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Old 06-07-2012, 19:03   #106
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Location: Brunei Darussalam - NW Coast of Borneo, SE Asia
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Re: Satphone & HF for Ocean Crossings?

Hi Lake Superior,

In my experience, the HF/SSB radios are robust and reliable. What might be failing your radio and causing operational problems is the installation. For example:

Is the existing earth actually functional? I've seen some very creative but unserviceable earths. Reports about the KISS-SSB conterpoise/earth have been very positive. It's cheap and easy to install. And it works. No more external earth plates, copper strapping from the earth terminal on the ATU to the earth plate bolts, or internal copper foil system. Definitely worth a try.

Is the wire from the radio to the ATU co-ax? It should be and it needs to be the correct 50 ohm resistance, and the plugs on each end need to be correctly installed. Test the core and the shield for continuity and that they are not contacting each other.

Is the wire from the ATU to the backstay antenna co-ax? It must not be. This is actually the antenna. The less of it running around inside the boat the better. So the ATU should be close to the base of the backstay antenna.

Is the ATU working? When it receives power, do you here a lot of click clack noises as it checks its electromechanical relays? If not, make sure the power is getting to it. The ATU is probably the most likely item to have a problem, because it has a lot of moving parts.

There are other points that I'm sure others can explain. In the past, I've found a little checking often finds a simple and easily rectified problem. Like most things on a boat, some routine maintenance - in the case of the HF/SSB antenna system that means removing wires and connections to clean contacts -which is something you can't do with a satellite or their earth station.

When the tsunami his SE Asia the SailMail traffic leapt; because the shore communications services were damaged or overloaded.

After 9/11 and the New Orleans tragedies, the USA implemented a natural disaster HF/SSB radio email service; because it keeps working when the other stuff is broken. They did not choose satellite.

Those big antennas seen on military vehicles are there because - despite having the money for far more sophisticated technologies - it keeps working when the other stuff is broken. And someone in a tank can probably fix what might not be working on the HF/SSB system.

And after the fire disaster in Victoria (Australia) a few years ago, HF/SSB rados are being fitted to rural fire trucks and fire stations; because a lot of people learnt the hard way that the sophisticated terrestrial and satellite systems fall over without something as simple as a plentiful power supply. And despite lots of competent technicians and spared parts, it took over 8 days to get the simplest of communication started again. Exactly at the time when communication is so important.

These and other reasons are why maritime authorities keep saying that boats need a HF radio. And why the principle marine safety communications network around the world is still HF/SSB radio. It works in a manner that benefits all mariners and they do not need to pay to take to each other to share information or offer assistance.

In my experience, it's worth a little effort to get that HF/SSB working. Usually it's quite simple to address the likely problems.

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Old 08-07-2012, 00:43   #107
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