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Don Arnold of Chattanooga, Tennessee, asks:

"My local marine-electronics dealer tells me that marine SSB and ham radio are outdated and that I should use a satellite phone. What do you think?"

Gordon West replies:

There’s no question that a sat phone is a very handy device. But the advantage of radio is that since SSB signals bounce off the ionosphere, your transmissions are like a giant cruisers’ party line. Everyone on that channel can hear everyone else, even though they may be separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles. If your watermaker quits, a fellow cruiser on a radio net might be able to help solve the problem. If you call one person on a sat phone, others won’t know about your problem.

A sat phone is the answer for a private conversation. But if you want access to the U.S. Coast Guard and other rescue agencies or to receive Sailmail Internet messaging and chat with new friends who may be headed for the same remote anchorage, an SSB unit is what you need.

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