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Old 26-03-2013, 22:07   #16
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

dang, there goes the budget. That's fine though. I'm getting good information and not buying the wrong stuff which is costlier in the end. I was two clicks away from buying some stuff off amazon that wouldn't of met my goals.

reading about the grounding has brought to my attention a new set of challenges. I really don't want to drill holes under the waterline. In that excel diagram there was an antenna that didn't require one? I don't mind having a 3-6ft fiberglass antenna off the stern. It was noted as being best for power boaters though?

thanks so much for the info guys!

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Old 26-03-2013, 22:14   #17
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

No need for holes, copper foil on the inside of your hull below the water line will couple with the conductivity of the salt water and you have a great counterpoise. Run the length of your boat if you can. Your 3~6' vertical will not cut it for the lower bands, even a auto tuner can't tune something that short and besides it won't hear signals much better than a wet noodle. If a vertical, at least 24', 28' better, 33' is as good as it gets for a marine vertical.
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Old 26-03-2013, 22:33   #18
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

I bought an Icom 718 from Ebay for $450. It had already been opened up for transmitting on all HF frequencies if I ever needed to. I really like the 718 as it's a simple radio that doesn't have a bunch of 3 or 4 deep menus to wade through to be able to do anything with it. I don't get along well with tiered menus for any electronic equipment.

Bought an Icom AH4 antenna tuner new for a little over $300. radio worked fine but wouldn't relaibly trip the AH4 tuner because of an open pin in the radio antenna tuner circuitry. Sold the AH4 for a good price and got an SGC230 tuner which doesn't require anything more than the RF output of the radio to tune. The SGC230 was plug and play and has worked perfectly. Only problem is no one discounts the SGC230 so unless you can find it used, you are going to pay retail for it. Also bought a used Pactor 2 modem and had it upgraded to Pactor 3. Was able to email my wife all the way to Hawaii from SF, talk on the Pacific Maritime net on 14.300, and an occasional QSO with someone in flyover country when it got boring mid ocean.

Understand that you can easily increase the output of the 718 to 200 watts if you want the most powerful signal out there. Haven't done it so only reporting what I've heard.

As far as the backstay antenna, you may only need one insulator. As long as the backstay isn't bonded you can feed it at the terminal at the turnbuckle and only need an insulator at the top. Just don't let anyone hang on the backstay while your are transmitting. The split backstay might be an issue but don't know how that would affect your signal. Someone may have some idea of ways to get around it. BTW, there is a Norseman insulated backstay terminal now on eBay for 9/32 wire and also one for larger wire.
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Old 26-03-2013, 23:11   #19
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

Between radio, antenna, and antenna tuner it's going to be difficult to put together a decent system for under $1000 (I've tried). If you're a cheapskate like me, you can get most of the functionality you really need using an $80 SSB receiver and a cellphone with a mexican SIM card. The Receiver will let you listen to all the nets (including weather forecasts up and down the coast of mexico, and the cell phone will give you 2-way communications and fast internet access most of the time you're in sight of land (especially if you add an external cell antenna on your mast). If you absolutely need to communicate while outside of cell range then you can add a delorme inreach, which lets you send and receive short text messages through the satphone network.

All of this combined is well under $500 and is smaller, more reliable, and uses a lot less power than an SSB/ham radio.
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Old 26-03-2013, 23:28   #20
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

But that is missing the social aspect of HAM radio and cruising. When buddy boating, getting out of VHF range is no longer a problem, just use 40 meters during daylight and 75 meters at night.
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Old 26-03-2013, 23:58   #21
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

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But that is missing the social aspect of HAM radio and cruising. When buddy boating, getting out of VHF range is no longer a problem, just use 40 meters during daylight and 75 meters at night.
Exactly. That's my whole point. Most of the transmitting you're going to do over SSB is social chitchat, and you need to decide if that chitchat is worth over $1000 to you. As a beginning cruiser on a budget I decided that for me it was a "nice to have" not a "must have". If you're buddy boating with someone along the coast you're heading for the same destination anyway and can catch up with them socially once you both arrive via VHF or cell. If something comes up along the way you can stay in contact via email using your inreach and their pactor modem.

I'm not suggesting that there's a "right" or "wrong" answer, just throwing out another option that gives the original poster 90% of the functionality he's looking for while still staying within his budget.
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Old 27-03-2013, 00:03   #22
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

I understand. My first cruising was way before computers, cell phones and GPS. Really used the HAM radio back then, and the license still had the 13 wpm code test, send and receive.
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Old 27-03-2013, 00:48   #23
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

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This is a great post and also interests me as well. Are most of these radios listed capable of transmitting & receiving email? I under stand u would need a pactor 2 or 3 modem? Unless there is a better alternative
If you have a ham call sign the win link system uses a soundcard to send/receive emails, no expensive pactor required but a signalink box helps a lot for any kind of digital stuff.
http://www.winlink.org
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Old 27-03-2013, 09:07   #24
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

Check out hamfests in your area. You can often try out a radio before buying it. I got a great little HF transciever for less than $300 several years ago. It is an Alinco DX70, which is an older and little-known model, but it works just fine for both talking and e-mailing via HF.

Search for postings by btrayfors about "alternative backstay antennas". You don't have to have an expensive auto-tuner, if you are willing to limit yourself to a couple of bands, or are willing to make up several different (easy to make) antennas for the bands you want to use.
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Old 27-03-2013, 09:40   #25
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

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Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
Check out hamfests in your area. You can often try out a radio before buying it. I got a great little HF transciever for less than $300 several years ago. It is an Alinco DX70, which is an older and little-known model, but it works just fine for both talking and e-mailing via HF.

Search for postings by btrayfors about "alternative backstay antennas". You don't have to have an expensive auto-tuner, if you are willing to limit yourself to a couple of bands, or are willing to make up several different (easy to make) antennas for the bands you want to use.
Denverd0n brings up a couple of very good points, i.e.,:

1) you don't HAVE to spend a lot of money for a radio; and
2) you don't HAVE to spend a lot of money for a tuner if you limit operation.

Here, in very brief form, are your choices -- organized by cost.

1. Get on the air for $100. Find an older ham rig, say an Atlas 210X or 215X, for around $100. Limit your operation to the 20-meter ham band. Build yourself a vertical dipole out of THHN insulated wire from Home Depot. RESULT: with this setup you can talk many thousands of miles...easily work into Europe and beyond from the U.S.

2. Upgrade your radio to either ham or marine for under $500. LOTS of good used radios out there, including very good marine SSBs. Result: You're still limited to 20-meter operation, though, until you upgrade your antenna.

3. Upgrade to all-band operation. Effective all-band operation will require a tuner, preferably an automatic tuner. A manual tuner can be used, but not effectively unless you add an UN-UN (small box..less than $100) near the base of the antenna. You'd still be limited to manual tuning, though. No way around it, an automatic tuner is the way to go.

Antenna choices are many. Effective ones include the traditional insulated backstay, an "alternate backstay", a 23' or longer marine SSB whip, or other wire antenna (e.g., insulated shroud, triatic stay on a yawl or ketch, etc.). All of these require a tuner.

With all unbalanced antennas (and most all end-fed antennas are unbalanced), you will require a good RF ground system as well. No external RF ground is required for a dipole antenna, which is a balanced antenna system.

There are a couple of multi-band antennas which don't require a tuner. Among these are: the Hustler mobile whip antenna with resonators for each desired band of operation; a motorized or manual center-loaded "screwdriver" antenna; and a base-loaded Outback whip antenna. Problem is all of these are very inefficient antennas; they'll work somewhat, but nowhere near as well as a longer antenna, particularly on the low bands 3-10 mHz.

Some HF antenna choices on a boat may be found here:
MarineAntennaChoices2

Result: an SSB installation for all marine and ham band operation. All-band operation could add several hundred dollars to your costs, possibly over $1,000 depending on how you do it.

Can you build an effective all-band ham/marine installation for under $1,000 all-told? Yes, you can. How?

1. a used marine or ham radio and suitable automatic tuner ($500-700);

2. an "alternate backstay" antenna made of 1/8" s/s insulated lifeline ($75) with a GTO-15 feedline ($15); and

3. a RF ground system -- homemade or the KISS -- ($50-150).

Hint: keep the 20-meter vertical dipole antenna around; it's a killer antenna for DX!

Here are some construction details for dipoles and "alternate backstay" antennas. Click twice on each pic for full resolution.
Marine Antennas

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Old 27-03-2013, 09:44   #26
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

I used to want one of these newer smaller radios from ICOM or Yaesu but was talked into a Kenwood, and I am glad I was. If you dont need all the bells and whistles that come along with newer radios mentioned and space is not a huge problem you may want to consider a Kenwood TS 440, Many many were sold. This radio has a reciever that many much more expencive and newer units can not compete with(even with all dodads. Its is a radio that is easily worked(discrete components) on and even easier to operate. Some have built in tuner. This radio is considerably larger than the mentioned 706 and FT-857 but a solid performer that will perform every bit as good as those for 400 or less. I paid 200 for mine. I also bought a TS 430 with SSB filter and it too was $200.

Another good sight for classied ham equip is QTH.com, right now there are 1000+ HF trancievers for sale.

A feature I am saving up for on my 440 is a new DSP BHI filter can be added to the Kenwood 440 for about 130 dollars. check it out on youtube.....I am saving my pennies to add one to mine. When al said and done I will still have less than 400 in my radio.

I like the 706MIIG having operated one on USS Wisconsin but for me not worth the extra money unless space is a real issue.

BTW, There is no best unit, all of the units mentioned have served people well in one fashion or another. some will be better at certain things that others and vise vera...all trade offs

I have noticed when talking about radios and brands with hams, its like talking ford, chevy and dodge at a car show or drag track...or even better yet, which bluewater boat boat is best...here on CF

Good Luck.
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Old 27-03-2013, 09:53   #27
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

From what the PO said I would recommend a Icom 710 that is open to HAM. They are simple to operate, reliable, Transmit at 150 watts which could help, lots of info and cables for interfacing with pactor if he decides to. For a newbe I really think a 710 or 802 would be the way to go. You can find a good 710 for $500, 802 would be a bit more. Just me 2 cents

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Old 27-03-2013, 10:17   #28
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You can actually do fairly well with an alternate backstay antenna and a manual tuner at the rig end. As btrayfors posted, also using a 4:1 unun at the feedpoint will reduce SWR losses in the coax somewhat, but a decent manual tuner can almost always handle the job alone.

Using a manual tuner does require a bit of fiddling and time until you learn the initial settings for each frequency you use. I had to use one when our automatic ATU wasn't working, and we still got the radio/email job done.

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Old 27-03-2013, 10:20   #29
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

I assume you are talking about installing an insulated backstay while the mast is down. My personal favorite ham radio is a Kenwood TS 450S. Superb radios. If you can find a clean one, go for it. Should be about $350-$450, leaving some money for the SGC tuner you will want. I dragged mine around installing the same radio in 3 different boats. When it came to contacting the weather nets everyone wanted me to "be the guy" because I always had the best signal. Does Paktor well too.
The Kenwood 430 and 440 are good radios too. Not sure how well they do Paktor though.
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Old 27-03-2013, 10:37   #30
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Re: Choosing HAM transceiver (under $500)

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The Kenwood 480TS is a good choice. I am looking at getting one myself. The thing I like is your choice of power 5 watts to 100 max. Watts translate into Amps. about 20 amps at 100 watts. If you don't need all that power you save quite a bit. If you do some Googling you might just find how to illegally expand the transmit frequencies.
Don't get that one... get the TS-480HX. It gives you 5-200W and not the internal antenna tuner. For a boat, you need an external tuner when you want to work all the bands like other boats do.

This radio is $1k new. Add about $450 for the SG-230 auto-tuner and it will be a real mission impossible to find it together for under $500.
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