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THE CONS: Ham radios cost about $800
and are dependent upon good antenna
systems and ground planes to perform
well, so the installed cost will easily be
double that. Operators must pass a test
to use a ham radio. No test is required to
operate an SSB, but
marine SSBs are much
more expensive, starting around $1,500,
with an installed cost
of $3,000 or more.
ity is dependent on
tions and solar activity
and the reliability, of
a particular frequency
may vary with the
time of day. There may be times when it
is very difficult to get clear communica-
tions with the desired party. Finally, these
radios consume a fair amount of power, so
if your ship’s batteries go down, the radio
goes down with them.
THE PROS: For fast two-way communications without any limitations on
the information that can be conveyed
between rescuer and rescuee, a satphone is
tough to beat. It allows you to speak firsthand with SAR personnel, continually,
from almost any place on the planet. As
well as relaying location and emergency
information, you can communicate medical situations (and receive instructions
from special-knowledge responders) and
any other pertinent info. You can contact
parties outside the SAR system. Marine
models are rugged and waterproof. Both
portable and fixed-mount units are available, as are extra batteries. That means
you could take the portable with you if
you have to abandon ship.
THE CONS: Most brands of satellite
phones start at around $1,000, although
some cost much more.
You can also rent them
for a trip ( www.BoatUS.
pricey to use. You may
have to buy a monthly
plan, and with many of
them, you’ll also have
to pay $1 or more per
minute of use. Plus, the
Coast Guard doesn’t
have a 1-800-RESCUE-ME number
to call. Different areas are covered by
different regional Rescue Coordination
Centers, each of which has its own emergency line. You can pre-program these
numbers into the phone, but in any
case, a satphone doesn’t create the idiot-proof direct link of units that EPIRBs
and PLBs provide. Finally, most portable
satphones have a fairly limited battery
life and talk time, which may span just
a few hours.
Lenny Rudow is the electronics and fishing
editor for BoatU.S. Magazine and an
editor for Boats.com.
on getting the
most from your
including programming in an