The NETs

A sailboat’s just a mechanism for a journey.

A sailboat is just a mechanism for a journey.

To Net or Not to Net

No, we are not going to talk about fishing nets or hairnets.  We are going to share a bit about the use of the radio nets used by many cruisers.  These nets are described as the VHF and the SSB and is one means of communication between cruisers, authorities, and land-based business that use VHF communication.  We use the VHF and SSB, as well as our cell phones when we have cell service.  However, the use of cell phones will not replace the old trusty tradition of the daily Amigo Net, the local Cruiser’s Net, and the Sonrisa Net (the latter we do not participate in).  So allow us to bore you a little about the radio community technology we use onboard Dharma Girl.

The Amigo Net

One of the things we do most mornings is listen in and participate on the Amigo Net on our Single Side Band (SSB) radio. We even volunteer on Tuesday and host the net, with Carrie acting as the net controller, and Chris providing a short-term weather forecast. It is an informal radio net, not requiring us to have a dedicated HAM license, but only that we use the FCC callsign assigned to us. So we’re known as Dharma Girl, Whiskey Delta Kilo Five Nine Zero Eight  (WDK 5908) to a small and eclectic group of sailors down here.

By now, we’ve met most in person but a few whom we only really know as voices, and personalities heard on the radio. There are seven volunteers that have their respective day and about four backup volunteers.  We have, actually, meet 12 of the controllers so far.  It is cool to have a face with a voice.  Sometimes it is a surprise what the person actually looks like versus the image you have created.  

Having the SSB as an option is really nice to have when you’re out of cell phone coverage for extended periods of time. For example, we have to hail a buddy boat, Gypsy, for their status during a time there were big winds.  We saw on our chart plotter they turned around, it was comforting for us to know they were ok.  

The second feature we like with the SSB is obtaining the weather either via the Amigo Net, Sonrisa Net, or dedicated stations.  And the close tie for third is we can get NPR and Music via the SSB.  So you see the radio has many features that we only have tapped into.  It works for us.

What is SSB aside that it is an abbreviation for Single Side Band.  Here’s the heavy-duty definition.  In radio communications, single-sideband modulation or single-sideband suppressed-carrier modulation is a type of modulation used to transmit information, such as an audio signal, by radio waves.  A refinement of amplitude modulation, it uses transmitter power and bandwidth more efficiently.

Whaaaat is that?  Pretty heavy and hard to understand, right?  So here, we provide a lay-mans explanation.

Still heavy but less jargon.  SSB is an obscure but very important way to communicate via radio using primarily for two-way voice communication by ham radio operators, aircraft, and air traffic control (ATC), ships at sea, military and spy networks.  Occasionally some shortwave broadcast stations use this formate.  

Still confused?  We are too sometimes so don’t you worry.  Just know that we are comforted to have a few means to communicate with others.

Carrie is ready to begin the Amigo Net.
Chris reading the weather we pull from satellite email.

The Local Cruiser’s Nets

Moving on to another communication device we use on Dharma Girl, a VHF radio.  VHF just means Very High Frequency.  We use this somewhat like a telephone, to call ship to ship, or the port captains, a marina, or even a business or restaurant if we know they use a VHF radio.

And a morning VHF radio community, aka the local cruiser’s net, are of like-minded with similar needs, seeking assistance and knowledge on any given day with the high probability of getting the support they need. The net is run by volunteers and commonly run in larger anchorages and marinas.

There is often a cruisers net at each major marina.  The nature of the local net is commonly determined by a collective agreement between fellow cruisers, often cruisers that are longterm boat marina residence.  Some nets are casual, some cover a little more info, and some even invite jokes to share.  We have discovered, that each local net has their seasonal suspects, if you will, and entertain themselves, and those passing through.

Regardless, the nets are there to provide support, inform, provide resources, and emergency traffic.  If a need arises, we get serious and help out.  The collective effort is like a safety net.  No pun was intended.

Thanks for learning as we go.

Dharma Girl Clear

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