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Thread: Getting a HF ham or marine SSB radio for the boat, and who is listening anyway?

  1. #1
    Member Maast's Avatar
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    Default Getting a HF ham or marine SSB radio for the boat, and who is listening anyway?

    A discussion on another forum about mobile HF radio sets got me thinking;

    There have been dozens of times where I've been in a cove or a bowl and been blocked from transmitting or receiving anything on my marine VHF because marine VHF is basically line-of-sight.

    If I'd gotten in trouble in a location where I couldnt use the VHF I'd have been stuck. However if I had a HF ham or marine SSB radio on hand I could yell for help and use the sky bounce to cover several hundred to several thousand square miles.

    On the other hand, if nobody is listening then it'd still be useless - who monitors HF freqs in Southcentral AK?

    To legally use the entire available bands I'd need to get a ham license to operate a HF radio AND use the VHF 6 and 2 meter bands. The test for a technician license is super-easy, and (from what I understand) the general license test isnt all that terribly difficult now that they've dropped the morse code requirement.

    For marine SSB HF radios you dont need to take a test but you need a Ship Station license and a lifetime Restricted Radiotelephone Operator's permit. The frequencies they can legally transmit/receive on is limited in comparison - they can't TX/RX in the 6 meter or 2 meter bands. (50 - 54mhz and 144 - 148mhz respectively) They can transmit at 100 watts.

    So in your opinion, is it worth getting a ham radio license or just go with a marine SSB or for that matter - dont bother at all.

    A quick ebay search for ham and marine ssb radios shows me they're fairly spendy though.


    For reference:
    A link describing marine SSB: http://www.latitude38.com/features/SSB.html
    A link describing ham radio: http://www.eham.net/newham/bands
    2696 Sea Raider Pilothouse
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    Sponsor potbuilder's Avatar
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    Why not just carry a sat phone with you? It can be used on the boat and on land(like hunting). In my opinion best of both worlds. I do believe the CG monitors the SSB radio though.

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    Member fullbush's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by potbuilder View Post
    Why not just carry a sat phone with you? It can be used on the boat and on land(like hunting). In my opinion best of both worlds. I do believe the CG monitors the SSB radio though.
    Yeah I agree w/ Steve on the sat phone. We should do some research and find the best sat provider and what is the most affordable. I'd like to get one as would my partners. Maybe we could get a rake off on a volume deal.
    As far as SSB goes, I've often pondered it myself. I'm pretty sure the only people that get worried if you don't get legal on the license is the people that bothered to get the license.

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    Member Mort's Avatar
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    Not to hijack your thread, but I decided on a small PLB w/ GPS. I can carry it on the boat, when I go ashore, or when on hunts. Can carry it hiking or flying. It won't get me non-emergency assistance, but should give me a way of getting rescued in the worst of circumstances, and it's affordable and somewhat flexible.

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    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fullbush View Post
    Yeah I agree w/ Steve on the sat phone. We should do some research and find the best sat provider and what is the most affordable. I'd like to get one as would my partners. Maybe we could get a rake off on a volume deal.
    As far as SSB goes, I've often pondered it myself. I'm pretty sure the only people that get worried if you don't get legal on the license is the people that bothered to get the license.
    If you're looking at a Sat Phone, go with an Iridium as there have been issues with the other provider for several years now.
    We've never had issues making a call or getting a signal with our Iridium Sat Phone.

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    Member Maast's Avatar
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    A GPRB is certianly on my "to do" list. I'll have one before next season.

    A quick google search on sat phones gave me a bad case of sticker shock, and then you have to buy time on top of that. I could set up a pretty good HF rig for that kind of money. For that matter I could set up a basic home base station too.

    Also, I'd like to be able to listen to weather reports and forecasts if I'm ever out of VHF range. And, if I ever have to use my boat as a bug-out vehicle I'd like to be able to listen to whats going on.
    2696 Sea Raider Pilothouse
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    Member fullbush's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maast View Post

    And, if I ever have to use my boat as a bug-out vehicle I'd like to be able to listen to whats going on.
    Yeah that way we could all have group dialogue w/ Jessy Ventura and George Norry and no one could trace our whereabouts!

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    Member jrogers's Avatar
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    I use to be active in Ham radio, and have an extra class license that is about, or has already lapsed. A ham license would be fine if you just want to talk to people, but I would not consider this your emergency device. I carry a personal epirb like someone else here mentioned. I also now have a Iriduim sat phone. I got my sat phone used, I think it was from the Surveyors Exchange here in Anchorage. Where they get you is not on the phone purchase price ($600?) but on the minutes. I think the minimum you can purchase is $200 twice per year, so it costs $400 per year to keep it active. By the way, if any of you are on the sound when I am out and you need to get a call back to town, feel free to call me on the marine radio and I will relay a message for you. I don't come near using up my minutes, so there is really no cost to me doing this.
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by fullbush View Post
    I'm pretty sure the only people that get worried if you don't get legal on the license is the people that bothered to get the license.
    I tend to agree here. One note, however. I've been boarded by the Coasties twice in the last three years. The last time the head of the boarding party seemed to be really interested in the radio equipment on board (I only have VHF). He gave me the impression if I had a SSB and wasn't properly licensed I would have faced treason charges and a possible firing squad. Maybe I read him wrong.

    In my opinion, if you absolutely need to talk to someone, a sat phone is the only way to go.

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    Member russiarulez's Avatar
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    I carry a Spot GPS (They call it the "Satellite GPS Messenger"). I've tested it a couple of times out in PWS and Seward, seems to work great. It's obviously limited to what kind of messages you can transmit, but for me it's a cheap insurance in case something really goes wrong out there.

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    Member Alaskanmutt's Avatar
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    The Coasties listen to HF
    We used to listen to calls bouncing from as far as Florida on clear late nights.
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    Member Maast's Avatar
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    Well, I'm going to put a ham radio on, a Icom706MkIIG, a shakespeare 17 foot marine antenna, and a AH-4 autotuner, should all run me about $700 if I go refurbished on the 706 and autoturner. It'll cover 2 mhz to 148mhz and I'll probably be able to listen up to 225mhz.

    The advice I've gotten is that an aluminum boat makes an ideal ground plane and'll add a few DB to the rig. I'll have to see how it goes when I install it.

    As a side benefit I can listen to news (Voice of America and others) if I go out for a week trip.

    I've been studying for my general license, the antenna theory is really interesting.
    2696 Sea Raider Pilothouse
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    Member Mort's Avatar
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    You're gonna need to repower with all the gadgets you're putting on that boat!

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