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Old 03-04-2015, 09:53   #16
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

autunmbreeze,
In addition to what I wrote last night...
Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
a) I assume your primary weather source will be the US NWS/NOAA WeFax tropical weather charts (from USCG transmitters in Pt. Reyes and New Orleans, on 8mhz, 12mhz, and 17mhz)....
Pt Reyes Radiofax Schedule with Links
New Orleans Radiofax Schedule with Links

Secondarily, using US NWS/NOAA offshore and hi-seas weather, from USCG HF Voice Weather Broadcasts, and those from Shipcom WLO / KLB....along with NAVTEX, etc...
USCG HF Voice
HF SSB Radiotelephone, Telex and Email Frequencies and Channels
NAVTEX


b) And, I assume you're referring to using Winlink on the ham radio bands for e-mail connectivity, and while I don't keep up-to-date with the Winlink stations, I suspect most of your primary Winlink comms will be with US, Caribbean, Cent Amer, So. Amer, Winlink stations on 40m, 30m, and 20m.
http://www.winlink.org/RMSExpress
http://www.winlink.org/



Be aware that half of the cruising nets are on maritime bands, and half are on the ham radio bands...
Your IC-7200 is a ham transceiver, but will receive the maritime bands just fine...
West Coast Nets
East Coast Cruising Nets
I probably should point out the conundrum of trying to use ONE antenna, across a wide swath of frequencies, AND most importantly try to use this one antenna for widely different communications paths/modes...

Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
Primary goal is to be able to get weather and email via HF.
Secondary goal is to be able to listen to and/or participate with cruiser nets
Intended cruising grounds are Mexico and Central America (both Pacific and Caribbean sides)
--- What I mean is that most of the "cruiser's nets" that you refer to, are local / regional daytime nets on the lower HF bands (75m and 40m ham bands, and the 4mhz, 6mhz, and 8mhz marine bands), where, except for "groundwave" from 0 - 50-100 miles or so, short-range daytime skywave modes (NVIS) are all that is useable from 100 - 400 miles out.
And, of course this usually requires an antenna with a good high radiation angle pattern such as a horizontal dipole 1/4-wave high, etc., for Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS)...

--- Now, contrast those communications modes/paths, with the long-range daytime / evening communications on 30m, 20m, 15m, etc. (or the 12mhz, 16mhz, 18mhz maritime bands), and/or nighttime lonhg-range paths on the lower bands that only support "local" comms during the day, where you're looking for communications paths of typically 1000 - 2000 miles (single-hop) and out to 5000+ miles regularly.....and you'd usually require an antenna with a good LOW radiation angle, such as a vertical or a dipole/yagi at 1-wave high!!
(just the opposite of what your other communications need requires, as verticals have nulls overhead, and low dipoles have little radiation at very low angles!! And, we want to use ONE antenna for BOTH? Are we nuts?? No, not nuts....just a very specific application that VERY few hams, rf engineers, etc, have much experience with....)


And, we all want to do this with ONE antenna....
And, it has to be strong, sturdy, reliable...
And, it was to durable and long-lasting....
And, has to be fool-proof, easy to use, etc...
And, it has to be CHEAP and easy to install...
etc. etc. etc...

Yeah the list can go on and on...but I think you see my point....
Few hams on shore understand these specific requirements....and fewer still are actually experienced with trying to prioritize these requirements and figure what works best for most sailors/cruisers, in most situations/applications....and damn few are willing to delve into the minutia of someone else's specific desires / requirements, etc....
SO...

So, when you ask a question and get an educated, experienced answer from the guys who actually have the knowledge, experience, expertise, etc. and if those answers don't gibe with what you were told elsewhere or with any preconceived ideas, etc...you may find yourself in that infamous locale...."between a rock and a hard spot"....

And, if you do find yourself there in that spot, please understand that you are NOT alone!!
There have been many there before you, and many will follow after you....
But, even better to remember is....that it does NOT take rocket science to find your way out!!
Just follow good science / engineering, pay attention to advice from others who've gone before, and remember that guys selling stuff do NOT always have your best interest at heart, but rather their own wallets!!!
(FYI, even though I've made my living in electronics / communications, I do NOT sell marine electronics, nor ham gear....so I have no dog-in-the-fight....




I hope the above explanation of the different skywave modes, antenna patterns, etc. was general enough to not dissuade you from learning more?
There is a LOT more to all of this, but I didn't want to overwhelm 'ya! (not yet, anyway!)


Fair winds..

John
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Old 03-04-2015, 10:10   #17
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

Great info, thank you so much for taking the time to share it.

So what about this antenna I have is so terrible? Is it you're anti-balun? I just find it hard to believe that if I spend money on just a wire it will work better than this wire and balun I already own?
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Old 03-04-2015, 10:23   #18
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
Great info, thank you so much for taking the time to share it.

So what about this antenna I have is so terrible? Is it you're anti-balun? I just find it hard to believe that if I spend money on just a wire it will work better than this wire and balun I already own?
I personally really don't know what they've against that antenna!?!?!

Just took take from Google + (Post from last November). This operator is using the emmcom ii which is internally the same thing than the hybrid-mini...

"Did some experimenting with an FT-817ND running 5 watts to my Emcomm II in a sloper configuration from my QTH in upstate NY. I was very impressed with how well it is performing. The purple pin is me and the contacts were made in less than an hour on 20 meters. On a prior occasion I was able to make multiple contacts to Sydney Australia also only running 5 watts. It's a great antenna!

Chris
AC2KV"




I don't know but with 5W that looks pretty good for me...

SG
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Old 03-04-2015, 10:40   #19
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

You're welcome!
Running out the door in 5 minutes, so need to be brief...

I'm NOT anti-balun, I use on my antennas that require 'em!

It's not that a piece of wire works better (it DOES), but that a piece of wire and the AH-4 work better, than the LDG and Chameleon....
(I cannot boil-down 40+ years of education, knowledge, experience into a few paragraphs....so you'll need to take some things on "faith"....and with Easter coming up, why not...


But...
But, remember....ANYTHING metallic of that can conduct RF in some way, CAN be used as an antenna, and will work to some extent....
This is all a matter of degree....
(as you have already seen for yourself, what you have DOES work....what you haven't seen is how much better other approaches would be...and that's a hard nut to explain over the damn internet!)

But, if you think in decibels and power output....if you loose 6db in the antenna / tuner, that's 75% of your power....making your 100-watt radio a 25-watt signal...
If you have a tuner and antenna that only lose 0.5db, that's like installing an antenna with 5.5db of gain!! (for FREE!!!!)
(just examples here)

Again, don't have the time to delve into details today....gotta' go...

John
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Old 09-04-2015, 11:06   #20
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

I took the Chameleon down because we were going to go sailing, and then some weather came through. So now it's time to string it back up and experiment a little with it before I look at the alternative.

Quick question... if the antenna wire is too long to hoist up the mast, what should I do with the excess? Cut it off, or just let it hang in the air, or put it on deck?
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Old 09-04-2015, 11:12   #21
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
Unfortunately returning these pieces is not an option, so I'd have to sell them and take a loss. Considering I've had some luck in the slip with some cruising nets, I think I'll have to keep trying and see if I can come up with a solution with the pieces I have.

Hard to believe that despite the good reviews this antenna and tuner are crap, it seems you just have to find somebody with experience with the same hardware to help, otherwise people say "sell what you have and buy what I have"

Of course, I'm just a new ham, and inexperienced, and will probably end up buying the other crap you mentioned when I finally get frustrated and ready to give up.
Listen to the advice over the marketing speak and forum banter if you want to get a good setup up and running with the least amount of hassle.

OTOH persisting with what you have will give you a great learning experience. Then you'll have a good baseline for the next step.

Being a Ham is all about experimentation and using what you have. Share your experiences too. That is always hamtastic.



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Old 10-04-2015, 09:10   #22
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

I got the new LiFePO4 battery installed yesterday, so to celebrate I re-hung my hated antenna to see if I could work any magic with it.

Still trying to get RMS Express working, I found I missed a setting for my radio, and then I found that I needed to turn off all the DSP features. At this point it seems I'm receiving fine, but am having issues transmitting.

I've never tried to talk to anybody with this radio, so I will probably try and do that next. I've got a friend who's got one, as soon as he gets back a trip to south america I'll see if I can talk to him.

I have a feeling I'll be stringing copper foil and buying that other tuner, but today is radar day!

I still need to go through all that info ka4wja posted... but by the time I gave up on RMS Express it was too late last night.
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Old 10-04-2015, 10:28   #23
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

autumnbreeze,
In general, I recommend just folding the wire back upon itself, as long as we're not talking about 20' - 30'!!
This is nice when experimenting, as you never know when you might want to try something longer, etc. and adding wire in a structurally sound and electrically reliable way usually requires soldering a Western Union Splice, which takes time....
Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
Quick question... if the antenna wire is too long to hoist up the mast, what should I do with the excess? Cut it off, or just let it hang in the air, or put it on deck?
But, once you are sure you'd never need to length the antenna again, then you can cut it shorter....but still leave some extra at the end and fold that back upon itself...





Since you've got your ham license (FCC General Class or equiv Canadian license, with HF Voice privileges), why not simply get on 14.300mhz Maritime Mobile Service Net...give a call as a "maritime mobile", and they're sure to respond to you with any help / advice you need...
Maritime Mobile Service Network

And, with this new info you just posted about trying RMS Express....my advice is, get the radio and antenna working properly first, and only then try RMS Express and/or other digital comm modes!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
Still trying to get RMS Express working, I found I missed a setting for my radio, and then I found that I needed to turn off all the DSP features. At this point it seems I'm receiving fine, but am having issues transmitting.

I've never tried to talk to anybody with this radio, so I will probably try and do that next. I've got a friend who's got one, as soon as he gets back a trip to south america I'll see if I can talk to him.
No need to wait for him....use the radio now, get it working now....
Try 14.300mhz USB almost anytime....


I have a feeling I'll be stringing copper foil and buying that other tuner, but today is radar day!
Whoa there...no need to run lots of copper....just a short run from the tuner to an underwater metallic plate, etc....
And, if you do decide to do this, use copper strapping not "foil"!!

I still need to go through all that info ka4wja posted... but by the time I gave up on RMS Express it was too late last night.

Fair winds...

John
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Old 10-04-2015, 11:21   #24
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

On the advice of my friend and the guy at HRO, my ground is a 14# wire about 6' long that connects to a bolt that holds a zinc on the outside of the hull, and is bonded to everything on the boat (all the thru-hulls, shaft, chain plates, etc)
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Old 14-05-2015, 10:29   #25
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

Update!
Finally got some time to work with a friend of mine on resolving my HF issues.
Tried talking to my friend in the same marina and I wasn't transmitting, so took everything to HRO in Anaheim. It wouldn't transmit there either, but resetting it we were able to make a contact in New Mexico.

I got the radio working with the chameleon by re-rigging it in an inverted v. I had an old wire halyard that is shielded, so I wired that up as a random length wire (no balun) and got that working.

I was finally able to get RMS Express to connect and tx/rx email, but it only happened after sunset, so I'm not sure if it was an atmospheric thing, an idiot operator thing, or possibly a solar panel thing that has been causing me issues, but will keep at it.

I like the halyard much better than the Chameleon, so now I'm going to try cutting it down (the halyard is about 44' long, I'm going to cut it to 35.5' to see if that is easier to tune)

Some interesting things I have observed:
1) I've got a 40' cable from the tuner to the antenna. Due to the wave lengths involved, I'm told that's not an issue.
2) Right now my radio and tuner have no ground and work just fine, my antenna is grounded with a 3" aluminum tape tossed overboard.
3) I've got something weird going on with my IC-7200. I notice that the com port will go to 9600 instead of 19.2k. I had a lot of problems getting some software to work, since 19.2k is the default. I finally figured out how to fix it when it's not working, RMS Express will reset it to the right speed, then I can use other software. I was fighting CHIRP for a long time (wanted to be able to import my memories from a csv). I set my 7200 up using the 802 programming from dockside.

I'm considering a KISS ground once I figure out where the HF stay will be.

Next steps:
I've been trying to get PK31 working using fldigi but haven't been able to find a signal yet.
Weather faxes... I need to find some software that will wake up the radio, tune it in, and record weather faxes.
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Old 14-05-2015, 12:57   #26
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

Autumnbreeze,
You've been busy!
Congrats on getting something going!

A few comments/tips that you'll find helpful...gotta' be brief today, sorry...


Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
Update!
Finally got some time to work with a friend of mine on resolving my HF issues.
Tried talking to my friend in the same marina and I wasn't transmitting, so took everything to HRO in Anaheim. It wouldn't transmit there either,
While it's a shame that you had this problem, it is GOOD that you got it figured out now, and that you are now aware of a idiosyncrasy of the IC-7200...

but resetting it we were able to make a contact in New Mexico.
I'm glad you mentioned this! (resetting)
This CAN make a difference...

I wasn't about to bring it up, as I didn't want to worry you unnecessarily....but I have read that the IC-7200's have had problems....most are okay, but I've read that many have processor glitches, or software hick-ups, that have caused some rather odd behavior...
(unfortunately the radio's cosmetic design/look appealed to the "emergency" operator / rough 'n tumble crowd....but the radio is anything but....not a bad rig at all, just saying its looks bely the reality....)


I got the radio working with the chameleon by re-rigging it in an inverted v. I had an old wire halyard that is shielded, so I wired that up as a random length wire (no balun) and got that working.
Depending on the "v" angle, and how any horizontal part of it is oriented, and how the antenna is fed....the inverted-v CAN be a good antenna for regional communications from 20 miles out to 300 / 500 miles, on freqs below 9mhz (75m and 40m ham bands, and 4mhz, 6mhz, and 8mhz marine bands), and can make using these bands during the day a pleasure rather than a "pain"...
BUT...
But, again that all depends on the above variables...

And, of course for longer range comms (from 400miles out to 4000 miles+) the vertical (or sloping vertical) wire fed against ground (the sea) will usually be a much better approach (except of course when a horizontal antenna is mounted > 1/2-wavelength high)....

So, it is GOOD that you have two antennas and have both working....
And, you will probably find they work differently on different bands and at different ranges, times of day, etc...



I was finally able to get RMS Express to connect and tx/rx email, but it only happened after sunset, so I'm not sure if it was an atmospheric thing, an idiot operator thing, or possibly a solar panel thing that has been causing me issues, but will keep at it.
Lots of variables here...and there isn't enough space here to discuss all the variables!!

But, in brief..

--- Your ability to communicate with other stations (primarily beyond line-of-sight and beyond the average 20-40 mile "groundwave") via HF radio, whether by Voice, Morse Code, or any of the text/teletype modes (RTTY, AMTOR, SITOR, PACTOR, etc.), is primarily governed by 5 things....
(actually 3 basic things that you CAN control, and 2 principles, one you CANNOT control at all, and one that you usually just accept, 'cause there are reasons you cannot easily change it...)

a) Distance you wish to communicate...
b) What frequencies / bands you have available to you...
c) What time of day, time of year, etc...

d) The ionosphere and its current condition, what frequencies it currently supports for reflecting at various distances, but MOST importantly AT WHAT ANGLE IS IT CURRENTLY REFLECTING SIGNALS AT for the communications path and frequencies you choose...
(this is mother nature....and you CANNOT change it!)

e) What is the radiation pattern of your antenna, what "gain" does your antenna produce at various angles of radiation....
(this you can change by using a different antenna, different antenna height, different configuration, etc....but on our boats, that ain't easy!!! and usually impossible for antennas that need to operate from 2mhz thru 26mhz, effectively, and also survive offshore, etc. and always work!)

Bottom line is:
--- Daytime comms from our boats (with primarily vertical antennas) is usually easier on the higher bands (12mhz - 22mhz) with stations 1000 miles - 3000/4000 miles away, than on the lower bands (2mhz - 8mhz) with stations 300/400 miles away....
--- As evening comes (even late afternoon) all the bands improve a bit....and while the highest bands die down, the middle bands improve, and the lower bands come alive!!
For just about all communications paths!!
(although natural noise / atmospheric noise on the lower bands can get quite high at night, especially in the summertime and/or near the tropics, signals are usually pretty strong as well...)
This can give you excellent signals for regional comms (~ 400/500 miles+) on the lower bands..
And, as evening goes on, the lower bands become great long distance bands, with excellent signals from 1000's of miles away...(I myself was asked by some Argentinian hams to move a couple kHz, because they were about to start a net just 1khz away, and my signal from my 150 watt radio on my boat was so strong that it was going to interfere with their net...and that was on 3.6mhz at about 10pm local time, just 2 years ago....oh, and they were ~ 5000 miles from me here in Florida...)
--- D-layer absorption is higher as you down in freq....and as long as you stay below the critical freq (for NVIS comms), you should always use the highest freq that you can, for the path that you have...(day or night....but especially daytime!!)
--- try contacting stations 1000's of miles away, on the higher bands....see what results you get...
--- get rid of on-board RFI!!!

--- Please read this thread....which IS directly on point (although the title might not make you think so..)
ICOM 706 MK2 G optimization.

The list goes on...


I like the halyard much better than the Chameleon, so now I'm going to try cutting it down (the halyard is about 44' long, I'm going to cut it to 35.5' to see if that is easier to tune)
If you're still using the LDG tuner, I understand this....
BUT...
But, before you do this...just find a scrap piece of wire (any wire, even a few pieces you connect together), and try different/various lengths for testing/evaluation of the tuner....(heck, you can even borrow some piece of wire from someone and return it the next day..)
This way you will not cut up what may end up being a good length antenna, or even a piece of old rigging/halyard that you may need...



Some interesting things I have observed:
1) I've got a 40' cable from the tuner to the antenna. Due to the wave lengths involved, I'm told that's not an issue.
Technically, with the freqs involved the loss is small, so usually not too big of an issue....
BUT...
But, that doesn't mean it is a good thing....and there will be lots of standing waves on that cable, and unless you have a good current balun at the antenna end, you'll have lots of common mode current on the outside of that cable (at least on some bands/freqs) that can cause lots of RFI (and even pick up more receive noise than you realize), as well as cause transmit distortions, RF feedback, computer errors, etc...
There are other reasons that it isn't a good idea....but the actual small loss in the cable shouldn't be a problem...



2) Right now my radio and tuner have no ground and work just fine, my antenna is grounded with a 3" aluminum tape tossed overboard.
Aluminum??
That might work, if you're very lucky....but because of the oxides on the alum, it's very difficult to get a good rf connection to it...
Not to mention that it will fail in short order, mechanically...
Try copper strapping....you can get it from home improvement stores, roofing companies, etc....or my fav place, Georgia Copper...
(btw, you may find that your tuner will need a ground connection to shunt stray RF, etc. especially if you don't have a balun...)



3) I've got something weird going on with my IC-7200. I notice that the com port will go to 9600 instead of 19.2k. I had a lot of problems getting some software to work, since 19.2k is the default. I finally figured out how to fix it when it's not working, RMS Express will reset it to the right speed, then I can use other software. I was fighting CHIRP for a long time (wanted to be able to import my memories from a csv).
Can't help you with "CHIRP", not sure what that is, nor what "csv" is....
But, I can tell you that you are not alone in having IC-7200 issues...(and I suspect that things might be getting more fouled-up due to RFI, your transmitted signal interfering with the computer connections / USB connections, and other RFI on receive as well...)

BTW, I've never been a fan of USB connections / cables near HF communications gear....just too high chance of RFI both ways!!!
But, it seems like some designers build what the public wants....that's capitalism, yes??


I set my 7200 up using the 802 programming from dockside.
Sounds good...



I'm considering a KISS ground once I figure out where the HF stay will be.
The only thing the KISS will do for you is legally separate $150 from your wallet...
(if you desire to try some radials, not usually necessary, but should you desire to try them, you CAN make your own for FREE, or for <$5, and get better results...)
Seriously, buying the KISS is a waste of $$$...

Please see this thread, where this is explained in great detail...probably way to much detail for most, but what the heck, it's all there...
Re: KISS-SSB Counterpoise



Next steps:
I've been trying to get PK31 working using fldigi but haven't been able to find a signal yet.
Weather faxes... I need to find some software that will wake up the radio, tune it in, and record weather faxes.
Please have a look at this thread here....
Printer

I'm not sure what "features" the various WeFax receiving software programs have that you'll find acceptable/useful....but have a look at JVComm32, GetFax, and SEATTY....
(if the "timer" function of my old Alden MarineFaxIV was working, I'd offer to sell it to you....but alas that is why I replaced it a few years back with the Furuno FAX-408...ouch, that's a pricey item!!)

I hope the above helps...

Fair winds..

John
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Old 17-05-2015, 09:00   #27
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Re: HF Antenna setup using Chameleon Hybrid Mini

Thanks John for the info.

I hadn't seen that thread on SSCA about the KISS, will check it out.

Allow me to give ya something back:
CHIRP is a free, open-source tool for programming your amateur radio. It supports a large number of manufacturers and models, as well as provides a way to interface with multiple data sources and formats.
Home - CHIRP

If anybody wants a csv I made with the dockside config I can put it online.

Funny story--yesterday I took my new Baofeng handheld 2M radio to the Congressional Cup yesterday, thinking I can listen in on the race comms. I turned the radio on and started flipping through my presets listening for traffic... couldn't hear anything... so I thought maybe I should adjust the squelch. So I hit the menu button, and suddenly it's on some weird menu and I kept hitting the same button thinking it would go to the next item, but evidently I switched the radio to Chinese and then reset it to factory defaults. I was so tempted to just chuck it off the pier, but didn't want to pollute the environment.
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