Single Side Band Radios


Single Side Band Radios SSB. HF/SSB radios allow you to communicate from 75 miles to 3,000 miles offshore and beyond, depending on propagation, so you can stay in contact worldwide. Marine HF radios are often referred to as SSB radios, because for all marine frequencies, transmissions are always made in single-sideband mode. Propagation is an issue with SSB and its a general rule that you choose a lower frequency when the sun is low and a higher frequency when the sun is high.

The SSB transceiver is a very reliable method of long range communication. Marine Very High Frequency (VHF / FM) transceivers have an effective range of only about 20 nautical miles and cellular phones have a very limited range. Satellite phones are very expensive and have limited coverage.

Benefits of HF/SSB Radio

  • Multi Party Conversation,

  • Listen to International Broadcast Stations,
  • Receive Weather Facsimile Charts for Free,
  • Amateur Radio ,
  • Time Signals,
  • Send and Receive E-Mail,
  • After the hardware cheap to run.



To get the most out of your SSB check the Courses and book links below.

Weather forecasts, safety and chat

Cruisers like to keep in touch and its also a safety net, plus an information source like Weather. Herb Hilgenberg’s Southbound II weather net is legendary among East Coast and Caribbean cruisers. You can keep in touch with any vessel at anytime, anywhere in the world as long as they have an SSB.

Here is a link to Marine radio nets for cruisers SSB frequencies and times.


SSB monitors DSC distress on channels 2,4, 6, 8,12 and 16 MHz. VHF monitors DSC on channel 70. Again to fully activate DSC you will need to connect your GPS to the SSB receiver and use your MMSI number. Pushing the DSC button sends out a signal on a 2 MHz default frequency that includes your MMSI, your lat & lon and the time. The transmission activates an alarm on any radios within range. To test your DSC capability send a “test” transmission to a Coast Guard stations MMSI number.

SSB Equipment and Installation

You will need

  • SSB radio
  • Automatic Antenna Tuner
  • grounding plane
  • backstay antenna or 23 ft whip Arial.

You will need to get a license from the FCC

A Ship’s Station License (for the vessel) and a Restricted Radiotelephone License (for you, the operator). You don’t need a Ship’s Station License for inside U. S. waters, but if you’re bound for foreign waters, you’ll need one. The Ship’s Station License will also get you your MMSID number, which you’ll need to fully implement Digital Selective Calling (DSC) on your VHF or all of the safety functions on your Inmarsat C system.


The Furuno FS1503EM w Tuner is an example of a SSB radio

The FS1503EM won the NMEA award for SSB/GMDSS two years and is

Furuno FS1503EM w Tuner SSB

rugged and splash proof. It is e mail compatible and will use SCS Pactor II pro HF modem.

150Watt $2,500 approx.



Another example of a marine SSB is the ICOM IC- M802


This unit is E mail ready will take the Pactor modem, Its also DSC ready but will need a separate aerial plus GPS input.

Connects to the AT-140 automatic Antenna Tuner. 150Watt

$1,800 plus $490 for the tuner approx.


The traditional way to install a SSB is with the copper ground plane glassed into the hull and backstay insulators. Both of these are time consumers and are expensive.

There are alternatives out there for different Antenna which are much simpler to install. This link to BWSailings story on these devices

KSS SSB plane


SSB E mail Setup

Both the ICOM and the Furuno Radios above are specially designed with e mail in mind.

To send e mail you will need a modem and a Computer. While there are a few different types available, the most popular is the PTC-II series from Special Communications Systems in Germany.

These PTC-II modems are the only ones that can make use of SCS’s advanced Pactor II and Pactor III protocols for squeezing lots of data through a relatively small chunk of airwaves. Approximately $750 for the Pactor II, plus $150 fro the Pactor III upgrade.

PTC-II series from Special Communications Systems in Germany

SSB E mail Providers

SSB Training