LISTEN FIRST. Before you transmit, be sure to listen carefully to be sure that there is no traffic in progress. Sometimes the chirps or periodic rasping sounds only come at 4 second intervals, so listen for a while. If there is traffic on frequency, you will not be able to connect, and your attempts will just delay the traffic that is already underway for the duration (1 minute) of your call. If you hear “chirping” or a periodic “rasping” on a SailMail frequency then the station is in use; DO NOT TRY TO CONNECT.
Keep in mind that the SailMail stations (with certain exceptions such as KZN508, VBV2222, OSY, and VZX) have just one transceiver that scans the frequencies looking for a call. These stations therefore can only handle one connection at a time. Many members find it convenient to tune around and listen on all of the frequencies assigned to the station that they want to connect to, to see if the station is busy. If they hear that a station that has just a single radio is busy on a frequency, it is fruitless to call that station on another frequency (it doesn’t cause interference, it is just pointless). Instead, wait until the station is available, and then call on whichever frequency that you figure will work best. If a station is busy, consider trying another station. If you connect in the late afternoon or evening at a high frequency, you can connect to stations that are quite far away.
If you tune around and do not hear somebody else using aa single-radio station, go ahead and try to connect. If the station does not respond it is either because the station is busy on a frequency that you cannot hear because there is no propagation to you at that frequency, or it could be because there is no propagation at the frequency on which you are calling. If you are trying to connect to a multiple-radio station, just listen to make sure that your frequency is not in use, and then try to connect.
Not listening first, or attempting to connect to SailMail on a frequency that is already in use, is counter-productive, lubberly, pointless, rude, un-shipmatey, and violates International Telecommunications Law (as well as common sense). We are open to creative suggestions for ways of further clarifying this point.
It is ok to call on a frequency where a station is just finishing a connection. Be aware, however, that just because you hear the station identify itself in Morse code, the connection may still be in progress. The stations transmit their identification in Morse code itself every 7 minutes DURING a connection as well as at the end of the connection. If you call on a busy frequency, when another member is connected to the station, you will not be able to connect and your attempt may delay the traffic that is already underway. Your fellow SailMail members will be able to identify who you are, and you will be known forevermore as a heel and a lubber. Net, DO NOT call when the station is busy, and DO NOT reflexively call when you hear a Morse ID. Instead, wait to make sure that it is the end of your fellow member’s connection before you call.
If you are connected to a SailMail station and some thoughtless heel tries to connect during your connection, do not disconnect. Let your connection continue. If you are using Pactor-III or Pactor-4 your connection will typically not be interrupted.
Be careful when you address your messages, and double-check the internet email addresses (including the “cc:” addresses) before sending. In some cases you may not receive a “bounce” message in response to an incorrectly addressed outgoing email; the message will be delivered to a stranger. Don’t guess at friends’ email addresses. Instead, send an email to a mutual friend and ask for the correct email address.
Fully charge your batteries JUST PRIOR to using SailMail. Marine SSB’s are intolerant of even slightly low battery voltages, particularly when sending data. By trying to connect to the SailMail station with anything other than batteries that are fully charged, you are wasting your own time and batteries, as well as using more station time than is necessary. You will occasionally hear vessels whose signals sound garbled or distorted (unsuccessfully) calling the SailMail station. This garbled sound is generally caused by calling with batteries that are not fully charged, but can also be caused by RF getting into the Pactor-modem/radio wires or by over-driving the radio.
The system automatically computes a running average of your connect time over the last 7 days. Limit your usage to a running average of 90 minutes per week.
Carefully control access to your SailMail email address. Give it only to responsible friends and family members. NEVER post your SailMail address on a website. If your SailMail address does get posted on a website, it will get “harvested” by the “trawling” programs that spammers use to find email addresses from the web, and you will start to receive spam messages within a day or so.
Instruct your correspondents not to forward to you Internet jokes and frivolous emails. Ask them to refrain from putting your SailMail address on chain-emails, jokes, postings to Internet news-groups, websites, or widely cc’d emails that will attract SPAM to your SailMail address. If your SailMail address ends up on SPAM mailing lists, your SailMail account will become useless because it will become too time consuming for you to download all of the SPAM in order to get to the few messages that you really want to receive from close friends and family. If you maintain a website with your cruising newsletters, do not allow your SailMail email address to be visible on the website. If it is, it will end up on SPAM mailing lists. Before you joined the SailMail Association, there was never a single SPAM email sent to your SailMail address, and the SailMail Association never releases any member’s email address to anyone. If SPAM starts, it is because of something that you or one of your correspondents has done. If one of your correspondents does err, and your SailMail account does end up on the SPAM lists, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we can change your SailMail email address. This will require you to inform your (desirable) correspondents of the new address. It is far preferable, however, to avoid the problem in the first place.
If you want to distribute email newsletters to multiple email addresses, use SailMail’s relay service. This is a far better approach than putting many cc’s on an email which will often cause your email to be rejected as SPAM.
Keep a regular internet email account, and use it as your primary email address for all but your closest friends and family. Use this regular account for long or non-time-critical messages and for using as a return address when ordering items via the Internet. If you want to post an email address on a website, use this (non-SailMail) address.. You can check this address from time to time when you have regular access to the internet. You can also check messages on this regular internet email account via the SailDoc’s Shadowmail service.
Under NO circumstances should you set up your regular email account to automatically forward messages to your SailMail account. If you start to receive lots of unwanted messages, your SailMail account will become saturated and you will not be able to use SailMail to send and receive the messages that you really care about.
Inform your correspondents that the Internet, HF communications, and electronics on sailboats, are not perfectly reliable, and so if they stop hearing from you during a passage they should not panic and they should not call the Coast Guard or other authorities. If the Coast Guard calls them, however, inquiring about your whereabouts and why your (registered 406) EPIRB is going off, THEN they can panic.
When you are in a major marina use internet access via your boat computer, or use “Webmail” via a public computer to retrieve your SailMail messages at an Internet Cafe or other location where you can get access to the Internet. When your vessel is in a marina your SSB will work poorly due to the presence of nearby masts and rigging, and due to the electrical noise of the adjacent city and vessels. If you are able to connect to the SailMail station at all, your traffic will be transferred slowly due to the rotten signals, and your SailMail transmissions will interfere with other vessels in the marina as they monitor voice SSB weather and nets.
If you are in a marina or harbor with nearby vessels, and MUST use SailMail, be certain to avoid the times of the marine and ham cruisers’ nets to avoid causing interference with them. You can also dramatically reduce the interfering “splatter” caused by your SSB if you make sure that your batteries are FULLY charged when using SailMail, and if you reduce the transmit power of your SSB somewhat. You will find that reducing your transmit power will have little effect on your transfer times; indeed many hams routinely run at 25 or 50 watts transmit power when using Pactor. A reduction in transmit power, in conjunction with using fully charged batteries, will dramatically reduce the interference that you cause to nearby vessels.
Do not sign up (via your SailMail address) to services that routinely send you email messages (stock quotes, Yotreps, weather). If you sign up to one of these services, and then travel ashore for a while or are otherwise unable to download your messages, your SailMail account will become useless because there will be so many messages queued on the station for you that you will not be able to get to the messages that you are really interested in. Similarly, do not sign up (via your SailMail address) to subscription news services or other “broadcast” internet email services. There are other communications technologies that are better suited to receiving general news; for example get your news by listening to the BBC. SailMail station time is best used for personal email communications for which there are few inexpensive alternatives for non-hams. It is OK, however, to subscribe to weather via the Saildocs service. That service, in conjunction with SailMail’s servers, is smart enough to expire out of date messages to you so that you will only receive the latest Saildocs weather forecast even if you don’t connect to SailMail for several days.