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Old 30-12-2011, 20:21   #1
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SSB Advice

Well I have bought the Icom bits now need an aerial and grounding plate. HAlyard types look interesting? any advice from ssb users or sites that can help would be gratefully appreciated
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Old 30-12-2011, 20:37   #2
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Re: SSB advice

Forget the 1950's plate. Get a KISS. If you decide not to insulate your backstay, the GAM antennas work well.
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Old 31-12-2011, 01:38   #3
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Re: SSB advice

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Originally Posted by CAELESTIS View Post
Forget the 1950's plate. Get a KISS. If you decide not to insulate your backstay, the GAM antennas work well.
Should have made clear, know nothing other than what I have read. SO Kiss means? Should I insulate my backstay? These are the questions I need advice on.

Cheers
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Old 31-12-2011, 02:18   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthPacific

Should have made clear, know nothing other than what I have read. SO Kiss means? Should I insulate my backstay? These are the questions I need advice on.

Cheers
There are lots of ssb threads here. He's talking about the kiss-ssb grounding system and a gam antenna (search here or use google fir more info).

I don't use either, but I'm a ham and like doing my own thing. My only advice is to take everything you read with a grain of salt, especially when someone's trying to sell you something. And if you want to understand what's gong in, become a ham

Have fun and happy new year...
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Old 31-12-2011, 05:52   #5
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Re: SSB advice

The KISS is a counterpoise and should not be confused with a ground the way we humans normally think of grounding. You will need either a plate or ground to a thru-hull. I am grounded to a thru-hull and it works great but I am not happy with it. I would prefer a dedicated to the radio plate about 3" in diameter mounted with a 1/2" stud thru the hull with a real life electrical connector on the end of it.

A decent voltage regulator for the radio is a good idea too.
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Old 31-12-2011, 06:24   #6
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Re: SSB advice

So, here's the $0.02 worth from a HAM and HF electronics design geek:

I assume you have an automatic antenna tuner with the radio? If not, buy one from either Icom (only with Icom radio) or the SGC230 smart tuner (for any radio).

Now you are left with two connection points on that tuner: one for the antenna and the other for what is called a ground or counterpoise. For the antenna, with everything I have tried (and that is everything possible on a boat) an insulated backstay works best and is only matched (just as good) with a vertical whip. I actually prefer the whip because I think there is risk in the isolators in the backstay (small risk but risk nonetheless). The Shakespear 2-part 20-feet long whip works really good, I did 7,000 nm contacts with it using an Icom 710 with Icom tuner. My second radio is a Kenwood TS-480 HAM radio with the SGC230 tuner and I hoist a 50-foot 10-gauge wire with a halyard as antenna (which is exactly like an insulated backstay (I don't have backstays). This set, even @ 200W output, never beat the other radio with the whip antenna... it can match it but not beat it.

So option 1) is a vertical whip and option 2) an insulated backstay. If you choose 1) then make sure you get the 2-part whip (not the 3-part), that you don't forget the upper support bracket and that you mount it as vertical as you possibly can... no macho tilt.

Now the ground. Assuming your boat has no SSB ground, I will join the vote for the KISS ground just because it is very easy to install, reasonably priced, it is low maintenance and every owner reports success.

This will get you on the air. If HF radio is your thing you'll find the way to HAM exam and other options after that.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 31-12-2011, 06:42   #7
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Howdy!
Nick, what is your suggestion for the size of an adequate grounding plate?
73
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Old 31-12-2011, 07:07   #8
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Re: SSB advice

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Howdy!
Nick, what is your suggestion for the size of an adequate grounding plate?
73
Save your money. You don't need a grounding plate except in very special circumstances.

For most boats, there are plenty of other options which work very well.

Bill
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(ham for 45 years, sailor and professional SSB installer)
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Old 31-12-2011, 08:03   #9
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Oookaaa.. Bill, I have no through hull fittings, and an outboard for a kicker. What do you suggest?
73
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Old 31-12-2011, 08:53   #10
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Re: SSB advice

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Howdy!
Oookaaa.. Bill, I have no through hull fittings, and an outboard for a kicker. What do you suggest?
73
Radials, most likely. You can make your own from any type of insulated wire. Either resonant (1/4 wave at operating freq) or non-resonant. More is better. Connect one end to the tuner ground lug; run them under deck or in the bilge somewhere...they don't have to be close to the water. Be careful to insulate the ends...they get hot when you transmit.

Easiest to install is the KISS-SSB radial system. About $140. They work very well and a 10-minute install.

Bill
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Old 31-12-2011, 10:29   #11
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Howdy!
I'm using an auto tuner, so for'n'aft spread for each band sounds like the ticket. R on tip insulation.
Tnx! 73!
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Old 31-12-2011, 14:07   #12
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Re: SSB advice

First of all thanks for the replies.

So I have my Icom 710 and Icom 130 tuner.

Whip antenna OK. 20ft or 23ft? Top of mast or stern radar pillar?

Bill you say no grounding plate. You are the first I have read to suggest that. Could you explain more please! Kiss Ground?

Has anyone ever used these GAMM antenna? They look good. Ham is my goal.
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Old 31-12-2011, 14:26   #13
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Re: SSB advice

A radio antenna does not need a ground as in an electrical circuit, it needs a counterpoise. Not sure exactly how it works but does need to be connected to water, in fact works better if it's above water. Not to say that a plate or thru hull fitting etc. wouldn't get the signal out, it's just not the best way. On my boat, have rung 30' lengths of 3" copper strips down each side of the hull under the deck and to the tuner. Works fine without any ground plate. Others have used their life lines, aluminum toe rails, etc. The KISS system is definitely the easiest and cheapest counterpoise to install short of just running a wire from the tuner to a thru-hull.

Vertical antennas work but they are very prone to corrosion on a sailboat. They may need frequent disassembly and cleaning of the contacts between the sections. Not that big a thing but an embarassment if it happens when you need to get out.
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Old 31-12-2011, 14:40   #14
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Re: SSB advice

There's a tremendous amount of erroneous and misleading information concerning RF grounds and counterpoises for marine and ham SSB operation. Much of this has been carried for years in most books about marine ssb (though not ham, usually) and in manufacturers instruction manuals.

The famous "100 square feet" appears over and over, referring to the need to hook up everything metal belowdecks to try to achieve 100 sq ft of area.

Unbelievably, authors have just repeated this garbage over and over, though hams have known for many years that it's just not true. Even the guru of marine SSB, Gordon West, debunked this myth years ago. In his experiments, a simple copper strap to the nearest bronze thru-hull did very well indeed.

Hams, military operators, and others have used radials for many years as effective RF ground systems for HF operation. It has been proven that elevated radials -- above the ground -- are even more effective than are buried radials or those lying on the ground.

The marine corollary has to do with "coupling to seawater". Many "authorities" say salt water is such a great ground that you only need to "couple" to it -- directly or capacitatively -- to have a good RF ground system. Well, guess what? That's garbage, too!

Salt water IS indeed a good conductor, but it's primary use is for REFLECTING electromagnetic waves (radio waves) off its surface, and bouncing them up to the ionosphere. This doesn't require "coupling"...it only requires that the RF energy be generated and beamed/bounced over water.

There are numerous posts on RF grounds on this Board and others. I did a very long post on subject years ago on the SSCA Board and elsewhere entitled, "RF Grounds in the Marine Environment".

Bottom line: LOTS AND LOTS OF THINGS WILL WORK VERY WELL AS AN RF GROUND ON A BOAT.....radials, s/s rub rails, aluminum toerails, pushpit/pulpit/lifeline complex, large metal structures like swim platforms, radar arches, etc., etc. A simple ground strap to a nearby bronze thru-hull will work as well. And, guess what, you can even do without the thru-hull. It's really the copper strapping which serves as the RF ground.

Automatic antenna tuners in common use these days, like the Icom AT130/140 and the SGC SG-230, are so good they'll couple to almost anything. Sometimes they'll even tune when nothing is attached to them, which is not to say that in those circumstances they'll generate a good signal. Rather, they'll just trick the transceiver into believing that everything is OK by presenting a 50-ohm load, which is what the transceiver wants to see. And, after all, a dummy load is an excellent 50-ohm match, but you won't be transmitting very far with it :-)

However, given a fair chance by connecting some conducting wire to the antenna and ground lugs on these tuners, you can generate an acceptable to very good signal.

The KISS-SSB is a commercial product which is extremely well made and has been experimentally developed for both the marine and ham bands. It works very well and is extremely simple to install. Since I'm a dealer, I can't say much more than I've said in the past. It works, and in many situations it's just the ticket.

Re: placement of whip antenna, you want a vertical antenna for HF to be placed low down to the water, not high up (unlike VHF where the opposite is true). This is so you can take advantage of a low vertical takeoff angle for long-distance communications.

I haven't personally tried the GAM antenna but I've heard them on the air on various nets and I'm not impressed. They seem not to perform as well as other options, including insulated backstays, verticals, "alternate backstay antennas", so-called rope antennas, etc.

Here's a comparison of some of the antenna choices for marine operation:
MarineAntennaChoices2

Bill
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Old 31-12-2011, 15:22   #15
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Re: SSB advice

Bill,

I have been reading some of the previous threads you have contributed on. I am starting to realize that this is going to be a long term learning cycle. I am very thankful that you and others have taken the time to give me some advice. I take your point that their is no one fix for all boats.

My first priority is to be able to obtain weather info offshore, and then communication with other boats and also land biased stations when I pass my ham exams.
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