SSB radio used to be the 'communications lifeline' for Cruising Sailors. That position is now being challenged by Radio Email. Today, cruisers insist on being connected to the digital world before they leave home. Family, friends, and fellow cruisers are just a few keystrokes away!
Getting E-mail on your boat can be simple if you stay within range of the U.S. coastline where there is a plentitude of cellular telephone transmitters. But, venture into an isolated anchorage, or go offshore and that lifeline quickly disappears!
Radio Email works through the same HF radio used for voice contact. That generally means either HAM or Marine SSB. Place a 'black box' ( called a 'radio modem' or 'TNC') between your Laptop and your radio, add a little software, and you are ready to go. But go where? There's a bit more involved, especially cost wise, that just adding that 'black box'.
Satellite Email promises Global coverage for pennies (lots of pennies). But, do they deliver on those claims?
Part of the problem is: choice. Too much 'choice' ... and, far too much HYPE! Which way to go? HAM Email? Commercial SSB Email? Satellite Email? Cell Phones? The 'Phone Booth' method?
It all depends on your needs, your location, and most importantly - your pocketbook. But, is the BEST method the MOST EXPENSIVE? The answer to that question may be a resounding 'NO!' So, where do you start?
THE PLAYERS ...
To get you started, here is a list of some of the major players:
If you are looking for unbiased answers, we recommend 'EMAIL ON BOATS' (2nd Edition), a 70+ page booklet just published (September 1999). It was written for the novice, but it will make many an 'expert' sit up and say: 'I didn't know that!'
Quoted from 'EMAIL ON BOATS':
"The world has shrunk again - anyone with a computer can now contact you via email - whether you’re at sea in the middle of the Atlantic, or anchored off a deserted beach in paradise. But, getting email onboard your boat isn’t as simple as you might think.
"We sort through the many different types of email services and offer some ‘no punches barred’ opinions based on years of experience with boat email systems. We’ll separate the truth from the hype. Some of the companies reviewed might not like what we have to say, but we’ll tell it like we see it.
"Even if you already have email onboard, you’ll learn about how to turn your email system into a REAL communications tool. We’ll cover topics like: How to Send and Receive FREE and Low Cost FAXES from your boat; How to get FREE Medical Advice from real Doctors; and How to ‘Surf the Web’ while at sea. Whoa! Stop, a minute; ‘you can’t surf the web from the middle of the ocean - it’s not technically possible’.
"Read on - and we’ll show you not only 'how to do it', ... but how to do it for FREE!
"There’s lots more, too! Along the way. we’ll talk about using radios - SSB vs HAM. And, we’ll answer the question: Do I need an expensive laptop with Windows98 to get email? There’s even a directory of yachtie email addresses - you might find a few old friends listed there." - from the introduction of "EMAIL on BOATS"
The Table of Contents: (including the NEW and Updated sections in the 2nd Edition)
A. OVERVIEW of Types of Services:
Commercial SSB Radio
‘Phone Booth’ and 'LandLine' Email
B. Major Players (updated)
D. Comparisons and Costs (updated)
How the ‘Players’ Stack Up
(Two page comparison chart answering the questions posed above, and more!)
Section II: Installation & Operation
HAM vs SSB
Radio Modem Installation
Composing an Email
Sending Your Message
Email Response Times
HAM vs Commercial
Summing It All Up
C. PROTECTING YOUR EQUIPMENT
Electrical Problems on Boats
D. EMAIL DIRECTORY (updated)
Cruising Yachts Using Email
B. RECEIVING FAXES:
Fax to Email Service
C. VOICEMAIL: (NEW!)
Answering Machine via Email
D. ACCESSING THE WEB USING 'ATOLWEB':
How It's Done
Quotas & Limits
From Mobile Phones
Using the 'Altavista' Search Engine
Other Search Engines
E. WEATHER Via EMAIL: (NEW!)
Customized Weather Forecasts via Email
F. OTHER EMAIL SERVICES:
G. SPECIAL TRICKS :
Ham Radio Email Address Problem
Limiting Access to Commercial Accounts
Automatic Email Responders
H. INFO by EMAIL: (NEW!)
Answers to Everything!
B. FUN STUFF
Since the author does not sell radio or email equipment, and does not have any affiliation with service providers, he 'tells it like he sees it' based on many years of using various marine communication systems. Being a cruising yachtie himself, he keeps a keen eye on the bottom line, too! You'll find a real emphasis on FREE and LOW COST services, equipment and software.
If you are new to Radio Email, this
booklet, while it's not fancy, may be just what you need to sort out all
the claims, counter claims, vaporware and hype about email on boats...
. . . and save you thousands of dollars in unexpected service charges!
Available in TWO editions:
Plain cover, staple bound cover. $ 13 plus postage
BookSellers Edition: Color Cover (shown above), comb bound. $ 20 plus postage