|Yes, I will at some point actually open these boxes. Soon, my precioussss...|
Not really, but after some delay and misunderstanding, my SSB gear arrived this morning.
Now all I need is a functional boat, with upright mast and working antenna included, in which to put it. Further purchases, labour and tweaking will be involved.
I may attempt "listening only" from home just to get used to the rhythms of amateur radio coverage and fiddling. I can't transmit (legally) from land (I think) or physically (lack of proper antenna, counterpoise or dummy load), but I think I can LISTEN without breaking the warranty, and I have an existing length of copper I can rig as an antenna. Unlike some devices, RTFM is the operating principle here. I don't know what I don't know about putting together a functional amateur radio aboard a boat, but at least I know I don't know. Much study lies ahead.
The role of SSB radio in modern cruising is quite similar to the role of the sextant or even the windvane (see "GPS and autopilot good; old mechanical things bad"). Why, goes the logic, in the days of satellite phones, widespread wireless and phones of smartness do you need a RADIO? Isn't that a touch retrograde?
Well, no. I did run the numbers on this, and, more trenchantly I think, saw an SSB rig in full functional use on my Atlantic delivery in 2009, and the ability to send and receive voice and e-mails and receive GRIB files offshore is very, very comforting and useful. So are cruisers' nets. A phone call, even via satellite, is point-to-point. If no one answers, or if "the system's down", you are, to use the sailor's term, S.O.L. A radio might be considerably more finicky and subject to vagaries of tuning, sunspots, the state of the ionosphere and so on, but it's essentially broadcast, meaning any number of people can hear you and in the case of the emergency frequencies, will be actively listening. And you've got a very wide spectrum of frequencies from which to choose. And, for the moment, there is still a worldwide community of shortwave radio broadcasts, so the SSB/shortwave set can be a source of information and even entertainment. And education: I will to some extent rely upon the SSB-mediated SailMail service to communicate my son's high school subjects to and from the Toronto school in which he will have a truly virtual presence.
And Herb H. Let's not forget the extremely useful service rendered to the distance cruising community of Herb and his forecasting kin in giving us the "turn left to avoid cyclone" information that keeps us, for the most part, from being the snack bar at the new artificial reef.
Besides, I have expert friends who look out for me and want to save me money (the crew of Silverheels III in Grenada). I have been told that I can install this myself (I built a CB radio system when I was a teenager, so I'm not completely at sea, so to speak, with most of the concepts and avoid licking the contacts, generally). I have also been told that a boat with a nice, cambered steel deck and a nice, tuned antenna suspended between my twin backstays will likely make me an excellent transceiver.
So, ionosphere, you've been warned. Radio Alchemy will at some point in what I hope is the near future be on the air.