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Old 23-02-2016, 14:23   #1
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Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

How can I install a good antenna system on a GRP yacht.
In various threads I cannot find good installation methods and equipment needed for a good performing SSB - RX and TX.
I have a 40 ft yacht with installed Isolators in the backstay, one in the top, (6 ft from top and) a the lower 2nd one, 8 in. above the bimini, which is about 9 ft above the lower backstay fixing point. Here I want to go through the deck.
My questions are: 1. Where do I mount the antenna tuner. Near the lower insulator, (about 8 in. about the bimini) or below deck.
If mounted below deck, the antenna is 9 ft longer and danger to touch during transmitting .
2. how, and with what kind of electrical cable (size and insulation) do I connect this cable to the ground plane system. How should I lead the cable downwards to the ground plane. How far away from the backstay with distance pieces,
3. is the KISS system working properly or are there good and easy to install alternatives?
Do not talk about satelite phones please.
I would appreciate any good advises.

regards, Theo
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Old 23-02-2016, 14:47   #2
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

Theo,

This subject is as contentious and debatable as how to anchor, so you will get a lot of responces and opions as to the way to do it etc etc. There are lots of factors, including budget and intended use that will steer how you proceed. I would highly reccomend you spend some time educating yourself on HF radio and the fundamentals before doing anything on your boat. What works or doesn't work is highly subject to use and prefrence as well as what you consider safe or not safe. There are alot of resources online for HAM radio. Knowing how the radio and associated equipment work will better aid you in interpeting advice and suggestions from people as to what they have used on their vessels.

Good luck

This is a US based subscription web site for the various amature licenses offered in the US. I have no afiliation. I have been using it to study for my test and I think its great, the creater has put together a very good way to educate you without just memorizing stuff and its filled with a wealth of extra information and links to reasources.

HamTestOnline - Ham Radio Exam Courses and Practice Tests
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Old 23-02-2016, 15:39   #3
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

I forgot...

Read this front to back

Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use / proeprly-install SSB, & troubleshoot RFI, etc.)
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Old 23-02-2016, 15:57   #4
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

Tuner in the lazarette.
Coated cable to the antenna. About #4 should be plenty big.
Copper sheeting works well for a ground plane. I've done a couple in the inside of the stern fiberglass. I used contact cement to hold it in there. Once on , I used a rubber hammer to make it intimate with the fiberglass.
Don't get too thick of copper, thick is not better, you just need foil really.. It should be available in 1 ft wide coil. Overlap each strip in at least one place and solder the adjacent strips in one or two places where they overlap.
It's not technical, it just works, and works well.
I made little standoffs for the cable out of PVC tubing.
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Old 24-02-2016, 09:14   #5
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

I used copper ground planes on a previous boat and it worked OK, but not great. On my current boat I followed the advice from "Dr John". You can get it from this link
CruiseEmail
As a HAM, and a Electrical Engineer, I found his points compelling and the installation is simpler and more fool proof than copper ground planes (fewer connection/corrosion issues IMHO). Plus, I would have had to take out a tank to get a good spot and surface area for a copper ground plane, so this was worth a shot. I used the rope antenna, a AT130 tuner, and his ground plane, and I had a very strong signal when we did the 2012 Salty Dawg rally.

Like most things, there are many solutions, just pick the one you understand and be careful about the installation details.
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Old 24-02-2016, 09:33   #6
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
Tuner in the lazarette.
Coated cable to the antenna. About #4 should be plenty big.
Copper sheeting works well for a ground plane. I've done a couple in the inside of the stern fiberglass. I used contact cement to hold it in there. Once on , I used a rubber hammer to make it intimate with the fiberglass.
Don't get too thick of copper, thick is not better, you just need foil really.. It should be available in 1 ft wide coil. Overlap each strip in at least one place and solder the adjacent strips in one or two places where they overlap.
It's not technical, it just works, and works well.
I made little standoffs for the cable out of PVC tubing.
What is the aprox square footage of your copper ground plane? do you have it just in the stern or did you run ribbon through the hull also?

I guess what I'm asking, is there a limit or is more better?
Jim
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Old 24-02-2016, 09:45   #7
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

There are thousands of such installations out there and working well.

1. Install the tuner as close underdeck near the backstay as possible.

2. Use a s/s thru-hull deck fitting to waterproof the thru-hull passage.

3. Use GTO-15 wire from the tuner to the lower insulator.

4. Standoffs are not required, but are handy; use PVC sections or, my favorite, 5/8" solid nylon rod sections about 1.5" long with 1/4" hole drilled thru the center, and plastic wire ties;

5. lots of ways to add an effective RF ground, including:
  • a wide copper strip from the tuner ground lug to the nearest bronze thru-hull; or
  • radials from the tuner, spread thru bilge (more shorter ones are better than fewer longer ones); or
  • KISS-SSB system (easy and works well, despite a number of "experts" who say differently; or
  • wire or copper strips to metal tanks, metal toe rails, lifelines, etc.

These will all work pretty well.

Good luck,

Bill
WA6CCA
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Old 24-02-2016, 09:50   #8
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

Quote:
Originally Posted by jhulmer View Post
What is the aprox square footage of your copper ground plane? do you have it just in the stern or did you run ribbon through the hull also?

I guess what I'm asking, is there a limit or is more better?
Jim
More is better supposedly. I think on two of my boats I had maybe 12 sq ft. and it worked very well. No ribbon on mine.
As Btrayfor said often GTO wire is used.
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Old 24-02-2016, 09:51   #9
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

Most sw radio installation instructions cover this. We attached a foot square, 1 inch beveled thickness copper plate to an old throughhull fitting(knotmeter) we no longer used. worked well. Better would be something on the bottom of keel with a direct wired connection to your set. Basically thick copper plate, copper wire, and insulate the works real well. Some folks just attach ground to the engine block, others just skip it entirely and depend on electronic tuning to get things right. One acquaintance used his keel stepped mast as ground. There are endless ways to fuss with this.

BTW, we once used our old heavy metal kitchen stove as an antenna. It brought in signals from a wide range of the spectrum, including tv signals. There are the "right" ways and the "lucky" ways to do grounds and antenna setups.

Probably the classic setup is insulated back stay antenna with copper strapping attached to a keel bolt(assuming external keel).
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Old 24-02-2016, 13:14   #10
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

Have 2 inch wide copper strips that run from the tuner in the lazarette under the deck down each side to the bow. GTO wire from tuner to the insulated section of the backstay about 6' up from the deck. If I had it to do over would do away with the lower insulator and use the entire backstay as a ground up to the the insulator at the masthead. That would save the $300 plus for the Norseman insulator. Sail solo on passages so no way I can grab the backstay while transmitting. Understand that there is little worry about getting RF burns even if someone grabs the backstay while transmitting. System worked fine on a passage to Hawaii both for voice and Pactor email/gribs.

Previous boat had one of those centered brass/bronze ground plates. Manual antenna tuner was at the radio running coax to the backstay. The tuner took some component massaging by an electrical genius to get it to bring the single down close to 1-1 SWR. Had the most experience using that radio and signal was usually the best out of French Polynesia to the mainland.
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Old 24-02-2016, 13:58   #11
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

We avoided using the backstay as an antenna for two reasons: 1. ceramic insulators do break as a friend had happened during a storm; and 2. not easy to tune up the backstay. Instead we attached a solid copper rod up the backstay, separated by a series of insulators. Easy to tune up and avoided problems such as you mentioned. No sense frying the kids when your transmitting. If you want to get fancy, and we did not, you can attach varying lengths of copper rods that are tuned to different frequency ranges. Some of the old ham books deal with this. But then your rig probably would look funny with all that copper attached to the rigging.
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Old 24-02-2016, 19:37   #12
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

Quote:
Originally Posted by newtonsailor View Post
I used copper ground planes on a previous boat and it worked OK, but not great. On my current boat I followed the advice from "Dr John". You can get it from this link
CruiseEmail
As a HAM, and a Electrical Engineer, I found his points compelling and the installation is simpler and more fool proof than copper ground planes (fewer connection/corrosion issues IMHO). Plus, I would have had to take out a tank to get a good spot and surface area for a copper ground plane, so this was worth a shot. I used the rope antenna, a AT130 tuner, and his ground plane, and I had a very strong signal when we did the 2012 Salty Dawg rally.

Like most things, there are many solutions, just pick the one you understand and be careful about the installation details.

That is a pretty good paper. I'm not a electrical engineer so I can't support or refute any of it but it certianly seems to answer some questions I have had. The GTO-15 was something I could never really wrap my head around, sort of understand the RF energy traveling on the outside and using a tiny conductor to make the connection to a long wire seemed od. The contractor we use on our ship always recommended phosorous bronze, but its hard to get now, he also commented on RF burns going straight through GTO, maybe not as bad but nothing you would want a kid grabbing. Wish I had seen that site before a spent abazillion dollars on a dyno plate....
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Old 24-02-2016, 20:34   #13
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

What Bill wrote. Bill is right. A rope antenna also works well and you can terminate it amidships if you don't want your tuner and antenna so close to the cockpit. Rope halyard, stainless wire and string trimmer cord for insulator works fine. GTO from tuner to antenna.
Arrange lots of thin but wide copper foil in the bilge for a ground plane. It must be continuous but can be serpentine with an inch or so between adjacent foils and it still "looks" like a solid sheet of foil to the RF energy. It couples capacitatively to the sea, so doesn't have to be bonded intimately to the hull. Even duct tape will hold it OK. That's my setup and I have a great signal.
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Old 08-03-2016, 09:18   #14
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Thumbs up Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

Thanks a lot for all your ideas mand input.
I already bought a KISS groundplane and reading now thru the literature and will be contacting experienced HAM guys, for all other details.

Again, Thanks a lot

S/Y Sea Angel
Theo
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Old 08-03-2016, 10:18   #15
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Re: Antenna and ground plane on a GRP vessel

[QUOTE]BTW, we once used our old heavy metal kitchen stove as an antenna. It brought in signals from a wide range of the spectrum, including tv signals. There are the "right" ways and the "lucky" ways to do grounds and antenna setups.[/QUOTE

I know you all know this but just in case some future reader thinks this would be a good idea...

Don't tie the antenna or ground to the propane stove, I doubt you will find it a lucky setup.
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