I just received my amateur radio callsign and licence!
There is a fixed amount of radio spectrum that is allocated to different purposes in different countries. Certain “bands” have been allocated to amateur radio enthusiasts, or “hams”, to experiment and research new radio technology and create emergency disaster communication links. There are several radio-to-email services for boaters but it requires a radio licence.
In Canada, there are two multiple-choice tests: Basic with 100 questions and Advanced with 50, and both require 70% to pass. In addition, you can complete a morse code test, creating 4 types of certification: Basic, Basic with Morse, Basic with Honours, and Advanced.
In Canada, the Basic certification provides access only to VHF and UHF bands, while the other certifications permit access to HF. VHF and UHF are line-of-sight communication and you cannot usually talk much further than tens of kilometers (there are repeater networks to increase your range, where an automated base station relays communications. Vancouver Island even has a sophisticated “trunk” to relay messages over 400 km!).
After a crash-course in studying manuals from RAC I wrote both tests (no Morse code for me). I didn’t pass the Advanced, but my high Basic mark permits me the Honours certification. I now have access to the HF band! This is the truly interesting and complex part of radio as it allows worldwide communication if conditions are just right. You can talk several thousand kilometers with the power of a flashlight!
Since getting my licence I strung up some speaker wire into a tree and sent an email 60 km. There is much more to this world of radio, and I will post more details as I learn.