Well, my big news today is that I passed my General class HAM license test this morning. I've been stressing about it for a month. Last month I took and passed my Technician level test but it was fairly easy (missed one out of 35). But the General was much more technical and covered stuff that I either have never seen before or haven't seen since I was going to FT"A" school in the Navy some 40 years ago. And I didn't really get it then. But I managed to pass (missed 4 out of 35) so now I'm good to go. What does this do for me? Well, when there are various "cruising nets" that take place on the HAM frequencies. These are groups of cruisers who check in, give their position, ask for help if needed, get weather forecasts, chat, etc. Since they mostly take place on the HAM bands, all you can do without license is listen. Now I can talk. But the other reason I get it is so that I can use AirMail. It's possible to get and send low-bandwidth (read: "text-only & no forwards") e-mail via HF (high frequency) radio anywhere in the world, even out in the middle of the ocean. You don't need a HAM license to do this if you're wiling to pay an organization called SailMail $250/year to administer your mail. Now this is a fair price because that's what it costs to run the program. But, with a HAM license you can get the same service, administered by fellow HAMs through a program called AirMail for FREE. And, as we all know, free is a very good price.
So, passing the test was my first big difficult hurdle. Now the next one is to try to figure out how to connect my radio, Pactor modem and compute together so I can actually send and receive HF e-mail.