Monday, December 19, 2011

HF Marine / HAM radio?

I spent the evening last night looking over websites relating to HF radio.  I knew, for example, that there was email and weather fax capability via the HF bands.  What I did not know was that it is illegal for an unlocked HAM radio to transmit on the Marine HF bands.  Did you know that?  Lots of people have Ham gear and do transmit on the marine HF radio bands but they are not supposed to and it is possible for Ham's and Governments to detect whether this is happening via the bandpass characteristics. 

It was also a surprise to me that Marine HF radios have much tighter transmit specifications that the HAM radio that can transmit on the same frequencies (if unlocked so to speak).  As a newly minted HAM this was somewhat discouraging since I intended to use my General Class license with one HAM HF radio on the boat we will buy for use in warmer waters. NOT!  To me now, this means two rigs - one Marine HF and one HAM HF radio.  Why you say?  Well read on

A real quandary arises and that involves email/voice vs commercial / amateur transmissions.  Say your on the high sea and your water pump fails.  You install your spare but now you need to buy another one and have it in your next port of call.  Can you use the HAM radio to transmit the purchase info?  Nope - no can do.  I'll have to use the Marine HF radio ( and have email capability) for commercial related traffic.

Why even have a HAM radio you say.  Well, there are tens of thousands of Ham's on the bands day and night.  If you get into trouble or have a life threatening emergency who would you call?  Maybe a few hundred boats in radio range or thousands of Ham's who really do want to help you.  Now if you have a HAM radio why not add email and weather fax capability?  So this means two of everything - including an unlocked HAM rig for redundancy.  Besides it gets really boring out there and a good HAM radio will keep you occupied between and during tedious watches.

That is what I learned last night and it has just cost me another $2.5K-4K for more equipment.  However, I consider this $$ well spent for safety and companionship reasons.  I am looking at Icom radios:

IC-M802 Marine HF

IC-7200 Amateur HF


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our sailing redefined

I need to change the title of the previous missive from Housekeeping to Our boat redefined.  I have done this and now we are ready to proceed to Our Sailing Re-defined.  The redefinition may not really be how we sail and cruise but in terms of sailing grounds it is a redefinition.  We were Lake Michigan based and really love it but as time progresses we want to spend time at the old homestead in the summer and more time in warmer climes in the winter. 

To start we will be in the Florida Gulf area and migrate as the season and inclination dictate.  The season start will be after the end of November hurricanes and end with the greening of grass in the northern spring.  Summer up north will mean gardens and mowing grass and some kayaking and general playing around on the rivers and lakes.  Deep Fall will end with leaves being raked and burned and culminate with family Thanksgiving dinner.

Winter will be time to re-board the boat for adventures where ever.  We enjoy a life evolving and revolving around the saltwater.  However, we must get a new platform for our lives to begin "down there".  This winter will be spent searching for the basis of the new platform. 

At this moment we are biding our time but have looked at one new boat possibility - a Pearson 424 Sloop.  It looks pretty good but lacks many of our wish list features above.  There appear to be better prospects but they may be an illusion.

Our boat Re-defined

I rerouted my to point to this blog. Before it just pointed to my namesake site when I closed down the original VM website.

We have been looking at Morgan 44, Pearson 40, Pearson 424/422 and other cruising sailboats. Our old bluewater cruiser was in the 350 wt/waterline class but we want something a bit lighter and a USA nmanufactured boat. This sort of reduces the playing field. Now it is just how much to spend and finding a good example that has the most of what we want.

  • We want fresh water and lots of it - like 200 gallons or more - so big tanks and a water maker are in order.
  • We want a usable shower that does not take 30 minutes to clean up and one we can stand comfortably in with a high enough sill that a mini-bathtub is possible.
  • We want lots of diesel fuel (100 gallons or more).
  • We want lots of Amp-Hours of batteries with a Genset, Solar Panels and Wind Generators to recharge them.
  • We want a powered windlass with a battery forward to power it.
  • We want all chain rode with many anchor variations to hold use in bad weather.
  • We want an enclosed bimini for those rainy days and cold weather.
  • We want a diesel fuel heater for the cold days.
  • We want a sound hull and moisture free decks with little or no teak to maintain.
  • Another important factor is a skegged rudder with a large finned shallow draft keel.

Ok, now that we have said all this, you must think it impossible. Wrong, several boats we have looked at have most of these items. Why do we want this? Because we live onboard for 6 - 7 months a year (and have for the past 6 years) so we know what we want and what it takes to be comfortable as a couple in these close quarters year after year. I'll try another installment later as the First Mate is getting dinner ready and I do not want to be late.

Just a little while

Ok, I'll admit tht I totally forgot I had a blogger account. So here I am going through my Google stuff and lo & behold this blog pops up. I guess I will update it a bit. We still have the kayaks - all of them - but we sold the sailboat, thank God, and are now looking for one that fits the lazy, live-aboard, cruise once-in-a-while mode we have adopted while living onboard for 6 months a year.

In the previous life we were on Lake Michigan and we like it just fine but the house is a stumbling block. So goodbye LM and hello FL. The boat we are looking for needs to be big enough to live full time aboard and have quiet time staterooms. The biggest feature is that it needs to sail well in lighter airs of say 1okts. Our previous boat did not even begin to move until 10 kts plus it plowed through the waves instead of floating through them.

OK, I have to go but I will try to return more ofter to thrill you with life's adventures.