24 August 2020 | Tapuamu Bay, West Side of Taha'a
William Ennis | Hmmm...hot
We sent our first two blogs via our SSB last night! I don't know if they arrived or were legible, but I do hope so.
The Single SideBand radio is old technology: SSB was invented to communicate with USAF strategic bombers on FailSafe during the Cold War. The software that I use to communicate with the radio modem is Windows only, so I use Parallels to run Windows 7, and that allows me to use the ONE AND ONLY software in the world for high frequency radio modems: Airmail. Using Bluetooth, my Mac, running Windows, communicates to the modem, our SCS Dragon 7400, made in Germany. SCS, the German company that manufacturers the modems, is the ONLY high frequency modem maker in the world, so they have a complete monopoly.
The modem is connected to the SSB, of course, and controls the frequency selector as well as sends data to the radio.
SSB, being radio, is deeply affected by Sun and our own Ionosphere. When it's day, Sun heat Earth and the Ionosphere expands, so radio signals must go further and the angle of the reflection changes. Sun also produces copious quantities of interference, so there are many practical reasons to transmit at night. The modem is VERY slow, and last night the transmissionsDepending were in "bytes per minute", rather than "kilobytes per second", as with computers. For reference, a page of simple text is one kilobyte. To send the two blogs last night required almost 15 minutes! The radio is only 150 watts, by law, so I need all the power that I can get, so only transmit when we're running the generator. Since that's usually in the evening, it works out.
The Airmail software creates a "propagation table" for several hours from the time it's opened and calculates the best stations for communication, using an algorithm that includes a multitude of effects. Depending on conditions, it may be in San Diego from here, or Manihi from here. Last night, Manihi, a small island in the Tuamotus (about 800 miles) was best, and there was a single frequency that seemed best, so I chose that. Evidently, the propagation table was correct since I easily reached their station and sent both blogs.
Everything in the system has to be re-calibrated each year and I am always surprised that I can remember all of the steps and make things work each year. We pay for a service called "Sailmail" that has stations throughout the world. They also publish Airmail, the software, and Airmail and Sailmail together provide email and weather services for most cruisers in the world.
We launched the dinghy today, and it required the usual hour to get the damned outboard to run. I prepare it for layover but those preparations also require some time to undo: the Corrosion Block in the cylinder, for example, clogs valves and spark plugs, but it prevents corrosion in that region so it's worth the work. At any rate, we made a grocery run to Tapuamu, fetching gas for the generator, ice for the fridge, and a few groceries, including a few baguettes! We also visited Pari Pari, the rum distillery that I mentioned and bought a few bottles. It's great stuff and unlike anything we've ever enjoyed elsewhere.
We are fairly sure that we'll depart tomorrow, and depending on weather, we might make it to Bora Bora. Not only does the Bora Bora Yacht Club have moorings for rent, but with the mooring price comes a hot-water shower and Wifi. Wow! I know that it seems a low bar, but it's pretty exciting to us. We can rent some bicycles and take a tour around the island, have our laundry done, enjoy a few good meals, and hobnob with the rich and famous at the Intercontinental Bora Bora: bungalows over the water start at US$1200/night. If we make it there, I'll post that page that I made a few days ago.
It's been a good rest here, and it's been our first since arriving over a month ago. The amount of work that we've accomplished has not been at our usual pace, I assure you.
We keep chipping away at the tasks and they are fewer than they were originally.