Monday, May 20, 2013

My Techie
By Michael

Everyone should cruise with at least one
kid, the skinnier the better. Exhibit A:
Here Eleanor runs cable for me so
I can install our VHF remote in the
cockpit. She squeezed through one
of those drawer cut-outs to get back
where I needed the cable. 
On our road trip from Washington, D.C. to Puerto Vallarta (where we bought Del Viento), Windy studied for her HAM radio license as we drove cross-country. The process culminated with a brief detour through a small, rural Wyoming town where the girls and I played in a park and got ice cream while Windy passed her technical exam in a nearby Kiwanis Club hall. The year was 2011.
Since then, our designated Onboard Communications Director hasn’t really used the Icom 710 single sideband (SSB) that came with the boat. Everything she learned is theory and she’s admittedly forgotten much of it (though radio guru Michael on Wondertime gave her a tutorial in Mexico last year).

But these past couple weeks, after admiring the way Kyra was able to post a report on the Nyon blog every day of their passage across the Pacific, I urged Windy to finally get fluent with our radio so we could do the same on our trip north this summer. After all, I imagine there will be lots of time when we won’t have internet connectivity.

And what she did today is very cool.

She plugged our laptop into the mic jack of the SSB, tuned to a broadcast being sent from Hawaii, and our cabin filled with the beeping, static-noise of an office fax machine.
“Watch,” she said.

Soon, a beautiful satellite image of Vancouver Island and northern Washington state was rendered on the glowing screen, line-by-line. We all stared, holding our breath. Then maps of forecast weather and waves were slowly--miraculously--reproduced before us.
“Whoa,” I whispered, much like when Nemo first reached the edge of the reef.

Now even though this is like black magic to the crew of Del Viento, I totally acknowledge that receiving weather faxes via short-wave radio is absolutely nothing to most other cruisers--basic, basic stuff.
But there’s more.

In a flash of genius that reminds me why I married her, she downloaded some app on the iPad, set a pair of ear buds next to the mic jack on the iPad, and reproduced the same thing there.
She says that somewhere in our lockers is a different sound card she needs to dig out and play with before we can send and receive email via her PC, but I think she’s caught her groove and it’s clear sailing from here. Soon we'll be equipped for getting and sending the info we need when we’re off the beaten track. You'll know we've reached that nirvana when you see one of those TESTING, DOES THIS WORK? posts, a milestone indeed.

Here's my wife, the magician, at her nav station.
"How have you gotten weather info previously?" some
might ask. The answer is that since we started, we've
nearly always had internet access available, at least
prior to beginning a passage, and we've simply come this
far by the grace of, and
the buoy data at've
infrequently relied exclusively on VHF-broadcast
weather, even when available.


  1. Posting via SSB was the only way our blog had updates for many moons as well! On a tangent: help me lobby the Airmail folks to change the way they encode attachments so we can also post photos to the blog via SSB. It's not currently possible.

    1) it's too bad how the test is really just "Stuff To Memorize, Not Retain." Most of the content isn't useful afterwards, and doesn't tell you anything about how to actually use your HF radio.

    2) Excuse me while I go look at SSB-->ipad options. thank you Windy!

    FWIW, out at this corner of the world, boats (Aussie and EU) skew heavily towards sat phones vs SSB. As a radio centric boat, it makes me kind of sad...but then again, hopefully it means we also have easier connections, because there are precious fewer land stations as well. But that "most other cruisers" bit, I think it might just be "most other North American cruisers"...for better, for worse.

    1. Thanks Behan, your FWIW is interesting. The name of iPad app she used is HF Fax. Michael

  2. Windy is full of awesome sauce. Seriously. Every time I say to myself "Self, its time to learn all about SSBs and get your HAM license" I delve into the material and realize I have no idea what the hell they are talking about. Frustrating, because I have a reasonable amount of intelligence and should be able to figure this out.
    Windy, you are an inspiration. Cover me, I'm going in.

  3. Yeah, unless it speaks to your inner radio enthusiast, just push through that test. Like Behan said, it has little to do with the actual operation of your radio. There are online practice tests and also a really handy iPad/iPhone app, search "radio exam." After the test, a cruiser with radio skills will be happy to help get you oriented. I was super grateful to Michael (Wondertime) for showing me around our mysterious black box--until then I admit I wasn't even sure it worked! Good luck!--Windy


Thank you for taking the time to comment; we look forward to reading your feedback. Don't forget that you may also contact us directly at (please type DEL VIENTO in the subject line)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...