Communications Equipment & Vendors
There is nothing quite like getting away from it all...but there are times we'd like to have some way of communicating: with family, friends, other boaters and navigational broadcasts. So, after much research, here's a list of what we decided to install. There is a business in Alameda called "Complete Cruising Solutions" that helped us tremendously with advice about purchase decisions, installation guidelines and general recommendations. This business is a owned by two individuals who deserve special recognition for being so generous with their help:
Don Melcher & Marilee Schaffer
1813 Clement Ave., #24 (Just west of Svensens)
Alameda, CA 94501
Phone: (510) 769-1547
Fax: (510) 769-1573
Communications Equipment on Board
Single Sideband Radio
This combines "Ham" and "Marine" operation, which can communicate over thousands of miles. We chose the "Remote Head" model so we could avoid storing the radio in the crowded nav table area. We installed a 23-foot whip antenna and are getting great results, both with voice and digital communications. After being out for two years, we have found that this is voted an excellent product by every boat that has one. Other manufacturers' products don't seem to have the same signal quality, and digital transmissions (like email and weather faxes) can be tricky. Feel free to check in to any of the radio nets--you might just hear us on the air!
Single Sideband Radio
This was our original purchase, but eventually failed because we were not warned that an additional fan was required for extensive digital transmissions! We were so short on time and had come to depend on our radio so heavily that we could not wait for the repairs! So we purchased an Icom, and our factory -ebuilt (and now digitally-happy) SEA is for sale by Don Melcher.
Pactor II Modem
You internet blasters wouldn't be impressed, but amongst "Hammers", this 800-baud modem is superb. We use it for weather faxes and email (see below). Installation was a breeze, performance is great, and it seems able to jump into the extremely busy email servers slightly ahead of the crowd (which is where we like to be, of course!) JVComm 32
Eberhard Backeshoff, a very clever German fellow, wrote this PC/Windows software for receiving weather faxes over the SSB radio. It saves each fax, does scheduling, and can eliminate those pesky offsets that look like a checkerboard. Even though it's classified as "shareware", Herr Backeshoff earns his $75 subscription fee by responding to tricky technical challenges like customizing advanced power management features just right.
Software & Servcice
This is a two-part solution: AIRMAIL is the software that handles email over the SSB radio. Sailmail and Winlink are the services we subscribe to (in addition to America Online) for distributing and collecting our emails to other recipients through their normal internet systems. Sailmail is a non-profit co-op that provides this service for $200 per year and allows up to 10 minutes per day for unrestricted email use (without attachments). Winlink is available only to ham "General" license holders and allows up to 30 minutes per day per server but is restricted to non-commercial communications (with small attachments). Since both of these work without any phone service, they are tailor-made for cruisers. Standard VHF Radio
In addition to the normal short-distance VHF functions, this new "Intrepid" radio gives each owner a unique ID so callers can choose to communicate with one vessel in particular without broadcasting to every boat within 40 miles. Also, we bought the remote microphone, which gives us all the VHF radio functions in the cockpit. Standard VHF Radio
In addition to the mounted VHF, this is handy as a backup and for carrying in our dinghy. The trick (for every boater we've met) seems to be remembering to charge the battery! Rebecca Grant The magician that makes this web site happen! Although we created some of the content ourselves, Rebecca's the one to thank for eliminating all the slow graphics, and making this all come alive. Aram and Rebecca also gave us our very own site , so you don't get blasted with advertisements while you browse through our pages.
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