6:10 am this morning the alarm went off. Early for us. No, we are not headed out on passage. Tom did not get up. I had to get up and try to make friends with our SSB radio - single side band. Fingers and toes crossed, I turn it on and begin dialing and dialing and dialing, begging it to tune in Chris Parker's Weather. Please! I hate the SSB. I want to rip it out and toss it overboard. Seriously people! HATE IT!
Sv Honey Ryder came with this SSB. There are notes from the original owners about using it not only for cruising nets and conversations with other cruisers but for weather fax.
I have had some success. A couple of weeks ago I picked up Waterway Net - a HAM net for cruisers with their HAM general license.... I only have my technicians license, one below general. Anyone can listen to the Waterway Net but only HAMs with this level of license can talk. They are very strict about this. Actually it's the FCC that is strict but it sort of smacks of a high school clique feel to me because it's limited. I have also been able to pick up Cruiseheimers a few times. This is another cruisers net where anyone can chime in. But no weather. Argh!
Of course anyone that knows me knows I have been seeking help from other cruisers - almost to the point of desperation. I am not shy about reaching out to others. "Hi. Nice to meet you. We are new to the marina. So do you have an SSB?" Next step is to aggressively stop strangers on the street. I plan to start that tomorrow. Those that I do ask for help generally ask the same questions. "What's the problem with your SSB?" I reply " I can't seem to get dialed in the stations I need - like weather and even when I do, there is nothing but static." Then they say it.... the phrase that
"Maybe your SSB is broken." But I have gotten some frequencies. In addition to the above mentioned, we have picked up a few super scary religious programs and the BBC once.
I emailed other cruisers with SSB's for help. Most have other types of SSB so they can't help me with this specific unit. One suggested I join a yahoo chat group specific to the 710m. Great! Chat groups have really come to my aid before. However, so far I am finding this group is too....advanced. They are talking about installation, tuners internal and external, tweaking of radio parts, frequency modulation, advanced stuff. As I read along, I feel like Penny on the TV show Big Bang Theory.
I keep threatening to make it a dinghy anchor. Tom sweetly suggested we get another model. I refuse. I am convinced it works. We have heard some stuff on there. It's just me. So I sit most mornings and try and try to get something....by 9:35AM I am defeated and back to dinghy anchor thoughts. Last night I got the usual from a fellow sailor "what happens when you just dial in the frequency?" ARGH! and "you won't get much in this marina" ARGH again! *I am not being ungrateful. I SO appreciate everyone trying to help me. It's just become funny the standard questions like...."are you sure it's on?" We discussed that perhaps propagation was the problem and that I should actually get my butt up earlier and try some of the other times and frequencies. This fellow sailor also suggested that I try the basic standard weather channels. After dinner last night, I decided to sarcastically give it a try. What the hell, nothing to lose but my time, energy, patience, sanity! Surprise, surprise - Nothing on the weather channels. Again, what the hell, let's see if I can get anything on any frequency anywhere. Boom! Voice of America - The Dodgers / Cardinals baseball game just as loud and clear as if we were in the broadcast booth. Tom cheered my success. I could only laugh. Yes it's success but the funny thing is I can't stand baseball. (Yes, I know...un-American, but it's a boring, antiquated sport to me). But who cares, it was something. I continued to laughed like a loon telling Tom " We might get seriously thrashed by the worst storm ever (because we can't get weather) but apparently we can listen to baseball as it's happening." I don't feel successful unless I can get the weather. Where is the weather!!!!! I want my weather! What a stupid, outdated technology! No wonder people opt for Satellite phones instead of SSB these days. Sheesh!
So... I set the alarm for 6:10am this morning so I would have enough time to dial through a couple of hundred frequencies to get to the correct one for 6:30am weather. Nothing. Then I dial in the frequency for the 7am. I start writing this blog posting and I wait. Nothing but static. I feel defeat. I dial in the 7:30 frequency and go back to this sad blog posting while I wait. I am SO frustrated. What am I doing wrong? Why can't I get the weather to come in? What are we going to do? We are going to have to scramble to get this "fixed", replaced or something. We have to have a way to get the weather. OMG!
Then a new sound comes through. It is not the normal static. There is a voice in there somewhere. I strain to hear. Yes, definitely something. Static, static, "squalls" static "winds of 15" static "waves 3-4"..... OMG! It's weather! I am hearing small bits and pieces of Chris Parker's 7:30 weather. It comes in a little stronger. I am only getting a fraction of what he is saying. Not enough to test out the digital recorder I will use for weather in the future but I am getting official Chris Parker static. Woo hoo. Success! Sort of....but I am claiming it. Now I just need to figure out how to get it to come in so I can understand the majority of broadcast. I start flipping the switches on and off on our AC/DC panel like crazy, trying to clear up the signal. Often systems turned on can cause interference. Nothing works. But I have official Chris Parker static with weather words thrown in. For today, I will take that. This SSB will live to see another day onboard. Tomorrow we will battle again as I continue to try to get the other frequencies to come in at the specific times. I am determined to conqueror and master this SSB.
Update - After I finished writing this I was able to pick up the Cruisheimers Net. I couldn't hear everyone but I could hear some....AND.....wait for it......I tried check in (transmitting) and they heard me! They actually heard me. This is HUGE! The big stupid thing works. It actually works. Later I had a nice chat (via cell phone) with a man named Paul Hansen that I think works for Icom customer service. We discussed my struggles and he gave me some good information and suggestions. "That is one of the tougher units in terms of working it and programming it." Understatement of the year in my mind but I realize it's just my little world and mind. Who knows, maybe we will even listen to a baseball game tonight if there is one on the SSB to listen to.