How to contact the Caminante crew?

Tina and Gustaf outside Tenerife. Above Gustaf you can spot a sun panel which, together with the the wind generator and the diesel engine, keeps the 13 lead batteries charged.
This picture is from the old circumnavigation with Caminante (I). The same technical arrangement is valid also in Caminante (II).

AIS (Automatic Identification System, Marinetraffic), Link.

The boat can sometimes be spotted by AIS (if they are close enough to an AIS-station (and if Caminante's AIS-transponder is turned on). Clicking the link above gives an explanation to the AIS system. If you write the name of a ship to the AIS page, you may get position, some data of the vessel (also picture) and a tracking trail, telling about its route. Also some weather information for the area is available. Computer or phone are both possible.

Marine VHF (Caminante II's call sign is SA9563).

Using the VHF-radio you communicate with coast gards, customs and harbour personel, also with ships and perhaps friends on board boats at a short distance.  During saling you will all time be alert for a call on the marine VHF-channel nr. 16 (156.800 MHz), also used as an emergency channel.

Amateur radio.

Contacts to Caminante II have merely been managed by shortwave amateur radio, often known as "ham" radio. Tina, Gustaf and Lovisa are licence keeping radio amateures with signals SM6UBO, SM6UAS and SA6LOV.
During the first voyage 2000-2003 we tried to make direct radio contacts rather often. During the second cruise, 2012-2017, another strategy showed to be more convenient. The frequences are not always open when you happen to have some free time for a connection. On holidays it is sometimes a high activity by other radio amateurs, making the bands crowded, and a free space is not always possible to find. However, just amateur radio was the mean that could make all those blog reports from Caminante II available for readers almost every day. One technical radio method making this possible is Pactor, a way of modulating the radio waves. The system it uses is called WinLink Global Radio Email (or shorter just Winlink).

Winlink is a system, driven by volonteer radio amateurs all over the world. By Winlink, sailing radio amateurs have access to e-mail, weather maps and other valuable information. Crucial, as the AIS and the cell phones do not work over the vast open waters. An alternative, satellite telephone, is expensive and does not easily provide all essential information. The people behind WinLink are volonteering their time as well as their resources ideally to the project. These radio amateurs in a lot of countries support important social functions by their engagement for communication. 

Traditional telegraphy (CW) was sometimes used during earlier cruises, later on more seldom. The digital mode PSK-31 became then a good alternatetive in two way written communication used by the radio community, also by pleasure boat owners. At present time a still better method Thor-11 from the computer program FLDIGI has shown to be superior, still fast enough for normal type-writing. Any preferable frequency band depends i.a. on the distance, time of day etc. Long cruisers mostly use the 15-20 meter bands.

Pactor on 15-40 m using the program suite AirMail in the WinLink system has been the backbone in the Caminante II communication. This method made e-mail available. Also weather maps in the format Grib files could be downloaded by the radio.

And not to forget: The Internet. You can get weather reports/maps from all corners of the globe in the very formate that Gustaf och Tina are loading down by their radio. On e.g. you can load down a software, giving access to maps in the Grib formate, telling if you dare leaving the harbour or better wait.
The problem is just that we landlubbers have got the "net" - the cruising people have not, nor did the Caminante crew during their long voyages.

Equipment for radio contacts.

Radio for short wave.
For short-wave (HF) an Icom IC-7200 with 100W power has been used. A later model like the the IC-7300 should be a better choice if chosen today. The HF-radio (by cruisers often called "SSB") is used for the communication over long distances (HF = "High Frequency", SSB = "Single Sideband").

Marine VHF and 2-meters amateur radio
(the latter seldom in action), all having their own antennas, are useable over shorter distances, at most c:a 8 km (VHF = "Very High Frequency").

Transponder for AIS.
Caminante II has got an Icom-transponder that automatically sends GPS-data to other stations by its own antenna. The most important function for AIS is to avoid the risk of ship collisions.

Radio antennas. Two different antennas for short wave are arranged (15 resp. 20 + 30m bands). The wire stays to the mizzenmast are isolated at their bottom and at a point higher up, 5.5 resp. 8 m up. These isolated wire parts are fed by a 50 ohms coax, at its other end connected to an antenna tuner (matchbox). The braids of the coaxes are bolted to the steel deck, close to each  antenna. The fact that the vessel is made by a conducting material (steel) makes it well suited for its radio function. For additional antennas suitable for longer wavelengths it is always possible to hoist up a random length of copper wire and tune it by the antenna tuner (for 40 and 80m bands). The steel deck is a first class electric ground.
With a plastic boat a special grounding arrangement for the antenna coax must be performed.

The modem för Pactor
is a PTC-II-modem from SCS (Link). Pactor-3 is the name of the version of the technique used on Caminante (II). It uses a transfer rate of max 10.5 kbit/sek, not very much, still superior compared to Pactor-2 (0.5 kbit/sek), earlier used on the old Caminante (I).

An fully competent alternative to Pactor and the modem from SCS is the program Winlink Express with adjunct program Vara. They can both be downloaded by links from the Winlink website (LINK). With Winlink Express you avoid the extra 'box' (SCS modem) and get the same functions for less than a tenth of the cost for Pactor.

Sound interface for PSK-31, THOR-11 and other digital techniques is built-in in modern radios ("built-in sound card"). With older radios a special modem is needed. Different models are available on the market. It is also possible to build your own (like we had on Caminante (I).

A lot of computers are found on board (only laptops). The demands on the computer you use for the radio communication are not too heavy. Also a 10 years old machine can do the job. The main demand is that it must not make electrical disturbancies that give an effect to the reception of signals. Some laptop's power supplies may cause severe noise levels and should be avoided. Trial and error!
As it is not possible to connect to the Internet it is good practice to bring abundantly of fims and digital books to the computers. Voltage converters to get 230V have many times shown to disturb the radio reception, something to have a eye to. To find the source for disturbances is like an art you some time will have to practice onboard.

Contact to land.

During the cruises with Caminante I and II, Peter, radio signal SM6KFY, has been a contact person. In case of questions about communication of related kind, you may write a few lines.

For contact please e-mail  (picture file)