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The Single Sideband Radio Nets

By The Ithaka - Published July 28, 2006 - Viewed 2250 times

The Single Sideband Radio Nets

Three readers have asked us about the various single-sideband nets we like listening to out here. "Is there any way that those of us at home can listen in?" asked Peter L., of Seattle, Washington. "Do I need a special ham radio and license?"

From Douglas: You don't need a ham radio or any kind of license to listen in on the various nets or to any conversation which is taking place over the high-frequency radio bands. Licenses are only required for talking.

With an inexpensive short-wave radio you can listen at home to various cruiser nets (some of which are listed below, along with their broadcast times and frequencies); to the Marine Mobil Services Net, which is a ham net that's on 24 hours a day at 14300 Upper Side Band. During the hurricane season there is also a ham net for hurricane information at 14325. The 14300 net is often full of action, solving problems for boats at sea, relaying emergency and medical information. It's the net that coordinated information and resources and helped save the life of the Dutch teenager who'd been shot at Media Luna.

If you're interested in how various cruisers make their routing decisions, how they're faring under way, and how the inimitable Herb Hildenberg-a famous weather guru who offers cruisers first-rate, custom-tailored, weather-routing advice free of charge 365 days a year, tune in on 12359 at 20:00 UTC. His conversations with dozens of boats can go on a couple of hours, and are a wonderful education about weather, cruising and decision-making.

How well you can hear the various cruiser nets will depend a great deal on where you're located and how good the propagation is on that particular day. What is perfectly clear one day can be mud another, so it takes some perseverance.

  • The Waterway Net for the American east coast ICW is on 7268 at 12:45 UTC

  • A Cruiseheimer's Net, which covers much of the southeast United States and often the Bahamas is at 8152 and begins at 1330 UTC

  • The Northwest Carribean Net is at 8188 (plus or minus 3 Kilohertz depending on propagation and interference) and begins each morning at 1400 UTC

  • The Panama Connection, which covers boats on both sides of the canal is at 8107 (or 8167 depending on interference) and comes on every morning at 1330 UTC.

Because there are different volunteer net controllers everyday, you can get a real sense of the personalities involved, and quickly decide who you'd want to break bread with and who you wouldn't! There are nets everywhere there are cruisers, but these are the only ones we've known so far.

Over the past two days, we've heard on 14300 a doctor in the United States helping a cruiser in the Bahamas who'd swallowed bleach figure out what to do next. Then, the other morning, the American cruising sailboat Serenity came on the morning NW Caribbean net to say that they'd been transiting between San Andres and Guanaja (basically, the exact opposite voyage we'd just taken around Cabo Gracias a Dios) when, in the middle of the night they tracked an unlit vessel on radar that was trailing them and approaching quickly. Serenity hailed them on the VHF. When the dark vessel got closer, it identified itself as "a US warship with a representative of the Coast Guard aboard" and told Serenity to prepare to be boarded. Uniformed American soldiers came aboard, and "for four hours they tore our boat apart, looking for drugs." Nothing was found. The officials "swiped" the boat -- a procedure to detect drugs, then left. After Serenity was reorganized again, they were re-hailed, re-boarded, and everything taken apart yet again for another search. Again, there was nothing to be found, and the soldiers departed, having broken the boat's dodger when one of the officials fell on top of it, and leaving Serenity in disarray. I shudder to imagine this happening at sea, at night, but appreciated getting the warning of the extensive security, and what's going on in this area.

Over the past month, as we've journeyed farther and farther away from the cozy campfire of the NW Caribbean Net, we've been also picking up the Panama Connection Net. It's funny to be leaving familiar people, such as Dave who does the weather, and the net controllers whose idiosyncrasies we've come to enjoy, and to be moving into an area of the Caribbean where we don't know anyone. The other day, when we checked into the Panama net, Bernadette asked a question about places on the Panama coast that were safe to leave Ithaka if we wanted to fly home to the States this summer. Debbie, on Cabu, answered with all kinds of information, and they chatted about how gorgeous the Panama coast is, and with that we began to feel connected to a new place and new people. We'll still miss Dave, though!

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