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I'm contemplating putting a hf radio on my catamaran. Choices seem to be between a marine SSB or a HF Ham radio. Ham radios can be modified for use on marine frequencies. Marine rigs can be modified for use on Ham frequencies. My problem is which way to go. Two major questions are (1) Can these radios be used to legally transmit outside their FCC approved frequencies (and if not legal, do many people do it anyway); and (2) how practical is it to use a modified marine radio on ham freqs (convenience, etc) and how practical is it to use a modified ham radio on marine freqs? In terms of cost, it seems less expensive to modify a ham radio such as an Icom 418 than to modify a marine radio. Any guidance would be appreciated. TIA, Dan
 

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Duck Tape and Bailing wire. Works every time.

Or you could use the proper tools for the job at hand.

Forget it. Grab an old CB, and a 1500W linear and talk on all freqs. simultaneously.
 

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I'm contemplating putting a hf radio on my catamaran. Choices seem to be between a marine SSB or a HF Ham radio. Ham radios can be modified for use on marine frequencies. Marine rigs can be modified for use on Ham frequencies. My problem is which way to go. Two major questions are (1) Can these radios be used to legally transmit outside their FCC approved frequencies (and if not legal, do many people do it anyway); and (2) how practical is it to use a modified marine radio on ham freqs (convenience, etc) and how practical is it to use a modified ham radio on marine freqs? In terms of cost, it seems less expensive to modify a ham radio such as an Icom 418 than to modify a marine radio. Any guidance would be appreciated. TIA, Dan
Since this IS my field and I AM an expert on this.. :) I'll state that a "modified ham radio rig" is legal to use in ham bands only.

It it not legal for amateurs or anyone else to modify radios to operate in "out of band" operation.

That does not mean you can't purchase radios that can operate in all bands though. You can.

I have a radio that CAN operate in both marine bands (actually it can pretty much transmit in any band) but it is ONLY operated in Amateur bands as that is what it was designed to do.

There's a little thing called "FCC Type acceptance".

Amateur radio gear is NOT(necessarily) FCC type accepted. Nearly all other equipment is. (Again, some ham radios are type accepted).

What this means is they meet certain specifications to prevent interference to other radio services.

If I'm not mistaken, you can find a few radios from several large manufacturers that will cover, legally, both the amateur bands and the marine frequencies you require.

Personally, I'd do a bit more research on the radio gear.

Lastly - you need to decide what you need to use the radio for. If you are a ham, you need to have an Amateur Radio Operators license. If you are going to use Marine, you need a restricted operators license (no test, just a fee) and a ships radio station license (fee, no test). Ham radio requires you have at minimum a General class license (not a HARD test, but not EASY either).

(For the record I hold a RR license, and I hold an Amateur Extra license. I've held a First Class Radio Telephone Operators license in the past - no longer issued these days, and Second Class and a Third Class. Also for the record I've been involved in using, setting up and training radio systems for nearly forty years now.)
 

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Sorry one other thing I need to add here to make this easy....

If you have a radio that is capable of being used on Marine frequencies, it CAN be legally modified to work in HAM bands (if you're a ham radio operator).

Any radio can be legally modified by amateurs to work in the ham bands. But you can't modify a "ham only" to work in OTHER bands (legally).

Make sense?
 

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Did a little quick research.

There is a radio that can do both things for you - it's a little expensive, at nearly $2000 bucks. The Icom M802, but it supposedly has other things you might want including some built in stuff for email. I didn't get a chance to read much on that radio, but you might want to look in that direction.

Rick
 

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Kudos to Rick. When I read the initial post in this thread my first thought was "Oh no, not again." Rick said about everything I would and very well.

A couple thoughts:

Type acceptance is not universal; it is application specific. So a manufacturer might apply for type-acceptance on a radio for use on amateur frequencies. That doesn't make it acceptable for use in other services.

The Icom M802 is a good radio. It's a great marine SSB and a good ham radio. I'm thrilled with mine. The built-in e-mail stuff isn't particularly useful for most installations - if you want to do e-mail the near-universal setup is an SCS Pactor modem and Airmail on a laptop or other computer. With the 802/SCS/Airmail combination all frequency and mode control is by the laptop and the e-mail functionality built into the radio isn't necessary.

Finally, the type-acceptance requirement and other legal limitations are not Not NOT bureaucracy run amok. There are very good reasons to require radios used in a life-critical service like marine SSB to meet particular standards for frequency stability and signal purity that a fundamentally experimental service like ham radio simply need not meet.

sail fast, dave KO4MI
S/V Auspicious
 

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Cool. Thanks for the verification. I did all that "off the top of me head"!

LOL

Yeah, I didn't go into extreme detail on the type acceptance. That's a US and Canadian thing. I'm not sure honestly how other countries do things.

For everyone else, radios built in other countries are indeed, 'type accepted' in the US by FCC standards. And as Dave pointed out, they are done this way to PREVENT interference to services outside the bands they are designed to operate in.

This comes down specifically to prevent harmful interference especially to life-saving services, but also to prevent most kinds of interference.

The problem with modifying a ham radio into another service comes from the fact that amateur gear - when commercially produced may well be within all standards, FOR the Ham Bands, but when you push the envelop, so to speak, you can cause spurious emissions. Those emissions can cause signals in other bands to be over-ridden by your radio signal which could place others in jeopardy.

But for Dan... there's inexpensive, there's cheap and there's frugal.

While it might seem "cheaper" to modify a ham rig (and then use it) on marine frequencies - it won't be IF you get caught doing so. If I remember rightly the rules state something about the fines being up to $10,000 dollars and jail time.

If you're a foreign operator (Say from Canada) you have to have a reciprocal operating license (not difficult to obtain, if you're licensed already in your country).

I honestly don't know if the Coast Guard would check your license or not, but they don't actually have authority to fine you for not having one. The ONLY authority over US frequency allocation and usage is the Federal Communications Commission.

I know that the RCMP will confiscate radios that are "illegally modified" themselves, usually ham gear modified to hold commercial stuff. I don't know if they grab US radios for this, as I have several radios that are capable of holding many frequencies, and my main HT is capable of pretty much transmitting anywhere, not LEGALLY, but it can.

(That radio can, if necessary, broadcast on marine frequencies, but would not be used to do so except in emergencies. In the US ANY ONE and ANY RADIO system can be used to assist in emergencies where safety and preservation of life is a factor)
 

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If I remember rightly the rules state something about the fines being up to $10,000 dollars and jail time.
Depends.

Caveat: It's been a long time since I let my Advanced Class license lapse, much less since I studied for it. It's been a long time since I studied for, and passed, my First Class Commercial License class and obtained my Second Class Commercial License, but, IIRC and things haven't changed:

A violation of your FCC license is US$500/day, per violation. N.B.: IIRC: Because of the way the Rules are written and because of your licensing terms, Violating the rules for any class of service is always a violation of any licenses you hold. Violating the terms of any FCC license(s) you hold reflects on all licenses you hold. All can be suspended or (perhaps permanently) revoked.

No license(s)? Well (and this always comes as a surprise to people): Then they can't fine you under the Rules. Pretty neat, eh? Nope, instead they get you for violating the Communications Act. (Well, it's the Telecommunications Act, now, but I'm an old timer.) That one is, or used to be, a penalty of up to US$10,000 and (or?) a year as a guest of Uncle Sam. It's probably a Pretty Safe Bet that getting nailed for violating this Act will preclude your ever obtaining an FCC license for any service.

Jim
 

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I have heard, no direct knowledge, that you can hear the difference in a ham radio TXing on a marine band...so detection can be fairly easy, altho I've never heard of anybody getting busted.
 

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Dan, your best bet to stay 100% legal is to buy a radio like an older Icom 710 or a new 802(?) which is manufactured and approved for both services. It will have drawbacks, but so will anything else.

As long as your radio is legal for use in your home country, it will be legal around the world by reciprocal treaties via the ITU. (Of course, if you are visiting "Red" China you'll need a permit, because bringing in an unlicensed ham radio is quite literally an espionage conviction there.)

Marine HF radios are "channelized" so you can dial up a channel number. Ham radios use tuning dials/pads, because hams don't use numbered channels. A case can be made for having two radios--unless the new Icom gives you both options.

As xort mentions, it is rare for anyone to get busted for offshore use of anything--as long as there are no complaints. INshore...that's something else, since marine radios are much 'cleaner' than ham radios with regard to spurious emissions, and have a more limited audio range--so a good ear can quite literally tell what you are using by the sound of it, and the frequncy spatter.

I'm sure you'll find older threads on this subject here, if not on other web and ham forums.

If you are not technically inclined, and don't want to invest in one of the dual-purposed ICOMs (I don't know if any other vendor makes similar radios), I'd suggest spending money on the marine HF, and then adding a lower cost used ham radio form a reputable source (i.e. one of the stores) to supplement it. That way you are fully legal, fully redundant (if you use two antennas) as well. And there are plenty of HF ham radios, used, at reasonable prices.
 

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... detail on the type acceptance. That's a US and Canadian thing. I'm not sure honestly how other countries do things.
The EU has a similar set of standards. Australia does as well. Many small countries simply point to ITU standards and will simply bung you into jail and fine you without too much concern for that fact that their taxi-cabs, restaurants, and other businesses are using marine VHF as a party line; don't tick off the authorities and make them look too hard.

Like Rick, I have a number of radios that can operate out of band although I don't use them that way. For example, I have a radio that I can use on marine VHF, aircraft, Mutual Aid, and some other tactical frequencies. I DON'T, but I could. If Katrina had come up the Chesapeake I might well have been able to help (with full fuel tanks and another comms operator, I can operate for nearly a week on multiple bands until government and other civil defense folk can get in place -- local authorities know what I have and what they can count on me for). I'm a rule-bound fellow so I have documented procedures for the boat (check-list for guest operators, who may be a DNR comms guy). Frankly no one has ever asked for any of this stuff, but I have it. Many hams are part of emergency response teams and have similar equipment and procedures of varying degrees of formality.

Sorry about drifting off the OP topic. Many marine radios can be modified to legally operate on ham frequencies without impacting their use on marine frequencies. There are no ham radios that can be modified to legally operate on marine frequencies. There are good reasons for the requirements. Are you willing to risk the lives of fellow mariners? Choose carefully.
 

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Could you explain?

Hi;

I would like to know more about the statement below. I just passed my technicians test, and will hopefully take the general test in a month or so. I don't plan on transmitting only listening with my radio, a ts-480, on the marine bands, but out of country it may be something that is considered. What about the HAM radio makes it emit spurious emissions? Since most mobile ham radios are 100 watt max, I assume you mean that ham rigs that are using amplifiers may transmit further.

One other question - how do weather routers such as Herb broadcast from land legally, as I understand that it is not legal to transmit on marine frequencies from shore? Is there a special license for this?

Chris


As xort mentions, it is rare for anyone to get busted for offshore use of anything--as long as there are no complaints. INshore...that's something else, since marine radios are much 'cleaner' than ham radios with regard to spurious emissions, and have a more limited audio range--so a good ear can quite literally tell what you are using by the sound of it, and the frequncy spatter.
 

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Remember the Marine radios that is being refered to are the SSB radios and not the VHF radios.
The SSB can be set up with Ham & Marine bands the VHF cannot.
 

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Hi;

I would like to know more about the statement below. I just passed my technicians test, and will hopefully take the general test in a month or so. I don't plan on transmitting only listening with my radio, a ts-480, on the marine bands, but out of country it may be something that is considered. What about the HAM radio makes it emit spurious emissions? Since most mobile ham radios are 100 watt max, I assume you mean that ham rigs that are using amplifiers may transmit further.

One other question - how do weather routers such as Herb broadcast from land legally, as I understand that it is not legal to transmit on marine frequencies from shore? Is there a special license for this?

Chris
Herb does have a Canadian license to operate from a shore station.
There is nothing unique to a ham radio which makes it emit spurious signals - all transmitters do to some degree. When operated within it's designed freq ranges, it's emissions are relatively pure and within the standards accepted for their use. So-called "type accepted" marine SSB radios are designed to different somewhat stricter standards. It has nothing to do with linear amplifiers and I find it hard to imagine anyone being able to hear the difference between marine and a ham transmitted signal. Seems like a huge exaggeration.
 

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Witzgall-
What k1vsk said, mainly. Lots of folks have tin ears and think Am radio is just as good as fm radio is just as good as tapes or cds. Some of us can tell the difference--in the right setting. Add some background noise, like car road noise, and most people can't tell them apart any more.
Same thing with ham /vs/ marine HF radios, there are different specs for the audio and a good ear can tell them apart. And a ham radio may offer options for audio compression or bandwidth that a marine radio wouldn't.
Ham radios are generally "built to a price" because they are sold to hobbyists who don't need to buy them, who will make decisions based on price just like any mass market. Marine radios are required on commercial vessels--so they may also be built to a price, but the buyers are more concerned with performance, and a couple of hundred bucks is a flyspec on the build sheet for a commercial SHIP.

You can use marine radios legally from the shore, there are different licenses available besides the usual "ships station license". There is a variation for portable use (i.e. I have a license that is attached to *me* and not a vessel, so I can take it with me if I'm crewing or using someone else' boat) and another variation for yacht clubs and marinas, who operate a fixed shore station and sometimes a fleet license to cover their dinks, etc. as well.

To find out what is currently available (regs change) you can always explore the FCC's web site, which sometimes is hard to search, or call their licensing division and speak to a human being. And then of course, outside the US all the regs change again.
 

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Be aware that to use a Marine SSB radio you need a Ship's Station License and a Restricted Radio Operator's License from the FCC. To use the Marine SSB on ham frequencies, you also need a Ham license.
 

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I have heard, no direct knowledge, that you can hear the difference in a ham radio TXing on a marine band...so detection can be fairly easy, altho I've never heard of anybody getting busted.
People get "busted" all the time transmitting illegally on Amateur Radio Bands.

For the record, the FCC won't track you down unless you're causing harmful interference, but the Amateur Bands are the MOST policed bands of ALL.

Why? Because amateur jealously guard their frequencies against intruders (and rightly so) since over the years the bands have shrank over time, having many of them pulled out from under the hams.

In fact, I've participated in several "hunt down the offender" issues over the years and we can, within minutes usually locate someone transmitting on uhf/vhf bands. Takes a bit longer on HF, but it can be done.

I know a guy in town here that has a doppler ranging system and can find you in less than five minutes and pin point your EXACT latitude and longitude in that time.

As for the "getting you under the telecommunications act" - for the 10K that's probably accurate. However, the FCC will still fine you based on your actions if you cause HARMFUL interference (unless you're in an emergency).

About "hearing the difference", I'm not sure about that. I listen to both amateur and marine broadcasts all the time and I can't tell you what kind of rig someone is using without them mentioning it. Certain microphones can change voice and bandwidth characteristics, as can other types of equipment added to the radio.
 

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Not meaning to revive the dead, but is there an Amateur Radio that transmits on all bands and receives every frequency?

Thanks

Jeff
 

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Jeff, anything that is commercially made and sold "as" a ham radio, is retricted to transmission on the amateur bands. A licensed ham is allowed to build or modify anything they please, which brings with it the responsibility to "control" your station and keep it within legal operation as the situation may be.

You'll find many of the ham transceivers can be "opened" to out-of-band use, but due to design considerations "dc to daylight" usually means a radio that is at best only a fair performer somewhere along the way. And then too, there's the matter of budget. Wider range with better performance usually means a bigger more expensive radio, too.
 

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...another HAM Extra here. The only question I feel need be asked/answered, aside from all the legal and license stuff, is - are all your crew able to yank that mic off a complicated HAM radio and begin transmitting on CH 16, or will they need to find the manual to find out how to turn it on, how to receive, how to transmit, what power settings, antenna switch, tuner settings, etc.

Do yourself a favor - get a nice (small) HAM rig with a built-in tuner to light up your backstay, and get a nice VHF that stays tuned to big illuminated letters that show CH 16 and WX ALERT. All scenarios considered - this is no doubt your best bet.
 
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