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Old 06-04-2019, 11:02   #1
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Marine HAM

I'm looking to add a marine HAM radio to the boat for our SoPac adventures. The boat is a 43' Irwin with a 58' mast DWL.

I really like the iCom 802 radio but have no clue how to set one up, what I need, nor how to connect it to weather fax, text/SailNet, or a maritime operator. I have a General license, but have never set up a system, let alone one on a boat. I also have an iPad, iPhone and an iMac.

I want to be able to send email, connect to weather, and do some voice. Above all, I want KISS for as little cost as possible.

Things I know:

I want to use the back stay as an antenna, and understand the use of isolators and grounding planes.

Things I don't know:

Tuners!

Antenna lengths.

How to connect everything together.

Whatever I do, it cannot interfere with the CRT-D computer running my heart. Tech says I just need to stay 10' from the antenna when transmitting, and from where the radio will be, I have a good 25'. The other concern is getting a shock.
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Old 06-04-2019, 15:42   #2
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Re: Marine HAM

You can start with the Sailmail Primer here
https://sailmail.com/wp-content/uplo...2/smprimer.htm
Also search on the CF site will bring up many threads on installing the 802.
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Old 06-04-2019, 15:55   #3
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Re: Marine HAM

Quote:
Originally Posted by CptCrunchie View Post
Whatever I do, it cannot interfere with the CRT-D computer running my heart. Tech says I just need to stay 10' from the antenna when transmitting, and from where the radio will be, I have a good 25'. The other concern is getting a shock.
Very scary stuff. I'd get a second, third and probably fourth opinion on that.

My Icom 802 is a terrific bit of kit and installed with care, people can hear me fine over some good distances. But now and then it makes the speakers in the boat thump in sympathy to my transmission. Goodness knows what it would do to a pacemaker.

Staying 10' away from the antenna may be a slightly simplistic approach and may not be practical across all frequencies. There's a fair bit of strange behaviour in the radiation pattern changes from transmitting antennas across the frequency spectrum.

Also, the effective antenna starts at the tuner, which is more than likely going to be below decks, perhaps near the stern so the whole aft of the boat would be a danger zone. Do you KNOW nobody would transmit on the radio, by accident or otherwise, while you are at the aft near the ATU?

Anyway, a good thread search here will give you lots and lots and lots of stuff on the 802 and user KA4WJA has given links to some useful videos he made on YouTube.

Great radio, but I have learned that if I stay away from it for too long there's a bit of a nasty learning curve when I try to use it again.
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Old 06-04-2019, 16:48   #4
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Re: Marine HAM

Have an opened up ICOM 718 with a SGC tuner, backstay antenna, and copper foil running under the deck as a ground plane. ICOM, for one, makes good tuners for their ham radios but tune off a signal from the radio not the rf output of the antenna. I went with the SGC tuner because it uses the rf output so is compatible with all radios. Easy to set up, find a place as close to the antenna as you can get for the tuner as the antenna and rf transmissions actually start at the tuner so the shortest run to the actual antenna is critical, run a coax cable from tuner to wherever you install the radio. Hook the radio to ground plane. That is not a ground as in the dc electric sense. Some people install an external below the water line plate, others run a wire to a convenient through hull or buy a bundle of wires device, or use copper foil strip that I run from tuner to the bow. That should get you transmitting. Email and downloading weather is easiest with a Pactor III modem.

I bought all but the SGC tuner used. Radio was $425, back stay insulators $150 each, Pactor II modem upgraded to Pactor III $400. The SGC tuner new was $400 with no deals that I could find. Don't remember what the copper cost but it was 3" heavier gauge in a roll. The KISS 'bundle of wires' ground is $150. Probably the cheapest you are going to be able to get the radio up for voice transmit is a little over a boat unit and definitly get it done for under two boat units. The SGC tuner was expensive with the ICOM tuners nearly half as costly. Same goes for the Pactor modems. The latest version will set you back a boat unit though my used one worked just fine.

The ICOM 718 radio was/is the perfect radio for me, easy to operate, great communication all the way from the mainland to Hawaii, and relatively cheap. An ICOM 802 radio will cost more than my whole system did. The StaLok back stay insulators are expensive. Might look at an external wire run up the backstay as a substitute at very little cost. If you buy everything new cost would escalate to possibly over 4 boat units.
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Old 06-04-2019, 17:25   #5
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Re: Marine HAM

Quote:
Originally Posted by CptCrunchie View Post
Whatever I do, it cannot interfere with the CRT-D computer running my heart.
Don't know your device in particular, but if Medtronic, you should be familiar with this notice (the hacking issue):
https://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/advisories/ICSMA-19-080-01
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Old 06-04-2019, 17:56   #6
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Re: Marine HAM

Guess I should have expressed myself differently. I have a General license and have been on and off land based systems over the past 12 years, 9 of it with this device in my chest. I'm also very good friends with my CRT-D tech, and he knows everything there is to know about them. I am and will always be safe.

.....and it's not a Medtronic.

Our motorsailer had a Kenwood, though I never had any need to use it. The PO had cables run all over the boat to connect a laptop. It was a beast! Talk about needing a crash course every time I turned it on.....

I want simple, much simpler than that. I want pre-sets too.

Interesting about the iCOM 718. A local HAM has an iCOM 720 that he really likes. I asked him for advice on marine, and he referred me to the local HAM club. Went there, and none them are marine users.

I found this link, and it seems fairly straightforward.
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Old 06-04-2019, 18:13   #7
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Re: Marine HAM

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Originally Posted by roverhi View Post
Have an opened up ICOM 718 with a SGC tuner, backstay antenna, and copper foil running under the deck as a ground plane. ICOM, for one, makes good tuners for their ham radios but tune off a signal from the radio not the rf output of the antenna. I went with the SGC tuner because it uses the rf output so is compatible with all radios. Easy to set up, find a place as close to the antenna as you can get for the tuner as the antenna and rf transmissions actually start at the tuner so the shortest run to the actual antenna is critical, run a coax cable from tuner to wherever you install the radio. Hook the radio to ground plane. That is not a ground as in the dc electric sense. Some people install an external below the water line plate, others run a wire to a convenient through hull or buy a bundle of wires device, or use copper foil strip that I run from tuner to the bow. That should get you transmitting. Email and downloading weather is easiest with a Pactor III modem.

I bought all but the SGC tuner used. Radio was $425, back stay insulators $150 each, Pactor II modem upgraded to Pactor III $400. The SGC tuner new was $400 with no deals that I could find. Don't remember what the copper cost but it was 3" heavier gauge in a roll. The KISS 'bundle of wires' ground is $150. Probably the cheapest you are going to be able to get the radio up for voice transmit is a little over a boat unit and definitly get it done for under two boat units. The SGC tuner was expensive with the ICOM tuners nearly half as costly. Same goes for the Pactor modems. The latest version will set you back a boat unit though my used one worked just fine.

The ICOM 718 radio was/is the perfect radio for me, easy to operate, great communication all the way from the mainland to Hawaii, and relatively cheap. An ICOM 802 radio will cost more than my whole system did. The StaLok back stay insulators are expensive. Might look at an external wire run up the backstay as a substitute at very little cost. If you buy everything new cost would escalate to possibly over 4 boat units.
I have a budget of 4 boat units, so your info is very encouraging.

Is there such a thing as a masthead mounted HAM antenna? Since I'll be taking the mast down shortly, it would definitely be a good way to keep the RF away from my device.

Also, what is a good length of either a cable up the backstay or the backstay itself? I have no issue with going the isolator and mechanical fittings route, but I would want the bottom isolator to be at least 10' off the deck, which is roughly 3.5' above the rear arch I'm installing for solar panels.

If on the backstay, the tuner would be under the MSR berth. If on top of the mast .......hmmmmm....... That would be roughly 5' from the nav table/radio.
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Old 06-04-2019, 20:41   #8
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Re: Marine HAM

"ham" is a very board term. some ham channels are vhf and a 3' antenna will do it just like your marine vhf radio. and a vhf ham radio is only $200. but you'll have the same 30 mile range as your marine vhf.

most sail boats use SSB ham channels. (as well as the ssb marine channels if you have an SSB radio) which you can buy as a 23' antenna. which is ok on a 70' power boat. and is why sail boats use mast stays instead.

393 Classic SSB Antenna | Shakespeare Marine Antennas

generally you want the stay as long as you can. but it depends on mast hight.


even if the ant starts 10' up the stay, the cable feeding that stay from the tuner is also still brocasting and is part of the radiation. but if shealthed is slightly safer to grab onto then bare metal. so you want the tunner under the rear deck directly below the stay if possible
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Old 06-04-2019, 22:07   #9
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Re: Marine HAM

Quote:
Originally Posted by smac999 View Post
"ham" is a very board term. some ham channels are vhf and a 3' antenna will do it just like your marine vhf radio. and a vhf ham radio is only $200. but you'll have the same 30 mile range as your marine vhf.

most sail boats use SSB ham channels. (as well as the ssb marine channels if you have an SSB radio) which you can buy as a 23' antenna. which is ok on a 70' power boat. and is why sail boats use mast stays instead.

393 Classic SSB Antenna | Shakespeare Marine Antennas

generally you want the stay as long as you can. but it depends on mast hight.


even if the ant starts 10' up the stay, the cable feeding that stay from the tuner is also still brocasting and is part of the radiation. but if shealthed is slightly safer to grab onto then bare metal. so you want the tunner under the rear deck directly below the stay if possible
I have a few projects to do on the aft deck, and this being one of them. I will post more as I get closer.
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Old 06-04-2019, 23:37   #10
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Re: Marine HAM

When adding a backstay antenna with tuner, longer is not always better. Some lengths at certain frequencies (basically the half wave length of the transmit freq) will cause a high impedance match that will be difficult for the tuner to get a reasonable SWR... at that particular frequency.

More info here:

But in summary, the "better" lengths to use for most sailboat depending on the length of the backstay are 29 35.5 41 58 71 84 in feet.

Remember to add the length of your feedline from the output of the antenna tuner plus the actual backstay wire length in calculation.
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Old 07-04-2019, 04:50   #11
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Re: Marine HAM

Plenty of good advice here. Trust your cardiac device tech more than us however!

If your interest is data and routine voice, you can’t go wrong with the M802. If you are a ham contester, DX chaser, or CW guy, you will want a ham rig.

You can save a lot of money by foregoing an insulated back stay installation and raising a separate halyard antenna with a little masthead block instead. Easy to do if you are inclined.

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Old 07-04-2019, 06:39   #12
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Re: Marine HAM

If you really need to get the feed point up in the air, then you will need to run coax from the turner output, up the backstay, and to a RF Choke Balun then a 4:1 or 9:1 UNUN. From that point, you can then exit the UNUN with the antenna. The tuner will tune the antenna just fine as long as the length of the antenna is not an even multiple of λ/2 of any frequency you want to operate.

i.e. say your available length for an antenna will support 35.5 ft. 468/35.5 = 13.18MHz. If you keep adding 13.18 you will get all the frequencies resulting in multiples of λ/2 such as 13.18MHz, 26.36MHz, 39.55MHz. These will work for you as they are not in the Ham Bands. AND, the antenna will be λ/4 at 6.59MHZ which means you can work 40 meters. You might have problems on 80 meters though. Antenna is too short. With an SGC tuner (or even an MFJ Auto tuner) it will tune but not be very efficient.

But say you only have 33 ft of usable space. Now we have problems. 468/33 = 14.18MHz. Right in the middle of the 20 meter band. So you see the issue with random wire antenna lengths.

If you plan on working multiple bands, a random length is the way to go. If you ONLY want to work, say the Maritime Mobile Service Network at 14.3 MHz, then go with a single band vertical dipole. WA6CCA (SK) has written about this antenna many times and sings its praises as the best antenna for maritime operations. But it is limited to single band.

If you go the route of a coax from the turner to the backstay with the RF Choke and UNUN, then length of coax is not important. The tuner can be with the radio, or in the aft section of the boat. The RF Choke will prevent the common mode currents developing in the coax shield.

I would also recommend building your own KISS. https://briandphoto.net/KISS-SSB.html is where you can find a write up by KA4WJA on the KISS and homemade KISS.

I would also recommend a seawater ground. Gordon West talks about using seawater in this article: https://www.sfbaysss.org/resource/do...GordonWest.pdf.

Good luck.
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Old 07-04-2019, 07:11   #13
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Re: Marine HAM

My URL apparently got ate in the last post:


Random Wire Antennas - Best Lengths To Use For Random Wire
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Old 07-04-2019, 07:19   #14
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Re: Marine HAM

My advice would be, as others have said, a backstay antenna, fed by an automatic tuner located close to the backstay feed point. In my case, I have a split backstay, so I am feeding one of the legs below the deck and I have insulated the other leg. The tuner and the radio are not that important, depending on what you can get your hands on. I found a SEA 235 with its tuner on eBay and I have been very happy with it, others swear by the 802, still others use all sorts of ham radios. Some people make the case for a DSC capable radio, I think the utility is not that high for the higher cost of a DSC setup. You can use Winlink initially and eventually upgrade to a Pactor modem... not essential at first. For the ground, connect either to a thruhull or the keel if you have an iron keel. Here is what you can expect:

1. Email works quite well, good enough for text, gribs, and small pictures.

2. ALE, is an alert and messaging system, typically you need to run software on a PC called PCALE. The setup is complicated but once you set it up, it allows you to receive and send emergency traffic with little knowledge of propagation, etc.

3. PSK31, this is very similar to sending messages on the phone, you can type in real time to hams across the world. Sounds good but in practice most of the conversations are boring, people just brag about their HF setups.

4. Olivia is a protocol that allows you to send short messages in any conditions, way below the noise floor. So, you will always be connected to someone (who also knows Olivia) and the approach is very robust.

5. SSTV is a way to broadcast low resolution pictures in real time, every minute or so, to the world. Requires a camera and uses some power but friends and relatives can get pictures from your cockpit every minute while you are broadcasting, I.e. slow scan TV.

This should be enough to get you started.

Good luck.
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Old 07-04-2019, 07:34   #15
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Re: Marine HAM

Note: that's for ham bands and for the lower bands (80m) you will need longer wire length than most of us have at 84ish feet.
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