Port Credit Marine Survey
& Yacht Delivery
14. Communications

This can only be covered in the most general terms as technology is changing so fast and I never intended to write a technical manual, this whole series is meant as nothing more than a heads up. On the water of course VHF is your mainstay and the newer DSC models have the added bonus of providing an emergency locating signal directly to the Coast Guard when connected to your GPS and registered. If you have one of these you can register through BoatUS for no cost. As more of these types show up on the water the other main feature of selective calling means you can call a specific boat just like a telephone. You will spend a lot of time on these things talking to lock masters, bridge tenders and hopefully not TowboatUS. Get a good one with high quality sound and donít forget the hailer option.A good hailer is fun for talking and listening to people on shore 100yds away.

Cell phones are great for calling the kids at home and there are very few areas where the signal fades. unless you get a mile or more off shore. Of course they wonít work in the Bahamas but if you really want one you can rent one of theirs. Get informed about the coverage areas of your provider as the patchwork of coverage agreements can be a bit confusing. eg. Rogers did not have coverage in Virginia and we could not call our son in England from anywhere.†I'd suggest looking into buying a cell package south of the border as they are much less expensive than whats available in Canada.

Satellite phones are coming down in price and I have seen them go on E-bay for $500. If you use them to upload e-mails they can be very inexpensive, if you get chatty they can blow the budget.

HAM is terrific for e-mail, conversation, weather and after the initial expense, free. If you are even considering HAM you already know more than I can tell you.

SSB, as with HAM you can buy a transceiver or just a receiver and there are inexpensive e-mail packages available. If you are venturing out to Dry Tortugas or Bahamas you should at least have a receiver as you will often be out of range of VHF weather reports.

Computers, almost every cruiser now carries a laptop or tablet or smart phone with built in WiFi. We found that if we dropped the hook within a half mile of a hotel, condos, marina, or coffee shop we could get on line for free about 3 nights a week over the entire round trip, including Marsh Harbour in the Abacos which was supposedly pay-for-use. The free unsecured signals are slowly diminishing as people begin to secure their signals. Some of these signals are intentionally free ie. hotels, coffee shops even a few entire towns like Elizabeth City, NC and Palatka in Florida and some simply donít require a password. In Annapolis we picked up more than fifty signals and just went through them till we found a free one and got great signals from a coffee shop while anchored off Beaufort NC. The big thing here is your antenna, the ones that come built into you laptop may pick up a signal within a couple of hundred yards but you can buy an external antenna as we did that will work at up to a mile. We bought ours for $30 at Walmart but I have a buddy that built his own for $300 and can pull signals up to about five miles.

Chapter 15. Provisions & Free Supplements.

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