Category Archives: Amateur Radio

Off to the volcano !

After we’ve been waiting for one week not seems to be the time: For two days the wind will shift to the east and also go down a little in force. In an hour or so we’ll set out towards the south-east, towards Tanna. There we’ll meet the SY Kira, hopefully the SY Elhaz and definately the Mont Yasur: the active (!) volcano of the island.

Also this post marks the end of internet: in the next days and weeks on our final travel to Brisbane, Australia we will only be connected with shortwave radio. So no pictures in the upcoming days. – Sorry…

Posted in Amateur Radio, LosLocos, Sailing, Suvarov, Travel | Comments Off

Off towards Panama !!

After checking out we’ll leave the Dominican Republic and sail towards Panama. The destination is El Porvenir in the San Blas archipelago. Belonging to the people of the Kuna, there is no infrastructure, no power, no internet, no shopping and no garbage disposal. It is said it’s one of the most beautiful spots on our planet and still looks the same as it did hundreds of years ago.

The trip is roughly 800 nautical miles and should therefore take us 7 or 8 days. We’ll have our sattelite phone turned on every day at 12:00 UTC while sailing and we will update the blog via shortwave radio. As we now should be able to receive comments some kind of communication should still be possible. But don’t expect an answer on the same day. Hehehe.

Details about the communication can be found on the page ‘Contact’ – but only for logged in users !

Posted in Amateur Radio, LosLocos, Pics, Rancho Relaxo, Sailing | 2 Comments

Enhanced map with position reports

Finally I found some time to integrate our Winlink position reports into our own little Google map. Now you can see all our position reports and spot messages on one map. Here’s a little illustration:

This little icon shows our current position, subitted via Spot messenger. If you see this, the Rancho Relaxo of the Seas is underway.

The little anchor shows up when we’ve reached our current destination. Subitted via Spot messenger.

This is a amateur radio position report submitted via Winlink. If you click that icon, it will show some additional info. Typically a short message with max. 80 characters.

Posted in Amateur Radio, Rancho Relaxo, Sailing | 1 Comment

Airmail3 with Bluetooth running on Mac OS X

As I’m trying to stay 100% Windows-free also when under sail, I previously used Linux and Wine to communicate via HAMradio. Now I’ve got the time to try around using Mac OS X and have managed to get everything in working order. Which means, you can use Airmail3 more or less natively under OS X without a seperate Windows installation or partition. Here’s how I did it:

Install in that order: PlayonMac, XQuartz, Wine. The last two components can be installed directly from PlayonMac. Once that is complete, get Airmail3 and install it by double-clicking it’s icon. It should be started/installed via PlayonMac. I’m using the version 3.3.081 which also includes the drivers for the Pactor modem. Install those drivers during the initial installation of Airmail3. If you want to get the propagation automagically from inside Airmail, you’ve got to install the (seperate) propagation programm: Open PlayonMac and run a ‘exe-File’ in the same virtual drive, you’ve installed Airmail in ! It has to be the same drive because otherwise Airmail will not be able to find that software.

Now that everything is installed, it’s time to configure the connection Bluetooth-Modem Wine. First the modem has to be paired with OS X. This is done using the Bluetooth-Assistant. The only thing of importance here: Use a ‘user-defined’ pairing-string ! It’s the last eight letters of your modem’s serial number which can be found on the underside of it. Be sure to use the correct upper/lowercase spelling – otherwise it won’t work. Once the Bluetooth-pairing is done, the connection can be tested by opening a Terminal-window (to be found in Applications -> Utilities) and typing the command: cat /dev/tty.SCSPTC-IIusb-COM1
After a short delay, the init-string of the modem should be printed. Now you can close that Terminal window. Attention: If you’ve played around with your Bluetooth-Setup and/or re-installed that modem or whatever… The name of the device can be slightly different. Use ‘/dev/tty.SCSPTC-IIusb-COM1-1′ of whatever is your correct device name.

Now you have to create a COM-port for use in Wine: Start PlayonMac, enter the Configuration and use the Button ‘open a shell’ in the tab ‘Miscellaneous’. A little shell-window will open, in which you have to type the following commandos:

cd ../dosdevices
ln -s /dev/tty.SCSPTC-IIusb-COM1 com1

This will create the needed COM-port for Wine. Now you can close PlayonMac and start Airmail3. Beside your usual settings, only one thing is really important: The Bluetooth-connection seems to be a bit sluggish and therefore Airmail will not be able to communicate correctly with your modem. You can solve this by going to Tools -> Options… Connection -> Advanced Settings and enable the option named ‘Ignore com-port CTS Signal’. If you now start the Terminal, the init-string of the modem should show after about 20 seconds.

Success !! You’ve got Airmail3 running under OSX with a working Bluetooth connection. Yay !

Posted in Amateur Radio, Apple, Freedom, Linux, Sailing | 1 Comment

The Bay of Biscay and shortwave

Well – well, the preparations are running…. And instead of stiching up our main sail, I’m sitting here in front of my gadgets and am hacking away on the keyboard. But not for nothing: Just yesterday I finally managed to digitally connect ourselfes via HAM radio – thanks for many hours of help from Norbert !! And just now I sent and received my first emails using modem and antenna – and without the internets !! That not only satisfies the nerd in me but is actually really handy for us. That way we can keep you informed by using emails to post on our blog and we can reveice digital weather information – even when we’re out on the Atlantic.

And that’s what it looks like when sending emails via HAM radio (strictly for nerds !):

As of now you can not only see our position in the little window to the right (the SPOT messages) But also via Shiptrak and the Winlink page.

What else to say ? Well the weather in the Bay of Biscay is so so. But we should make it in about five days to Spain, La Coruna. I think today in the evening we’ll put to sea. YAY !!

Posted in Amateur Radio, LosLocos, Rancho Relaxo, Sailing | 1 Comment

Amateur Radio Exam passed !

So in the end it was worth it – spending a whole week inside the ship and doing nothing than to learn for the exam.

Today in the morning I successfully passed the exam ! YAY !!! Now I’m going for a beer. If you’re in Berlin, give me a call on my mobile or look for me in the EKA at Helmholtzplatz. I’ll be there from ~21h.

Posted in Amateur Radio, Berlin, Projects | 5 Comments

In Berlin: Sunday to Tuesday

Huh. Only two more days left to learn for the Amateur Radio License !!! The exam will be on monday at 09:00h in Berlin. Which means that I’ll be travelling to our ex-home-city on sunday evening.

So if someone wants to meet up with me: Call me on my mobile, I’ll be free on monday afternoon ’til late night as I’ll stay until tuesday. – And it doesn’t matter how the exam turns out: I’ll have lots of beer. Hehehehe.

Posted in Amateur Radio, Berlin, Travel | Comments Off

Our new internet connection…

…just arrived at home. Thanks to Gerd, who was really helpful to get us the equipment needed, we’re now proud owners of a ICOM IC-718 short wave tranceiver ! This piece of high-tech gear will enable us to stay in contact with our friends and family – even when in the middle of the ocean. IF I’ll manage to stem the amateur radio exam, we’ll be able to send and recieve emails using Pactor and Winlink, get weather information and of course stay in touch with other sailors.

And – again – thanks to Gerd, also our kids had their moment, when they discovered about two square meters of bubble-foil to jump around on. I should have done a video of that. – Priceless !!

Posted in Amateur Radio, Pics, Sailing | 1 Comment

First short-wave experiments

On saturday I did a few first steps in short wave technology. One of the basics is to be able to receive a wather fax. This is hardly anything new. People have been doing that since the eighties. The thing is: I don’t have a shortware tranceiver and I don’t have a Windows(TM) PC.

So I coupled my trusty handheld SW radio with my MacBook using a 3.5mm ‘headphone’ cable. The software I was using/testing was: CocoaModem 2.0, Fldigi 3.2 and MultiMode Cocoa. After fiddling around with the receiver (using mode: USB) I finally received a faint signal. But that was enough to pull that first weather fax from Northwood, UK !

It’s actually quite amazing that one can receive quite precious data using only standard components and free software – without internet, telephone, WiFi… Well. It was only a test for getting used with the software. The final setup will hopefully consist of a proper tranceiver and a dedicated small Netbook or Laptop with all software installed and configured. Unfortunately the ONLY piece of software that doesn’t exist on Linux or Mac is the SailMail program for sending/receiving emails via SSB. But maybe I can find a solution for that, too.

Posted in Amateur Radio, Apple, Hardware, Links, Net, Pics, Sailing | Comments Off