Ian’s portable setup for SSB and maritime weather monitoring

Photo by Jonathan Smith

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ian, who shared the following response to our post regarding the best shortwave receiver for you boat or yacht:

An icom M802 package can be had for less that $3k… but the installation may run up anywhere up to $5k hence the OP’s ~$8k cost and request for alternatives. The bulk of cost (for pretty much anything in a boat) is always in installation…not the cost of electronics, as boats have unique issues regarding their ground.

As a sailor, when faced with a budgetary issue of installing a marine SSB radio system, IMO the answer is most definitely not “get a ham radio and your license”…the answer is most definitely “get a good SSB portable with an external antenna input”.

To get valuable weather resources such as Chris Parker (www.mwxc.com), weatherfax and eavesdop on atlantic nets, a quality portable SSB receiver is all that is required, provided that some sort of external antenna is used.

In my case, in the Bahamas, a 25ft length of wire semi permanently rigged to the flag halyard presented a strong and clear enough signal to reliably get the morning weather, and any weatherfax data I needed (along with the laptop).

My radio back then was the Satellit 800, and this year that behemoth will be replaced with a Tecsun PL-880… such a setup is ALL that is required.

Thank you for your input, Ian! It’s been seven years since we originally posted that article about HF receivers and transceivers on boats and yachts. I’m curious if any other readers might have suggestions they would care to share. What has works for you? Please comment!

Spread the radio love

5 thoughts on “Ian’s portable setup for SSB and maritime weather monitoring

  1. mangosman

    It’s a pity they are not transmitting the images using digital radio mondiale. This has been trialed by the US coast guard in Alaska for iceberg maps to great success with a lower cost of broadcast.
    DRM is designed to transmit images, text as well as sound.

    1. RonF

      HF Wefax works at some pretty poor SNRs. DRM doesn’t.

      10dB SNR is enough for quite copyable/readable HF Wefax reception, and 16dB is generally considered enough for ‘good’ images. Even 6-8dB SNR (i.e. a single S-point or two) will still give interpretable images. DRM *barely* works at 10-20dB SNR (according to the DRM Consortium’s own Handbook; realistically, you should add ~6dB or more to those figures), depending on mode & protection class – and any noise/dropouts results in badly corrupted & uninterpretable images.

  2. Timothy Nebout

    If i had a boat i’d install the longest whip possible above the mast and mount a remote tuner right below it and use a dangling counterpoise wire zip tied to my mast

  3. Al Holt

    I’m glad to see mention made of Chris Parker and Marine Weather Center. I’m not a subscriber to their service, just a Florida-based landlubber who sails in his mind. I try and tune in daily and catch them whenever condx allow. But, their yearly subscription fee seems reasonable considering the service they provide.
    I’m curious about WINLINK and it’s maritime application away from the usual Internet resources. I’ve only experimented with it and couldn’t figure out how to send email outside other WINLINK stations. But, it’s another great reason to acquire a ham license.
    All the best!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.