eHam Forums => Elmers => Topic started by: KC0RDG on December 14, 2003, 11:06:26 AM

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 14, 2003, 11:06:26 AM
What does everyone recommend for a ham radio rig on a sailboat?  I would like to keep the cost at $1,500 or below.  If you recommend a radio that is more than that, could you tell me why the radio is worth paying more for it, and what exactly would I get out of spending the extra money.

This would be used by a Extra class license (yes I know I'm only Tech but am going 'all the way').  I am looking to use it for WinLink email, possibly VHF for Coast Guard, etc., and ragchew.  I will be using the SCS Pactor IIPro with the Pactor III protocol.  This radio could include SSB (ie. a ham/ssb all-in-one-radio), but I am also looking at having 2 radios, one for each purpose.  I would be buying this radio within a month or two for use on land for 2-3 years, then moving it and myself fulltime to a sailboat.  Things to think about, use in a marine environment, power requirements, ability to interface with your computer and GPS, accessories, track record for being a good radio and of course the cost/what-you-get-for-your-$ ratio.



Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: WA4MJF on December 14, 2003, 11:28:03 AM
A good Used IC-700 or IC-710 would be good.

Also, SCG makes a nice Marine HF, number excapes me.

What you don't want is the standard Ham HF
radio as first, not comply with Part 87
(memory may fail but I think this Marine)
and it sure won't be weather proof.

Happy Holidaze,


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: AA8LL on December 14, 2003, 12:11:08 PM
Hello Mr. Digital,
  You have given us not quite enough information to answer your question.  I am going to assume that since you're on a budget, you're not sailing off for the south China seas with a dozen paying passengers wanting to make ship-to shore phone calls.
  I would suggest that you get a dedicated VHF boat radio (not very expensive, take your choice) for when you are near land or other boats.  The dedicated marine h.f. radios are expensive and designed to be used by sailors who are not necessarialy "radio heads".  The marine h.f. band uses some odd duplex splits that are tricky to program.  So, I would get an inexpensive ham radio that is easily converted to use the marine h.f. frequencies in a pinch.  The Icom IC-706 MK2G is a good choice.  You can get an automatic tuner to tune up your backstay.  You have a couple of years to learn to use it for all those things you mention.  You will need to keep it dry and I hope your boat has a good cabin.  If you feel you "need" a real marine radio in a few years, you will know it.  I doubt you will.
73 and good sailing,
Wade  AA8LL

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: W1TFM on December 14, 2003, 12:28:24 PM
Hello Elijah,
I would go with advice of Wade AA8LL
The Icom IC-706 MK2G and I would through the Yeasu FT-897 in with it for another choice.
Check the Product Reviews here at on these two rigs. I am sure you will find either of them will be what you need.
The only thing with the two rigs is they do not have an automatic antenna tuner built in. You can buy them as an option. I would check out the SCG Smart Tuner's for your application. Information at this link:
Good Luck and Good Sailing.

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: W1TFM on December 14, 2003, 12:38:41 PM
Post #2
Check out this link:
It is for SCG Marine equipment.

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 14, 2003, 03:35:47 PM
What do you guys think about the Yaesu FT-857?  Would that be a good alternative to the IC-706MKIIG?  How do they differ?  Thanks for your help/input!


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: AA8LL on December 14, 2003, 04:36:25 PM
The reason I suggested the Icom 706MK2G is that I know it works well on frequencies outside the ham bands in the marine bands and has the nice AH-4 tuner available inexpensively.  The small Yaesu rigs seem to be good ham rigs but I have no "out of band" experience with the band pass filters, etc.  Someone else may have experience with them.

73, Wade  AA8LL

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: WA4MJF on December 14, 2003, 04:57:38 PM
The reason I mentioned the IC-700 and IC-710 and
the SGC Marine Radio is that it is LEGAL and meets
the requirements for ocean going vessels.  They
will also work on the ham bands.  I should think that,
if boarded, the USGC would cite you for not
having a proper radio.  I doubt that the IC706*
is on their list of approved radios.

Happy Holidaze,


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: AA8LL on December 14, 2003, 07:40:13 PM
Hi Ronnie,
  I don't usually argue with policemen because you can't win but I'll give it a try.  He isn't required to have any marine h.f. radio unless he's so big, he's carrying passengers for hire.  He can use a ham rig on the ham bands, so that's not illegal.  If he has a true emergency, he can use a ham rig on the marine bands under the emergency provisions.  I would expect he'll be mostly on the 14.300 maritime net or using pactor to get his email.  
   I operated h.f. aeronautical mobile for a transatlantic crossing.  I could get a $12,000 aircraft certified radio (radio for dummies) or use the Icom.  My radio was inspected by the aeronautical authorities in Canada before the crossing.  The inspector said, "I would rather see a converted ham rig that the pilot is familiar with than a T.S.O. rig that the guy can't make work."  During the crossing, I relayed position reports for an airliner that couldn't make contact.
   I would like to hear about any first hand reports about being cited by the Coast Guard.  He could also be struck by lightning.

73, Wade  AA8LL

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: W1TFM on December 14, 2003, 07:42:31 PM
Hi Elijah,
On my post #2 to you. I gave you an incorrect link.
The correct link is:
The link above will take you to an SCG website that has marine rigs etc.

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 15, 2003, 12:51:14 AM
Ok I need to clarify this.

All I'm asking is for a ham radio, for personal use only (ie. no charters, etc), for ragchew, DX, and pactor email.  I am totally willing to spend another $1,500 if needed on a SSB radio to be legal.  I want to be COMPLETELY legal with everything I do in reguards to the radio.  I don't want any questions asked by the Coast Guard, etc.  I don't want to have anything that will give them a reason to stop me or have me remove or change anything or prove that it's not modified, etc.

I am looking for a ham rig that is $1,500 or less that does the above.  IF it can do SSB LEGALLY, and has it built in or I can buy an accessory to add this, then it is something I would be willing to look at.

It seems to come down to the Yaesu FT-857, Yaesu FT-897 and the ICOM 706 Mark II G.  And from what I can tell from the product reviews, all of them seem to have pretty good reviews.  The 857 comes with a free DSP at the moment and a $175 rebate, whereas the Icom DSP comes included standard now but they are adding in free a mobile mount and bracket for the front panel and the remote mount cable and a $20 rebate.  The 897 isn't coming with anything extra but a $200 rebate.  What would be the best bang for my $?

Sorry to drag this on but I am really looking for some honest help.


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 15, 2003, 12:53:43 AM
Oh I forgot to mention, the SG-2020 is NOT an option since it only does USB, LSB and CW and only covers 1.8-29.7 MHz - Full Frequency Coverage.  I would like a little more than that for coverage and modes.

I got that info above from here:


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: N6AJR on December 15, 2003, 01:10:47 AM
ft 847 or a kenwood ts 200, work all from 160 to 10, 6 meters,2 meters, 440 and satalites, am, fm, ssb cw, all band all mode. and in your price range new

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KE4MOB on December 15, 2003, 01:36:39 AM
Quite frankly, I don't think any of the radios you have chosen are ideal.

From what I've seen on the ergonomics of these, they leave a lot to be desired.  It's easy to push a F button, then select a menu item, then turn a knob to adjust, say, the mic gain when sitting at a desk in your basement.  But on a sailboat at sea?  Possibly in a storm?  While wearing, say foul weather gear and gloves?  No way.

You want a no frills, built like a brick outhouse HF rig that is easy to use and dependable (the Icom IC-718, Kenwood TS-430 and Yaesu FT-840 come to mind for SSB/CW work.)  I've owned a TS-450S for years now and it's an excellent rig for digital, CW, and SSB work, minus the receiver shortcomings.  

And yes, to transmit on at least Marine VHF the particular radio has to be type-accepted, so a HF/VHF radio with a "clip job" won't meet you will need a separate Marine VHF.  Besides...what happens if your HF/VHF rig goes south while at sea and then you have to contact the Coast Guard on Channel 16 coming into port?  Uh-oh...

I would also consult with John, KA4WJA.  He used to post here on the Elmers section, and is very knowledgeable about HF installation on sailboats.  His email is on his profile, and to check on some of his opinions, go to the forum main page and type "sailboat" into the search box.

Hope this gets you to thinking.

Steve, KE4MOB

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: WA4MJF on December 15, 2003, 10:21:42 AM
The radios I mentioned are within your
budget or just a bit more.  Used IC-700/710
are under a grand at HRO, AES, etc.

I'm not sure the cost of the SGC (NOT
the 2020).

Happy Holidaze,


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KA4WJA on December 15, 2003, 08:56:34 PM
I can give you the factual answers, as well some advice.....

First, you cannot use a ham rig for your Marine VHF radio.....
Not only is it illegal, but most vhf ham rigs do NOT have the oscillator capability to actually transmit there, or at least have little power output....
NOT TO MENTION, that the FM deviations specs are different!!!!!

Just resign yourself to having a dedicated Marine VHF radio on board, and forget whatever pipe dream somebody tried to convice you of!!!!!!

{Steve, KE4MOB, Thanks for the plug!...}

NO MATTER WHAT I SAY, NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE ELSE TELLS YOU.....PLEASE REMEMBER THAT IT IS THE "installation" of the Marine HF station (whether Ham or Maritime), that will make it work properly or not.......
do NOT SKIMP on installation!!!!
If you are NOT absolutely positive that you can do it all correctly, PAY A PROFESSIONAL to do it!!!!!

 PLEASE do not take offense at anything I write here, sometimes my sense of humor doesn't get through on a keyboard........and sometimes I'm just trying to drive a point home VERY hard, so that you and your family/friends will be with us for many years to come.....

You're obviously very anxious and ready to go, but my first piece of advice is to slow down just a little bit, do some research, ask questions (just like you're doing now), and we'll try to help you out.....

I'd NOT recommend a used Marine HF rig, NOR a used Ham HF rig for your use at sea.......
Buying something "used" that you may end up relying on to save your life, is just an all around BAD idea!!
Having said that, the Icom M-600 and M-700 have been off the market for quite a while, and I'd not even consider them......(also neither can provide an easy, nor reliable PacTor set-up...)

Also, I'd NOT recommend a ham rig for use on Marine HF frequencies (Marine SSB or SailMail/PACTOR)......
As you've already been told, it is ILLEGAL.....but just as important, are the differences in the designs and intended uses.......
The list could go on and on.....but just a few facts are:
1) use of gold-plated connections and weather-proofing on circuit boards on marine rigs....NOT on ham rigs...
2) use of sealed or gasketed cases and microphones on marine rigs.....NOT on ham rigs....
3) rugged and vibration usable designs on marine rigs...NOT on ham rigs....
4) Accurate and Stable frequency control on marine rigs.....possibly not the case with ham rigs...
5) ability to "interface" (NEMA 0183 and 2000) marine rigs with other equipment on board....NOT so with ham rigs...
6) ease of operation in emergencies and/or by "untrained" persons with marine rigs....NOT with ham rigs.....
7) ease of frequency control using an SCS PTCIIPro modem with just about any of the Marine HF rigs....and probably NOT so with the ham rigs.....
(whether "sailmail" or "winlink2000")
8) It is a myth that "real" commercial Maritime HF rigs cost a lot........they do NOT!!!!
You could get a Icom M-710 for about $130 under your budget.......
Etc, etc. etc.........................................

{Anyone that recommends a cheap ham rig as "just as good" as a well made commercial Maritime HF rig....has most probably never been offshore in a blow......and certainly never operated an HF rig in such conditions!!!}

Icom, Furuno, SEA, SGC, as well as some Australian made HF rigs (forgot the manuf. name), and some European made rigs (Sailor, etc.),  are ALL well made and reliable HF rigs to have on board......

Some of these manufacturers, and some specific models do some things better than others......
(Some are rather nice to use on the Ham bands, and some are not...)

In years past it was common for offshore sailboats to have 2 separate HF stations, one for Maritine SSB (or RTTY)  and one for Ham radio......
This was primarily due to the fact that all of those older Marine HF rigs (prior to mid-1980's) were CRYSTAL controlled and operated on just those exact channels that they had crystals installed for......
That meant NO HF Ham radio operation!!!!
So, sailing hams needed a seperate HF ham rig, if they wanted to operate on the ham bands.....

{I myself sailed in the Med and across the Atlantic on a sailboat with a SGC-714 "Intercontinental One" (crystal-controlled) Marine HF SSB,  AND my own personal Drake TR-7 Ham rig......(that was the late 1970's and early 1980's)
Both fixed mounted, both with their own antenna and antenna coupler ("tuner").......
This is NOT common any more....and although I'm a real "radio fanatic", even I might not do it like that again.......}

I doubt that you've really thought through the complexity and cost of 2 separate dedicated HF stations on ham and one Marine........
Yes, it is possible, but not very practical!!!!!!

The simple solution is to use an HF Marine rig that is both capable of use on the Ham bands, AND EASY to use on the ham bands........

AND, in your case a rig that can run PACTOR II  and III without problems.....(that includes proper interfaces/connections, proper IF bandwidth, and adequate duty cycle capabilities......)

Using all of those crieria, we get a list of the following radios:  (in order of MY preferrence)
1)  Icom  M-802,
2)  Icom  M-710 (with 500hz IF filter),
3)  Furuno FS1503EM,
4)  Icom M-700PRO,
5)  SEA 235,
6)  SGC 2000, (with "power talk" head / VFO)

The cost of an M-700PRO and AT-130 (remote antenna coupler) is less than a IC-706IIG with a hi-stability option (TXCO ???) and AH-4 tuner.....
So why anyone would recommend such a crappy ham rig versus a REAL Commercial Maritime HF rig is beyond my comprehension......

The M-802, M-710 (w/500hz filter), FS1503EM, M-700PRO (w/500hz filter), and SEA 235 are all pretty much "PACTOR ready".......(but actually making it work like, "plug 'n play".....takes a little work....but the M-802 is almost totally "plug 'n play" with a SCS PCTIIPRO modem with PACTOR III software...)

The Ham radio "ease of operation", can be summed up in 2 ways:
1) VFO control of frequency, and
2) control of other functions such as RF Gain, CW operation, etc...

The M-802 is probably the easiest (opinions due vary)...
It can be vfo tuned, and allows you to use one of the main knobs as a "tuning rate" control (mhz, 100 khz, 10khz, 1khz, 100hz, etc.), and the other main knob is the VFO which tunes in those steps selected by the other knob.......(tuning both transmit and receive freq. at the same time....)
The M-802 also allows adjustment of the receiver's RF Gain.....which is NOT common for a Marine HF rig, but is a very nice and commonly used control on ham rigs.....
The M-802 is based on the IC-756ProII......DSP based, DDS, etc......and is the "newest" technology available in an HF Commercial / Maritime Transceiver....
The M-802 sells for about $1750
The AT-140 remote antenna coupler sells for about $435.
(totaling approx. $2185)

The M-710 (factory stock, without the "factory approved" mods) is not that easy to use with "VFO control" on the ham bands, but there are easy to add (eprom) mods that does allow very easy "vfo control" on the ham bands.......
And the M-710 also allows for adjustment of the receiver's RF Gain....
The M-710 sells for about $1385
The AT-130 remote antenna coupler sells for about $399
(totaling approx. $1785)

The Furuno FS1503EM, is sold WITH its remote antenna coupler for about $1950
It is very easy to use on the ham bands, good vfo control.......
And it is very rugged, and very well made!!!
(rubber gasketed cabinet, with NO in/out ventilation, etc...)

The M-700Pro is also built well....very heavy duty....and does have a "vfo control" for use on the ham bands.....
The "guts" of the rig are superb, but the "green" display and limited controls make this more of a "get it done" radio than a "have fun while operating" radio.....
(not sure if that makes sense....but what the heck....)

SEA and SGC make some nice gear as well.....
The SEA 235 is a nice rig, but not as "easy to use" on the ham bands, and is not rated for "100% duty cycle operation" such as you might be limited to 10 minutes on transmit followed by 10 minutes of receive/cool down......
The SGC 2000 with their "power talk" head does have vfo control for easy ham band use, but it is not rated for 100% duty cycle either.......and, while I DO like the company (SGC) their SGC-2000 is a fairly OLD design and is NOT highly recommended......
(Note that the SGC-2000 is a commercial/marine HF rig.....the SGC-2020 is NOT a marine hf rig.....)

You can purchase any of these rigs (Icom, Furuno, SEA, SGC, etc.) with remote antenna couplers......and also with an SCS PACTOR modem......and you'll typically get a better price with it all in a "package deal"...

Elijah, if you really want to operate on the ham bands while at home (on land) for the next few years....and then moving on board.....perhaps the ultimate solution would be to buy an inexpensive ham rig now (maybe a new IC-718, or an inexpensive used ham rig).....and equip your boat according to your actual needs and desires, when you get on board in a few years......
Instead of trying to buy one radio now, that you can use now, and also be exactly what you need in a few years......
Perhaps??????  Perhaps not??????
I need more info from you, before I could answer that!

Okay, I know that I probably missed a few things....but if you get in touch with me directly, I can answer your questions much more effectively.....

Also, you may wish to read over some info on Marine HF radio systems, etc.....
(check out
Don is a great guy....but just don't "wine"....he hates "winers"......

I hope that I helped....
Please let me know....

John,   KA4WJA

P.S.  Not sure what coverage you think you need....since ALL marine MF/HF takes place between 2mhz and 25.5mhz........and all of our ham MF/HF takes place between 1.8  and 29.7mhz.......

VHF marine NEEDS it own radio!!!!  (156mhz-162mhz)
You cannot use a vhf ham rig for vhf marine!!!!

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 15, 2003, 11:19:03 PM
Thanks John!!

You provided me with LOTS of info and DETAILS!  I love both!

In looking at what you said, I think your right.  I will just have to get something cheaper to use on land for now and then sell (or keep) it when I do move onboard.  Partly because I think some things will change in time before I go (Pactor IV?) so I think your right in this aspect.  I also have no issues with using 2 seperate radios for SSB and Ham.  I feel a little uneasy with 1 radio doing everything...what if it goes out?  Sure I'll have a handheld backup maybe but still...

I am not 'rushing' into me.  I have been looking at sailing/living aboard for over a year now and have about 10 live aboard/sailing book under my belt and subscribe to a live aboard magazine ( and also Cruising World.  I am the type of person to totally research something and get as many opinions as I can and find out something before I 'jump' into it.  Needless to say, you are very correct about the whole installation on the sailboat.  I have been looking into that.  My main question with the whole setup is, I guess most people use the backstay as the antenna and wire up a tuner to it.  My question is, is that the best?  My 2 concerns are, what if you are de-masted? and is the angle the best for an antenna use?  What about doing a inverted-V using both stays?  Also, I am wondering what you think about a long wire being 'dragged' behind as a ground instead of the traditional plates or something in the water.

Thanks so much for your help!

I'd rather be sailing,

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KA4WJA on December 16, 2003, 01:47:08 AM
When a wrote "slow down a little", I did NOT mean slow down your desire to sail, nor living aboard......rather I meant slow down a little before buying an HF rig...whether Ham or Marine.....
I'm sorry I didn't make that clear!!!

One or two words of general advice:
To most in the sailing world,
1) the term "SSB" is used to refer to HF (High-Frequency) Maritime Radiotelephone Communication........and
2) the term PACTOR is used to refer to sending and receiving e-mail while at sea, either via "sailmail" or WinLink2000.....
BUT, in the Ham Radio world:
 1) the term "SSB" means exactly what it says "Single Side Band", which is simply a generic mode of voice communication, no matter what band/freq.
 2) and PACTOR is simply a mode of digital matter what band/freq, no matter what you are communicating.....

The reason I mention those things, is that there are some hams that will give you a hard time if you do not use the proper terminology.........these are the same guys who complain to their homeowners assoc. about their neighbors all the know the type...the ones that can't seem to get along with anybody, but of course they are always correct and everyone else is wrong.......
Nothing to be worried about....just to be aware of!

I wrote "perhaps" you might wish to get a inexpensive ham rig for now.....and then equip your boat as necessary.....BUT.....
There are a LOT of variables to consider......many of which have nothing to do with radios.....
BEFORE you make your decisions, you should take into account exactly what type of operating you'll be doing (both on land, and at sea) well as other things such space available for your station(s), size of boat, type of rigging, amount of battery capacity, etc. etc. etc.... the list goes on and on... (hundreds of variables)
Don't forget, what doesn't interest you at all today might be of great interest to you in a year or two....and what interests you today, might not be of much interest to you at all in a year or two......

If you're looking at a BIG 60'-70' offshore boat (Sundeer or Dashew, etc.) then JUST MAYBE you could consider two separate HF stations (one Ham and one Maritime)....
BUT, I suspect that your boat will be a more typical size / I'd NOT recommend that you plan on 2 separate stations.....
NOTE: I'm using the word "stations" and not "radios"....... If you really think you need 2 HF rigs on board, (probably NOT necessary at all) you may wish to have one station and a "back-up radio".....NOT 2 separate stations......

As far as further technological advances.....that is always a possibility, but do not let future advances keep you from buying a rig.....
If we all did that, there would be NOBODY on the air, since we'd all be waiting for the newest, and greatest!!!
(don't hold your breath for PACTOR IV.....)

Your comment about a "handheld backup", is confusing....since there are NO handheld HF Marine rigs.....and the little FT-817 is kind of a novelty rig, certainly NOT the rig I'd use a "back-up"!!!

If may be so bold to suggest you need to actually see and use some of this gear, before you'll totally understand what it is I'm refering to.....

Again, I suggest you do a LOT more homework before you decide on any rig......ham or marine......
As a new ham, it is not unheard of to spend YEARS "learning" ham radio.....upgrading your license....understanding antennas and radio propagation.....building antennas......building a station......buying/trading rigs.....etc. etc......
(unless you get really lucky, you'll typically find that what you "think" you want now....will be totally different than what you need/want a year or two from now........and that, in and of itself, is one heck of a good reason to "slow down a little bit"......which means, don't make a decision on what rig to buy this week.......)

What happens if your one rig "goes out"????
Not much......
You may not be able to get your e-mail, nor check into a cruisers net, etc....
But, unless you also lost your 406mhz EPIRB, I doubt that you'd EVER find the loss of HF communications to be life threatening......NOT at all.....
(Remember, all you REALLY NEED is a good magnetic compass and some paper charts, and you can sail the world..........everything else is luxury.....some may argue that point, but I've never needed to "re-boot" my charts, nor have I found myself steering in circles because of electrical long as I don't live for another 100,000 years, the earth's magnetic field should still be there....and as long as I can read, the charts will still work!!!!
Radios are nice!!!  They are fun!!!! But they are not necessary.......

(Simply keeping handy, a portable, battery powered, shortwave receiver, w/BFO, will give you access to Offshore / Hi-Seas weather matter what happens to your HF station, ham or marine)

Use of the backstay is not only "common", but it is a VERY good antenna!!!!!
And, yes, it is typically the "best" antenna you can get on board a sailboat......
Please do NOT take seriously some of those articles showing "inverted v's" on sailboats with enclosed angles of 40 to 50 degrees......they might make a "good match" (low swr), but they are LOUSY antennas!!!!  (remember that a dummy load / resistor also makes a good match, but are also LOUSY antennas.....)
The fact is that a long vertical antenna, operated over a good ground (the only ground better than sea water would be a world covered with copper sheeting!), is without a doubt one of the BEST long distance HF antennas in the world!!!!!
There are many hams that would LOVE to have a tall vertical antenna over a "perfect ground" such as sea water......and there are many hams that TRY to achieve that in their backyards.......when we sailors get such a super antenna (and "perfect ground") for free, from the backstay and the sea water!!!!!!

Dis-mastings do happen, and when it does you may want to communicate with someone....USCG, etc.....
Which is why you NEED to know how to rig a "back-up" or emergency antenna........
There are some that also mount a 23'-35' whip at the stern, and if needed they simply connect it to their existing antenna tuner ("coupler")......OR, there are also some that rig that whip directly to their "back-up" rig......therefore allowing for "redundancy"....
BUT, the BIG PROBLEM with either of those set-ups is,
what caused the dis-masting in the first place (being knocked down or rolled, is typically the cause), probably will rip off that stern whip as well!!!!!
So, you lose TWO antennas instead of just one!!!!

So, what to do??????
Be prepared!!!!
Be prepared to rig a "back-up antenna"....whether it is simply a section of the backstay that you've salvaged, another wire antenna that you've prepared ahead of time, or a "back-up" whip antenna stored below decks......(such a "back-up whip" could be anything from a homebrew antenna, to a store-bought short whip designed just for this "emergency use", like an "outbacker"....)

But, don't be scared of losing your HF antenna if you're're going to have a LOT more important things to worry about than checking your e-mail....Hi, hi....

You're not the first to ask about trailing a ground wire.....NOT sure where that gets started, but the answer is: NO....
Ground your tuner properly, use a Dynaplate or similar direct LOW-INDUCTANCE RF ground connection to the sea water!!!!!
Do NOT believe that there are easy ways out of these things.....if there were, it would be "easy"...Hi, hi...

Also, your comment about getting as many opinions as you can, could be troublesome......
Getting different opinions, and especially the explainations of "WHY" a particular opinion is being offered as valid, is fine.......
But, PLEASE remember "opinions" are like "a------s".... everybody has one.....that doesn't make anyone better than anyone else.........just diiferent!!!!

Whatever you use, whatever your desire, ALWAYS REMEMBER IT IS YOUR DECISION, AND NOBODY ELSE'S......
So, you NEED to LEARN the facts and make your own decsion, NOT simply compile opinions and see which one has the most "votes".......
LEARN about radio communications, radio wave proapgation, antenna design, as well as where and what you'll need to communicate to while at sea......
And you can make your own desions on what's best for you!!!!

While that advice applies to many things in life, it applies VERY heavily to areas in which your life (and/or the lives of your friends/family) is in your hands, LITERALY........

One of the great feelings in life, is standing a night watch alone, a 1000 miles from land, with just you, the wind in the sails, and the sea below........
I still get a thrill everytime I go offshore.....
You know the old saying:
"Give me a tall ship, and a star to steer her by!"

(Yeah, I do own and use a sextant......But I don't rely on it for basic navigation....simply for fun nowadays, since GPS is cheap and reliable....)

Okay, enough of my ramblings.......

John,    KA4WJA

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: VA7MGK on December 16, 2003, 02:54:44 PM
I spent 5 years cruising with an Icom 735 ham radio and AH2 tuner.  I also had a Kam+ and a weatherfax demodulator for the computer.  I have absolutely no complaints with this set-up but if I were to do it again I would have a SSB/Ham radio combined.  There are many SSB cruising nets as well as ham nets.  Also, you can purchase an excellent VHF marine radio for about $250(Canadian).

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 16, 2003, 03:19:39 PM
lol thanks John, i dont mind your ramblings...I enjoy them.  Do you know of any good websites that have resources for the ham radio operator living aboard?  Just curious.

By backup, I meant a small handheld VHF radio as a backup.  Or another cheaper ham rig to use in case my main radio fried.  If I have a SSB/Ham radio combo, if the radio dies, then I don't have either SSB or Ham capability.  Yes, I know you can survive without a radio but I am one of those non-purists! hehehe  I will be learning the ways of the sextant however.  It looks as I will be using the backstay as the antenna and I will be using a Dynaplate or something along them lines.  I am also looking to get a whip antenna on the back, mounted along with the GPS, radar, lighting detector, etc.

I am going to get the Yaese 857 with the Atas 120 antenna for now.  I should be able to use the 857 and the 120 on the sailboat and on my roadtrips and at the townhouse we are getting this spring.

Thanks for your advice/help and any further resources/websites/books you can recommend would be greatly appreicated.


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: AA8LL on December 16, 2003, 09:27:35 PM
Ok, Mr. Digital
  You have received all this advice.  Who was it recommended the Yaesu ATAS-120 antenna?  I wanted you to get a rig you could use NOW but an antenna would be good too.
  73 and good luck

Wade  AA8LL

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 17, 2003, 02:01:13 PM
Well it was partially a guy at the local ham store here, reviews on on the Atas-120 and needing something to cover lots of bands while living in a townhouse or apartment (and thus not having alot of space to put up an antenna).  I think its expensive but I can use it on our roadtrips in the car, and in the limited space I have at the apartment and soon townhouse.

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: AA8LL on December 17, 2003, 03:42:50 PM
  You're in Minnesota for gosh sakes!  Can't you find a place where you can put up a wire!  I'm sorry for picking on you but that cute little antenna is about the least efficient thing you can find.  There is much on this site about condo and mobile antennas and "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do".  I hope you can get a chance to use your rig with a big antenna to hear what you're missing in the R.F. "Black Hole" of the mid-continent.  Main thing is to have some fun on the radio.  Listen for me from some Lake Erie Lighthouses during the "Christmas Lights" contest.  My "mobile" antenna is 35 feet tall (but I have to take it down to move!  Hi! It takes about 5-minutes.)

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 18, 2003, 12:26:35 AM

what what do you recommend for living in an apartment or townhouse?!

Just because I'm in Minnesota doesn't mean a) That I enjoy it b) Cold weather is any better for propagation c) That I live in the boondocks.


Let me know what antenna you would think would work.


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: AA8LL on December 18, 2003, 12:41:22 PM
OK, you're not in St. Olaf.  Too bad!  This is partly an electro/mechanical problem and mostly a philosophical problem.  What is important to you (priorities) and who decides where you live (economics, cajones)?  I know the carrot is the sailboat but the next 2 or 3 years are important as well.  

For satisfying h.f. operation you need to get a wire outside in the trees or between buildings.  It can be almost invisible but someone always sees you putting it up.  (Where were they when the thieves were breaking into your car?)  If that is not possible, then at least a ground mounted vertical about 30 ft or so high that you can take down if necessary.  If your "town house" is too restricted for that, then it's just not a good place to live.  Granted, that's just my opinion.  Lots of guys operate with attic antennas and QRP and more power to them.  It's just too rough a road to hoe for someone getting started on h.f.

Here is what I use for portable operation:

It does require an antenna tuner but can be taken to the park if the townhouse won't allow it even part time.  Of course a wire in the trees is even cheaper but I find this to be effective for me even if there are no trees.  That price does not include the required 33 ft mast:

I wouldn't try to leave this up all the time; it's not that heavy.  There are lots of new automatic tuners available and while I haven't tried it, this little guy from LDG looks interesting:

A better choice for "wires in the trees" and sailboat backstays would be something from SGC.  I like and use the Icom AH-4 (and also the AH-3) but since you have decided on Yaesu, they would not be appropriate.  There are lots of manual tuners that will do the job as well but at 100 watt levels the automatics make changing bands quick and easy.

If you want some specific recommendations for wires for your property, we will need a good plot map and lots of photos.  Hi!  Do you suppose we could put up a tower and a beam?

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 18, 2003, 04:39:52 PM
I live on the first floor corner with a balcony.  We aren't on the ground level...our balcony is like 15 feet off the ground.  In front of our place is a tall pine tree (oh no SAP!).  The tree isn't in front of the balcony.  If you stood on the balcony, it would be about 15 feet left to the corner of our apartment, around that corner about 5 feet and about 10 feet from the building is the tree.  Our front living room window faces the tree.  When you say wire, do you mean just standard copper wire?  I could run it off the balcony around the apartment corner and up into the pine tree.  It isn't a straight shot to the tree from the balcony.  What length should the wire be?  I don't mind getting a tuner, I was looking at the Z-100 as a possiblity.

The Atas-120 solves all this by just mounting to my balcony railing.  If you read the reviews of the 120, a guy made a contact in Japan while it was in the back of his pickup truck...


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: AA8LL on December 18, 2003, 10:00:31 PM
You really need a local Elmer to scope out your site.  There could be a second tree somewhere that could support a really good wire antenna.  Yes, you would use a plain, stranded, insulated, copper wire.  Home Depot or Lowe’s or most any building supply or electrical supply store sells an inexpensive wire in 500 ft rolls for about $10.  I would suggest 12-guage, stranded, in black insulation.  You can buy better (as in longer lasting and stronger) wire from the Wireman or Cable Experts but you only need it to last a couple of years.

If you can put up a dipole (or even a "fan" dipole), you can measure the wire for the frequencies of interest.  If we are just going over to and up the tree, just use as much wire as it takes.  If it's just 30 feet, it will be better than the ATAS-120.  If you can get out 50-100 ft, so much the better.  If you are using the LDG coaxial tuner, you will need their 4:1 balun for a "random wire" and you will have plenty of wire left over to experiment with "counterpoise."
The ATAS-120 works better as a mobile than it will on your balcony railing.  Yes, if the propagation is right, you can work the world on a small antenna.  I have actually worked several continents with a "hamstick" dipole in my basement (as in BELOW ground level).  It's kind of like painting a house with a very small brush.  You can do it but....

By the way, how is your license upgrade coming?

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 19, 2003, 12:28:42 AM
Hmmm...that is something to think about.

I'll wait on the antenna but will get the radio this weekend.

License is coming along good.  I'm using Teach (  I have learned q,w,j,l,p,o,s,0,9,8,7,6,1,2,3,4,5,c,u,n,m,a,z, and x.  I am still working on the rest.  I have it set to send the code at 5WPM but character speed is 20WPM.  I have read the General book once through and am going to go back over it in-depth and slower to soak it in.

The antenna you mentioned might work but let me say that there are no other trees close (trust me).  My apartment building is at the end of a culdesac and my balcony faces it.  Our living room faces the parking lot but there is a big pine tree out in front of our living room window off to the corner towards our balcony.  I could easily run a wire from the balcony to the tree but I don't know how I would get it up in the tree high enough.  I don't have a ladder and I'm not at all interested in being covered with sap lol.  Let alone, I don't think the complex people want me in it.  Also, if I did run it horizonatally over to it, I would have to end feed it off my balcony but then I think that would result in it being horizonatally polarized...something I don't think I want.  I should take some quick pics in daylight and post them on a webpage so you could see what I'm talking about.  I have my neighbors balcony above mine so I can't do anything to high that would interfere with them.  I do go on roadtrips so I could use the 120 on them too, so it wouldn't be a total lost cause.


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KE4SKY on December 19, 2003, 10:28:04 AM
A used SGC2000, Yaesu-Vertex System 600, or older pre-ALE Motorola Micom Series commercial HF which is type accepted for HF marine use, which is frequency agile and also legal for use on the ham can he had in your price range, if you shop around.

I have two older 120-channel, Micom-X, 2-18 MHz HFs which I got used for under $100 which only needed the Li backup batteries replaced and minor adjustment to get them up and running.  Better for your use would be one of the newer models which have an extended frequency range from 2-30 MHz.

ICOM and Kenwood also make Marine-SSB radiotelephones which also work on the ham bands, that you may find on the used market for close to the price range you seek.

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: EA4XK on December 21, 2003, 11:22:08 PM
I have got an FT 897 on my 42 sloop Danny blue a Bavaria central cockpit sail boat.

Dealer modified tranceiver to operate on the marine band. It is much sensitive and powerful than any marine band transceiver I have got before.

I´m using the N connector output to my Marine antenna and the PL connector to my short wave antenna a modified hamstick for 20 meters.

I have programmed the marine band channels on memory banks plus the ham maritime mobile and wefax frecuencies on separate banks

I´m very satisfied with this rig. It is shock proof military style, good reception, I´m now ordering the W4rti 10 pole collins filter to upgrade SSB reception.


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 22, 2003, 09:45:32 AM
What setup do you use for Weather Fax?

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: VA7CPC on December 22, 2003, 01:19:54 PM

I'm essentially in your position -- leaving for MExico (and wherever) next fall in a 36' sailboat.

I have an Icom IC-706 mkIIG on my desk, SCS PTC-IIex modem next to it, with a manual MFJ 901B tuner.  DX-EE multi-band dipole is strung over the garage.

I have an SG-230 auto-tuner on the boat, waiting for installation.  I'll move the IC-706 on board in the spring, and take the MFJ 901B as a backup tuner with some spare dipoles.

I had no "interface problems" with SCS modem and IC-706 -- I've tested WinLink and done a few weatherfax receptions with JVComm32.  There's a standard cable available from SCS for the IC-706.

Lots of trucks are riding around with IC-706's in them -- I'd put a truck up against a boat any day as a "hostile environment".

While marine radios may claim enhanced corrosion resistance, corrosion damage on Icom marine gear is _not_ covered by warranty.

I have only heard one reliable story about serious (adverse) consequences caused by a ham radio "opened up" to work on marine frequencies, and that happened in Australia a few years ago.

Yes, there are reasons that marine radios cost more than ham radios.   The question is:

    Do those reasons matter enough for you to pay
    the premium price?

If you run an IC-706 in digital modes (PSK31, Pactor, etc), you should run it at half-power or less.   That will get you _plenty_ of range.

I was considering an IC-718 myself -- nice radio, and less "menu-oriented" that the 706.  Decided on the IC-706 because there are _so many of them_, and thought the VHF coverage might be useful.

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: VA3API on December 22, 2003, 02:12:38 PM
I have a Macgregor 26X Sailboat.  I am using the Icom 706MKIIG with a long wire up the mast with the AH-4 tuner.  I had the mod done on so I can also use this rig for Marine (receive) use (yes I have a VHF Marine license) and the Family Radio Service. The FRS frequencies come in handy when we race or have regattas with my sailing club and don't want to use the Marine Bands.  I can also listen on the aircraft bands which come in handly when I take the boat to the air show at the Toronto Ontario Place which is a big boating event in the summer. The only thing I worry about is the rig getting stolen this is my biggest concern. I often wish I had a cheaper used rig (that would do all the same things) but would not sting so much if I got it stolen.

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KA4WJA on December 22, 2003, 04:52:47 PM
Hello again.....
(Wow, I've been away for a couple of days and this topic has really gotten popular!)

I don't wish to throw any cold water on anyone.....Nor do I dispute that the IC-706, FT-897, FT-857, etc. are usable rigs......for their intended purpose (Ham, etc.)

And, if you're a ham on a budget (aren't we all!!!), and also a sailor....AND you wish to do some casual hamming while enjoying sailing, then a ham rig onboard is a decent option........(actually VA7MGK's IC-735 is VERY popular and a nice rig for sailing hams!!) and I'm sure that EA4XK is finding his rig is working fine, and VA7CPC will find his to work as well.....
So, good wishes to you all!!!!

BUT, IF YOU INTENDED USE IS FOR LONG-RANGE COMMUNICATIONS (SSB, PACTOR.....USCG, etc) while sailing OFF-SHORE / HI-SEAS (Atlantic/Pacific crossings, etc.), or in extreme enviroments (Off-Shore Races, Southern Ocean, etc.)........
and/or its PRIMARY function is that of a "safety device".....
Then there is NO question in my mind that you DO NOT want a "ham rig"!!!!
ESPECIALLY a small/compact "menu-driven" one that is difficult to set-up or operate for non-technical people, and is all but impossible to use with gloves on (as well as polarized sunglasses ---- LCD display readability troubles...)
And, while you may find that "ham rig" to be "easy enough" to use when at a quiet anchorage, or while on a nice sail in calm waters.......if you end up needing it in an emergency, with your adrenaline pumping, etc. you just might find that it's NOT so easy to use.....and that cause a serious situation to turn to a dire one.....where lives are at risk.....
(but at least you saved a few hundred dollars...Hi, hi)


PLEASE understand, I'm NOT in the marine electronics business......but with almost 30 years of HF communications experience at sea.....both power and sail.....and both ham and commercial maritime, (operating, installing and repairing) AND with a LOT of that being OFF-SHORE / HI-SEAS, I can tell you that I've sailed with almost any combination of radios/rigs you could imagine (including NONE at all!).........
And, in all of that, AS WELL AS over 20 years of experience in Ham radio on-shore (rigs, antennas, propagation, etc.)....
I TRULY LOVE my ham radio!!!!  I really do!!!!
BUT, for the application(s) that I specified, I'd NOT recommend a ham rig.....but rather, I'd recommend a real commercial Marine HF rig!!!

As far as cost is concerned......

The Icom M-710 w/500hz filter (and factory approved "VFO" Mod allowing very easy "ham band use")
along with the AT-130 Antenna Coupler (remote tuner)
works out to be about $1785.....

And an Icom IC-706MKIIG w/500hz filter (and "hi-stability oscillator")
along with the AH-4 remote tuner,
works out to be about $1320......(PLUS another $50-$80 for mounting brackets)

So there is an approx. savings of $400......(the cost of an Icom M-700Pro w/filter & AT-130 is just about the same as that of an the IC-706 package quoted above!)
Is that $400 well spent????  or Not?????

The answer sort of depends on,
1) What your intended use is.....(can you and others actually USE the rig properly in all conditions that might arise, in/on all bands/freq/channels that you require???)
2) Will you find that your use on the Marine "working channels" (ship-to-ship) would be hindered by NOT having channelized operation available [ham rigs]???
3) Do you wish to use 150 watts output, continuous duty for both SSB and PACTOR [M-710] or....
only 40watts (PACTOR) to 100 watts (SSB) "intermittent duty" [IC-706]????
4) Will you be subject to strong receive signals (in-band and/or out-of-band) and will you put up with the inferior receiver [IC-706].....
5) The IC-706 does require an adapter ($50) to allow you to have computer freq. control if using the PTC-IIPro Modem.....using either WinLink2000 or SailMail....(this, of course, does NOT apply to the PTCIIex modem, since it does NOT have the ability to do freq. control of the rig at all...)  
6) Noise blankers in many ham rigs are fairly useless, or cause so many receiver IMD problems as to render your receiver useless.......but noise blankers are not needed that much at sea, so this may be a moot point....but you'll typically find the noise blankers in Marine HF rigs to actually work (at least a little bit), and NOT cause many receiver IMD problems....

Last, but not least......
Receiver sensitivity, is a non-starter here, since every HF rig (ham or Marine) made within the last 20 years has MORE than enough sensitivity!!!!
Actually many of our beloved ham rigs have TOO MUCH (hence the inclusion of "attenuators" in them!)

On all HF frequencies below say 25-30mhz, the "natural noise" (as well as that which is "man-made") is the limiting factor!!!

I will NOT go into the technical discussion here.....
But, if you wish to prove this to yourself, in a very "low-tech" way.....
1) simply turn on your HF rig, to say, 20 meters or 12mhz Marine Band....WITHOUT an antenna connected
2) Turn up to Maximum, whatever RF gain control there is on the rig.....and set the volume (AF Gain) to a reasonable level......
3) Listen to the receiver's "hiss" or "noise floor"....
4) Then connect an antenna, and listen......

If you noticed an increase in "noise" when you connect the antenna, then the receiver is sensitive enough....AND any further gain added (more sensitivity)
would REDUCE the signal handling capabilities of the receiver, and REDUCE its operating effectiveness......

Hams with HF receivers used with small antennas (Hamsticks, etc.) can sometimes be fooled into thinking that they need a more sensitive receiver, since there are stations that they cannot copy very well........
BUT, that is INCORRECT.......
If the signal isn't getting to the rig with enough of a S/N ratio that allows you to copy it, using a more sensitive receiver will NOT help at all!!!!
And in fact, will usually HURT your ability to copy the signal!!!!  (typically you will introduce more non-linearity into the receiver's stages, etc......causing a LOSS in S/N ratio......exactly opposite of what you want!!)

Okay, enough for now.....

John,   KA4WJA

P.S.  The SailMail shore station use Icom M-710's......running 24hrs./day  365days/yr.......
for what it's worth....

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KA4WJA on December 24, 2003, 04:57:02 PM
I hope everyone reads KC0RDG's more recent posts regarding his new FT-897......its many menus and difficulties with them.......(mostly tied to the operation of the ATAS-120)

It might make you go "hmmmm"....


John,   KA4WJA

Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KC0RDG on December 27, 2003, 01:45:08 PM
it's not that difficult... i'm just extremely impatient and lazy.  the radio doesn't come with the extended menu on, which is kinda stupid, but it was easy to turn on.  also, i took the radio and the antenna in, and it turned out that everything is working...the radio just needed a factory reset and boom, the antenna moves now.  weird how that happened but i can totally understand since most of these newer radios are so computerized and such.

anyway, i can hardly say that the radio is so complex.  personally i love overly complex things because sure they are a b*tch to figure out to start with, but once you are familar with them/it, you fly through it and not only that, but you have alot of options to work with.


Title: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: KE6PIB on January 08, 2005, 10:18:32 PM
Hi there,

I am Holger Jacobsen, KE6PIB, currently living in Taipei, Taiwan.  I already have a YAESU FT-840 and am thinking of buying a PTC-IIex in order to use Pactor-III with Winlink on a sailboat.  This is just for fun & all I want is short text-based (ASCII) eMail.  Are these two compatible or should I look for something different (& hopefully less expensive ;-) than the PTC-IIex?



Title: RE: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: N1DZT on January 20, 2013, 10:31:04 PM
I just bought an IC 706 mk IIG on eBay for just over $800 and plan to hook it to an AH4 auto tuner.  After asking the same question as you did in the sea of cortez, I got this advice from a round the world cruiser who repairs mobile ham rigs and other electronics gear for a living, moving port to port (sounds like good work if you can get it). He said "Get a 706 mk IIG and you will be glad you did."  I hope he is going to be right!  I'll let you know.   What did you decide, and how did it turn out?  -Jeff

Title: RE: Ham rig for use on a sailboat that's >$1,500
Post by: VA7CPC on January 21, 2013, 12:11:44 AM
This thread is almost 10 years old, and I was one of the original posters.<g>

My IC-706mkIIg lasted very well over 3 years, going down the Pacific Coast.   It was "opened-up" for all-frequency use.   I suspect I've damaged the filters -- it's  fine below 15 MHz, but seems to be unstable for TX above that frequency.

The SG-230 antenna tuner, backstay antenna, and SCS Pactor-III modem all performed admirably.

I think, if I were doing it again, I might use the same setup.   Maybe use an IC-7000 instead (more expensive, with better filtering, but with a history of HF driver failures).

.             Charles