Single Side Band Radio

Radio transmission has interested me for a long time. When I was in high school I took classes in electronics and learned about radio. Later in college I joined a ham radio club and got my novice license. I didn’t use my license, went on with my life and let it expire.

Years later, after career, marriage and kids, I got interested in ham radio again and got my technician license.Again, I didn’t use it. When I thought to check, I had missed the renewal deadline by a month and would have to retake the exams again.

When I started boating I saw that many offshore cruisers were using ham or Single Side Band, SSB, radio for long distance communication. I also saw and expanding use of satellite phones for the same purpose.

Since we did coastal cruising, I didn’t have an immediate need for long distance communications, but I did look at costs. It seemed like the initial cost of a SSB system was higher than a satellite phone, but the ongoing cost was much lower.

When we first decided to go to the Bahamas I purchased a ICOM 802. After the initial purchase, I had to buy a lot more equipment like an antenna tuner, cables, isolators, ground plane, etc to make it work. My cost was higher than I thought.

I had a working system for two-way communication but I didn’t have everything I needed. I couldn’t do emails. For that I needed a pactor modem. When I looked into buying a pactor modem, I realized they were really expensive

I wanted to have access to weather information, and for that I needed email. I seriously considered buying a satellite WiFi system to get email when off-shore. But I thought of how many boat bucks I had already put into my SSB. I decided to buy a pactor modem.

I bought it through dock-side radio. They provided everything I needed. They have technical support, but I didn’t need it. I connected my modem and got everything working in less than an hour.

I subscribed to sailmail for $250 a year, which is way less than a satellite subscription. I feel that I will be able to keep up with weather and communicate with friends and family with my equipment.

The Airmail app has a lot of features. I can send and receive emails and get weather information in several formats.  I feel like my higher up-front costs for a SSB system were worthwhile over the lower up-front cost of a satellite phone system.

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