November 11, 2001
The morning of the test I found myself laying in bed, still half asleep muttering to myself dah dit dah, dah dah dit. The Morse Code I have been studying for the past month was finally seeping into my unconscious mind. It was now time to get the test out of the way. Not only because my incessant beeps and blips were driving my friends and family batty, but also because we are departing in just a few days and in order to e-mail from the boat I need the Ham certification.
E-mail on the boat seems strangely misplaced in some ways. A large part of what is appealing to me about cruising is escaping from the TV, the computer, cells phones and more. Cruising is about being self sufficient. If the diesel breaks down I can rip it apart and at least attempt to fix it. If the computer goes out I can open the case and stare at the integrated circuits, but beyond that I'm useless. But, I have caved on the e-mail because it is such a cost effective (free) and efficient means of communication.
People are always impressed that there is a way to e-mail from the middle of the ocean, as well they should be. It is an imperfect and somewhat slow system, but the benefits far outweigh the problems. And while my understanding of it all is still minimal the idea is quite simple. On the boat I have a ham radio connected to an antenna (the backstay); a laptop running e-mail software; and a modem (called a TNC) that connects the computer and radio. When I want to send a message I use the radio to connect to a remote ham station (there are a number of ham stations located around the world which have volunteered to serve as conduits between radio messages and the internet). Once connected the message is sent through the modem to the radio and through the antenna out into the ether as radio waves. Collected on the other end by the remote ham station these waves are converted back into a message and then directed onto the internet, reaching their destination hopefully in just a few minutes.
So, now that I have mastered
the almost dead language of Morse Code I am ready to take full advantage
of this high tech e-mail system. I hope you all will help me with this
by keeping in touch regularly. Do remember that I'll be downloading at
1200 baud, so if you send any large files or pictures I'll have plenty
of time on my hands to think up a not so nice response while waiting for
the files to download. Don't let this limitation deter you from writing,
I look forward to hearing from you all