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Old 03-02-2014, 02:57   #1
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HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

Hi there,

I've finally got my HAM license, so I can start planning out how I'm going to install a rig in the boat. The plan is to use it for email/weatherfax/communication on an Atlantic circuit starting and arriving in Belgium with the safe-season spent in the Caribbean.

Radio-wise I'd like to get an Icom 7000, but the financial aspect is pushing me towards an IC706mkII. Not too sure about ATU yet, perhaps one that comes with the second-hand tranceiver in a package deal...

Two things I haven't really considered much yet are the antenna and the ground. I just assumed that it was a matter of adding some insulators to the backstay and that would be the end of it. A quick look online shows that those insulators are RIDICULOUSLY expensive. At 300$ the insulators would cost as much as replacing ALL my standing rigging, or painting my ENTIRE boat. That's something I did not foresee... Are they always so expensive? Are there cheaper options for using the backstay as an antenna?

Perhaps some alternatives are on the market today? I bumped into the following in my search:

Rope Antennas, Single Side Band antennas for Sail boats, powerboats, SSB antennas
GAM / McKim Split Lead Antenna | GAM Electronics

The antenna concept seems the same, if anything probably better because copper is a far better HF conductor then SS. Does anybody have experience with one of those or any other alternatives?

Something else I have not yet considered is the ground for the rig. I keep reading about ground-plates on fiberglass boats, but my boat is steel. It seems fairly ridiculous to add a copper plate to a steel hull to promote conductivity... How is this usually done on steel boats?

Many thanks for any input!
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Old 03-02-2014, 03:13   #2
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re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

Your steel boat is a big counterpoise and you'll get excellent performance from your HAM SSB.
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Old 03-02-2014, 03:22   #3
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re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

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Originally Posted by robert sailor View Post
Your steel boat is a big counterpoise and you'll get excellent performance from your HAM SSB.
Just find way to ground the antenna to the hull then?
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Old 03-02-2014, 04:18   #4
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re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

There is a huge amount of information in the archives -- a trawl through them will reward you with a wealth of knowledge.

Congratulations on your new ham license; I did the same myself just a year ago, and for the same purposes.

For reasons which are explain in great detail in the archives, you will want a marine SSB radio opened to ham bands -- which is legal for both purposes. A ham rig like the two you mentioned cannot be used legally on the marine bands, and can't be used even illegally without modifications (but as you will know, any radio can be used on any band in a genuine distress situation).

There are lots of relatively inexpensive marine SSB sets out there, and most of them can be "opened up" to work on HF ham bands as well.

For an antenna, you can just hoist a wire on a halyard; just search "alternative backstay antennas" in the archives and you'll find lots of info. That's what I will be doing myself as my backstay is too thick for a regular insulator.

For email, you can use Winlink and Winmor in order to avoid the expensive Pactor TNC, but data will work better with the TNC if you afford. You can't correspond about anything of any commercial nature on Winlink (as you will know since you've just taken the test); if you need to attend to business while you're out, then you'll need a Sailmail subscription.

Any HF radio can be used to receive weatherfax and navtex bulletins.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.
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Old 03-02-2014, 04:18   #5
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re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

You sure have a wide choice as almost anywhere will do the job
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Old 03-02-2014, 05:12   #6
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re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

Dockhead's suggestion of an alternative backstay antenna that runs parallel to the backstay is likely the way to go. No need to cut into the backstay to install insulators.

If your boat is steel this may not matter but I've heard more than one person extol the virtues of the KISS ground plane solution.

Josh
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Old 03-02-2014, 07:53   #7
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Re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

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Originally Posted by Orchidius View Post

Radio-wise I'd like to get an Icom 7000, but the financial aspect is pushing me towards an IC706mkII. Not too sure about ATU yet, perhaps one that comes with the second-hand tranceiver in a package deal...

Two things I haven't really considered much yet are the antenna and the ground. I just assumed that it was a matter of adding some insulators to the backstay and that would be the end of it. A quick look online shows that those insulators are RIDICULOUSLY expensive.
I've played with both onboard, the 7000 is certainly much nicer with the digital filters but the 706mk11 works just fine. As said before a seperate wire should work OK, before fitting insulators I had a piece of 3 strand with a wire inside, more robust to leave rigged the time.
Probably a good idea to fit capacitors in the ground between the tuner and hull just in case of any weird current loops going on, these guys sell most of the stuff you need..
http://www.sailcom.co.uk/antennas/index.html
Though a quick look doesn't show the capacitors but there is some kevlar antenna wire.

One of these works great for data as well if you can afford it..
http://www.tigertronics.com

Add a laptop and usb ci-v controller cable and off you go to free (if short and slow ) email anywhere



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Old 03-02-2014, 10:42   #8
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Re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

So this "rope antenna" thing is a fairly doable DIY project?

How about preformance? Easier to rig, but does it work?
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Old 03-02-2014, 11:16   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidius
So this "rope antenna" thing is a fairly doable DIY project?

How about preformance? Easier to rig, but does it work?
Why rope antenna? Just hoist a wire. Works just as well as any sloping random wire antenna, e.g., insulated backstay.
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Old 03-02-2014, 11:26   #10
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Re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

Sure, but the rope would protect it and provide the possibility of a slight stretch without pulling at the actual antenna.

How about interference? Could the rope-antenna be attached to the backstay? The rope-antenna website makes mention of attaching it 2-5ft away from any standing rigging...

Also, I'm still a bit in the dark as far as grounding and counterpoising goes... If I understand correctly, A regular 'ol bolt welded to the inside of my steel hull and a proper attachment to that will provide me with all the grounding I need. How about the risk of any stray electrical current in the hull?

And would the rope-antenna need a counterpoise on my steel boat? How to solve this? Again, the website makes mention of this ladder-type contraption, but it also mentions it should be 32ft long on one end. My boat isn't even 32ft... What is required as far as counterpoise goes on a steel boat and how to go about it?

Thanks for the input guys!
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Old 03-02-2014, 11:37   #11
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Re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

we sail a jeanneau ds40 and i refused to cut my back stay -- i use the gam electronics antenna and just crossed the pond with it and had good reception all the way across --
as for email we use winlink and as a ham it is free
we are in the med and use winlink for our grib wx files - currently using stations in swiss and aus
good luck
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Old 03-02-2014, 11:40   #12
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Re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

I've had an IC-706MKIIG for about 10-12yrs now. I also have an IC-718 (owned 4yrs). With the 706, I got the AT-180 Tuner that works very well. If you find a radio that doesn't already come with an AT180, I would suggest looking into an LDG Z-100. I got one for my IC718 that I use with a Pactor modem. It's small, lightweight, inexpensive, can be powered by the radio and the Z-100 and modem can stay connected to the transceiver at the same time without having to unplug one to plug in the other. I think it's possible to do the same with the AT-180 and modem too but haven't tested it out yet.

Congrats on the ham license.
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Old 03-02-2014, 11:51   #13
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Re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidius View Post
Sure, but the rope would protect it and provide the possibility of a slight stretch without pulling at the actual antenna.

How about interference? Could the rope-antenna be attached to the backstay? The rope-antenna website makes mention of attaching it 2-5ft away from any standing rigging...

Also, I'm still a bit in the dark as far as grounding and counterpoising goes... If I understand correctly, A regular 'ol bolt welded to the inside of my steel hull and a proper attachment to that will provide me with all the grounding I need. How about the risk of any stray electrical current in the hull?

And would the rope-antenna need a counterpoise on my steel boat? How to solve this? Again, the website makes mention of this ladder-type contraption, but it also mentions it should be 32ft long on one end. My boat isn't even 32ft... What is required as far as counterpoise goes on a steel boat and how to go about it?

Thanks for the input guys!
Counterpoise is the same as ground and having a steel hull you already have a great one
To stop stray current you can put capacitors between the tuner ground lug and your hull, any dc won't get through but the high frequency can when you transmit. Keeping whatever you have up to the masthead away from your backstay will help, not sure just how far are how much it would be attenuated if close, there are some very knowledgeable people on here who will.



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Old 03-02-2014, 12:39   #14
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Re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

G'day, mate. Congrats on the ham license. As suggeested by others, have a good look at the 706. Nice, lower price option. All the best. Cheers
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Old 22-03-2014, 10:20   #15
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Re: HF Rig on a Sailboat - the Practicalities

I'm a bit puzzled. You (Dockhead) say that a HAM radio can't legally be used on marine bands... I don't understand. I'm a new HAM (Technician working on General) and my understanding is that as long as I also have a Marine license, and I'm transmitting in the correct format for that part of the spectrum, then what can be illegal? Still learning, hoping to set sail in the next year - appreciate any good advice.
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