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Old 21-10-2013, 10:37   #16
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Re: Help with SSB in Seattle area

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeremiason View Post
First, John (KA4WAJ) is an expert on all things electronic and he is an accomplished cruiser... Read his links and try his suggestions.

I have an ICOM 802 and AT 14-0 Antenna Tuner. On the ICOM 802, assuming everything else is OK, check your RF gain and make sure it is not turned up to high or too low... I usually keep mine between 5 and 6. Some people believe turning it up to the max is helpful, but on my radio it distorts and covers low signal stations.

I have several devices that cause interference on my SSB... The solar panels, the Auto Pilot, the Adler Barbour, and Engel Refrigerators. I have tried several different chokes and none of them work. I normally shut off those devices when using the radio.
Tom - I agree - I have been studying John's information this morning and he has some really good stuff. I believe the structured testing that I have planned for Sunday will be VERY helpful in sourcing my noise makers and verifying my installation. It is exactly what I was looking for when I created this thread.

Don - I got your PM and will update you on email with the testing plans when we get closer to Sunday.
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Old 21-10-2013, 11:20   #17
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Re: Help with SSB in Seattle area

Damn, I wish my installation was finished!
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Old 21-10-2013, 11:23   #18
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Re: Help with SSB in Seattle area

So.... have you guys thought about what channel you're going to test on? I know with HAM some freq's will go right over and miss you entirely you if you are that close together.....
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Old 21-10-2013, 14:53   #19
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Re: Help with SSB in Seattle area

Rapture,
1) It sounds like Paul and others will have you all set and ready to go!!
Congrats and good luck...


2) But, I'd like to clarify a couple fairly important things...
Quote:
Originally Posted by SVRapture40 View Post
So the first thing I am trying to do is eliminate the equipment problems (i.e. - verify my installation). I think I will learn how to use this radio much faster if I know my equipment is working properly (I can work on what I am doing and not worry about it being an equipment problem). That is why I am looking for someone local to do some testing with me - if I am having trouble hearing someone 50 miles from me, I clearly have an equipment issue.
a) Actually knowing about HF radio and radiowave propagation IS a important factor in determining whether or not you do have equipment problems (and the ONLY way to use/evaluate results of "on-air testing")...
And while some learn these things in a parallel way, in my opinion it is much better to learn these things BEFORE you install, and try to use, your radio....(but whatever the time frame / sequence may be, learning these things is a VERY important, and often over-looked step...)

Please understand this is NOT personal....
This is just a generic observation and general advice for all!!!

For many years, myself and others have been surprised by how little time/effort some put into learning these things....all-the-while, many spend years learning seamanship, navigation, sailing, etc. and take seminars on diesel engine maintenance, offshore weather, etc. but assume that as long as "plug everything in correctly" they are good-to-go as far as HF communications is concerned (even though nothing could be further from the truth!!)



b) And, your brief comment saying, "...if I am having trouble hearing someone 50 miles from me, I clearly have an equipment issue.", is not only a very telling statement, but also a often misunderstood myth (i.e. it is NOT true!)

Depending on what frequency/channel (and on time-of-day, etc.), the FACT is that you may have trouble hearing someone 50 miles away and NOT have any problem at all with your equipment!!!
Just some examples:
--- If you tried to communicate with someone 50 miles up/down the coast on 16.528mhz (day or night), you're unlikely to hear each other...and while 12.359mhz just might be usable, you'd be much better off using 8.294mhz (or even 4.146mhz or 6.227mhz, depending on time of day, etc...)
---- But, if still looking to communicate 50 or so miles away, if you used too low of frequency/channel you'll not only have more noise/static issues, but also more D-layer absorption (daytime only), so you can find using 4.146mhz (as an example) to be worse than a higher frequency (such as 6.227 or 8.294mhz)...

---- And, of course the opposite is also true....
If you were "loud and clear" from 50 or so miles away (say on 4, 6, or 8mhz band), but you could not hear / communicate with anyone from further than 500 miles away (daytime), you'd need to use a higher channel/frequency (such as 12, 16, 18, or 22mhz)....
---- But, of course, depending on time-of-day / year, etc. you cannot use too high of frequency as there are times and distances that some frequencies/channels are not useable on....


Please understand that I'm NOT trying to confuse/confound you...
Rather just trying to point out that unless you know what frequency/channel to use, to communicate over a certain distance, at a certain time-of-day, etc. there is no way that an "on-the-air-test" can tell you with any certainty if you have certain "equipment troubles"....
Cruising boat HF radio "equipment troubles" are usually found, assessed, troubleshooted, etc. using simple test equipment, such as:
1 - a RF Power (watt) / VSWR meter ($50 - $100, and every vessel should have one)
2 - a decent handheld voltmeter, and preferably one with a "clamp-on" DC ampmeter... ($50 - $150, and every vessel should have one)
3 - a portable SW receiver w/ SSB function ($100 - $150, and every vessel should have one)

You CAN use another station/vessel whose operator DOES know about HF radio and radiowave propagation, to assist you with "on-air" testing/evaluation, but be aware that at least one of you MUST know what they are doing, in order for these on-air tests to provide any relevant results....


c) I really think learning about HF communications and radiowave propagation is VERY important....
Those that learn it, LOVE HF (SSB) communications...
Those that don't learn it, usually hate HF (SSB) communications, and tell people that "SSB is a waste...buy a sat phone"...

I cannot possibly write everything you need to know here, but a good starting point are these SSCA Disc Board threads...
SSCA Forum • View topic - HF Radio Freqs, summertime Atlantic crossing, offshore Net..
SSCA Forum • View topic - Tips for using an HF-SSB Radio (mostly for newcomers)







3) Some specifics for you...
Quote:
Originally Posted by SVRapture40 View Post
I indeed have an iCom M802.
I have a Gam backstay antenna. I did NOT cut the GTO wire from the antenna and it is not coiled.
My tuner (a 140 I believe - it is the one that everyone sells with the 802 radio) is located in the stern of my boat right below the antenna.
I have a KISS ground plane. I realize that is not the absolute *best* solution, but I think it will be good enough for my needs. I chose it because I saw the trade off as being not the best technically vs. I don't have to worry about copper foil rotting away (I expect it will last a long time!). The KISS is attached to the tuner, runs across the stern of my boat, then goes forward under the bunk in the aft cabin - not coiled at all.
My house battery bank is located on the aft starboard side of the boat. The radio is located on the middle port side of the boat and there is no direct path to get from here to there. So I located a second power panel in the aft port side of the boat with 3/0 cable and then connected the power wire that came with the radio to that power panel.
For the wire between the tuner and radio - I connected the green ground wire on the radio side only.
I have 2 chokes on the power wire going into the radio, I have one choke on either end of the wire between the radio and tuner, I have a choke on the power wire going into the tuner, I have a choke on either end of the coax between the tuner and the radio.
You sound like you have things set-up pretty well...and I don't want to get into a step-by-step process, since you seem to have it done already....
But...
a) I do hope that you DID shorten the 12vdc power wire that Icom supplies with the M-802, as using that full length can add to voltage drop issues, especially if not wired directly to the batteries???
b) I do hope you have verified that your M-802 is new enough to NOT be afflicted with the dreaded "clipping issue"???
c) I hope you have had the M-802's internal speech compressor turned ON???
d) Not sure what chokes you're using (assuming mix 31 ferrite??), but be aware if you have transmitted RFI on-board (you have lights blinking, and/or your transmitter is causing other things to happen on-board), you should REALLY be using a line isolator in the coax line (at the tuner end), which will add more common-mode inductance that dozens of ferrite chokes!!
(the clip-on ferrites are best suited for multi-wire control cables, etc.)
e) Understand that the radio will work without a rf ground / counterpoise at all, or a mediocre one....it is just a matter of degree...
(but, if a copper strapping is installed correctly it will last decades without any problems...)

Please read over the these further threads (which WILL help you)...
SSCA Forum • View topic - Icom M-802 "Clipping Issue" - Revisited....
SSCA Forum • View topic - IC-M802 Compression
SSCA Forum • View topic - Icom M-802 DSC-Distress Signaling, what really happens!
SSCA Forum • View topic - Icom M-802 use on the Ham Radio Bands

SSCA Forum • View topic - ICOM 802 - Purchasing a New SSB Radio

SSCA Forum • View topic - KISS-SSB Counterpoise






4) As for received RFI....
Quote:
Originally Posted by SVRapture40 View Post
As for turning things off (like the fridge/freezer) - I am removing power from the devices. When I did the test where I got the "loud and clear" from KLB - that was before I choked the wires and started turning things off. I had not been able to find any working signals to test after I put the chokes on, until Paul's idea from yesterday with WWV. I have been able to get their time broadcast so I started doing some testing. That is when I discovered that my fridge/freezer was giving me some noise.

I realize that I am new to this and have a lot to learn. One of the fortunate things about missing my weather window to get south is that I now have time to work on some systems in a place that I am familiar with (Seattle). The reason I am looking for a local person to do a little testing is to try to remove long distance from the equation. I am trying to remove as many variables as possible so I can verify each piece of the equation separately so I am not chasing my tail in circles. If I could find a local professional that truly knew what they were doing, I would gladly pay them for an hour of their time to test/teach me about my equipment. But in the absence of that, my theory is to work each piece separately as I figure out what is normal and what is not working properly.
No worries about being new to all of this, I think you're doing great!!!
And, your statement here, "...If I could find a local professional that truly knew what they were doing, I would gladly pay them for an hour of their time to test/teach me about my equipment." is great on two levels....
One, you're actively looking to learn....and two, you've already learned a tough lesson, in that many that say they know what they are doing, really don't have a clue....

My only caution is to understand that what you are dealing with is a complete system, and not just a collection of connected/associated equipment, nor even just a system made up of "equipment", as YOU are part of the system as well, and of course there is good 'ole mother nature (radiowave propagation)!!!
As long as you understand and accept the above, you'll be fine...

(BTW, I've been doing this now for about 40 years....and in addition to those decades of operating, designing/building antennas and stations on-shore and at sea, I also have taught classes / seminars on HF radiowave propagation, antenna system design / choice, etc....so again, don't worry about being "new", we all started somewhere!!!)


And, please read over the threads I referenced in my earlier post, and look at the HF frequencies of the USCG and WLO/KLB, as well as WWV....they WILL help!!!

New SSB Installation
SSB Reception
SSCA Forum • View topic - Icom M802 in fresh water
SSCA Forum • View topic - SERIOUS HAM SSB SETUP ON THE CHEAP

SSCA Forum • View topic - HF Radio Freqs, summertime Atlantic crossing, offshore Net..
SSCA Forum • View topic - Tips for using an HF-SSB Radio (mostly for newcomers)

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfvoice.htm

http://www.shipcom.com/frequencies.html

Don't let the titles fool you, there is a wealth of RFI information AND information on what signals to tune into, that you can easily hear "loud and clear", in those threads and website!!!!



I hope this help...

Good luck and fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 21-10-2013, 15:09   #20
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Re: Help with SSB in Seattle area

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
I think the OP said everything electrical was turned off....?
Yes, but as has been mentioned there is a difference between "switched off" and "really turned off" (with the power disconnected). I use my circuit-breaker panel to truly shut off suspected interference sources.

And about propagation, ka4wja has said a mouthful! I did mention a bit of that in a PM to the OP, but there are some basic principles that can make the difference between solid copy and no contact. Time of day, location, frequency, and sunspot cycle are critical. You can learn a lot by downloading one of the propagation calculator applications and playing with it. The one built into the Airmail program is good, and there are others with perhaps easier user-interfaces for playing around with.
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Old 21-10-2013, 15:41   #21
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Re: Help with SSB in Seattle area

Wow! This is turning out to be better than I could have imagined! Truly, thank you all for all of your help!

John - no need to tell me not to take your help personally - I SO appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with me! I fully realize that I am a part of the "system" and don't want to imply that a short distance test will be an end all to my testing/learning. I have been studying off and on about SSB for the past couple of months now. And have spent most of each day for the past week studying. As I said, my trip south (to warmer climates!) being delayed has not been an all bad thing as I knew I had a lot of work to do in this area. I am working on my HAM license as well as this SSB stuff. My goal was to take the tech test before we cast off at the end of September, but unfortunately I just didn't feel that I was quite ready. I was getting mostly 70+ percent on the practice tests, but I felt that just wasn't good enough so I didn't go to take that test that I had lined up. I just had WAY too much going on (closing the sale of my business, preparing my home for renters and moving out, preparing the boat for off shore cruising) to get it all done. I would study for an hour or 2 each night before bed, but I am thinking my brain was pretty burnt by then. But now I have nothing but time on my hands so I am studying pretty much all day, every day.

That all being said - I am not going to try to address all of the information that you gave (I will just work through it later). But I do think I have a pretty good general understanding of propagation, sun spots, night vs day, etc... - but certainly no expert! But on that note - it is my understanding that there are 2 parts to an SSB signal - the part that bounces off the ionosphere and goes thousands of miles and the part that travels along the ground. And it is my understanding that the signal that travels along the ground is not affected by the current propagation status. So a test between Kingston and San Juan Island should use the ground signal and easily reach at any time in the 2MHz band (according to the chart I have - 2MHz should reach about 150 miles on the ground). Is this not true?

Paul - as far as "turning off" my noise makers - yes, I am removing the power to the entire boat at my power panel. As a matter of fact, I have turned the power off to the entire boat with the exception of the SSB for testing.

I am a bit concerned as I have not been able to reach WLO/KLB since I added the chokes. I have tried at night and during different times of the day. Should I have a choke on the antenna cable between the radio and the tuner? That wouldn't block the signal in any way would it?
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Old 21-10-2013, 16:31   #22
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Re: Help with SSB in Seattle area

Rapture,
1) It's good that you're studying for your ham license....go for it!!



2) Specific to your comments/questions...
Quote:
Originally Posted by SVRapture40 View Post
That all being said - I am not going to try to address all of the information that you gave (I will just work through it later). But I do think I have a pretty good general understanding of propagation, sun spots, night vs day, etc... - but certainly no expert! But on that note - it is my understanding that there are 2 parts to an SSB signal - the part that bounces off the ionosphere and goes thousands of miles and the part that travels along the ground. And it is my understanding that the signal that travels along the ground is not affected by the current propagation status. So a test between Kingston and San Juan Island should use the ground signal and easily reach at any time in the 2MHz band (according to the chart I have - 2MHz should reach about 150 miles on the ground). Is this not true?
It is not possible to write a treatise here on HF radiowave propagation....but...
But, my advice.....scrap the chart and forget 2mhz marine freqs!!!
Getting reliable 150nm range on 2mhz daytime is rare...
The atmospheric noise levels are high....
RFI is prevalent....
"Groundwave attenuation" is quite high (even over sea water), compared with Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS)....
And, most importantly, the often overlooked fact is that our antennas are short and inefficient down there...

And, add to the above the fact that NOBODY is listening/monitoring or using this band, means that there is nothing/nobody there!!!
The USCG has been discouraging the use of the 2mhz marine band since the 1970's!!!
And, except for the USCG, nobody was been using/monitoring 2mhz marine freqs in 15 years....
And, just recently they gave up ALL monitoring / watchstanding (not even DSC) on 2mhz!!!
Have a look here....

SSCA Forum • View topic - USCG to Discontinue ONLY 2mhz Distress Watchkeeping 8-1-2013

http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/marco...afetyAlert.pdf

HF Distress and Safety Watchkeeping Schedule


Perhaps the chart you have is based on the OLD 1950's maritime communications pamphlets??? But, whatever the case, 2mhz comms NEVER worked well for pleasure boats / small vessel-to-vessel communications....


Throw out the chart!!!
Don't play with software!!!
Read the books, and learn how things work....and you'll be fine!!!



3) In GENERAL (not an absolute!!)....
For daytime comms, you'll find the 8mhz marine band (and sometimes 6mhz)to be the best overall band for "regional" coverage (20 - 500 miles)....and the 12mhz and 16mhz bands to be best for "long-range" comms (400/500 - 5000 miles)....
And, nighttime....4mhz (and 6mhz) for "regional" coverage...with 8mhz (and sometimes 12mhz) for "long-range" comms....

For short-range 20 - 100/150 miles....although not too common, if 8mhz is a bit "long" (meaning the minimum range is above 100 miles).....4mhz can be used effectively....

Also, understand that wintertime can mean using a band one selection lower than usual...and vice verse, summertime can mean using a band one selection higher than usual....

I trust you take note that nowhere above did I even mention sun spots, solar flux, solar activity, A-indices, K-indices, geomagnetic activity, D-layer absorption, scatter modes, ionospheric modes, number of hops, ionospheric tunneling, etc. etc. etc....
As, the above is pretty accurate and understandable by even novices....there is no need to baffle you with BS!!!






4) Generically, when making changes, and then noticing problems, what usually happened is:
a) nothing....it's just coincidental...
b) something got disconnected and/or connected / re-connected wrong...
c) a wire got accidentally pinched, pulled, cut, and/or shorted...


But, specifically here....
Quote:
Originally Posted by SVRapture40 View Post
I am a bit concerned as I have not been able to reach WLO/KLB since I added the chokes. I have tried at night and during different times of the day. Should I have a choke on the antenna cable between the radio and the tuner? That wouldn't block the signal in any way would it?
---- NEVER place any choke / ferrite on the GTO-15 wire, nor the ground strap, nor ground wire, KISS-SSB-Ground.....
---- As long as you didn't do any of that, adding "chokes" would NOT have negatively effected your reception nor transmission...
---- "Chokes", ferrites, and "line isolators" block any RF signal (stray RF / RFI / etc.) traveling on the OUTSIDE of the coaxial cable, or the shield of shielded wiring, they do NOT have any effect on the RF flowing thru the coax cable....
Therefore chokes on the "antenna cable between the radio and tuner" (the coaxial cable) is not only fine, but is an almost necessity these days!!!





I don't have more time now....gotta' go!!

fair winds..

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 24-10-2013, 09:56   #23
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Re: Help with SSB in Seattle area

I have announced the details for the SSB Test Net here: SSB Test / Practice Net - Sunday Oct 27
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