SSB Receiver only
If you are thinking about going cruising in the Bahamas or Caribbean you may want to have a Single Sideband radio aboard. This would allow you to listen to radio nets and broadcasts for weather. I would also allow you to talk to other boats further away than VHF range of about 25 miles. If you pair the radio up with a Pactor modem, you can get email and weather grib files downloaded to your laptop. You’ll need an insulated backstay, a subscription to an email service, and more than anything, a lot of patience and good hearing ability. If you are a long term live aboard all this might make make sense for you.
However, if you are cruising now and again for just months at a time and do not want to invest thousands of dollars, here is an option for you. Buy a portable radio that can receive SSB broadcasts. We don’t have SSB on our boat, but we can listen to everything the boats with SSB hear. We use it to listen in on the various nets, and weather forecasts. In particular, we use the radio every morning to listen to Chris Parker’s weather forecasts for the Bahamas or the Caribbean. By touching the antenna to the backstay, we get reception as good as most SSB’s. You can buy a radio like this for $50-$100 used on Ebay, or about $150-$200 new or used on Amazon. I use a GRUNDIG YB400PE. The YB stands for Yacht Boy, so you may hear it called a Grundig Yacht Boy radio.
If you really want to download the various weather files from NOAA, you can even do that if you also have a Iphone or IPAD. There is an app by a company called Black Cat Systems call “HF Fax”. It listens to that annoying string of tones and in a few minutes, the files appear on your Ipad screen. Wow, this really works, and costs a fraction of the cost using a full SSB setup. The app only costs $6.99.
To communicate via text message since you cannot talk to people via these radios, you’d probably want to get the new “InReach” device that allows you to text via satellite for $35 per month plus setup and the device cost of about $400. Now you have the ability to communicate to folks via satellite back home. More on that in a future posting.
You can also get all the weather info you need by downloading files via a Sat Phone or the Iridium “GO” device. These work very well but are a little more pricey. The obvious extra benefit to the Sat phone is the ability to call home anytime.
We use a Grundig Radio – Yachtboy YB 400PE. I’ve also heard that the Sony ICF-SW7600GR is a good radio.
PS: If you get the radio and try to listen to Chris Parker early in the AM from Florida, don’t be surprised if you can hardly hear him. He points his antennas towards the Bahamas and then the Caribbean. You need to be over in the areas that he is broadcasting to.