s/y Nine of Cups
Communications Aboard
Unlike sailors of the past, we really do have a better opportunity to keep in touch through
several different forms of communication.  No more "Post Office Bay Barrels" necessary
for us to get a letter home. The advent of the GPS, Internet and ATMs are probably
more of an advantage to cruisers than any other group I can think of and it just keeps on
getting better.  Here’s how we keep in touch when we’re aboard:

VHF – Very High Frequency radio. We have both a handheld version for use while we're
mobile and a console  version at the nav station with remote microphone in the cockpit.
We use the VHF for hailing other nearby boats  and talking with shore when we’re within
a few miles.  It is line of sight and with an antenna on top of the mast, the maximum range
on the sea for us is about 50 miles.

SSB – Single Side Band is a form of high frequency radio transmission that allows long
distance communications…thousands of miles away. We use SSB for net check-ins when
under way, long distance communication with other boats with whom we've set up a call
schedule and for sending and receiving emails and weather.

HAM radio is a form of single side band communications and is used for non-commercial
communication by licensed amateurs. Communication can be voice, digital (e.g. e-mail) or
Morse code. If using WinLink for at sea e-mail communication, HAM licenses are
required. David (AA1ZL) and I  (AA1ZM)both have our HAM licenses.

E-mail  - Though e-mail is easiest when ashore, having the luxury of being able to send  
and receive short e-mails and weather from the boat using our SSB radio is outstanding.
We try to call in position reports frequently which are posted on SailBlogs. We also use
both Winlink (free to HAMS) and SailMail ($250/year)  as our internet gateways.

Two-Way Radios (Walkie-Talkies) - We used to use 2-way radios for both ship-to-
shore communications as well as when David was up the mast and didn't want to shout.
That ended when one fell in the drink and we opted not to replace it.(Oops!) It's
probably located somewhere near our son's Blackberry.

SailBlogs - The website requires internet for updating, but SailBlogs updates can be
done directly from the boat when we're at sea. We try to update both position reports
and text logs daily when we're at sea and less frequently when we're in port. SailBlogs is
free for the basic service and about $35/year for remote posting and photo gallery. If
you're an SSCA member, you get a 25% off the annual subscription! SailBlogs can also
update my Facebook page remotely which is extremely cool. Check our site at

Just A Little Further is another blogsite of ours. We send daily reports to our niece in
New Mexico, USA who posts them for us. When possible, we provide lots of pix and
more information on destinations, projects, sailing and general topics of interest.

When ashore (or close to shore ;-) ...

– Internet kiosks are very common even in the most unusual places and early on it
was all we could access. Now, wifi is available most everywhere including some pretty
remote anchorages. Prices vary, but it’s always cheaper and more convenient than a
phone call and a great way to keep in touch. Many local telephone companies now sell
pay-as-you-go T-sticks which allow cheap wifi wherever a mobile phone has coverage.

Mobile Phone & Phone cards – Most countries have their own telephone system (like
our AT&T) and offer phone cards for calling abroad. This, of course, meant in the past
using public phones (ugh!), however of late it's been easier to buy a cheap mobile phone
and use the prepaid cards for international calling as well. Some phones allow SIM card
changes from country to country, but ours didn't and we haven't made the investment yet...
it's on the list though.

SKYPE - "telephony" is how they refer to it, but basically you set up an account and use
your computer with headset/microphone to call anywhere in the world. If you call
computer to computer, it's free. If you call computer to a landline or mobile phone, the
rates differ by country, but generally it's about 2.3 cents/minute to the USA.

Snail mail – Many times other cruisers are heading back to the States for a trip home
and we send mail with them. We keep US stamps aboard for just that purpose although
figuring out the current postal rate in the US is always a challenge. Otherwise, postcards
and letters take an indeterminable amount of time to arrive in the States, but for stamp
collectors, it's a goldmine!

Our Website:  We maintain our own website at www.nineofcups.com. (If you're reading
this, you've accessed it...duh!) Through the magic of the Internet, we can share some of
our adventures with our family and friends. We use Yahoo SiteBuilder for constructing  
our website offline and then publishing it. We use Yahoo Small Business for our webhost.
It costs about $35/quarter.
We use an ICOM 706 HF Radio with
a Pactor III Modem connected to our
notebook computer.
David & Marcie are HAMS (in more ways
than one!).  We are both licensed as Amateur
Extras, the highest amateur level available, and
had to take 4 sets of exams including one on
Morse Code recognition.  The FCC issues the
licenses for 10 years. Our HAM call signs are:
AA1ZL – David
AA1ZM – Marcie

We also have a license for use of the on-board
marine band radios including the VHFs and the
SSB marine frequencies. The boat has its own
call sign issued by the US FCC. This call sign
is used frequently when communicating with
foreign authorities by radio.
Important Note: We ONLY give out our onboard SailMail
and Winlink e-mail addresses to folks we know, otherwise we'd
be inundated with spam and unwanted emails. If you'd like to
communicate with us...send an email. See
Contact Us for more
Now there’s communicating and then
there’s communicating. When Jelly needs
to communicate “ferocious cat”, she puts
her ears back, looks fierce and lets us out
a hiss. She always gets her point across!
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