Communications

Following you’ll find lots of questions and answers pertaining to communications aboard.

If you’d like to send in a question, click on “Cruisers Q&A” in the sidebar, where you’ll find a form you can use.

Email While World Cruising

I am seeking advice re the best choice for setting up an email account for use during my family’s upcoming sail around the world. My crew are my wife and two young daughters (5 and 8). We plan to depart in September 2003 from Groton CT aboard our Westsail 32. First of all, we plan to have a ham radio Winlink email address (if I can just carve out enough time to study for and take the tests!). But for sending and receiving photos and large attachments I gather that we should consider having an email address that we can access from Internet cafes and similar locations using our laptop. Do we need to have a subscription internet service provider that we would dial into from landlines at foreign ports? If so which is best? A free one like Hotmail (I think it’s free)? Or do we need to pay $10 to $20+ per month for an ISP like Earthlink or AOL? Do we simply need the email address and then plan to use the Internet cafe’s or other retail location’s internet service provider to gain access to the web. As you can tell, I am having trouble figuring all this out and would really appreciate your guidance as to whom we should contact for the best, most current advice. Thank you for whatever you can tell me to get us headed in the right direction.– Doug

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 28, 2003)    |    Comments (0)

SSB vs. Iridium/Globalstar

Question regarding SSB vs. Iridium/Globalstar…..I read the nice item on Setsail.com on Iridium/Globalstar and agree that it is coming into vogue economically for data communications/e-mail, etc….It is definitely easier for everyone on board to use in a crunch. But don’t you lose the flexibility to participate in net calls, etc.? It seems that there are always tradeoffs…You can access SailMail via the Sat. phones, correct? Also, I’m upgrading my sailing info instruments (wind direction,speed,etc.). What are your thoughts on a good manufacturer of these items in reference to MaxSea interface? Thanks, Ed

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 20, 2002)    |    Comments (0)

Seagoing Web Access

Linda & Steve, In your recent article on the new passage planning software (I hope to see more on this later) you made a comment regarding downloading weather forecast data during your passage. What method do you use to access internet at sea?? Regards, Mark

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 3, 2001)    |    Comments (0)

Iridium Back in Business?

Steve: A new Iridium Satellite LLC has just announced on CNBC that these satellites are back in business with coverage over 100% of the globe. Great for offshore roaming types. Phone cost looks like $1500US for the handset, which accepts on-line data. I don’t have info about operating costs. Regards, DM

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 28, 2001)    |    Comments (0)

Globalstar

I’m fascinated by your comments about Globalstar–do you think it’s a viable option for our cruise despite the company’s problems? I’m reluctant to buy a $1000 SSB modem if we can get satellite service instead…Best regards, Candace

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 30, 2001)    |    Comments (0)

SGC Radios

Dear Steve: I have just read your article in Practical Sailor’s latest issue regarding gear info after 38000 miles. In it you said you had a problem with your SGC 2000 HF radio and the Pactor II modem in trying to send e-mail. I own a 2 year old SGC 2000 with the new “Powertalk” remote head which I bought because it was supposed to be better for clear data transmission in poor conditions. You stated that the radio drifted off frequency (which obviously would mess up data transmission). Is this a problem with all models of SGC 2000 radios or a problem specific to your radio and/or model? I am just getting ready to purchase a Pactor II modem and get my radio set up for e-mail as my wife and I are preparing for a 2 year cruise on our Saga 43 from Maine to the Caribbean and then to the Azores and the Med. This problem with the SGC 2000 concerns me!! Should I sell it and get an ICOM 710 like everyone else?! Thanks for your comments, Frank

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

Internet Connections

Steve, What system do you use for e-mail and Internet access at sea? What connection speeds do you get? Is it good enough to get the NOGAPS Java movies within a reasonable time frame? What are the options?–Alan

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

Dipole Antenna

Under your “Communications at Sea” section under SSB Ground Plane you recommend the referenced antenna due to it not requiring a ground plane. Unfortunately, the marine electronic installers in my area tell me they are not familiar with this type of antenna. For example, is it a simple whip antenna? If so, how long? Can you recommend a vendor that sells this product. Thank you. Downing

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

Communications Web Sites

What is a web site that I can find out info on the offshore communications system that you use. The Trimble web site is not very enlightening about the Sat C system and has nothing about prices. Any info appreciated.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

SSB & Working Frequencies

I’m looking for basic info on what can be done with the SSB and the working frequencies. I’ve been told that only ham frequencies may reach all locations for example in the South Pacific Any place I can learn about pros and cons? Thanks George

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

SSB Radios

We are shortly to buy an SSB radio. We propose to spend up to USD2,500 and will run a weather fax program on a Toshiba laptop thru it. The model we like so far is an Icom IC-M710. Have any of your readers had any experience with one of these, and if so how do they like it? Mike

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

Radio Licenses

Hi Steve, Concerning this SSB / Ham licensing requirement, the Ham route seems like an awful lot of archaic work. I plan on cruising and using HF weather fax, perhaps HF e-mail, and talking with people like Herb (Hilgenberg) and perhaps family. Would I still need a Ham license for these types of operations? Still in a state of confusion. Bill

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (1)

SSB Groundplane

Hello Dashews: We have a Cal 2-46 and I am struggling with how to build a substantial grounding plane for the SSB–the previous owner did not have an adequate installation. Could you give us some suggestions? So far, we understand that the sintered bronze plates are not adequate. One person suggested that we cover the entire rudder in copper plate, two have suggested that we epoxy copper screen into wherever we can in the bilge (which would be a lot of relatively small pieces), someone suggested multiple copper strips running lengthwise in the bilge and Ed at American Marine Coatings in Seattle says he can mix up a batch of his product with sufficient copper in it to make it conductive so it will work if painted into bilge spaces and connected up. What to you think? Thank you very much. Jim and Leslee

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

Offshore Communications

A technical question: With AT&T going out of the high seas phone business, what would you recommend for someone heading offshore for e-mail and voice transmission? My friend…is taking his Swan 47 into the Pacific and is interested in your answer, as am I (more generally). Regards, John

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

Portable Computers for Marine Use

Do you have any recommendation for a notebook that will stand up to marine use? Thanks, Lawrence

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

Seagoing Computers

Hello, Have you a review of computers/laptops/notebooks best compatible with seafaring vessels? Thank you, Bernard

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

Best Laptop for SSB e-mail

I presently own a Furuno 1502 and would like to hook up with a modem (pactor) and a laptop, in order to be able to e-mail from the boat, providing I have a provider like Sea Mail. In your opinion, which is the most effectively equipped laptop to do the job, or how should this laptop be equipped for optimum performance? Please share this info with me before I purchase the wrong laptop. Thank you very much. I plan to sail the Caribbean this spring, so I am getting prepared. Regards, Peter

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

SSB Antenna on Metal Yachts

Dear Steve,

We build an aluminum 50ft and have one question.

1. How to make the lightning protection ground plate to the outside of the hull and what material/size to use. Hull material alloy 5083, painted.

2. How to make SSB ground plate to reflect waves into the air, also here please advice size and material.

Please be so kind to advice your comments based on experience on your aluminum boats.

I cannot find reply in your book.

Thank you and best regards, Alexander

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)

Dipole vs. Longwire Antennae

Greetings! I have been doing alot of reading lately, specifically your Surviving the Storm and the latest Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia books. Excellent pieces of work by the way! I came across a piece of information that puzzled me but I figured it was just a typo. But more recently I came across it again in your FAQ on setsail.com. Specifically, the reference is to the fact that a dipole antenna is superior to a long wire (i.e. insulated backstay). I’m confused about the reference to a dipole giving 8 times the output compared to a longwire. A normal simple dipole antenna has a gain of 3db which results in twice the output not 8 times. Also, the dipole is directional with fairly deep null areas off the ends of the antenna so the 3db gain figure is only really true relative to a point broadside to the antenna. If you really know of a dipole configuration with an 8x advantage (that would be a gain of 9db) please let me know. I currently use a whip for marine SSB and an insulated backstay for the ham rig. Some more gain over the unity gain solutions will be greatly appreciated. Also, thanks for the info on the WH Autopilot. You sold me, I will be ordering one very soon! Smooth Sailing!–Doug Dotson

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (0)