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Old 29-01-2012, 10:15   #1
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Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra Watermaker

Hi All,

My name is Jean-Pierre. I have bought a Spectra Catalina 300 two years ago in February 2010.

I have installed it as it was told in the manual, and some days later, I tried to reach my friends through the SSB (ICOM M700PRO).
Noway to receive them or once each fifteen days and very poor reception or not at all ! They heard me well, but me I did not hear them.
As it was working well before I began to search what happend, changed the antenna, changed the wires, put a lot of ferrites, try to change the SSB for the one of my friend.
Noway, it was not working. I though it was the automatic antenna tuner but I could not do anything for that. Back home in June, I call professionals to fix the problem. They do not find anything, just cost some money...
As it was working more or less with Sailmail, I keep it like that last year, but always I have tried all what my friends told me to do to fix that. Noway.
It has been the same for two years, I cannot use my SSB normally and I have tried a lot of things to fix it. It cost me money, lot of time and big troubles because SSB is part of security while sailing.

And this year, I have met a Dean Catamaran from South Africa. While visiting it with the owner, he has told me that he has bought the boat new and with all the accessories which have been installed before he took it.
Before leaving Captown he had tried all of them and found that the SSB was not working (Icom 802). It emitted, but it did not received anything or quiet nothing, whereas it was new. The professional who had installed it have search a long time before founding what happend.
It was the Spectra watermaker. When power it off, the SSB was receiving well. And when they just power on the Spectra (not running), no more reception ! They told him that it was the wire going from the main unit to remote control panel or the remote control panel itself (both the same as I have). They did not know which one. So they had changed the remote control panel on the other side of the boat, and now he can have reception, but with a lot of parasites and noises.

So next day, I try to power off my Spectra and, miracle, my reception returned like before. I can again have normal contacts with my friends in the Caribbean. I have also made a lot of tries for that.
I power on the Spectra, no more reception, I power it off, and the reception comes back ! I say just power off and on, not running. I have made a lot of tries and it is undeniable. I had never tried that before, the Spectra was always powered on at sea and nobody during those two years had thought to power it off !

I have tried to do the same as the guy : change the place of the remote control panel on the other side of the catamaran, change the place of the wire of the remote control panel. There are about 3 feet from each other now (SSB and control panel wire). I put more ferrites, everywhere on both parts of all wires (12 v, etc.). It is a little better for the reception, but I have still a lot of parasites and noises which disappear when I power off the Spectra. Now with Spectra powered on, reception is about 0 or 1/5 and when power off 4 or 5/5.

I suppose that it is not the first time it has happended, nothing in the manual about that. No warnings or information to prevent possible problems.

How can Spectra put on the market a product which has so devastator consequences for the other instruments ?

I acknowledge that I am a little angry (...!) for that, I have some reasons : for the enormous quantity of wasted time, for the money spent to no purpose, for the trouble.

I have written to Spectra, they have answered quickly, but they don't give me any solution. Don't know if they have any one.

The purpose of this is : Is there anybody who can help me to solve the problem without powering off the Spectra each time I want to use the SSB ?
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Old 29-01-2012, 11:25   #2
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra watermaker

Jean-Pierre,

Sound like you've done just about all you can, and you now know how to eliminate the problem by turning power to the Spectra off.

Many devices these days create radio frequency interference (RFI), and some of these are unexpected. Just about anything with a microprocessor in it can be a problem. Also, many modern devices are not really "off" when they are turned off. And, the "soft switch" circuitry can play hell with radio reception.

What makes it even more diabolical is that problems can develop in these devices after a long time without any. Example: I'm very active on the marine radio nets every morning from my home radio shack. It is located in the basement in a 2-story brick colonial. A few months ago, I suddenly began having major RFI problems on one of the frequencies I use every morning. I tried everything and suspected everything, including neighbors, vehicles, power transformers, etc. When I finally tracked it down, it turned out to be two small night lamps which were on a bureau in my bedroom two floors up. These had a "touch" switch, i.e., you just touch the metalic base anywhere to turn the light on and off, and to 3 dimmer settings.

I pulled out the small board each lamp, put in a simple ON-OFF toggle switch and, presto: no more RFI.

Others have found problems in just about every device you can name. The Blue Sea Systems digital voltmeter on my boat puts out a lot of RFI on 40-meters (7 mHz). Dozens of devices on boats these days can create havoc.

Only thing I'd suggest with the Spectra is to be sure that your SSB gets it's power directly from the house batteries via AWG6 cable (with a 30A fuse on both the positive and negative wires, located near the batteries). Do NOT take power for the SSB from a panel. Also, use ferrites on the power lines near the radio, and on power lines leading to the Spectra and its remote, if that's possible.

Good luck,

Bill
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Old 29-01-2012, 12:14   #3
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra watermaker

Bill has said exactly what I was going to say.
Lots of microprocessor based things make RFI.
Just turn off the Spectra when not using it.
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Old 29-01-2012, 12:28   #4
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra watermaker

Thanks Bill for these informations.

All the wires have ferrites on both ends, 12 volts SSB, 12 volts Spectra, wire of the Spectra control panel, control wire of the SSB and coaxial wire from SSB to the tuner. SSB is powered directly from the house batteries.

May be there is nothing to do except powering off the Spectra, but I think that is not the right solution. It is a last resort, a plaster on a wooden leg.

If all manufacturers of maritime products do like that and completely ignore the harmful radiations caused by their devices, we will soon have a battery of switches with a manual to know what to power off when we will use a given device ... Crazy and stupid on their part. They have to ensure that their devices can operate under normal conditions of use and safety on a boat.

The consequences of such negligence, nuisance ashore, can have enormous impact in terms of safety on a boat.
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Old 29-01-2012, 14:30   #5
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You might look for a thread on here in which a user successfully quieted a noisy Danfoss compressor controller with both ferrites and bypass capacitors. A .1uf capacitor between each wire and ground at the end producing the noise might help a lot. Might be more hassle than you want though.

Chip
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Old 30-01-2012, 08:19   #6
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra watermaker

Quote:
You might look for a thread on here in which a user successfully quieted a noisy Danfoss compressor controller with both ferrites and bypass capacitors. A .1uf capacitor between each wire and ground at the end producing the noise might help a lot. Might be more hassle than you want though.

Chip
Thanks for that I have tried to find what you say, but not succeed. But I have found a lot of interesting things... Now I am quite sure that the problem is coming from the 12 volts supply which is parasitized by the Spectra. And may be here there is something to do.
Do you know what is the value of the capacitor I must try for the 12 volts wires of my Spectra Catalina 300 ? Is it the same as for the Danfoss controller ?
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Old 30-01-2012, 09:25   #7
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I am curious as well. I installed a spectra system 2 years ago and am going to be turnin it on ( sigh, dont ask) this year and have already dealt with rfi for my ssb.

Thank you op for potentially saving me hours and hours of grief.

As a metal boat owner with a "floating" ground i would defo be interested in solutions to this issues.

I have a bag full o' magnets but dont know that this is a solution?
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Old 30-01-2012, 12:04   #8
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra Watermaker

The thread I referred to is actually on the SSCA forum:
Danfoss RFI mitigation

He doesn't talk about using capacitors in this thread, but I think they can have a significant effect if you want to try. I would use 0.1 mFd (microFarad) ceramic disc capacitors rated for 50 volts. These are 28 cents apiece from Mouser Electronics - Electronic Component Distributor, look up part number 140-50V5-104Z-RC.

Put one capacitor to each individual wire: one leg soldered to the wire, the other leg to your ground wire. Do this as close as possible to the source of the RFI.

Use ferrites too, remember their effectiveness increases with the square of the number of turns of wire through them. Be sure they are of a mix that works well at HF frequencies, mix 31 is what I would use.

Chip
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Old 31-01-2012, 07:10   #9
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra Watermaker

Chip,

Thank you for that. I will try as soon I will find such capacitors. May be it will take some times. No possibility of buying that here.
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Old 31-01-2012, 10:44   #10
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra Watermaker

Speaking as a retired electronics technician, the actual capacitance value for this particular need is not at all critical, nor is the voltage rating.
More and higher is fine, just make sure the voltage rating is not less than 50 volts.
For example, a 0.25 @ 1kv would work fine as well.
Think of it as an "electronic anchor".
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Old 31-01-2012, 13:32   #11
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I want to clarify to that when I speak of "ground wire" here i mean the negative power wire of your bundle, which should be the controller's chassis ground too. I wouldnt try to run a separate wire from your boat's electrical ground, it might work but might have unpredictable results.
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Old 31-01-2012, 15:49   #12
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra Watermaker

Jean-Pierre,
Bill has given you great info/advice!!!!
(make sure your radio is powered directly from the house battery bank, and NOT thru your 12vdc breaker panel.....this only may solve your problem!!!)


Further.....
I have a Spectra Ventura MPC-5000 watermaker, AND an Icom M-802 SSB, on-board.....and have had NO issues with RFI between the two units ever....
And, I've had them both installed for over 5 years (2004 for M-802 and 2006 for the Spectra), and have sailed thousands of miles offshore with them both, including two Atlantic crossings.....

And, again I have NO interference at all, whether just in "standby", counting down to a fresh-water flush cycle, or actually "ON" and making water, I have NO interference at all.....and my MPC-5000 control is only about 16" (40cm) from my M-802, and the Ventura unit itself is only 8' (2.5m) away....
So I can tell you that not all Spectra remote control heads cause HF radio RFI.....(actually this is the forst time I've heard of this issue...)

Perhaps I can offer some assistance...


1) So, please let us (and Spectra) know what model "remote control panel" you have???
Is it a MPC-5000, or the older MPC-3000????
And, what is the manuf. date????


2) Do not give up on Spectra correcting this problem.....they probably can fix this problem easily, but they will need to know exactly what is happening....
So, be sure to contact Spectra again (and your nearest Spectra marine dealer), and give them as much detail as you can....
Do not give up on them, since my Spectra water maker / MPC-5000 control causes NO radio interference at all, and I've not heard of this problem until reading you posts here, so I suspect that Spectra may just have a bad group of controllers (perhaps just a few bad components) and it shouldn't be too difficult for them to fix this problem.....

Contacting a local Spectra dealer/installer, or a roaming/cruising dealer/installer, is an important step here, as this will both allow Spectra to have an independent verification of the problem AND give you a good chance that the dealer might actually have seen this problem previosuly and solved it on their own....


3) Ferrites are not a "one-size-fits-all", meaning that you may need 3 to 5 ferrites on the Spectra remote control cables, to reduce/eliminate the interference....


4) See these pages for photos of my set-up.....

Nav Station
Nav Station
Watermaker



I hope this helps.....

Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 31-01-2012, 18:17   #13
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra Watermaker

Hi All,

Chip, I don't understand very well what you are saying about ground. It is a french construction and there are only two wires coming from the batteries, negative and positive, and negative is isolated, not going to ground or any chassis.
I have a Dyanaplate for the SSB, but nothing is going on it, no ground from anything, except the ground of the SSB. I have put an anode some years ago under the boat and I will use it as a ground for the capacitors.

Senormechanico, I have found some capacitors aboard and I will try them soon. Not a lot of choices for the value, but you tell it is not very important. Just have a look on them on the picture.

John, you are lucky, two years of troubles for me ! And before that I have had 3 different brands of watermakers. And never any problem with the SSB with them. And since I have found the guy (the Dean catamaran) coming from South Africa with this problem, I have also found an other boat with Spectra, ICOM SSB and quite no reception whith watermaker powered on.
I don't know really whichthe problem is from the display, the wire or what else from the Spectra. But what is sure, is that the problem is coming from the Spectra. I have made again some tries this afternoon, powering on the Spectra, quite no reception, powering it off, normal reception. And now, as I have said, I have changed all, everything from the Spectra are "far" as possible from the SSB. And the SSB has always been powered straigh from the batteries, as the Spectra. Not through the breaker panel.

The control panel is a MPC-3000 and I think it has been manufactured about the 18/01/2010 (test date).

I don't give up with Spectra, I have received one more mail from Kyle yesterday, but they don't know what to do ! That what they say... They just offer me to buy a new MPC-5000 control panel for "a good price" (which is still a lot...) because with this one, it is possible to power off and on the Spectra without bypassing the purge sequence (only two buttons to push at the same time on the MPC-3000 control panel. It's no big deal !...). Powering off the Spectra doesn't solved the problem at all ! And I am not sure (neither them) that the problem will be solved with the MPC-5000. And there is nobody here able to fix that. No Spectra dealer, no shipchandler, nothing !
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Old 31-01-2012, 18:44   #14
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra Watermaker

Quote:
Originally Posted by jpiebrig View Post
The control panel is a MPC-3000 and I think it has been manufactured about the 18/01/2010 (test date).
1) The MPC-3000 is an OLD unit, hasn't been a current product in over 5 or 6 years!!!!
How is it that someone sold this as new???
My guess is that it is a used unit and/or old remanufactured unit????

2) You realize that you can disconnect the MPC controller, and operate the watermaker in manual mode, and thereby check to determine where the RFI (Radio Interference) is coming from....the MPC-3000, the watermaker control circuitry, or both....

3) Whatever you find, my advice is still to get in touch with a local Spectra dealer, AND the dealer that sold you your current unit, as the MPC-3000 is most probably a used/remanufactured unit....

4) Finally, if all else fails, buy the MPC-5000......(and get a money-back guarantee, so that you can return it....)





Quote:
Originally Posted by jpiebrig View Post
And now, as I have said, I have changed all, everything from the Spectra are "far" as possible from the SSB. And the SSB has always been powered straigh from the batteries, as the Spectra. Not through the breaker panel.
5) Not sure why you have the Spectra wired directly to the batteries.....but that right there might be contributing to your interference.....
Keep the SSB wired directly to the batteries, and move the Spectra to your breaker panel as a test.....







Quote:
Originally Posted by jpiebrig View Post
I don't give up with Spectra, I have received one more mail from Kyle yesterday, but they don't know what to do ! That what they say... They just offer me to buy a new MPC-5000 control panel for "a good price" (which is still a lot...) because with this one, it is possible to power off and on the Spectra without bypassing the purge sequence (only two buttons to push at the same time on the MPC-3000 control panel. It's no big deal !...). Powering off the Spectra doesn't solved the problem at all ! And I am not sure (neither them) that the problem will be solved with the MPC-5000. And there is nobody here able to fix that. No Spectra dealer, no shipchandler, nothing !
6) You can easily bypass the purge with the MPC-5000, but I have no personal experience with the 3000.....

7) I cannot give you any 100% guarantee that the MPC-5000 will solve YOUR problem......but, I know of 3 others with Spectra MPC-5000 controllers on their watermakers (two "Newport" and one other Ventura) that also have SSB, and have NO interference....



Just my thoughts....
I hope they help...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 31-01-2012, 18:59   #15
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Re: Problem with SSB Icom and Spectra Watermaker

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Senormechanico, I have found some capacitors aboard and I will try them soon. Not a lot of choices for the value, but you tell it is not very important. Just have a look on them on the picture.
The top center capacitor (0.1uF) has the most capacitance.
Any one of them has plenty of voltage rating to try out.
Keep leads as short as possible.
"Ground" in your case is to battery negative.
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