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Old 01-05-2008, 11:07   #1
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Need help with installing a SSB radio

Hi guys,

On my new boat, I have a SSB radio type ICOM M802 with an AT-140 automatic antenna tuner. My antenna is a Comrod AT53H2 SSB Antenna 16'. It is connected with GTO-15 to the tuner. The tuner and the transceiver are both grounded to a 2'' copper strip, that the boat manufacturer already put into the boat. The transceiver and tuner are installed on the flybridge, and the copper strip runs from the flybridge to the engine room. The copper strip doesn't seem to be connected to anything in the engine room.

Now, I read all the information I could find about grounding, and it appears I either need to install a Dynaplate, or put copper screen everywhere in the bilge, and connect the copper strip to either the Dynaplate or the copper screen.

Neither is possible for me right now, since the Dynaplate requires a haul-out, and running the copper screen (100 sq ft or more from what I read) would be quite elaborate. Also, according to some information that I found, the copper strip should not be longer than 10' if connected to a Dynaplate, which is impossible on my boat.

At present, I don't receive anything. I tried all kinds of channels, but I get static everywhere, including Cruzheimers, Bahamas & Caribbean WX, 2.5/10/15/20MHz. I tried to connect the copper strip to my metal diesel tank to see if I could receive anything with such a connection (I know I'm not supposed to do this for sending, but I guess it's ok to try out reception?), but still only static and some inaudible voices at most.

Before I haul out my boat and install a Dynaplate, or run copper screen everywhere, I would at least be able to confirm that I can receive anything at all, i.e., that there are no other problems with my SSB installation. However, being completely new to SSB, I'm afraid I have no clue how to narrow down the problem.

Can someone with SSB radio installation experience help me?

Thanks,
Marc
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Old 01-05-2008, 11:25   #2
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No, don't bother with a Dynaplate just yet. Try disconnecting the transceiver from the copper foil and see if that helps. Next if you can run some ordinary boat wire, cut to some of the frequencies that you are interested in, from the tuner gnd. connection to wherever, and see if that helps. For a test just run them above deck.

Does your tuner tune up when you key the mike on low power?
Can you hear anything if you connect the Xcvr. directly to the antenna (bypassing the tuner)?
The noise in a marina may be blocking the signals if you are surrounded by masts.
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Old 01-05-2008, 11:39   #3
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I just tweaked on the static. You may have a piece of electrical equipment generating noise and blanking out the signals. Or, it could be coming from one of your neighbors boats. In any case try the other suggestions and see what happens.
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Old 01-05-2008, 14:02   #4
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I have the ground for my Icom 706, copper strip connected to both mild steel fuel tanks and engine block and it works fine if you have continuous metal handrails pick up those too as it will increase your ground plane area, i think from memory you need approx 100 square feet of area either below or close to waterline
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Old 01-05-2008, 14:51   #5
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I was of the impression that counterpoise (Ground foil) major use was in sending, not for receiving. If one thinks of it, most receive only radio only has a length of wire, tubing, etc for an antenna.

In anycase, I'd make certain my connections to my AT-140 were correct, that I had continuity to the tunner, then, I'd look an make certain my connection to my antenna were okay.
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Old 01-05-2008, 15:21   #6
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Thanks for all the advice. I will give the suggestions a try asap and report back the results.
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Old 01-05-2008, 16:02   #7
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Strygaldwir, you are right. And needing a bunch of sq. ft of ground plane isn't necessary even for transmitting, although it may work okay. A counterpoise made up of wires cut to 1/4 wavelength and above the waterline seems to work very well. Connecting to toe rails (on a sailboat) or handrails on a powerboat if they are long enough also can work well.
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Old 01-05-2008, 17:39   #8
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Have a look here for some simple input

WMPC RACE TIPS Radio Installation
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Old 01-05-2008, 20:07   #9
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A marina is always electrically very noisy. We found it near impossible to use our HAM rig when we were in a marina.

Go find a nice anchorage and you'll see a world of difference. If you still have some noise, track down the offending boat item.

Steve B.
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Old 01-05-2008, 20:42   #10
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Steve, that's very good advice.
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Old 01-05-2008, 23:02   #11
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I found that our Adler Barbour compressors for the fridge unit were tremendous sources of noice making signals unhearable (we have a fantastic installation that works well when the fridge is off and we are OUT of the marina.) Out in the harbor our out at sea, the radio works GREAT. Plugged into the marina amidst all that noise it is functionless. So --- before you go too crazy, take the boat out, listen to the radio with engine off, fridge compressors off.

Gordon West is the one who told me to do this when we were fiddling with our installation, and it was the best money saving advice we got with the radio.
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Old 02-05-2008, 05:40   #12
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I switched off all electrical equipment on my boat (transformers, inverter, etc.), switched off dock power at the dock, but I still get 3-5 bars of static. I can hear some voices on some select channels, but it's still all nearly inaudible

I guess I have to try this again offshore, but it surprises me that there would be so much HF noise where my boat is docked.
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Old 02-05-2008, 08:23   #13
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No surprises here, but keep in mind poor propagation will generate a lot of static also so you could have an either or situation and it is not always the radio or set up at fault.
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Old 03-05-2008, 09:41   #14
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What are peoples experiances with Dyna plates? I've never used one but bought one with my Ham rig I have yet to install. My first impression is that they will gunk up in short order and secondly it's just another appendage to catch garbage floating by and even more holes in the boat. Copper looks like a pain to run but if convinced to run it, I'll have a new dynaplate for sale for someone who thinks otherwise.
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Old 03-05-2008, 10:11   #15
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Have had one hanging on the bottom of the boat for 15 years. Never caught on anything and it gets scrubbed when ever the bottom gets cleaned so never an issue.
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