Cruisers Communications
Covering the subject of staying in touch while cruising using Ham Radio, SSB and Email.

E-mail While Cruising

With communication technologies changing so rapidly in the last few years SOME of the information below may be outdated. Internet cafes are sprouting up almost everywhere in the South Pacific/Asia/Caribbean and most of the World. For example one can get fast Internet access even in the remote and tiny island of Niue. We now have better software, faster computers, radios and modems. The Winlink and Sailmail services have matured enough that they both seems to be the choice of most cruisers out there. For those who can afford it the satellite based systems like Inmarsat C, Inmarsat Mini-M, Skycell, Iridium etc. are the most convenient ways to go. It is still expensive to have an HF email system onboard (US$3500+) although using a modified Ham rig can cut the cost in half but it requires more technical knowledge and an Amateur Licence to operate, so for most budget cruisers we still rely on land based Internet cafes for now. One more complexities in our 'simple' cruising life. (March 25, 2003)

Links to Comapnies Offering Maritime Communications Services and Equipment

¥ Farallon Electronics
Specializes in system designs for yachting, marine and industrial electronic equipment and data over HF radio. Excellent and unbiased information on setting up Email on boats. Pactor modem dealer.
¥ Ham Radio Email
¥ Welcome to the Amateur Radio Web Server
¥ W2X0 Home Page
¥ BT C-Sat & BT C-Club Services
¥ Maritel Marine Communications System
¥ C. Crane Comapny
¥ Universal Radio
¥ Ham Radio Outlet (HRO)
¥ WOJOBILL and the NorthWest Boaters Net
¥ H.F. On Board
Discussion on selecting marine HF radio for email onboard but biased towards products that they sell.

WINLINK! 2000 Homepage.:

Winlink 2000 Utilizes enabling technologies and sound operating practices to provide a full-featured radio digital message transfer system, worldwide.  Email transfer, position reporting, weather and bulletin services, and emergency communications are now available to the amateur radio community by linking radio to the Internet for free.


SailMail offer Email Services for Yachts via Marine HF SSB Radio. The SailMail Association is a non-profit association of yacht owners that operates and maintains an FCC licensed,two-way, private coast station in the Maritime Mobile Radio Service. The Association provides radioprinter (e.g.Internet email) communications for its members on a cooperative basis. Subscriptions US$200/year.

Good resources for Maritime Ham Nets. Link to:

For Amateur Radio Maritime Mobile Links, check out:

SSB Frequency List: Prepared by Anna Stockel. SSB LIST

HF and Ham Radio References for radio mods, manuals, service tips etc. (Disclaimer applies) Web Sites:

AC6V's Amateur Radio & DX Reference Guides. FEATURING OVER 700 HAM RADIO TOPICS & OVER 6,000 LINKS. Repository of tips, tricks and modifications of Ham Rigs and Modems. List 725 models of radios and TNC's. Lots of Ham Radio Links.

The ICOM Page - Information about Icom and its products..

Icom Technical & FAQ Page: **Not affiliated with Icom Inc** .

ICOM Service Troubleshooting Guides

Going for your Novice/General HAM License?

The following websites provide questions from the required test question pools and other info on obtaining your HAM license.

AA9Pw - Amateur radio exam practice page. - Information on Amateur Radio

HAM EXAM 2.0 Page - random test generator page

ARRL questions pools

Marine SSB with your Ham rig?
Many Non-US based Sailing Hams have been "clipping" their rigs so that they can transmit on Marine SSB frequencies. If you want to know how to do it check out this web site. (Disclaimer: This is a violation of FCC Rules. Proceed at your own risk.) Radio Mods Database

Want to learn the basics of electronics?
John Adam's excellent and free basic Internet Guide To Electronics Page. Learn multimeter ultra -basics, calculate series, parallel & combo circuits.

Macintosh Ham Software List Page
WD1V Macintosh Ham Software List

More Software Links NEW

 Find Out How To Send E-Mail via Ham Radio
Go to Charles Vollum's Web Page. He actually did it from a Peterson 44 from the Pacific Ocean.

Go to Yacht Reteats Web Page.A review of the methods available to keep in touch whilst cruising in European waters. Email, SSB, Phone, fax etc.

For amateur radio maritime mobile links, check out:

E-Mail in The Abacos

Last year in the Marsh Harbor, Abacos area there was an estimable fellow who would receive and forward e-mail to cruisers via VHF.

For Marsh Harbor send e-mail to with the boat name as the subject. Mail will be posted at Sapodilly's Bar and Grill.

To have e-mail forwarded via VHF, address it to (Man-o-War Marina), again with the boat name as the subject. Man-o-War Marina will anounce any e-mail that they have received on the cruisers net (0815 on channel 68). One can also contact the marina directly on channel 16 request e-mail.

Check out for this plus additional infomation and tips on cruising in the Abacos. Steve.


Obtaining HF Weather Fax reception on a Macintosh computer

Yuri Munkki (a web search will locate him) makes RadFax, a software package for the Macintosh that draws weather fax charts on your Mac screen by converting the audio output data (which is fed thru the microphone input of your Macintosh) from your SSB radio. The program can be downloaded from and the file is called "rad-fax-09.hqx".

Chris Smolinski's Radio Page (WX FAX software)
Chris's Smolinski's Radio Page contains information and some excellent links to Short Wave, Pirate and Amateur Radio sites. If you own a Macintosh and interested in decoding CW, RTTY, FAX, including Weather Fax and more? Then check out Chris's shareware HREF=""> MultiMode!


Although some information below may now be outdated I'll leave them unchanged for nothing more than to remind us how difficult it was just a few years back to setup email on board (March 2003).

Ham Nets



Subject: Re: Ham nets

The Mississauga net can be accessed by US hams using their Bahamian Reciprocal License, while in the Bahamas. Incidently it is necessary to allow at least 8 weeks to process this application, so cruisers planning to enjoy their Ham Radios in the Bahamas in '97, should have sent in their applications, with copies of their US license, a copy of a photo ID, and the $8 check (Cashiers or Money Order as personal checks are no longer accepted). If you are renewing, be sure to send in your original Bahamian License. Send Application to:

BATELCO, Radio License Dept. Attn: Mr. T. M. Devaux
Box N 3048, Nassau, NP, Bahamas

Phone for info: 809-323-4911, ST. 7553

Regarding 14.313 or 300, depends upon interference as to where the Maritime Net meets, but this group is still an excellent means of connecting when you are off cruising. Fuzzy Zulu and his cohorts have not shut the net down yet!

Good Sailing

Sean Holland S/V Spindrift

*************************** (P.F. Coppin) writes:

For those who are interested, there is also a maritime net on 14.121 at about 1100-1200Z. This is the mississauga maritime net primarily set up to serve Canadian boats down south. Normally they are not too snotty but boats have be clear of US territorial waters to transmit to them (14.121 not in US phone bands). If you can work split, they listen about 14.153, ...........


Date: Fri, 25 Oct 1996 11:39:17 -0400 (EDT)

From: Robert Goley

Subject: Re: Radio position reporting


The organization is "Waterway Radio and Cruising Club". It operates every morning at 0845-0945 EDT. That "translates" to every day at 1245-1345 UTC. Please note that is only until 1996- 10-27. Because the Eastern Time Zone (US) changes to "Standard" time from "Daylight Savings" time, on 1996-10-27 and thereafter (till April 1997), I believe the operations shift to 1345-1445 UTC (-0500 instead of -0400). The broadcasts are on SSB, on lower SB at 7268 (kHz?).

In addition, I received the following email addresses:

A phone call may also be made to Fort Myers, Florida, USA. The number is Area Code 941, 590-0949.
Hopefully, the person sailing south next month can find them useful.

Lt. Bob Goley, AP Rockville (MD) PS


PC Onboard

Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1996 10:46:57 -0500 (CDT)
From: Larry DeMers

Subject: Re: Powering PC From Ship's Batteries

I have done some research into the problem of powering the laptop from the ship's batteries. The temptation to design a use-specific circuit and to package it for sale was strong, but then my research proves this to be unnecessary, as there are numerous sources for circuits that will work very well in the application that we have in mind.

A DC to DC converter takes 12vdc (actually 9-18VDC) and applies a switching technique to arrive at a regulated 12 VDC output capable of providing up to 5A to the load. The source that I am looking at right now is Polytron Devices Inc. (201-345-5885)

They offer full input/output isolation; 86% efficiency; short circuit protection; over current protection; epoxy encapsulation; 6 sided shielding against RFI.


Voltage Accuracy +/- 1%
Line Regulation +/- .1%
Load Regulation +/- .5%
Ripple/Noise +/- 50 mVp-p

I would however, add a dual pi output filters to the output. This is to smooth out the ripple content due to the switching circuitry. This is a simple five component circuit, which can be built in place (without a printed circuit board). It consists of 4 capacitors and an inductor.

Sample prices are below: Contact me for more info or to answer questions.

--------- ------- ------- ---------- ---------- -------
25W 2100 KW25-12S12 2.9 X 2.7 $99.00
40W 3400 KW49-12S12 3.9 X 2.8 $104.00
60W 5000 KW60-12S12 3.5 X 5.5 $159.00


Larry DeMers Cray Research Inc/SGI
S/V DeLaMer Dev. Circuits & Components Lab
Cape Dory 30 Sailing Lake Superior


E-mail While Cruising

Date: Sat, 23 Nov 1996 07:48:33 -0800

From: Sean Holland

Subject: Re: Global Wireless

In a previous article, (Dick Guckel) says:

>Mats Fagerstrvm wrote:

>> Preparing for an extended cruise from Sweden to West Indies and onwards I am researching e-mail possibilities from our Lap Top on board. Satellite is too expensive and a sailing yacht is no stable platform for the antenna. GPS telephone is an option in Europe and some other countries, but not far out from land. Globe Wireless are operating a new system for global e-mail through SSB. Does anyone have any practical experience. The cost per e-mail seems to be very high. And how reliable is the system. My SSB is an ICOM M-800 - has anyone tried to use it for data communication or weatherfax?

Mats Fagerstroem Stockholm, Sweden<<


>Hello Mats,

>I have a similar decision to make. After considerable thought I have decided to use land telephone lines either via direct connection or using an acoustic coupler. I am attaching some correspondence from users of these two methods:

Cap'n Dick s/v Charles Ogalin (Vancouver 32)


My new coupler came from a firm in England called TeleAdapt, and I now know they have phone, fax and e-mail numbers in the USA as follows:-

Tel:408-370 5105
Fax:408-370 5110
Compuserve: 72623,706

If you go the coupler route, and find that you too have to dial manually, you will probably also find that your modem refuses to co-operate at first, and maybe a message on the screen saying No Dial Tone, or similar. The answer is to add either X1 or X3 to your modem initialisation string. X1 disables both dial tone detect & busy tone detect; X3 disables only dial tone detect. Both have the effect of telling your modem not to expect a dial tone. In some of my session settings, I have X1, and in others X3 (don't ask me why now!), and I don't even have them in the same places in the strings. It makes no difference - as long as one or other of them in is the middle of the string somewhere, you should find that the modem is no longer expecting to hear a dial tone and goes ahead and emits its tones or pulses anyway. It then waits patiently until it hears a modem (which of course it does after you have now dialled manually, connected to the other modem, and clamped on the coupler).

Timing seems to be important. If your manual dialling results in getting connected before your modem has done its own (now ineffective) dialling, waiting for the other modem long before your manual dialling has usually screw up the other modem). And if your modem finishes and starts waiting for the other modem long before your manual dialling has connected, that too can often screw things up. Recently in Turkey, I could not get results through Istanbul. So I usually went through Greece, and learned to wait 15 seconds after I'd finished dialling Athens manually before I hit Enter to get my own modem started. But if Greece was bad for some reason and I changed to London, I had to hit Enter about half way through dialling London because the London connection went through almost immediately. I got into practice with this eventually, but you can imagine how nights which were bad got worse when I was first discovering it!


Subject: e-mail while cruising

>Hi Cap'n Dick;

We are currently in Chipiona, Spain. Will soon be up the river to Sevilla for the winter.
In reply to your note: I use a Toshiba laptop that runs on batteries or 12 volt or 110AC. Since we have an inverter aboard I usually use AC. When I take the computer ashore, I fully charge the battery ahead of time, and run it off battery power. However, my particular Toshiba has an internal inverter as well, and can use any power source world-wide. I therefore purchased a conversion kit of electrical plugs for countries we plan to visit, so that if I do want to plug in to the electricity ashore I have the correct plug. Also have a portable ink jet printer, runs on batteries or AC.
For the e-mail itself I choose a modem that plugs directly into a telephone jack (will not work on pay telephones). Again, I purchased a convertor kit of phone jacks for countries world wide, since the US phone jack style is not always compatable. The convertor kits for the electrical plugs and telephone jacks are available via a company called Magellan. I found their ad in a laptop computer magazine.
So far plugging directly into phone jacks has not been a problem. Most marina offices let me use their phone line. However, since we do not go into marinas too often, I have to be creative. I take the computer ashore, and look for likely spots - stores,post offices, tourist information centers, cafes, real estate offices, travel agents, etc. Hotels don't work because their lines are usually on a switch board. I explain to the person that I need aprivate line, and what I want to do. I make sure not to disturb their business, since I will tie up the telephone while I am on-line.
I did not buy an acoustic coupler because of the advice of another cruiser. He had big problems, (especially all throughout Europe) because the phone systems in many countries world-wide did not recognize the tones his coupler produced. Also, when attaching the coupler to a pay telephones, you need lots of local coins coins to feed the machine. Often the connection can be lost for want of a coin. To pay for the calls when plugging directly into the wall jack, I set a price with the person whose line it is ahead of time. Many people enjoy watching the process, and have not charged me. Since my laptop also has a speaker, they are amazed when it says "You have mail". Marina personnel seem to understand the concept, and sometimes charge the same rate as sending a fax. Since I am calling a server in the country we are in, the charges are minimal. I have a list of aol world wide servers.
There are other ways of connecting, but as far as I can tell are much more costly than the method I use. One is via a world wide cellular telephone. Purchase the cellular phone, set up the shore account for this phone, and get the modem that works with it. Another method is via SSB or ham radio. Again, set up the shore account, and buy the software and modem to connect to the radio. Aside from the cost of this method, there is also the problem of the tuning and radio reception. The cellular telephone method might be good if cruising one specific area for a long time. We met a USA boat cruising the UK for over a year who purchased a UK cellular telephone and account and used that method - so they had e-mail and telephone as well. Depends onfinances. We aren't that flush.
We have been cruising for about 6 years. I have used e-mail for about a year and a half. It has been worth what we spent for the modem many times over. Before, we called or faxed, and often got answering machines, etc. - or waited while on hold for the person we were calling. I do much of our business by e-mail. The bulk of personal communication is now e-mail. We still like to talk, but arrange the time to call in advance via e-mail -that way no wasted money on answering machines, person not there,etc. It has worked out beautifully, and our long distance telephone bill is almost nil now .
Hope this answers your questions. If I can help with anything else, let me know.<<


Date: Fri, 14 Feb 1997

From: Steve Boadwine

Subject: Ham Radio Gateways to the Internet

Well, I don't know if this will be of much assistance to the non-ham, but here is living proof you can e-mail via amateur radio to the internet and vice versa....

I picked this up from the WEB-the unfortunate thing--he doesn't have an H-F port on his gateway, but I do believe there are gateway operators that do....


The e-mail gateway is for gatewaying e-mail to and from packet radio and is a seperate system from the World Wide Web page packet interface.

The addressing scheme below does NOT apply to the Web page. The Web page uses "normal" packet addresses.

That said ....... Here is the documentation for the E-mail GATEWAY!


1. Get the complete packet address of the station to which you wish to mail.

2. Replace the "@" in the packet address with "%" .

3. Mail to the resulting address, adding ""

For Example:

Packet address to be mailed to:


Mail to:



1. I have to have a callsign or alias in my database for this to work.

2. Mail to that callsign or alias at the internet host ""

For Example:

If W3AAA is in my database as "".


(the mail will be forwarded to "" NON-HAMS get "3rd Party Aliases" like "3PTY01", which will fit in the 6 character space of a ham packet header. These are used just like calls. If you are a non-ham, please ask for a 3rd party alias and I'll give you one.)


E-mail from non-hams to hams, or E-mail from ham to ham through the gateway , where the message enters the packet radio network at W2XO, from a country that does not have a 3RD PARTY TRAFFIC AGREEMENT with the US is illegal and could put my amateur radio license in jeopardy. A list of countries with 3rd party agreements with the US follows. Please don't ask to use the gateway if you are not either in the US or on this list. I regret this policy, but it is US Radio law.

Countries that share third-party traffic agreements:

V2 Antigua/Barbuda / V6 Federated States / HP Panama

LU Argentina / of Micronesia / ZP Paraguay

VK Australia / C5 Gambia / OA Peru

V3 Belize / 9G Ghana / DU Philippines

CP Bolivia / J3 Grenada / V4 St. Christopher/Nevis

PY Brazil / TG Guatemala / J6 St. Lucia

VE Canada / 8R Guyana / J8 St. Vincent

CE Chile / HH Haiti / 9L Sierra Leone

HK Colombia / HR Honduras / 3DA Swaziland

D6 Comoros / 4X Israel / 9Y Trinidad/Tobago

TI Costa Rica / 6Y Jamaica / GB United Kingdom *

CO Cuba / JY Jordan / CX Uruguay

HI Dominican Republic / EL Liberia / YV Venezuela

J7 Dominica / V7 Marshall Islands** / 4U1ITU - ITU,Geneva

HC Ecuador / XE Mexico / 4U1VIC - VIC,Vienna

YS El Salvador / YN Nicaragua


* Limited to special-event stations with callsign prefix GB (GB3 excluded) and informally to stations number on Pitcairn Island (VR6).

** The Marshall Islands are independent, but the FCC currently honors the previous agreement until a formal agreement can be made.

The gateway cannot be used to or from a country not on the above list.

Happy Gatewaying!

-Jim, W2XO
Steve and Jeannie Boadwine

S/V Miss Kate



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