It's good to talk. Back in Cambridge, we could pick up the phone, log on to our broadband and send email, access the world's information via the internet and never be out of touch. Things are a little different on board, where the cable guy can't quite reach us and WiFi is a bit too far away.
- telephone: Our mobile phones work when we are close to shore. However, that means that we are 'roaming', or away from our home network, for which the phone companies make a hefty charge. We will try to buy local cards to cut the costs of calling people, but it means that it's a bit difficult to call us.
- The radios: we have three radios on board:
- The simple car stereo, so we can listen to CD's and local radio stations.
- The 'VHF' or 'very high frequency' two-way radio. This is our day-to-day radio with a range of about 20 miles, which we use to listen to weather forecasts, talk to the coastguard if we need to, and talk to other nearby yachts. We also have a small, waterproof handheld VHF so one of us can take it with us when we go ashore and keep in touch with the boat.
- The 'SSB' or 'single side band'. This is the marine version of the 'ham radio' set, a complex and powerful piece of electronics that allows us to communicate, in principle, with people all over the world. It is limited by atmospheric conditions and the time of the day, but it generally allows us to talk to other boats and shore stations. We also have a modem for this radio so that we can get email and weatherfax information - see later.
- INTERNET: Only available to us ahore, if we can find an internet café or a WiFi network to log onto. That's one reason why the website only gets updated occasionally.
- EMAIL: We have a system for getting email over the long range radio. It's very slow; if you can remember the days of a 28.8k modem over your phone line, well, this is one quarter of that speed. However, that's enough for text and very small files, so we can get short messages and weather information this way. For more normal email, we go ashore to find an internet café or a wifi network.
- Emergencies: Our radios have a big red button marked 'distress' which we can press if we are really in trouble. This sends a signal to all ships and shore stations telling them who we are, our position and, if we have had time to select an option, what sort of trouble we are in. Running out of milk doesn't count. We also have a distress beacon that we can take with us, which sends a signal to a satellite with our position, and the emergency co-ordination centre can check it out. And last of all, we have distress flares to let off, which burn bright red or orange to let nearby ships know we need help. But at the end of the day, we have to be self-sufficient and ready to take to the liferaft and get home somehow.