I wish I were a computer geek. Should have studied more about computers, programs and how they work. Then it would have been oh so easy.
We purchased what is known as an “icom 802” SSB (single side band radio). Because you own a boat this automatically means that everything and I mean everything is priced 4 to 5 times higher than other marine radios.
The investment into this particular SSB was in our view point worth the price. This radio would give us the ability to communicate potentially anywhere around the world. Those with a Ham radio license can do just that. Even without a license there are numerous stations available to connect with. The main feature is the ability to take your laptop computer, connect it to a special modem and then the modem talks to the radio. This allows you to send/receive email, send/receive weather reports via the radio.
It is the weather reporting that is critical. Once signed up with the program provider – Sailmail – you may then send a weather request for any region in the world. They will provide a detailed map of wind, pressure systems etc. for the requested area and will provide it for the next 24 hours up to 72 hours. This allows you to see advancing weather systems. Amazing!
The initial installation was quite complicated and the Captain as far as could be determined did everything as required. We had a very good book to follow by Terry Sparks and he had provided check lists – which I made sure we followed, even the Captain made no attempt to overrule me on that one.
Next came the testing of the system. The Sailmail program provided excellent instructions on setting up the computer to talk to the modem and then setting up the modem to talk to the radio. Mind you their opening paragraph went something like this: you can try and work your way through all of this or hire an expert to do the job. If you still want to do it on your own then go ahead and read the following.
Well I am dead in the water I thought. I know absolutely nothing about the secret underworld of a computer, let alone the modem and radio. I printed off all their instructions, even instructions if you are not able to get a connection. Over the past two months I would read these instructions, trying to make sense of the process. Kill me now!
Finally, I had to begin the process of getting the computer/modem/radio to talk to each other. Before we left at the end of June I had attempted on several occasions to do even the most basic application such as “connect” to another station – absolutely no success. I felt disheartened, overwhelmed with the feeling of being in way over my head and not knowing what to do. The clock was ticking and I finally thought we will have to wait until we reach San Diego and see about hiring a technician to show me what to do.
Once we were on our way north to Campbell River I decided to begin from scratch and went over every single instruction, word by word. Finally, it was one line that stood out – “check to make sure the ports assigned on your computer match the modem”.
And there it was! A simple but important piece of the puzzle.
In no time at all I had determined how to request a weather file, select the best station to send the request to and then connect.
These words came on the computer screen: Welcome to SailMail
The connection did not happen immediately, it took another few tries of selecting the correct frequency but eventually everything did connect and we received back our first weather report.
We did the Happy Dance!