Long range comms

A much debated topic of conversation has been just what we were going to do about long range communication including emails for receiving weather updates and position reports whilst on long passages. I attended the WCC ocean cruising seminar at last years Southampton boat show and “obviously” the panel were split between SSB HF radio and Satphone. Both have the ability to send and receive email although satphone is really expensive when used. SSB is free to use but setup costs can be 3 times more. Satphones give global pole to pole voice communication providing the “view” to the satellite is good enough, whereas SSB can send a signal many hundreds/thousand miles regardless of cloud etc etc. You can only speak to one person/station at a time with a satphone whereas you can have a conversation with many simultaneously on SSB which is great on rallies. In an ideal world “buy both” they said at the seminar which means around £6000……. I don’t think so !
Much googling and emails to Steve on Allegrini (sorry Steve), we decided on a bit of a compromise whilst still buying both systems. Icom have just discontinued their IC-718 model which although strictly a shorebased ham radio, it easily opens up to the marine band. Sailcom marine sold it until recently which is a shame as they are the specialists in long range marine comms. New models are still available and we found Andy at Radioworld in Wigan to be both knowledgeable and very helpful. We picked up the Icom IC-718 transceiver opened up to include all marine frequencies, Icom AH-4 ATU (tuner), fittings and extra long cables for £950 including delivery. We will buy the pactor modem which is a standalone box to enable the send/receive of emails and data, from Sailcom marine which is about another £1000.00 leaving us with arguably one of the most important jobs left of aerial and earthing. Having taken advice from (yes Allegrini), we have bought some DX wire from Germany, this is a very thin wire coated in something similar to teflon which will go from the ATU which we’ve mounted on the rear arch to the top of the mast. The earth is taken from the ATU straight to the arch itself which is more than enough to provide a stable platform. This cost £50 delivered so the entire SSB system has been done for just under £2000.00
We will keep an eye out during the next few months and buy an Iridium 9555 ex rental which will be around £500 and buy airtime minutes when we need them, the least currently being about £200 for 200 minutes which is more than enough for emergency phone calls which we hope never to make.
This means we will have both systems onboard for £2500 which keeps us and the savings happier, so a result there 🙂
Charlotte received a 3rd offer of employment, this one from Nielsons which she quickly accepted, as a watersports instructor in Messini Greece. She leaves on the 22nd April for 7 months and there is an option to do an internal transfer to the winter ski season too so we are delighted for her.
Caroline has had another operation on her finger (see April 2016 entry) to remove scar tissue and give more flexibility, although only done a week ago it looks much better which is very promising. It’s better to get this done now as once we leave it’ll not be so easy.

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