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Old 07-12-2009, 15:59   #1
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SSB Reception

Hello All,

I recently purchased an ICOM 802 Transceiver and AT-140 tuner. I have everything hooked up right now but I don't seem to be getting good reception. The antenna is clamped to the insulated backstay and I'm using my lifelines for a ground for now. I was grounded to my bronze through hull earlier but having it connected or not made little difference. I am only trying to receive right now, not transmit. I have heard a bit of shortwave radio at night in 6 Mhz range and I did hear the southbound 2 wx report from Herb in Ontario at 12.359 Mhz this afternoon.

Is the grounding important for receiving?

I am on the west coast of Canada tied up to a dock in a bit of a fjord, does this matter?

What can I expect to hear?

Thanks in advance,

Brennan
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Old 07-12-2009, 16:24   #2
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Hi Brennan,
I'm not a radio expert, hopefully someone who is will chime in soon.
If you're at all unsure about grounding, an easy way to test is to attach a long piece of heavy copper grounding braid to the unit's RF ground, and dangle six or eight feet of the braid overboard. Not practical for sailing, but it'd give you a point of comparison.
If you're picking up an Ontario broadcast in Squamish, BC, at least you know the set's not broken and its sensitivity is pretty good. It may just be that there's not much SSB traffic that reaches that area- at least not on the channels you've tried at the times you've tried. Mountains do tend to screw up a lot of signals, even MF/HF.
Do you know any other yachts in your cruising ground that carry SSB? Can they pick up anything? There's certainly been a decline in the number of public shortwave broadcasts (BBC, etc.) over the last few years. I don't have my Radio Aids handy at the moment, but I suspect you might have a Coast Guard station somewhere up that way that monitors 2182 kHz.
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Old 07-12-2009, 16:27   #3
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Check the following settings:

RFgain 9
AGC OFF
Noise Blanker OFF
Squelch OFF
While “TUNE” is displayed, push [F] then
[TUNE THRU] to tuner through function ON.
• “THRU” appears instead of “TUNE” indicator.

(this sets the tuner to "tune thru" which will improve reception).

•Push [TUNE THRU] to turn the function OFF.

IF/WHEN you're ready to transmit (and have necessary licenses), go into the setup menu and set the tuner function to automatic. This will automatically tune to the selected channel when you press the mic button. It uses a reduced power level to limit (but not eliminate) interference to other stations on that channel, so be careful.

The fjord may attenuate signals from various directions and/or limit your reception to high-angle signals.

Marinas are almost never good for reception....too much noise from equipment and devices and other boats closeby.

Propagation changes from day to day and hour to hour as well. Keep trying. You might start with trying to receive known signals...time ticks from WWVH or CHU, broadcast stations, USCG weather broadcasts on various frequencies and schedules, etc.

Good luck,

Bill
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Old 07-12-2009, 19:46   #4
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Hi,

This is actually my first post but have been reading for a while.

A good ground plane is just as important as an antenna. To 'push' out the radio wave you need something to push against which is the ground.
For a plastic boat a copper wire or wires drapped along the hull works well and I believe better than a connection to a thru hull. Same applies with other materials. Seawater is a poor conductor relative to copper which tends resists the radio current. Performance is is best with length resonant at the operating frequency usually 1/4 wavelength (ie 300/12.3Mhz/4 say 6m) and it capacitively couples with the seawater as well. I expect this to be also superior to stainless handrails which again are not such a good conductor
My previous boat used a home brew 1/4 wave vertical antenna -a bamboo rod with spiral wound wire and we received dx all around the world with the copper wire ground plane.. Admittedly this was at a solar maximum but we are in the minimum of cycle now so you might have to 'wait' a few years for exceptional results. Previously I communicated thru Arthurs Net is Aus -and apparently its still going. At times messages were sometimes relayed via Canada amongst other countries when we were in the skip zone.

For long distance the radio wave needs to propogate close to horizontal even when using sky reflections. So high obtacles will block the wave although refraction over the top and poosibly also reflections will undoutedly occur so you should hear something - its a question of how well.


As an aside (pehaps best in another thread?) I'm now tending to think of using a satellite phone rather than SSB. even though I have both marine and ham SSB's and was a ham Op myself. I'd like to be able to use limited emails using sailmail for example. However with a subscription cost of $250/yr that would otherwise go a long way towards phone sim cost and possibly be more reliable in an emergency than HF with its fewer active participants now.
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Old 08-12-2009, 19:03   #5
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Thanks for the information, after checking the settings and trying different grounds I was unable to get any clear reception other than Commercial AM radio stations from Seattle. I can't hear any time signals or weather reports at all. Even when trying to use the lower bands <7MHz at night and higher bands >7MHz during the daytime. I guess I need to try the radio away from the Marina and out of the fjord. But I must say that I am very disappointed. I was hoping to try to get some weather fax files using the Multimode program from Black Cat Systems on my Mac. This seems totally impossible given the amount of static coming through the radio. I'd like to try a shortwave radio receiver and see if that's any better.... Better yet, skip the archaic HF radio all together and use dial up through a sat phone to get GRIB files. If I were in a remote inlet somewhere up the inside passage, would I be able to call for help with this thing?
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Old 08-12-2009, 19:15   #6
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... If I were in a remote inlet somewhere up the inside passage, would I be able to call for help with this thing?
If you did not have direct view of the satellite the sat phone would not work either. At least with the SSB, you have many different frequencies to work with.

Make sure you have turned off all the possible noise makers on your own boat - battery charger, AC, refrig, LED and Florescent lights, etc. There is still likely lots of interference from nearby boats. You should be able to get at least one WWV channel without much problem.

Paul L
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Old 08-12-2009, 19:53   #7
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I think I would check all your connections and antenna ends. If you made up your coax ends it is possible you have a short. Make sure all your connections are low resistance check with ohm meter. Check the small stuff before giving up. I installed my system a couple of years ago but just recently started using it. I found by tweaking little things it kept getting better just takes some patients and a little time but it will be a trill the first time you talk to someone 600 miles away. Follow all the basic advice you can find here as far as grounds and radials and you will get it.

good luck

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Old 08-12-2009, 22:04   #8
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Hello All,

I am on the west coast of Canada tied up to a dock in a bit of a fjord, does this matter?

Brennan
Being in a fjord matters a great deal. A vertically oriented antenna has a very low angle of radiation with respect to the horizon, and the walls of the fjord will block reception and transmission in all directions exept for the direction of the fjord entrance.

When we anchored in Fatu Hiva, we had nearly zero reception and transmission on SSB because there were high mountains and cliffs on three sides blocking the signal. We had to leave the harbor and go a couple of miles out to sea to get a good signal on reception and transmission. Once at sea, the low angle of radiation of the vertical oriented antenna gave us great long distance reception and transmission.
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Old 10-12-2009, 13:07   #9
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I have the same problem. You need to ground both the tuner and the radio to a keel bolt. That will turn all that lead into a very good ground.
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Old 17-12-2009, 20:57   #10
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It is my understanding the ground plane needs to be below the water line? Is that not correct?
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Old 17-12-2009, 21:05   #11
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I have the same problem. I believe it was the ICOM website that gave very good instructions on "counterpoise" by grounding to the keelbolt.
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Old 18-12-2009, 06:43   #12
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There's a ton of erroneous information on "rf grounds", "counterpoises", "ground planes", etc. in Icom and other radio instructions, websites, etc. Also, in many/most books on marine SSB.

You'll not often find such misleading stuff in ham radio manuals, because hams know better.

RF grounds DO NOT have to have contact with the water. Elevated radials -- wires, copper straps, etc. -- run under decks, under cabin tops, in bilges, etc. work just fine, in fact they generally work BETTER than many other grounds.

You DO NOT have to connect to the keel bolts. It is a good idea, though, to have some contact with water, e.g., via a bronze thru-hull which is not otherwise connected to the boat's grounding system, in order to reduce noise.

For reception only just about anything will work OK. You don't have to go for elaborate grounding systems.

For transmitting, however, you DO need a pretty decent RF ground. Lots of ways to implement one. See, e.g., my post on "RF Grounds in the Marine Environment" on the SSCA Board (when they get the Board back up).

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Old 18-12-2009, 08:11   #13
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Brennen,good to hear you have a SSB,I purchased the Icom 710 in San Diego,installed it myself.What are you using for a ground cable?You should be using copper foil only,not wire(copper wire is a poor conductor),clamped to a wire brushed bronze thruhull,close to tuner.Did you get the real beefy coax cable for tuner to radio?Are you using the ancor GTO cable from tuner to backstay,with standoffs?Don't forget to install ceramic ferrites at ends of control cable to reduce noise.I think Squamish is a very poor place to receive or transmit,SSB works best in the open ocean,and reception can vary from day to day(and time of day)Early morning or nightime is best.I can sometimes pick up the WXfx AK on Channel 35 at around 0100Zulu for B.C.North coast weather(voice),and I'm in Mexico.
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Old 18-12-2009, 08:35   #14
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Try and tune into the Amigo net at 1400 Z ,on 8122 kHz USB or at 1430 Z on 4B, see if you can hear anything from down this way.Better yet try the Pt.Reyes voice weather at 0430,1030,1630,or2230 Zulu, at 4426, 8764 ,13089,or 17314 kHz.I usually get it at 8764.As far as licences go,if you hold a valid restricted operators certificate,with MMSI #(VHF) license you are certified to transmit on SSB (USB)frequencies also(but not ham).Vessel name is your call sign.
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Old 18-12-2009, 09:25   #15
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Brennen,good to hear you have a SSB,I purchased the Icom 710 in San Diego,installed it myself.What are you using for a ground cable?You should be using copper foil only,not wire(copper wire is a poor conductor),clamped to a wire brushed bronze thruhull,close to tuner......

Sorry, High Seas, but you're repeating one of the fallacies, i.e., that copper wire is "a poor conductor". That's pure hogwash. If it were true, then dipoles, one of the best antennas you can put on a boat and THE reference antenna for all others for the past 60 years or more, wouldn't use wire. They do, for both legs. And, they're not connected to the water in any way.

Now, what IS true is that RF travels on the surface of conductors, so if you're using foil you're creating a lower impedence return path than if you were using wire. This can make a difference, especially over short runs and with untuned (non-resonant) rf grounds.

Bottom line: (1) for the tuner-to-seacock connection, keep it short and use foil if you can; (2) for radials, any type of insulated wire is fine; make 'em 1/4-wavelength long if you can (using the formula Length in feet = 234 divided by the frequency in mHz). More is better. More relatively shorter radials are better than fewer longer radials.

How do I know this? Extra Class Ham (ham for over 40 years). Antenna nut...played with them all over the world for 30+ years. Lifelong sailor; HF installations on boats since 1966. Lots of literature to support this (ham and technical literature, not the marine SSB "manuals" and "instructions"). And, I do this for a living and have yet to have any dissatisfied clients.

Bill
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