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Operating HF from a sailboat

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KG4DYN, Jan 7, 2018.

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  1. KG4DYN

    KG4DYN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have a question for you boat captains out there or anyone who operates maritime mobile. In a couple years my wife and I are planning a sailing trip onboard a crewed catamaran, probably in the BVI or Grenadines. I would like to take some portable gear and operate from the boat. My questions are: what would be a useable antenna? I'm thinking a portable magnetic loop. Next, does anyone have experience operating on board a chartered boat? What are concerns and issues? I'm assuming the captain will allow radio operation on the boat. We are still looking at boats and have not yet made reservations since we're still a couple years away, but I asked the booking agent and he assured me that it's ok to operate from the boats he represents.

    Any thoughts or experience?
  2. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Download the SG-230 manual. Whether you use that tuner or not, their manual describes how to install and operate HF gear effectively on various vessel types, including sailboats of various material construction.
    The master of the ship has the final say about what radio transmission equipment is operated on his vessel, and how and when -- much like on an aircraft. The safety equipment on a maritime vessel isn't always as time-sensitive as the equipment aboard an aircraft, but he is still responsible for the safe conduct of the voyage, and so it's his/her call.

    If you are just offshore, on a sunny day, with everybody out on deck soaking up rays and umbrella drinks, then it's quite possible the master will have no issues with your operating a radio, especially if you are the one chartering the vessel. If you are piloting your own sailboat, then it's obviously your call as to how/when to operate radio gear. :cool:

    Also see 47 CFR 97.11, for FCC's requirements for the use of amateur radio equipment aboard ship.
    KG4DYN and N0TZU like this.
  3. N3HGB

    N3HGB Ham Member QRZ Page

    This answer is going to be highly variable.
    1. Are you the entire charter party? If not, the skipper may not want anything going on that might disturb the other paying guests.
    2. Does the boat already have HF gear? If so, the skipper may be quite happy to let you have at it or conversely not want passengers messing around with his domain.
    3. Is the boat 12, 24, or 32 volts? The power available may not match the power you need.
    4. If you are trying to set up your own gear, setting up antennas, power lines, and grounds will be somewhat disruptive to your normal routine. Never mind the skipper, your wife might not want this going on either ;)

    Last time I was down there I was the skipper, so I could have set up anything I wanted to, but I was far too busy having fun with other things. After all day of sailing, swimming, and diving followed by dinner and rum, my bunk was calling me.

    If I were you, I would contact the charter company and explain what you want to do. Your best case would be finding a skipper who is a ham or at least ham friendly with an HF equipped boat. Given the long lead time, you should be able to find someone who can make this work out.
    I'll post later today about an easy-to-make portable antenna for a boat at anchor.
    KG4DYN likes this.
  4. K1VSK

    K1VSK Ham Member QRZ Page

    We've sailed in the BVI many times including bareboating some charters. It isn't really offshore sailing in that everything is close by meaning only a few hours actually sailing. The rest of the time, you are hanging on a mooring where there is really too much fun stuff to do rather than wasting time talking on a radio.

    If you really want to do that, it's easy to hoist a random wire or better still, a vertical dipole to obviate the need for a counterpoise and tuner. Every charter in BVI uses 12 v power. And the crew won't care how you spend your time -they work on tips.
    KG4DYN likes this.
  5. N3HGB

    N3HGB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Not all boats there are 12 volts - I have worked on a bunch of them in my former business.
    The larger crewed boats from Europe are frequently 24 volts and some older larger boats are still 32 volts ;)
    Also this:
    The rest of the time, you are hanging on a mooring where there is really too much fun stuff to do rather than wasting time talking on a radio.
    KG4DYN likes this.
  6. K1VSK

    K1VSK Ham Member QRZ Page

    I stand corrected. I was referring only to the typical charter fleets like the Moorings, Sunsail, etc...
    KG4DYN likes this.
  7. N3HGB

    N3HGB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Even more fun: You can have both and the wires are not always clearly marked. We even found a boat once with a 120 volt DC system for a big compressor for the holding plates. That would not be good to mistake for 12 volts :eek:
    KG4DYN likes this.
  8. KY5U

    KY5U Subscriber QRZ Page

    1. Ask your questions well before your charter about "can I", "is 12v available to me?", "can I set up an antenna?"
    2. Ask about the boat's SSB. Many marine units can operate on the ham bands which save you big issues.
    3. Bring a copy of your license. If you visit foreign ports check ahead for licensing requirements.
    I did marine electronics work for several years as a tech including installs. The marine environment is different than most others due to salt water, grounding, electrolysis, power, antenna construction limitations, fit and finish issues...
    KG4DYN likes this.
  9. KA0GKT

    KA0GKT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Remember, if you are aboard a foreign-flagged vessel, Amateur operations will, when in international waters, be under the Amateur Radio rules and regulations of the country under which flag the vessel sails. When you are in the territorial waters of another country, your operations fall under that country's jurisdiction.

    In short, you will need to obtain reciprocal privileges for the country in which the ship is flagged and every port of call plus any country who's territorial waters the ship might transverse durring it's voyage.
    K2XT, N4QX, KG4DYN and 1 other person like this.
  10. KG4DYN

    KG4DYN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thank all of you for the responses. I really appreciate the input. I just think it would be neat to make a few contacts as a maritime mobile. I have portable equipment that would allow qrp and higher power operation. Not a top priority for me, just an interest.

    Thank everyone again! 73

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