HAM radio vs Satellite phone - Pensacola Fishing Forum

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Old 05-27-2009, 10:27 PM   #1
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Default HAM radio vs Satellite phone

I'm wondering if anyone has a HAM radio to communicate with land? My buddy and I are trying to figure out the best way to communicate with our family in the case of emergency as a backup. After a scare we had 60 miles offshore, we tried to contact the Coast Guard with no luck. Does anyone have a HAM radio and know the distances that one would cover or any other ideas, such as a Satellite phone?

Thanks
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Old 05-27-2009, 11:03 PM   #2
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Default RE: HAM radio vs Satellite phone

If you can pick this up for about $100.00-$150.00 it won't be a bad deal.

http://cgi.ebay.ca/Kenwood-TH-75A-Du...525144001r4434



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Old 05-27-2009, 11:59 PM   #3
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Default RE: HAM radio vs Satellite phone

If you don't have a HAM license, you would want to go with SSB (if you with the radio route). You will need a FCC license to operate the SSB but it's easy to get and doesn't require near the knowledge as becoming a HAM operator. I'm sure some of the charter boat captains can go into more details about them if you are interested in going that route.



What size boat do you have? The reason I ask is because you would want an auto tuner and at least an 18 foot antenna to make it work well. For the best results, you are also doing to want to install a ground plate on your boat and ground the SSB to the water so you get a good "ground plane".



Satellite phones (talking about hand helds here) work OK... From my experience, you can use them about 70% of the time and the other 30% there is no signal.



With that being said, have you had your VHF and antenna tested (SWR's and all the good stuff)? Did you try your second VHF which has it's own antenna? (being sarcastic here of course but I believe everyone should have two completely separate VHF systems on their boats!)



I assume you called for the Coast Guard and got no reply (from anyone)? Do you do a "radio check" every time you leave to make sure your VHF is working and ask "What's your 20" to make sure it's not your buddy on the boat next to you?



Surly someone would have heard a call "Coast Guard Station Alabama, this is the fishing vessel "ManFish", do you copy" and offer to relay for you if your VHF was working correctly. If you were only calling for Coast Guard Station Pensacola, that wouldn't matter because Alabama will usually respond if they don't hear Pensacola respond. I say this because Alabama seems (based on experience a few years back) to have a stronger VHF system that can receive and transmit better.



Anyway, back to your question. I would have as many forms of communication as possible if I was venturing out more than 50 miles. I have 3 VHF's one being a hand held and the other two with their own separate antennas wired to seperate batteries and a SSB. I usually fish with someone who has a Sat phone and the EPIRB is always there as well.
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Old 05-28-2009, 12:07 AM   #4
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Default RE: HAM radio vs Satellite phone

P.S. As far as distance, there is not a way to answer that question. There are too many factors to consider and the distance you can get with a SSB will vary based on weather, cloud cover, the ground plane, the skip you get and so on.
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Old 05-28-2009, 01:52 AM   #5
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Default RE: HAM radio vs Satellite phone

Quote:
ManFish (5/27/2009)I'm wondering if anyone has a HAM radio to communicate with land? My buddy and I are trying to figure out the best way to communicate with our family in the case of emergency as a backup. After a scare we had 60 miles offshore, we tried to contact the Coast Guard with no luck. Does anyone have a HAM radio and know the distances that one would cover or any other ideas, such as a Satellite phone?

Thanks
[quote]ManFish (5/27/2009)I'm wondering if anyone has a HAM radio to communicate with land? My buddy and I are trying to figure out the best way to communicate with our family in the case of emergency as a backup. After a scare we had 60 miles offshore, we tried to contact the Coast Guard with no luck. Does anyone have a HAM radio and know the distances that one would cover or any other ideas, such as a Satellite phone?

Thanks[/quote

If you have a HAM license,no problem.I use a tuner and a regular 9 foot whip antenna. (98% of thr time you can talk to someone. They may be 500 miles or 1000 mikes away but you can talk to someone. Unless the band is really dead. And this can happen.

I now carry a SPOT tracker. This is the greattest thing since sliced bread, I just took my 22 foot boat from Pensacola to Brownsville, Tx. I was gone 30 days. My friends and family could track me the entire trip. If I had sent a Help msg they would have sent Sea Tow. I sent a 911 msg then the Coast Guard would have been put into service. At the end of everyday. I would send an OK message. They knew all was well and could go to the GOOGLE map and see exactly where I was. Just like them being there. Pretty cool.

We will spend at least $500 for a nice rod a reel and this is just to catch a few fish. For about $150 you can get one of these trackers. It just depends on how much you think you or your buddy's life is worth. I figure that if you were in a situation and needed help and someone cameby with one of the things you would even trade a 50K boat for one. I figure I can save a little money and buy one before I go. There have been too many times already this year that a few dollars whould have saved several lives. For all of these people the cost would have been pocket change. I am a dealer for the SPOT but you can get one at West Marine for the same price that can get one. I have an extra if anyone would want to try one out. give me a PM.
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Old 05-28-2009, 08:52 AM   #6
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Default RE: HAM radio vs Satellite phone

I agree. The SPOT is a reliable and affordable way to communicate when you are out of cell phone range. This link was emailed to my family letting them know we were ok, while we were fishing the Swingle Rig 60+ miles off of the AL coast. http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=e...;z=12&om=1 I had a friend buy one before he sailed his 30 ft sail boat from Houston to Mobile. We were able to track his progress all week. Also, Bass Pro Shops has a $50 mail in rebate this month.
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Old 05-28-2009, 09:01 AM   #7
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Default RE: HAM radio vs Satellite phone

I have used a handheld satelllite phone for years. Started with Globalstar and switched to Iridium about 4 years ago. No exageration, Globastar is WORTHLESS! Total joke as far a getting a signal. Iridium is the total oppisite. I get a signal 100% of the time and I test it often. It has never, never failed to get thru on first try. Satellite conversations can be a little bit of a pain with the time delay, but works fine. I use a magnetic mount puck antenna that I attach to my T top roof and then put the handheld in my electronics box.This keeps me out of the wind, when I use it. I also haveit packed in a waterproof Pelican case in the event of bad weather. I use simple text messages sent to my wife to keep her updated and she does the same back. In the event that I want more detailed weather data from land or to report a big fish I just call. Iridium is pricey, but it works.

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Old 05-28-2009, 09:21 AM   #8
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Default RE: HAM radio vs Satellite phone

As an old Ham radio operator, KA6WPG, I am familiar with the radios and would be happy to demo mine. I used it for most all of my comm since we left SoCal in 1988. There are ham nets all over the world, plus land based operators who provide free e mail access.

I do not think it would be your best choice for a smaller boat.. As Chris stated, they are complex. As far as range is concerned, I have talked to Hams in Egypt, Australia and off the coast of South Africa from my boat at my dock in Bayou Chico.

I love the Ham radio world.

Tom Vandiver
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Old 05-28-2009, 10:52 AM   #9
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Default RE: HAM radio vs Satellite phone

I have an iridium satelite phone, I hunt and fish all over, and never not had a signal. Now I will have to admit it is a little pricy.

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Old 05-28-2009, 11:09 AM   #10
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Default RE: HAM radio vs Satellite phone

I use a system that a guy from Boaters worls suggested and it has worked great for me and it was cheap.I bought a signal/reciever booster for my cell phone which says it increases the range of operation away from towers by 500%.I haven't tried it past 78 miles but it worked at that range very well.

The way I have it hooked up is with a bluetooth unit that is mounted on my dash that is water proof and looks just like the mic on your radio but has numbers to dial with, and it works just like a blue tooth ear piece as far as the connection with an phone.I put my phone safely in the dry box and use the mic from then on.

Like I said I have only been 78 miles out , I can't tell you how far past that it works.But I'm not going farther out then that on my boat anyway.
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