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Old 16-02-2011, 16:11   #1
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SSB Counter Poise

Seriously thinking of the installation of a Icom 700, Pro 710 or IC 802 SSB radio in a Beneteau Oceanis 400.

In reading on the installation of this type if equipment the counter poise seems like the trickiest part of the install. Can anyone help me with the following questions:

The KISS cable system looks like the easiest install, looks simple, cost is good. Is it too good to be true? Anybody used one, how does install and how does it work? Would a Danya Plate be needed in addation to the KISS

Is the gam split antenna worth looking at or just cut the back stay and install isolators?

Which of the Icom Radio other than a 802 is the best way to go?

Thanks a Million for your help

Fletch
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Old 16-02-2011, 16:22   #2
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Opinions vary but Icom is certainly among the most popular and I have used Icom ham radios for decades with no defects. The KISS counterpoise is easy to install and works fairly well compared with a traditional counterpoise capacitively coupled to water through the hull. If you want to eventually improve on it, you could always add some copper or connect to a thruhull or both.

A Dynaplate is intended to serve as a DC ground, not an RF ground although some people mistakenly use it as both with the result being noise generation on the radio. You don't need it if you use copper or a KISS set of wires.

Regarding the GAM antenna, it is essentially a commercial version of a commonly used design anyone can easily make but if you are so inclined, it will work well with a proper tuner. Because it is mounted in close proximity with a stay, there is some loss compared with a direct connection to the stay as well as some detuning but not being a resonant antenna, it doesn't make much difference which you choose. I'd suggest you look at the construction of this antenna as it is easy to fabricate a much sturdier home made version.
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Old 16-02-2011, 16:48   #3
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I installed a KISS on-board my boat to use with my Ham radio. I was totally surprised, and sold on it. Easy to install and tuned first time on the ham bands with 100 watt output from the radio......LL
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Old 16-02-2011, 18:53   #4
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That's just a lot of FUD put out by people who want to sell you something. There really isn't anything tricky about any of it.

When I first started looking into it, I read all the same stuff and though it must be really difficult to do. But later, I got my ham license, which I highly recommend, and found that ham antennas where really simple.

Right now I have a temporary antenna and counterpoise sitting on my deck (on the hard for repairs) and make contacts every day out to about 950 miles. It's just temporary, so didn't even measure any of the wires.

I just connected the GTO15 (10') coming from my tuner to my disconnected backstay (45') to an old piece of wire halyard (around 30') and ran it from the pulpits over a whisker pole erected in the cockpit in an open loop (around 85' total). Then I spread out all the shrouds on the deck and connected them to the ground from the tuner. Other than touching my coiled up lifelines and anchors sitting on deck, none of these wires are touching anything else.

So, if you're still reading, all you need is a random wire for the antenna -- start with the uninsulated backstay -- and a bunch of wires run through the bilge or under the deck to act as a counterpoise -- lifelines work well too. You can connect it to other metal if you want, but I think that's bogus. Just make sure you don't connect it to anything connected to the DC ground.

There's a ham station on the space station, which has a really good signal, but I sure don't see it trailing any ground down to the water. Same goes for aircraft. You either have a ground or a couterpoise, you really don't need both.

Btw, you do want to be able to disconnect everything in case of lightening, but you'd do that anyway. I'm going to put my in a cage as well once I get around to it.
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Old 17-02-2011, 11:02   #5
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If you want a neat installation of a counterpoise without a bunch or wires in the bilge, the KISS counterpoise is the way to go. Quick and easy install (and it works).....LL
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Old 17-02-2011, 11:50   #6
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There's a ham station on the space station, which has a really good signal, but I sure don't see it trailing any ground down to the water. Same goes for aircraft. You either have a ground or a couterpoise, you really don't need both.
Yeah. Do you suppose the space station antenna was designed by an engineer using best practices, or some yahoo goofing around until something kinda worked? And the space station is operating in VHF or higher where efficient compact antennas can be made with the equivalent of an integral counterpoise.

I've a textbook insulated backstay and ground plane in the bilge connected to the DC ground, lifelines, toerails, keel, etc. On 25 watts or less even, low power, in typical good conditions, I can connect to the Sailmail station in Firefly, NSW, Australia from Mexico. That's 7000 miles. Good enough. Simple install.
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Old 17-02-2011, 12:54   #7
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That's great. What's you farthest voice contact?
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Old 17-02-2011, 13:33   #8
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SSB counterpoise

Here's another definitive YES for KISS_SSB. I finally got to remove 200sf of copper and have infinitely better signal everyday. It takes only 90 secs to install.
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Old 17-02-2011, 15:09   #9
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That's great. What's you farthest voice contact
I almost never use voice on the SSB. Only Sailmail. I not a fan of nets. So no long distance voice contacts.

The PACTOR will connect with what seems to be an inaudible signal. Voice is much tougher to hear thru the noise, as you probably know.
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Old 17-02-2011, 15:28   #10
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HF isn't like VHF. The distance over which you are able to make a contact is only one indicator -- and not a very good one at that -- of the quality of your installation. A better indication would be the ability to make good contacts on a regular basis over a distance appropriate for the frequency and time of use, e.g., over 500-1,000 miles for 7mHz in the morning hours.

Distance ability in HF is a function of frequency, propagation conditions, time of day, season, radiated power, vertical angle of radiation, and operator skill. I have made solid voice SSB contacts on the 20m band over a distance of 10,000 miles using a portable battery-powered transceiver with 2.5 watts power. This was possible because of an extremely good DX antenna -- a vertical dipole cut for the 20m band -- and excellent propagation conditions.

Imagine if the above contact had been made with a very badly installed 150-watt marine SSB radio, which was only radiating less than 3 watts...the rest being lost to inefficiencies in the transmission line, tuner, antenna and ground systems. A novice would probably have thought that was pretty good going...wow, I made a 10,000 mile contact...when in fact the installation was grossly deficient.

The effectiveness of an SSB installation aboard a boat can only be known after making a few sensible measurements and many on-the-air contacts over varying distances at varying times of day and on various bands over a suitable length of time.

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Old 17-02-2011, 15:41   #11
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Yes, the VHF (2m) ham radio on the ISS sends out a great LOS signal. Have heard them a few times. .

As for a marine SSB installation, I have tried a number of different installations with success. When copper was less expensive a while ago, I got some copper flashing from a local HW store, cut 3 inch lengths and fit it through the bilge. One leg connected to a thru hull. Worked great. Got contacts 5000 miles away.

Recently, that foil has been degrading and rather than replace it I considered the KISS counterpoise. Knowing that this system is just a set of radials (wires cut to specific lengths for specific frequencies), I decided to experiment first. Fortunately, I had quite a bit of left over wire around.

I calculated the following lengths for these specific bands, using the well known equation 468/MHz=dipole length (in ft). Each radial is one leg of the dipole and thus half the calculated length. The specific radial lengths are below:

Freq band, radial in ft

3.9MHz, radial = 60ft
6.1MHz, 38.36ft
7.2 MHz, 32.5ft
8.1MHz, 28.9ft
12.3MHz, 19.0ft
14.3MHz, 16.36ft


The above bands cover the ham and marine freqs I use. The total amount of wire needed came out to just under 200ft. That would be about $44 of 12g wire. Even less for 14g. Not bad at all.

Note: the marine 4MHz band should be covered by the 8.1 radial.

As it turned out...I had just enough wire for all the radials except the 3.9MHz band, 60ft. Since I use that band the least and the 7.2 radial should cover this (especially given my SGC-230 tuner), I decided to go without it.

SO....put it all together, added it to my existing counterpoise...and ...fantastic results. Very pleased and keeping this set up. I did not even run the radials through the bilge...they are just sitting under the antenna. First time I fired up the set, I got a 5-8 signal report on 20m from a station in NH (I am in FL).

Keep in mind...this does include some copper foil going to a bronz thru hull. I have not done the off/on experiment, but I am quite confident that I could do without the copper foil.

So, this is about 140ft of simple copper wire. Cheap.

Hope this helps

Best

John
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Old 17-02-2011, 16:05   #12
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I hope I didn't hit a nerve. I was just trying to dispel the notion that you have to jump through a lot of hoops to affect a reasonable SSB installation. I'm currently on the hard with my mast down, so what I described is essentially an emergency antenna, but it still works pretty well.

The band conditions lately haven't been terribly good, but I'm still able to make reasonably good contacts daily from 600-950 miles -- the strongest reports seem to be at around 800 miles. However, I was hearing Saint Croix so well today, I checked in with John, NP2B, at about 1,682 miles. He could hear and acknowledge me, but since I was light, he ended up passing me off to Dave, KD4CMA, in north Florida, about 941 miles away to complete the checkin.

To paraphrase Bill, this is just a data point, it really doesn't prove anything. However, I hope it does show how well an emergency antenna can work even if you don't have a mast -- mine is a sloped loop with a height of only about 9' above the coachroof.

Also, don't connect to the DC ground, it's not the same as the RF ground.

Finally, although, the space station only uses VHF, many aircraft do use HF and connect to the MMSN every day. The point I was trying to make was that RF ground is different from DC ground.

Anyway, all is good.

73...
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Old 17-02-2011, 16:06   #13
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...I have made solid voice SSB contacts ... distance of 10,000 miles using ... 2.5 watts power. This was possible because of an extremely good DX antenna...

...A novice would probably have thought that was pretty good going...wow, I made a 10,000 mile contact...when in fact the installation was grossly deficient.
Yeah, I'm a novice. Got it. My good SSB installation, without snake oil products, is just an accident. Heh! Just like sailboat racing: When I win, which is not rare, all I hear is that it was dumb luck...a lucky wind shift. When my opponent wins it was due to their skill and hard work despite their suffering all the bad wind shifts.
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Old 17-02-2011, 16:13   #14
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Hi Daddle,

I don't think he was saying that at all, and I'm sorry you took it that way.

I only hope that my antenna is as good as your's once I step the mast and get her into the water. 7,000 miles is impressive.

However, I'd be skeptical of easy "magic" solutions. Lots of things can happen out there and it's nice to have a backup plan.

take care...
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Old 17-02-2011, 17:24   #15
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First I'd get a Ham radio rather than a Marine Radio. FWIH, you are paying a lot of money to have the magic word 'Marine' on the radio label. A ham radio is a lot more valuable as you can talk on all the maritime nets and local nets that are out there on the ham frequencies. If a Ham Radio is opened up to transmit on all frequencies, you can use it on the Marine Bands in an emergency. You can get an ICOM 718 radio and an SGC230 tuner for around a boat unit and you are up and running on the ham frequencies. If you go with the ICOM 7200 Ham radio you will be out a boat unit for the radio but have a weather protected case and just as tight frequency control as the Marine Radios.

You do have to get your General Class Ham License to transmit on the radio. Getting the license is no big deal. There are a number of sites on the internet with practice exams. A day going over the exams will give you the ability to pass the test and a lot of information that is really helpful to have for using any HF radio.

As far as the counterpoise, I'm using two 3" strips of copper rund down each side of the boat under the deck to the SGC 230 tuner in the lazarette. It got me no problem contacts with the Pacific Maritime net all the way from SF to Hilo and contacts as far away as the East Coast enroute to Hawaii. Tried the Bundle of Wires commercial counterpoise but it wasn't giving me anymore wattage out than my copper straps. The 'Bundle of Wires' counterpoise sure would have been easier to install, however. Not that the copper strapping wasn't that big a deal to rig but it wasn't cheap with the price of copper these days. Others claim to get a decent signal out running copper strap to an unbonded through hull. It is not a ground in the electrical sense so doesn't need to be tied to something in contact with the sea.

If you must go with Marine HF, look at the Icom 710, it's hundreds cheaper and works just as well as the 802. Lacks some bells and whistles, the most interesting being the remote control face.
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