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Old 03-08-2019, 09:04   #1
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Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

My plan is to make the jump a year or so from now. I知 trying to learn as many things related to sailing as possible while I知 landlocked. One of my interests is Ham Radio.

My main interest with Ham Radio while sailing is getting weather information with pactor modems.

There is a hamfest here in Austin over the weekend and I found an Icom 706MK2G with everything but an antenna for $450.

For you ham operators out there, would this be a good starter rig to learn and practice on?

FWIW I have a general class operators license.
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Old 03-08-2019, 10:38   #2
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

Given a General License, you are half way there. I have an ICOM 725 in my trawler.

But...
If you use a ham radio as a marine SSB, as I am tempted to do, you will invoke the wrath of people concerned that a ham radio in SSB transmits a very messy representation of what comes out of a marine SSB. Tell the forum that you are doing it, and you will be blasted, perhaps for good reasons.

Second, are you sailing or motoring? A back stay antenna apparently works pretty well. I don't have a back stay, or at least, mine is only 14 feet, and a 32 foot fiberglas free standing antenna (what I have, again) is the very devil to tune at the lower frequencies.

My other observation, based on being the ham operator at my Florida County's Emergency Management (Hurricanes, etc.) is that ham operators and ham networks are dying off. The new generation has cell phones and Facebook. We have pages of frequencies for networks in the southeast, and I know of only one that I can connect to between 10 and noon EST. The rest is static. Gone.

Ergo, you and I might be better off buying marine SSBs, and becoming mobile marine operators, which I am, for that matter. You don't need a ham license for that.

Good luck with it. I did what you propose about five years ago.
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Old 03-08-2019, 23:29   #3
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

Thanks for the input. The unit I was interested in sold before I returned.

I知 not on a boat, so this was either for my house or truck (or both). I have a couple potential Elmers that I値l go through first. Then I値l tackle a rig and start getting wether reports.
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Old 04-08-2019, 01:29   #4
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

The 706 MK II G was a very popular rig among cruising sailors due to it's small size and the separation kit. It is now very dated. The problem with these old rigs is parts and service. If a custom part fails and cannot be replaced the radio is scrap.

Winlink is a great service. There are now alternatives to the pactor modem. Winmoor is a sound card replacement for the now very expensive SCS pactor modems and I think there is another alternative under development.

Finding and joining in a local ham club could also be very helpful. Many a ham has an older rig collecting dust that they will let go of for a very good price. At this point of your experience level getting on the air with almost any radio is good for learning.

73, N7BMW - Brian
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Old 04-08-2019, 18:48   #5
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

There are a whole lot of other things to learn before you shove off. See https://www.adventuresonboats.com/--other-things.html as a small sample. Included is a series of links about Ham radio.
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Old 05-08-2019, 04:28   #6
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

@stormalong- you are absolutely right about learning from HAM club as opposed to buying equipment and hoping to string it all together. These guys LOVE to teach newbies and they are so damn smart. It's a pretty cool subculture and my hat goes off to them.

I'll have to look into Winmoor. That's the whole reason I'm doing this now, to learn this stuff on land before I'm on a boat where I'll have so many other things to learn.

@johnny AoB- thanks for the link. It's funny that they list blogging, photography and video blogging as things to learn before you get on a boat. The link on ham vs. SSB sums it all up well- that was a good read.

At the advice of this forum I've gone a more "boat systems route" than a social media route. Steps I'm taking before I jump:
taken automotive electrical systems class.
signed up for the ASA 105 coastal nav class,
rebuilding a Mercedes Sprinter van into an RV (mostly the same systems as on a boat) and will take an advanced diesel troubleshooting class within the year.
and of course, sailing on a lake...

Got to say, learning all the new stuff is really fun. Can't wait to apply it to a boat.

Thanks again for the input guys.
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Old 06-08-2019, 18:01   #7
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

fschaefer,
Congrats on earning a General Class ticket...you know what they say, "the license is the just the first step in learning about ham radio / radio comms"!

{sorry I'm coming in late here....I've been dealing with a family medical issue....which is up/down, and today is a good day. }

Now onto your questions....


1) First off, please understand that there is no need for a PACTOR modem (nor WINMOR) in order to get excellent offshore weather info / forecasts when offshore and/or in remote locales!!
(please see details below)
Fyi, most offshore sailors find no real need for e-mail connectivity (the purpose of a PACTOR modem/Sailmail, or WINMOR, and/or a satcom data service) when offshore / on-passage, or in far remote locales (when outside cellular and/or wi-fi coverage)....


2) The real short answer about the 706, is:
Yes, the IC-706 series, specifically the 706MkIIG, is an acceptable (good?) radio to learn HF communications with....and for casual operating...(no, it isn't the best radio ever made, but it doesn't need to be)

3) The somewhat longer answer is:
Understand that it may take you some time to become familiar with the many menu functions of the '706, used to adjust/manipulate the radio's settings, but once you do, you'll see that for most users, many of those features are "set 'em once....and leave it alone, for most operating"....and then you'll see that it is an acceptable radio to learn HF communications with...



4) The real answer / long answer is....HF communications is all about:

a) Radiowave Propagation (some get intimidated by this, but most laypersons can learn most of what they need to know by watching a few videos and spending an hour and/or studying for an hour or so....certainly less time/effort than needed to learn to sail, navigate, proper anchoring, sail trim, etc.)

b) Operator experience / Skill (including knowledge of Radiowave Propagation, RFI, and the need to maximize receive S/N)


c) Antenna (primarily for transmit, but also an antenna that maximizes receive S/N)

{BTW, "receive S/N" is your received Signal-to-Noise ratio....and is THE single most important determiner of successful HF comms....it's in the "how to maximize it", that these things need to be further understood...}

These first three things make up 90% to 95% of the criteria for success....



This next criteria for optimal communications makes up another few percent:
d) antenna placement / location (to improve receive S/N and improve transmit efficiency / effectiveness), radio installation / wiring, reducing/eliminating RFI, and correlating your radio's features/settings with HF operations/propagation...



And, assuming we are talking about a fairly modern and good-functioning radio, the final small percentage of importance for successful HF communications is:
e) The radio....
I know, I know.....this flies in the face of all the marketing hype and "consumer-driven advertising"....but, please understand that until you are trying to squeeze the last sliver of efficiency / success from an HF radio system (AND you've already done everything possible to improve your antennas, polish your operating skills, reduce/eliminate sources of RFI, and continue to study the intricacies of radiowave propagation)....until that point, the actual radio you choose is far down the list of importance...(again, assuming we are talking about a fairly modern and good-functioning radio...and old, broken, damaged radio, would of course be a detriment!)



5) If you desire to use the IC-706MkIIG at home, please remember that you do not want to use the same type of antenna that you'd use on-board...

Here again, most laypersons will think this odd....but, once you understand antennas and HF radiowave propagation, it will become clear that unless you're in an apartment in a crowded urban area, you have an opportunity to use some easy and efficient antennas (and cheap) that will serve you well....

Knowing where you are located, and what your possible operating times/schedule would be, and of course the most important piece of info: Where/Who do you wish to communicate to/with?? Time of day, etc...

After that I could better recommend an effective antenna for you....but fyi, a simple horizontal loop, of any shape, strung up thru / over a few trees and/or a simple mast, etc., will be a good, easy, cheap antenna....



6) As for some more info about both, "getting weather", and learning about HF (maritime and ham) communications....
Quote:
Originally Posted by fschaefer4 View Post
My plan is to make the jump a year or so from now. I’m trying to learn as many things related to sailing as possible while I’m landlocked. One of my interests is Ham Radio.

My main interest with Ham Radio while sailing is getting weather information with pactor modems.
Please have a look at these "stickies" and these Youtube Playlists...
{please understand that these videos are produced LIVE, as it happens, with no script (little, to no, editing), no director, etc...on a real offshore cruising boat...no BS simulations, etc....just like everyone does on-board....but hey, they're free....and nobody is trying to sell you anything....so enjoy!}

Offshore Weather (info/forecasts, systems, and procedures)
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...zdjTJjHlChruyY


Maritime HF Comms (a lot also applies to ham radio)
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...ZDo_Jk3NB_Bt1y


HF DSC Comms
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...ga2zYuPozhUXZX


Offshore Sailing
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...KgTCj15iyl6qoY


Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use / proeprly-install SSB, & troubleshoot RFI, etc.)

HF-SSB Radio, Proper Installation Tips/Techniques, etc.







EDIT:
Just saw that you didn't get the '706....no worries, as you see the "exact radio" you choose is secondary to many other criteria!


Please answer the above questions (especially where you are at, and where you wish to communicate....time-of-day, etc.), watch the videos, and read the stickies....and we'll be in a much better position to recommend a radio, antenna, etc...


Oh, and have a look at the Icom M-802 Instruction Videos....they'll give you a good idea of both what features/adjustments are most useful, and how-to use them...
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...rC-8QKVyMb4tVr




I hope this helps.

Fair winds.

John
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Old 06-08-2019, 18:50   #8
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

fschaefer,
Just an ironic FYI regarding that link you referenced....
Quote:
Originally Posted by fschaefer4 View Post
@johnny AoB- thanks for the link. It's funny that they list blogging, photography and video blogging as things to learn before you get on a boat. The link on ham vs. SSB sums it all up well- that was a good read.
Although, I commented on it, I did not write that article for Practical Sailor (assume it was one of their editors), I have consulted with them (after correcting some of their errors) on HF Radio / Marine SSB....

And, the irony here?
Well, the photo in that article is my non-technical sister at the microphone of my M-802 at my Nav Station of my "Annie Laure"!

Have a look at those videos I linked to earlier, and you'll see my Nav Station / radios....
I used my non-tech sister and my elderly "ocean sailor" Mom as my test audience for my edited videos....figured if they could grasp the basics of what I was trying to impart, then any of my fellow sailors could too....



BTW, when it comes to learning all of this, remember that nobody was born with this knowledge....and you're ahead of many, since you're already asking questions!


Fair winds...

John
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Old 07-08-2019, 12:51   #9
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

Hey guys, I知 on vacation until the 13th with spotty reception. I値l watch the videos and follow the links when I get settled in. Didn稚 want you to think I bailed.
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Old 07-08-2019, 18:48   #10
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

fschaefer4,
No worries....take your time.

BTW, thanks for responding....sometimes it is frustrating to give detailed answers / ask for further info in order to answer in more detail....and never get a response....
So, thanks!

fair winds.

John
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Old 19-08-2019, 15:24   #11
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

John-
I 100% agree that radio wave propagation, operator skill and antenna make up 95% of all of this. Hence why I want to practice before I make the jump. I also agree that the radio isn't as important as the operator (kinda like a lot of boats).

"Knowing where you are located, and what your possible operating times/schedule would be, and of course the most important piece of info: Where/Who do you wish to communicate to/with?? Time of day, etc..."

Location:
Currently in Austin, TX. I do knot know where I plan to cruise other than to say I'd like to learn in the Pacific NW and head "out" from there. Operating
Times and schedules:
For now, in the evenings 7-11-ish CST and weekends
Where/Who:
For now, here in Austin. I'd like to get on air, learn common jargon, make some contacts, find different weather stations, start getting useful weather info.

I watched your first set of youtube videos. Very informative. Seems like you can get weather info broadcast easily enough from a number of sources. Still seems like either a weather fax or a sound card on a computer is the best way to get info- unless I missed something.

I'll keep meeting locals until I can score a rig, then start working through the set up. There are SO. MANY. CHOICES out there, it might just boil down to which one comes available.

Once I have that, any input on antennas would be great.

Thanks again for all the info. I'll keep you posted.
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Old 23-08-2019, 00:38   #12
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Re: Landlocked with chance to learn ham on icom 706

fschafer4,
You're welcome!
I'm glad to have helped...


And, please come on in and sit for a while...
There is a lot to cover, and unfortunately the internet is not the place to learn all of this...
(I know, that sounds like some old fart bemoaning some new-fangled-technology....but that's not what I mean here...)
What I mean is, there are many "on-line experts" that will BS you down all sorts of useless paths of radio comms / ham radio....but, if you read some textbooks and study the basics (like from the ARRL Handbook and ARRL Antenna Book), you'll end up actually learning about this, rather than just trying some contraption that some guy told you worked for him, or buying some radio that "everyone" says is the "best"



1) The above notwithstanding, here are some brief generalizations:

a) Please know that just about anything metallic can be pressed into service as an HF antenna, and just about any of the commonly-referred-to antennas will work to some extent....what works best and/or is relatively effective for a specific application is what gets confusing for many (and many new hams, or those new to HF comms, make significant errors in these choices, due to not taking the time/effort to learn the basics, first!)....
What is "best" can be matter of degree...in many cases the differences can be very significant....remember when we are talking differences of say 10db, that's like taking a 100-watt radio and reducing it to 10 watts of transmit power....or going the other way, making a 100-watt radio sound like a 1000 watt radio!

So, knowing the basics is very important!



b) Local/regional comms = out to 300 - 500 miles (almost always on the lower HF bands, 40m ham and 8mhz maritime, and below)
Long-range comms = 500 - 5000 miles (daytime on mid-to-upper HF bands, 7-30mhz, but usually 12mhz maritime and/or 20m ham, these days.....and, nighttime 40m ham / 8mhz maritime, and below)



c) Now-a-days (and for the next 6 - 12 months) the sunspot cycle is at its lowest point (solar scientists say the lowest point should be between this fall and next summer)....we're hoping for an upturn in the next year, and fairly good conditions by 2021/2022...
Until then...


For Daytime comms:

Your best bet for "long-range" comms is going to be daytime on 20m (and/or 12mhz maritime)...and some on 40m (and/or 8mhz maritime), especially early morning and late afternoon.
With your best bet for local/regional comms in daytime is on 40m and 75m (and/or 4mhz, 6mhz, or 8mhz maritime)...


For Nighttime comms:

Nighttime long-range comms you'll find 20m (or 12mhz maritime) to be poor, but 40m (and 8mhz maritime) will be very good....and in wintertime even 75m (and 4mhz maritime) will be great for long-range nighttime comms....
Local/regional comms that were great on 40m during the day, should be good on 75m at night...you might find it difficult to hear stations in San Antonio or Houston on 40m at night, that were loud and clear a few hours earlier....but now you're talking to guys in Europe, on 40m!




2) As for what antenna to try at home?
Two quick caveats upfront:

a) You can take a scrap piece of wire of any random length of 20' - 60', stick one end into the antenna jack of just about any working HF ham (or maritime) radio, and toss the rest of the wire out a window, string up somewhere or even just lay it across some shrubs, or up thru a tree branch, etc....and you will receive plenty of HF signals (ham and maritime)....the farther the radio and antenna is away from noise sources (sources of RFI), the better your reception will be....placing the radio close to window and away from sources of RFI, and getting this hunk of wire up and away from the building (and sources of RFI), and you will hear better and probably be able to make some contacts....making this wire approx 1/4-wavelength long (actually a bit shorter) might actually get you some significant power output (relatively low SWR) without any tuner....if you have some old scrap wire, this antenna cost$ you nothing....
Yes, it will work....not great, and I'm not recommending this, I'm just showing you an example of what can be done with just a few minutes of time and for less than the cost of lunch...



b) Noise / RFI is going to be your primary detriment to reception....reducing/eliminating sources of RFI in your house (and if possible, in your neighbor's homes, too), is the first step....and getting your antenna (of whatever design/type) as far away as possible from your house / sources of RFI, is a close second step!! Using a current-balun at the antenna feedpoint is important here as well (reducing common-mode interference), and is the third step....and a close 4th step (costs and space permitting) is using directional antennas...




3) Back to what antenna to try at home? A few generic thoughts and then a few specifics...



a) Keep it simple and cheap, to start with....unless you have money to burn, you can do quite well with simple wire antennas...


b) Using existing supports (trees, roof peak, basketball backboard, chimneys....especially trees) for attachment points of wire antennas further reduces costs...but, even a Rohn H-50 pole is fairly inexpensive...



c) A slightly better antenna (and one that is a good match to your application) than the commonly recommended 1/2-wave dipole, is a large loop antenna (one-wavelength at the lowest used freq). This is a good simple antennas, as it presents a fairly low-impedance which is easy to match to coax, even on multiple bands....(although the pattern on different bands can be wildly different, this can be good....see below for some details)




A bit more specific:

d) In almost all cases (except over sea water, on the lower HF bands) a horizontal antenna is always going to provide you with the best signals (transmit and receive) for both long-range (assuming antenna is ~ 1/2-wave high), and local/region HF comms.....
[although in some areas (that have excellent or at least very-good/above-average ground conductivity) such as N. TX, SE TX, and some parts of central TX, can give decent results with vertical antennas (assuming you also invest the effort into an excellent antenna ground / radial system), due to the far-field ground conductivity governing the pseudo-Brewster angles and overall antenna patterns]

But even there, horizontal antennas (~ 1/2-wave high) are going to preferable for long-range comms....and for local/regional comms (up to 300-500 miles) a horizontal antenna at approx. 0.2-wave high (up to 0.4-wave high for ranges from 400 - 1000 miles) is always going to be a lot better, than even the best vertical system!


To be more clear for local/regional HF comms, you're going to be using the lower HF bands (1.8mhz/2mhz; 3.8mhz/4mhz; 6mhz/7mhz/8mhz) and for comms out to 300 miles or so, a horizontal antenna (such as a flat-dipole or loop) at approx 0.175-wave to 0.2-wave high above ground will be an excellent performer....and take note raising it a bit higher 0.25 to 0.3-wave results in only very minor reduction in gain (< 1/2db) for these very high-angles for local/regional comms, but lowering to 0.1-wave high, reduces gain by 2db - 3db, and if going even lower gain falls off quickly....
Also, please take note that when raising this height to 0.4-wave this high-angle gain (used for these local/regional comms) suffers by 3 - 6db, but signals at these local/regional distances are relatively strong, so you can sacrifice gain here, and pick up 3 - 6db at mid-angles that are used for comm ranges of 400 - 1000 miles....as well as pick up significant gain (compared to a lower horizontal antenna) at even lower angles used for long-range comms of 1000's of miles....



In practical terms, this means wire antennas approx. 25' - 50' high, for 40m and 75m ham bands (and 4mhz, 6mhz, and 8mhz marine bands) for excellent local/regional comms, both daytime and nighttime....and even good long-range nighttime comms on these lower HF bands...and either this same antenna or another wire antenna at these heights, for long-range comms on 20m, is good!



And, that's a fairly easy height to accomplish in many residential areas, using a couple trees and peak of the roof, etc....even if you spend some minor $$ on a 40' "push-up-pole" / telescoping-mast, or a couple of them, it's still a fairly minor expense, compared to the cost of a radio!


Now, if you want better long-range comms (such as international comms, across oceans....1000 - 5000 miles away), getting the antenna up 0.5-wave high, and higher, is important....but, even if only about 0.4-wave high (or lower) it will still work!! (heck, as I wrote above, just about anything will work to some extent.)





e) Even more specific:

Now, have you noticed that I only mentioned a specific height in feet, once?
That's 'cuz I want to drive two points home:
--- think in wavelengths, or percentage of wavelengths...
--- how convenient the old harmonic positioning of our ham bands is...for various reasons.



You see, take a 40m loop (~136' - 140' in circumference....34' - 35' on a side, if square....but can be ANY shape you can fit in your yard / with your supports), install it at about 25' to 35' high above ground and you have an excellent 40m antenna to talk all over Texas during the daytime (and much greater distances at night)....and this same loop, at this height, is surprisingly a nice 20m antenna that will get you good results all over the US / Caribbean, EU, etc...(and even worldwide)





f) Even more:

There is a lot of personal preference in these choices, aesthetic-wise and otherwise....so, while I'm listing some specifics.....these are not commands set in stone!


You of course, could rig a couple dipoles (build a multi-band / fan-dipole), and feed with one coax....and while this works, it can get a bit complicated when you want 3 or more bands, and can look a bit odd too....
So, a large loop can be a good alternative...
Kinda all depends on how much space you have in your yard / what supports you have??


If you have a LOT of room and lots of tall trees, the choices are vast....and you're a lucky guy!
If you have a normal city lot, with just a few trees, you may be limited....
But there are ways to make any place work!


If it were me....and I had a small yard, and a few trees...
I'd build a 40m loop, cut for about 7.15mhz....install it 30' above ground (25' - 35'), where it would present an approx 150-ohm input impedance, and 7.5dbi of gain at zenith on 40m...feed it with a good quality 4:1 current balun (from DX Engineering), and then good quality RG-213 coax to your radio...SWR at the radio will be good, and probably would not need a tuner....and this same antenna at that same height would have a good low-angle pattern on 20m (good for long-range comms on 20m), and present a decent SWR at the radio, but may need a tuner (for 20m) depending on exact length of loop wire and height above ground (you can trim this now 2-wavelength loop to present lowest SWR on 20m and it should still be good on 40m, where it will be a 1-wavelength loop).


That one wire antenna, built with even cheap Home Depot 14ga THHN wire, strung up in any fashion you can manage, the corners tied off with some polyester rope to some supports or even just thrown up in some trees, etc....will give you good results on your two most useful and populous HF ham bands, 40m and 20m (based on your description of your current plans)....and provide you with good regional and longer range reception on the HF maritime bands of 6mhz, 8mhz, and 12/13mhz, and even 16/17mhz...


Depending on what trees / supports you have, this should cost you less than couple hundred dollars, for the wire, balun, coax/connectors, and some rope....



If you have more space in your yard (or more trees)....then you can consider a 75m loop??


Or...


Or if you're looking at purchasing an Icom M-802 (or similar radio) then using an Icom tuner such as the AT-140 would be great....
You simply feed the loop antenna with the tuner....one end of the loop goes to tuner "output" terminal and the other end of the loop wire to the tuner "ground" terminal....I recommend / prefer to have the tuner mounted up high on a pole for antennas like this...
[Some guys mount it lower and just run the loop wires down to it (this is a mistake....some say it doesn't make much difference in how the tuner obtains a match, and that is true....they say the difference in antenna pattern is minor (especially with multiband operation) and this is also mostly true....but what everyone forgets here is that on RECEIVE you want the antenna as far away from the ground, the house, etc. (and other electronics) as possible to reduce noise pick-up / reduce receive RFI, thereby improving your receive S/N (Signal-to-Noise ratio)!! Remember, the antenna starts right there at the tuner (and in a coax and balun fed antenna, the antenna starts there at the feedpoint / at the balun) so getting the feedpoint up in-in-air is not just good for transmitting, but important for reception, too!]




If feeding a loop directly with a tuner, of course it doesn't need to be any exact / resonant length in order for the tuner to obtain a match....but, the actual antenna pattern is effected by the loop's length, as is the actual antenna efficiency....and of course the tuner losses as well...
So....if possible keep the loop length at least 0.75-wave in circumference at your lowest operating frequency....1.0-wave is normally a good length, and will work well, just be aware that once the loop is 3-wavelengths (or greater) in circumference, the pattern gets "lobey", so it's performance can be great in some directions, but mediocre in other directions....



You may find posts #25 and #26 here in this thread to be useful as well...
HF shore station


Gosh, there is a lot more....but think that should get you started!



Also, using your words here:
Quote:
Originally Posted by fschaefer4 View Post
Location:
Currently in Austin, TX. I do knot know where I plan to cruise other than to say I'd like to learn in the Pacific NW and head "out" from there.

Operating
Times and schedules:
For now, in the evenings 7-11-ish CST and weekends

Where/Who:
For now, here in Austin. I'd like to get on air, learn common jargon, make some contacts, find different weather stations, start getting useful weather info.
40m in the evenings....and 20m daytime....would be your first / best option...for longer-range comms....(especially using the antenna I describe)
75m evenings, along with 40m daytime (and some 75m, daytime)...would be best for more local/region comms....(and, understand that while a full-size 75m loop sounds big, I can fit one in my city yard)




4) As for reception of weather info/forecasts...
Quote:
Originally Posted by fschaefer4 View Post
I watched your first set of youtube videos. Very informative. Seems like you can get weather info broadcast easily enough from a number of sources. Still seems like either a weather fax or a sound card on a computer is the best way to get info- unless I missed something.
The actual reception of these broadcasts is almost all about receive S/N....so, no specific antenna choices are needed, except that they should be as far away from your house, far away from other houses, as far away from all RFI sources as possible (and this usually means, raise it up in the air higher....which is also great for transmitting, too!)
[although directional antennas rock for both transmit and receive, they're not cheap, nor are support structures, and ancillary equipment....so, if you've got the $$$$ and the space, we can delve into this in much detail, but reading what you wrote, I'm assuming that would be a waste of our time?]
FYI, that "40m loop" I mention above would be an excellent HF Maritime Weather broadcast receiving antenna!!!

And, while all of the antenna ideas I out-line above, are good choices here for receiving HF Maritime Weather Broadcasts....if looking only for "receiving only", you do not need to go thru such elaborate designs / heights / etc...



As for weather info specifics....
In my opinion, nothing beats a weather chart (drawn by a seasoned professional maritime meteorologist) in your hand...

And, that is what you get from WeFax broadcasts (from US, Aus, NZ, UK, Germany, SA, etc. etc.), but this is of course not what "GRIB charts are....(GRIB's are the raw computer model data)


How you get a weather chart....HF receiver, HF transceiver (ham or maritime), internet access (US NWS/NOAA marine weather site is a great source), e-mail from saildocs, etc....and how/where you view it (on laptop, tablet, WeFax machine), these are choices with both personal preferences, and costs involved?





5) As for picking a radio?
Quote:
Originally Posted by fschaefer4 View Post
I'll keep meeting locals until I can score a rig, then start working through the set up. There are SO. MANY. CHOICES out there, it might just boil down to which one comes available.

Once I have that, any input on antennas would be great.

Thanks again for all the info. I'll keep you posted.
How about just asking what's the best anchor, or best chartplotter, or best boat to buy?? These would be easier to obtain consensus on!


But, in serious...if you want an HF maritime radio now, the only real choice is the Icom M-802....costs about $1800 new, and $800 to $1000 used...
Icom SSB Radio Kits & Components

If you desire a cheap 'n easy HF ham radio, and just want to listen to some maritime traffic / receive HF SSB Voice broadcasts and WeFax weather broadcasts, you can find cheaper HF ham radios, used...
Buying a used radio locally is good...especially if you can see it work, and/or actually know the seller...

Although the use of ebay has raised the prices / values of many used ham radios, it is a viable way to buy something if the seller has a 100% feedback rating, as I do...I've been there for 21 years now, with a 100% positive feedback rating, and I only buy from others with the same...

eham.net is also a good source of used ham gear, and while I'm not a fan of qrz.com classified ads, some hams do have good luck there...
When buying from either of these sites ads, only buy from licensed hams that use their ham callsign on that site (and check 'em out, read their postings and other ads, to try to ascertain their honesty and expertise/knowledge), don't buy anything from anyone without a ham callsign displayed proudly (they're hiding for a reason!)


[FYI, I'm a Drake fan!! But, for you and your application, you need to look more modern and more interface friendly!]



--- Any modern Icom HF rig will work similar and allow you to become familiar with their features / controls, etc...and just about every modern 12vdc Icom HF rig (designed so it can be used mobile), interfaces directly to any Icom remote tuner....this means Icom radios and tuners made over the past 20-25 years are compatible with each other....and are all good choices...
Icom IC-756ProIII is about as close to the Maritime M-802 as you can get....(but the IC-756ProII is also good)....even the precursor, the IC-756 is good...

The big/heavy big brother in the classic Icom lineage is the venerable IC-781 (a 28vdc/120vac radio)....and is still used worldwide and considered a top-of-the-line HF SSB ham radio!! (I have friends that own them, and they can afford a new 7851, and won't part with their 781's!!)

If you're looking for older/cheaper, the IC-761 and IC-765 are the forerunners of the 756 series, and the IC-751 was the earlier precursor...of course the IC-706 has already been mentioned (and I place it here at the lower end of the list)...the earlier IC-735 is a good radio, but requires a very rare external interface to use a remote tuner, so might not be a good choice....
Any of those should work for you...


(stay away from the IC-725, IC-730, IC-740, and even the IC-745)...
And, even if you wanted to spend 1000's of $$$$, stay away from the IC-7600 and IC-7700...
The IC-7100, 7200, 7410, etc. have some fans, but are just the modern versions of the bottom of the barrel, steer clear of them, as well....ironically the IC-7200 is one crappy radio for mobile, or maritime, applications, fairly RFI susceptible and software/firmware issues...



The current "hot girl" in the ham radio world is the Icom IC-7300 (and her big sister, the IC-7610)....both are SDR's with knobs....they do work and are nice radios, but are generally not for beginners, and certainly not great choices for "boat radios"!!

But, this is kinda a moot point anyway, 'cuz they're pricey....and if you want to spend that kind of ca$h, buy an M-802!




--- Kenwood's are also nice....but they're not as easy to set-up with remote tuners (read: costly and aftermarket tuners)...although the TS-590SG is a great radio!! And, if you want a great ham rig that you can use at home now, particularly if you just use some coax-fed antenna, the TS-590SG (not 590S) is a great radio!!

But, if you got the cash to buy that new....you might consider the Icom M-802...


A TS-480 is a nice older 12vdc Kenwood radio...


But, if you'll never run the rig mobile or on a boat, the TS-850, TS-930, TS-940, etc...are nice, too.


I'm not a fan of the older TS-430 (good radio, but didn't age well), nor are the TS-440, TS-570, TS-870...so, staying clear of them would be good.





--- I recommend against any modern Yaesu radio....any of their 12vdc radios made in the past 20 - 30 years are crap!

Don't let the cheap prices sway you....please steer clear!

(the FTdx-5000 and FTdx-9000 series radios are nice....but, they're big and expensive, and are 50vdc/120vac radios, as are the FT-1000 series...so any small, affordable, Yaesu that runs on 12vdc, is crap!)



--- TenTec made some nice rigs....but like the Kenwoods, some are not good choices for your application...and they can be pricey, too.



--- Elecrraft makes excellent, top-of-the-line HF CW radios (although they do SSB, ironically they are pretty crappy SSB radios)....but even if you decide I'm full of crap, Elecraft K3s is wicked expensive!! (twice the cost of an Icom M-802!)





--- If you were looking for outside-the-box ideas...
And had the money to burn, the Apache Labs ANAN-8000 is a great modern HF ham rig....a full-featured, big, powerful, SDR! (although the Flex-6400 and 6600 radios, and the older 6000 and 6700, are a more "user-friendly", and Flex Radio has excellent customer service....they just aren't up-to the state-of-the-art, compared to the ANAN-8000!)

OR...


Or, if you're looking for the other end / other end of the out-of-the-box idea...a clean, working, and aligned R.L. Drake TR-7 (I own two...bought my original one in 1978, still works great...and still works better than 99% of the modern rigs sold today!!) {this is the ham version of the maritime TR-77 and the commercial/gov't TR-4310}
OR...


Or, just save some $$$ and buy an Icom M-802 (I have two on-board!)....
OR...


Or, for really cheap and easy, if you can find a working Atlas 215x (about $200) it is actually a great little rig for you....but, you MUST watch your SWR and/or have a tuner, 'cuz the Atlas' didn't have a good protection circuit, and you can damage the PA if you're careless...

OR...


Or, an older JRC rig....the JST-245 is a great HF rig....it is the ham radio version of JRC's commercial maritime and commercial/fixed/air-base radios....




Hope this helps?

I know there is a lot here to unpack, but take your time....don't just run out and buy the first reasonably-priced radio, and the most hyped antenna...and DO go and buy the ARRL Handbook and ARRL Antenna Book, even used ones from the last 10 years, are fine!!


Fair winds.


John
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