone numbers of the rescue coordination center for the nationality of your vessel's registry.

EPIRB signals are broadcast down (downlinked) to all ground "local user terminals" (LUT) for all nations. The individual national RCCs then pick the signals in their jurisdiction - but if you're far out to sea there is no "jurisdiction" and your national RCC of your boat's registry should immediately take up the call. If your EPIRB isn't registered, you may get no response at all for a long time because all the RCCs will believe another RCC may be responsible. No EPIRB is ignored, but there can be long delays as each RCC asks the others: "are you responding to that signal?" That has happened in the past, and it underscores the importance of keeping your EPIRB registration current.

During heavy rain, when you're most apt to be in real trouble, the sat phones will fail due to the "rain fade" effect. The UHF signals can't penetrate the rain. This happened to the Bounty II, for example. They had to use HF radio and a pactor modem to get their distress message through. And some sat constellations have limited "footprints." Globalstar sat phones (and the Spot Messenger) don't work over large areas of ocean. (https://www.globalstar.com/Globalsta...-Data-Gen2.png) And even INMARSAT doesn't work above 70 degrees latitude north and south because the geosynchronous satellites are below the horizon.

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Re: License question for hams with SSB

Agree. Had globalstar. Replaced it with fleet one because the globalstar didn’t work half the time. Crew had handheld iridium. Not much better but so far even in rain the fleet one sailor has been spot on. Why is there such a variance in performance.
Again didn’t know about the rain effect. Most likely to be raining when you get in trouble. Really good to know.
US flagged have that as well.

s/v Hippocampus
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