When our Pactor III modem went silent earlier this fall, I was devastated. We use the modem for our daily e-mail communications with friends and family, as well as ALL our weather data, including weather fax, charts, NOAA text offshore forecasts and even as a backup to Chris Parker’s daily weather briefing.
We consider the SSB and the modem as an integral part of our safety system. The ability to contact someone reliably from ANYWHERE is definitely a safety issue for us. We’ve had a GlobalStar sat phone, it dropped calls and wouldn’t connect at all once we got to the Western Caribbean (I understand they have more satellites these days, but from our previous experience, we won’t go back). We have an Iridium phone and an exterior antenna … still not perfect, but we can usually get through … but it’s expensive – we don’t use it for text and e-mail for that same reason… why should we when we can pay $250 for SailMail or FREE for Winlink (ham operators only) and get all the e-mail and weather data we need for an entire year. The only limitation is SailMail’s 90 minute a week limit, but we’ve never approached that even checking weather multiple times a day and e-mail twice daily.
We called the US distributor for SCS pactor modems, Farallon Electronics and sent the modem in for repair. My heart was in my throat because pactor modems are excruciatingly expensive – much more so than the inital investment for a sat phone, but there’s no monthly or per minute cost. We didn’t want to have to replace it, but we also didn’t want to lose our “out of range” communications via e-mail, Sailmail and Winlink. Here’s the e-mail I received from Gary Wood at Farallon Electronics:
Hi Jan and David,
Well, I think we have some good news for you, but I won’t know for sure
until tomorrow morning. The troubleshooting was a bit tricky, but the boss
finally tracked the problem down to several surface mount electrolytic
capacitors that were at, or nearing the end of their life span. He by-passed
them with standard sized capacitors, but since they must be tack soldered
onto the PC board strips, a resin is applied to secure them in place
permanently. The resin will be totally dry by tomorrow morning and I’ll then
give the unit a thorough diagnostic test and then do several “on the air”
links transferring messages.
I should have the results by 10 AM tomorrow morning.
Gary confirmed the next morning that they sent test messages all over the world and my trusty pactor modem was once again my trusty pactor modem. So when it arrived back aboard, I tested it and heard that reassuring BEEP as soon as I turned on my Icom M802 SSB. I sent a test e-mail to commuterCRUISER.com to see if the e-mail was actually transmitting and — 🙂 I am one happy happy cruiser!
“This is just a test to make sure my fixed Pactor IIC Modem is functioning correctly — this post is via Sailmail & SSB. Keeping my fingers crossed!”
For more information on the SailMail Association, please see the web site at: http://www.sailmail.com
One more project successfully completed. Do you have something to add? More info? Please leave a comment and share. Cheers! Jan