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Old 21-02-2010, 15:30   #16
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The "Rope Antenna" will work very well. So will a length of stainless steel lifeline rigged up the same way. You can buy the "Rope Antenna" for $300, and if you believe all you read in the vendor's marketing hooha you might as well buy the KISS SSB Ground for another $150 or so. Then you will have a store bought antenna and counterpoise for $450 that can be equaled or bested by $100 worth of parts and a little labor. The labor and thought saved may be worth the money to some, I won't argue that. I will argue that you will not end up with a system that performs better in a testable way than the conventional backstay/ground system or the much cheaper systems you can make yourself as Bill Trayfors has so often recommended.
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Old 14-05-2012, 15:11   #17
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

I would like to re-open this discussion, if I may. I have a Palstar shortwave radio aboard that I have been trying to get to work for a couple of years. For those of you who are not familiar with the Palstar, it is considered a high-end radio costing in the range of $600.


In the Bahamas, I could get Chris Parker's weather forecasts reasonably well (he broadcasts from FL), though I could never hear the boats responding to him on their SSB radios. He could. Now, in the Dominican Republic, he sounds like he is broadcasting from his shower. The noise is such that his broadcast is unreadable.


I figured there was something wrong with my radio but I can't return it to Palstar from here... it will go missing during the customs inspection. So I took it to a local chap who is an amateur radio enthusiast and who repairs radios. He hooked the Palstar to his home antenna and said it was working fine!!!!


Antenna problem??? Here's what I got: 65-feet of #14 wire running from the front of the boat to the top of the mast and then back down to the stern of the boat. This gives me an inverted V the end of which is lead to a LMZ-50 10:1 (50 ohm coax to Hi-Z Antenna) “unun” matching device made by (Jason) Erickson Engineering.


Then about 30 feet of Belden 8259 RG-58A/U coax to the radio. Ok... here's the tricky bit. The boat hull is steel as is the rigging holding up the aluminum mast. If this forms some sort of 'cone of silence' the antenna wire is contained within the umbrella. The radio is grounded to the steel hull. Everything in the boat, lights, motors, refrigeration, electronics... are turned off when using the radio.


I have checked the coax for electrical shorts; there aren't any. I have checked the antenna wire for continuity; there are no breaks. I have removed the wire from the balum and fed it directly to the radio; reception is the same: lousy. I have disconnected the radio from ground: no difference.


Chris Parker broadcast:
4045 USB 6:30am AST / EDT, 1030 UTC
8137 USB 7:00am AST / EDT, 1100 UTC




Oh, and boats anchored all around me pick up the broadcasts just fine on there ICOM SSBs.


If anyone has an idea for me, I would sure appreciate hearing from you. Hurricane season is just around the corner.


Bryan
Luperon, DR
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Old 14-05-2012, 15:27   #18
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

Brian,

I assume you have the Palstar R30A receiver. It is indeed a nice receiver.

My guess is that your problems stem from two major sources:

1. antenna; and

2. onboard noise.

To receive only...not transmit...the UnUn and huge wire antenna and coax are overkill. Way overkill. Try taking a simple insulated wire....20 or 30' long...and clip it onto a shroud. Or just hoist it on a flag halyard. See what you hear.

Even with everything turned off on the boat, there can be sources of RFI which will spoil reception. Look for anything with a motor and, especially, anything with a computer chip in it. I have a Blue Sea Systems digital voltmeter on my boat which is extremely noisy. Inverters, battery chargers, laptop computers, chartplotters, frigs', etc. are all noisy. Noise can also be generated by things around you....other boats, dockside wiring, etc., etc.

Finally, as you no doubt know by now, propagation varies from day to day, from hour to hour, and even from minute to minute. It also varies by frequency. I'm on the Waterway Net almost every day of the year between about 0730 and 0830 EST (7268kHz LSB), and still -- after 50 years of hamming -- find it amazing how conditions sometimes change from minute to minute. Bottom line: you need a baseline sampling, not just one or two tries on a given frequency at a given time.

You mentioned that Chris Parker can hear stations you can't. That's perfectly normal. You're not in the same location. You'll no doubt hear stations that he can't as well.

Anyway, give the simple wire antenna a try, and look again carefully for onboard and environment noisemakers.

Good luck,

Bill
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Old 14-05-2012, 15:37   #19
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

You could ask the 'local chap' to come to your boat with his radio, connect to your antenna and see what he has to say. Seems to me like a fast way to isolate the problem.

Marius
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Old 14-05-2012, 15:38   #20
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

G'Day Brian,

Bill's advice is, as usual, very good. I'd add one other thing: if your receiver (I'm not familiar with that model) is portable, or if you can borrow some sort of portable rx from a pal, try moving it about your boat, listening to the noise on the frequencies that you use. Then move off of the boat and walk or dinghy around the area. If the noise is generated on board, you will likely find the signal strength dropping off rapidl as you move away. If the noise seems to be generated on board, use the rx as a "noise detector" and try to physically locate the source.

I might add that just turning some bits of kit off with their own off/on switches isn't enough to quiet them down. You need to actually remove power from them, say by turning off their supply circuit breaker.

Good luck with it, mate... it can really be frustrating.

Cheers and 73

Jim
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Old 15-05-2012, 06:33   #21
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by bcripps View Post
I would like to re-open this discussion, if I may. I have a Palstar shortwave radio aboard that I have been trying to get to work for a couple of years. For those of you who are not familiar with the Palstar, it is considered a high-end radio costing in the range of $600.


In the Bahamas, I could get Chris Parker's weather forecasts reasonably well (he broadcasts from FL), though I could never hear the boats responding to him on their SSB radios. He could. Now, in the Dominican Republic, he sounds like he is broadcasting from his shower. The noise is such that his broadcast is unreadable.


I figured there was something wrong with my radio but I can't return it to Palstar from here... it will go missing during the customs inspection. So I took it to a local chap who is an amateur radio enthusiast and who repairs radios. He hooked the Palstar to his home antenna and said it was working fine!!!!


Antenna problem??? Here's what I got: 65-feet of #14 wire running from the front of the boat to the top of the mast and then back down to the stern of the boat. This gives me an inverted V the end of which is lead to a LMZ-50 10:1 (50 ohm coax to Hi-Z Antenna) “unun” matching device made by (Jason) Erickson Engineering.


Then about 30 feet of Belden 8259 RG-58A/U coax to the radio. Ok... here's the tricky bit. The boat hull is steel as is the rigging holding up the aluminum mast. If this forms some sort of 'cone of silence' the antenna wire is contained within the umbrella. The radio is grounded to the steel hull. Everything in the boat, lights, motors, refrigeration, electronics... are turned off when using the radio.


I have checked the coax for electrical shorts; there aren't any. I have checked the antenna wire for continuity; there are no breaks. I have removed the wire from the balum and fed it directly to the radio; reception is the same: lousy. I have disconnected the radio from ground: no difference.


Chris Parker broadcast:
4045 USB 6:30am AST / EDT, 1030 UTC
8137 USB 7:00am AST / EDT, 1100 UTC




Oh, and boats anchored all around me pick up the broadcasts just fine on there ICOM SSBs.


If anyone has an idea for me, I would sure appreciate hearing from you. Hurricane season is just around the corner.


Bryan
Luperon, DR
Just so you know, sometimes it has nothing to do with the antennas - it has to do with locations of the other people on the radio.

We routinely can't hear some of the hams talking to people we can hear (or for that matter other mariners).

So as long as you're picking someone up that's a good distance away your radio and antenna are PROBABLY working pretty well.
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Old 16-05-2012, 12:32   #22
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

Thanks everyone for your excellent insight and suggestions. One thing stood out here... yes I do turn off all the breakers in the boat except for the circuit that the shortwave radio uses. In addition to the shortwave, there is an incandescent light, a fan and a car-type, digital stereo radio/CD player. Ok... all this stuff is turned off; or is it? Let me get back to you about this. Tomorrow I'll disconnect the stereo and run a 30-foot straight wire for an antenna.


Thanks again...
Bryan
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Old 17-05-2012, 13:50   #23
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

Well I thought we had the answer!


After returning to the boat yesterday I disconnected the power leads to the stereo and was able to pick up a NOAH weather report. Also BBC on 9731; Radio China on 7350; some Germanic language on 7425; HAM chatter on 7268; Romania on 9700. But then this morning it was quite different: No Chris Parker on 4045 and barely discernible on 8137; nothing from BASRA, Nassau on 4003; some one-sided conversation from the Waterway Cruising Club on 7268.


Today I rig a new, shorter antenna!


Bryan
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Old 17-05-2012, 13:57   #24
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by bcripps View Post
Well I thought we had the answer!


After returning to the boat yesterday I disconnected the power leads to the stereo and was able to pick up a NOAH weather report. Also BBC on 9731; Radio China on 7350; some Germanic language on 7425; HAM chatter on 7268; Romania on 9700. But then this morning it was quite different: No Chris Parker on 4045 and barely discernible on 8137; nothing from BASRA, Nassau on 4003; some one-sided conversation from the Waterway Cruising Club on 7268.


Today I rig a new, shorter antenna!


Bryan
Bryan...

Well, at least partial success!

Coupla things:

1. The BASRA/Nassau signal is very weak. Almost nobody hears it.

2. One day's experience is hardly enough...you need to have several to really evaluate what's what.

3. I'd suggest that you try listening to several different nets and broadcasts regularly....every day if you can. Only then will you be able to tell.

Among those you might try are:

- 7268 LSB at 0745-0830 daily WaterWay Net
- 8152 USB daily from about 0830 to 0900 Cruizheimers Net
- 8152 USB daily from 1700 for a half hour or so DooDah Net
- 14300 USB 1000 to 1800 daily MM Service Net

- Weather broadcasts from the USCG on several HF frequencies, and from WLO in Mobile AL on several other HF frequencies. See their websites for schedules.

You can find a more complete list of nets here: Net / SSB Frequencies

Good luck,

Bill
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Old 17-05-2012, 13:59   #25
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

Radio propagation changes dramatically throughout the day (and year, and 11-year sunspot cycle). Different frequencies will have different point-to-point characteristics, and this is always changing. There are rules of thumb for frequency selection, but these are merely good starting points. What you are describing could just be textbook propagation behavior.

As for your stereo, you should reconnect and disconnect the power, while listening to your receiver. Is there noise (or other interference) that comes and goes? This is how you track down any local noise sources. Try switching off and on your other gear while monitoring the receiver (try different frequencies). You may find that your electrical equipment isn't causing problems after all.
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Old 17-05-2012, 14:05   #26
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

Thanks, Bill:

I'll try again tomorrow with a shorter wire rigged from the spreader directly to the radio, about 26-feet in total.

All best,
Bryan
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Old 17-05-2012, 14:12   #27
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

Don't know where you are, so this may not apply to your situation, Bryan, but I found that my SSB didn't perform well in areas with sailboats (i.e., tall masts) clustered around me, like marinas. Lots of noise and they seem to suck up the signal.
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Old 17-05-2012, 14:36   #28
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

Bill,

Since your on this thread, may I hyjack it for a second? I'm the nut case that hoists a trapped inverted vee up my mast at anchor and use telescoping fiberglass masts to get my 90* on the legs. As I said earlier, I'm building another and my question is, would you use 1/2" wide braided wire (typically used as a grounding strap) for the legs? I know it is costly, but for uhf and vhf yagis I have found the larger diameter elements give a larger low SWR bandwidth. Never tried this out on HF, probably won't make the big difference as it did on the higher frequencies.

Thanks.
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Old 17-05-2012, 15:32   #29
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

Thanks again, guys. I agree with everything folks are saying here. What I can't understand is why I'm the only person in the harbor who can't receive Chris Parker's weather forecast each morning. I was lead to believe that the Palstar Radio is a top end receiver. Other boaters are using the ICOM SSB radio and are having no trouble. I am at anchor in Luperon's harbor in the Dominican Republic and it is not overly crowded. But this problem didn't start here. I have never been thrilled with the performance of my system since installing it over two years ago in Florida. Initially, in the Bahamas, I could copy Chris Parker's signal but could never hear the boats responding to him. Not unless they were anchored very close to me... within two or three miles!


I know it will end up being something simple but tracking it down is making me old. When I listen to the radio, all my breakers are off. With the exception of the fan, the light, the stereo and the shortwave that all share the same breaker, all power is off... to everything. I am now thinking about dedicating a circuit for the shortwave but I'll do some more fiddling tonight and tomorrow.


Best,
Bryan
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Old 17-05-2012, 15:44   #30
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Re: SSB Antenna Question

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Originally Posted by bcripps View Post


I know it will end up being something simple but tracking it down is making me old. When I listen to the radio, all my breakers are off. With the exception of the fan, the light, the stereo and the shortwave that all share the same breaker, all power is off...


Best,
Bryan
FAN??? did you say that there was a fan running? Depending on the type of motor, fans can be VERY RF noisy. Try disconnecting/switching it off.

Cheers,

Jim
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