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Old 20-04-2015, 03:59   #1
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Boat: 1978 Cal 39 MKII Tall Mast
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SSB: Plugging into the internal lead ballast

I own a 1978 Cal 39 with 7000 lbs of lead encapsulated in the keel. Has anybody heard of plugging the SSB counterpoise into that gold-mine of electric grounding?

First off: how deep in the keel is the lead? I've scoured the internet for a schematic showing where I will find the lead, but to no avail. Is the entire keel full of lead? Or is there only a layer 1/3 deep in the keel?

And secondly: If I decided to access this lead, I'd guess there would have to be a hole drilled in from the top. But that's where the bilge is located (and of course, the bilge water). Is it even practical or safe to drill a hole through the bilge and install a bolt on which to attach the copper foil?

Maybe it's better to just make do with the steel water tank...

Thanks for your expert (or even better, first-hand) opinions!

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Old 20-04-2015, 04:30   #2
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Re: SSB: Plugging into the internal lead ballast

Not worth the effort. Just run a strap of 3-4" wide heavy copper from the tuner ground lug to the nearest bronze thru-hull.

Later, if desired, you can add some wire radials, but the thru-hull itself will do very well as Gordon West has proved.


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Old 20-04-2015, 04:46   #3
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Re: SSB: Plugging into the internal lead ballast

Don't break the encapsulation of the keel. As Bill said, find the nearest bronze thru-hull and run a 3 inch copper strap from the tuner to the bronze fitting. The shorter the strap is the better.
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Old 20-04-2015, 05:56   #4
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Re: SSB: Plugging into the internal lead ballast

I sent you a PM.
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Old 20-04-2015, 07:59   #5
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Re: SSB: Plugging into the internal lead ballast

Bill is right

better to line the lazarette with copper screen, cover it with gel coat and connect to that

I have done 4 crossing to Hawaii on a cal 40 with this set up works great

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Old 20-04-2015, 08:58   #6
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Re: SSB: Plugging into the internal lead ballast

I used a dynaplate plus radials and have had excellent success.
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Old 20-04-2015, 09:10   #7
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Re: SSB: Plugging into the internal lead ballast

I wouldn't mess with the keel and likely not necessary for good counterpoise. We have similar boats and my Cal 46, as most sailboats, has an internal ground/ bonding system that connects engine (hence negative battery), all thru-hulls, stays, some stanchions and also the green ground circuit from the AC electrical panel usually finds a connection to this boat ground as well as, and in some cases, the water & diesel tanks. All together that makes an excellent overall RF counterpoise. Without knowing how good all this 'stock' counterpoise would be, I also initially install a 'DynaPlate,' as it was called, on the outside of the bottom hull, just below where my tuner is installed and fore & aft 3" copper foil connected along the way to opportunistic thru-hulls with short jumper. Like Gordon and most hams, over the years I've experimented with disconnecting/ reconnecting my grounding plate during QSOs and trying other options, like the GAM bundled 'turned' counterpoise that you can snake around under the floor/ or through storage areas and the zinc fish dangling in the water clipped to a grounded stanchion. The comprehensive 'stock' ground system + 3" foil on my Cal outperforms all the other options I've tried. But like most hams who practice 'more is better' I've left the outside hull grounding plate installed/ connected to the ship's ground, despite the risk of the two additional holes/ studs through the hull. But I don't mess with the fish. But if I knew then what I know now, I would not have installed the outside hull grounding plate. Because I bonded the copier foil to whatever thru/hulls were alone its path, I couldn't compare/ test the stock grounding separate from the 3" copper foul ground, but some rainy day when I'm caught up on the projects list, I'd like disconnect the foil jumpers and do the test to know the result. I'll post my findings on this Fourm.

Theoretically, of course, the wide straight copper foil along the hull would make a better RF ground system then the small gauge boat bonding wire which undoubtably will have a lot of bends (not good for RF).

However, one issue with the thin copper foil is that if you don't seal it by some means AND if it gets/ stays damp (Winter condensation/ leaks) it turns green and in 5-10 years will corrode to the point it literally falls apart in places... usually the places that are hard to get to or see. Also, if left loose where you store things it will soon be snagged and ripped in half.

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plug, ssb

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