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Old 14-06-2019, 14:03   #1
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SSB installation, installers and interference

I have a couple of questions on SSB and I would also like to express a word of caution about importance of proper installation of SSB and installers.

Recently we had an ICOM M 802 installed in Palma de Mallorca by an installer named Jörg Drexhagen (JD). We got his name from the World Cruising Club. His name already appeared in this Forum in 2017. He set the price for the installation, the date and the place. We came to Palma from Sardinia. He came to Palma from Germany on May 24, 2019. He was very affable and facile during the installation.

However, upon testing the SSB radio all the LED lights in the boat started flickering like in a discotheque and the regulator/charger of the solar panels started alarming. He said that all that was absolutely normal and harmless.

Later he realized that the regulator/charger was actually burned "because it was not grounded". He admitted this problem as his own mistake for not recognizing that the regulator/charger was not grounded and offered us to ship a new one free of charge next morning.

He checked the installation, said that it was all OK and we paid in full the requested fee.

We did not get any installation certificate nor training on the radio as promised. He suggested to do this over the phone.

He left the boat. The following week, he did not send the new regulator and failed to respond to our calls and emails for days. He later emailed us, admitting that he did something wrong during the installation and offered to fix his mistakes just before the start of the ARC in November 2019. In our opinion this would have been too late for us to learn the SSB operation. Furthermore, we would have been without any charging from the solar panels. Unacceptable.

I had three other electrician/electronic experts in Palma de Mallorca and San Diego, USA, examine the installation or its pictures. All agreed that: 1. The problem was not related to the lack of ground of the regulator/charger. 2. The tuner was erroneously placed inside the cabin and in close proximity to the regulator/charger. 3. The antenna cable from the tuner to the insulated backstay was more than 1 1/2 meters long inside the cabin and wrongly passing in the stern tube parallel and bundled to the electric cables for the solar panels, radar, Iridium Pilot, Simpson davits and navigation lights. 4. The antenna cable out of the tuner did not have any insulation from water/humidity.

I learned that cables carrying such a high RF could be in proximity and perpendicular to other electric/electronic cables but should never be in proximity and parallel, even less if bundled together.

They all agreed that these are fundamental mistakes and offered to provide a valid legal opinion, if asked to do so.

Since I was not contacted anymore by JD, I had two electricians replace the regulator/charger for the solar panels, relocate the tuner in the stern locker and the copper strip away from any other electric cable. It took two days for two electricians.

Needless to say, to fix JD's mistakes in Palma and during high season was very costly. My biggest frustration was his complete lack of professionalism.

I am now able to transmit and to receive on different frequency and send successful DSC to the Coast Guard stations, however, the amount of voice interference is in my modest opinion too much. I usually get only 3/5 clarity even in a desolate anchorage with few sailboats. I placed so called “ferrets" on the control cable and coaxial cable close to the tuner, without much improvement. I put a switch between the solar panels and the regulator because someone said that solar panels could interfere on 2 MHz band, without much improvement.

What else could I do? Thanks in advance for your help.


Giorgio
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Old 14-06-2019, 18:14   #2
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SSB installation, installers and interference

SSB installation is more art than Science as is especially using one.
Propagation varies widely from day to day and even in just a minute or two. It can come and go, it’s atmospherics, nothing you can do except change freqs if possible.
Many more expert people will use headphones to pull out what they are hearing better, and just with practice they get to where they can understand what is being said, much better than people like me can.

In order to better understand transmissions I installed this and it helped greatly, of course it won’t help you transmit better at all, it only helps clean up the noise in a received signal, and it can be turned up too high and change the tone of the voice, but to me not being trained expert, it helps a lot, a lot less fatigue listening.
http://www.westmountainradio.com/pro...ts_id=CLR_spkr

Oh and try to find noise makers you may have, my fridge used to be terrible, it made silly warbling noises in the radio, but try turning things off as you listen and see if the noise stops.
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Old 14-06-2019, 18:20   #3
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

I've installed 3 now on my own boats. Not that hard and there used to be a few guys around cruising that could give you plenty of pointers.

What was the big deal and the rush. We sailed from FL to NZ with no SSB. It's in no way necessary and most consider it pretty antiquated with sat phones?
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Old 15-06-2019, 00:23   #4
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

Yep, the fridge interference can be bad but easily fixed with switching it of.

I had one of those electronic FLA battery de-sulphater gadgets which played havoc until I found out what it was doing and pulse width modulated solar panel regulators can also do it. It appears that anything with an oscillator in it can cause problems.
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Old 15-06-2019, 02:44   #5
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Giorgio.

A little light reading on "Ferrites":

“A Ham's Guide to RFI, Ferrites, Baluns, and Audio Interfacing”
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc...=rep1&type=pdf

“Choosing and Using Ferrite Beads”
https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/tec...ferrite-beads/
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Old 15-06-2019, 03:13   #6
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

Seem to be missing a description of your counterpoise setup..?
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Old 15-06-2019, 08:00   #7
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

Thanks everybody for the welcome and the useful tips. I'll read the suggested article.
What was the rush? SSB-Pactor is mandatory for the World ARC and November we will cross the Atlantic and say goodby to people able to assist.
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Old 15-06-2019, 08:05   #8
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

Counterpoise set up: two copper plates, each 30x8 cm on the outside of the hull and always underwater, 6 cm-wide copper strip with interposed electrolysis blocker connected to AT-140 tuner.
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Old 15-06-2019, 08:18   #9
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

KISS-SSB TM
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Old 15-06-2019, 08:29   #10
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

would you add to what I have?
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Old 15-06-2019, 08:49   #11
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

Adding counterpoise will help you transmit. I arranged copper foil in an extended “Z” pattern over 1m^2 of my bilge with adjacent strips within 10cm of each other and fastened them to the fiberglass with duct tape. Works great. Put ferrites around both ends of every wire to reduce noise. If you want to know which ferrites helped, take off one at a time. I just left them all on. They are cheap. My LED lights flash when I transmit, too. It doesn’t seem to hurt anything.
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Old 15-06-2019, 08:50   #12
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

Are you using your current “copper plate” for other uses,ie., attached to other grounded electrical sources..?

“30cm x8cm copper plate” seems very small for your current use..

How long of copper strip ?
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Old 15-06-2019, 09:34   #13
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

If you have access to your keel bolts run wide copper to one of them. This is a far better counterpoise than a couple of small copper plates. The most important part of the ground is the run from the antenna tuner.

KISS-SSB is, IMO snake oil. There has been a lot of testing of these and they are no more effective than a single solid wire. They may or may not work depending on your installation but are a waste of money and, as I said, a solid wire would be just as effective.

Bad SWR can cause a distorted transmission. Find someone with a good SWR meter that can be placed in line between your transceiver and antenna tuner. This will tell you what the transceiver is seeing as the SWR. This is not the SWR at the antenna feedpoint but it will show what the transceiver sees. A good functioning antenna tuner will get that pretty low - better than 2:1 is ideal. It is difficult to measure the SWR at at the feed point of an end fed antenna. An antenna analyzer may help but other than changing the length of the antenna there is very little that you can do there.

Speaking of antennas, how long is your antenna? Are you using an insulated backstay or a whip? Shorter antennas will have difficulty tuning up on low frequencies.
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Old 15-06-2019, 09:51   #14
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

I agree that there were many mistakes made in your installation: RF feedline bundled with DC cabling, lack of ferrites in critical places, tuner placement that forced a long feedline (that feedline from the tuner to the antenna is actually part of the radiating antenna - and the feedline from the radio to the tuner is also an antenna until and if the tuner has achieved an impedance match), undefined and maybe absent counterpoise (if true - your biggest problem), lack of RF suppression (RF chokes combined with bypass capacitors) in your solar wiring, etc.

At last count - I have over 20 ferrite suppressors at various locations along with other countermeasures on my boat to stop all sorts of problems when transmitting: "disco light" flashing LEDs, rebooting computer and autopilot, hung chartplotter, and squealing VHF radio. I expected all of these problems, had a box full of snap-on ferrite suppressors, shielded DC wiring, ground straps, flat braided wire, tubular braided shielding, and bypass capacitors; and after my installation I started transmitting across all the frequency bands at just 5 watts until I identified the problems, and gradually worked my way up to full output power as I solved those problems. It was two days of effort - which is what your installer should have anticipated and done. RF interference with on board systems is normal, but it is also part of normal commissioning diligence to resolve the problems. Part of the art is knowing how to achieve RF interference suppression: where to put it and what type to use. How to configure a proper "common ground" to prevent stray RF, etc.

As others have said above: proper SSB installation is an art. It is not an art that an electrician should have been expected to have mastered. DC and low frequency (50/60 Hertz) electricity behaves very differently than RF energy. The installer needed to understand that your entire boat was the RF system, and he was simply out of his depth. You needed someone who has extensive knowledge of RF systems to plan, inspect, and approve the installation. Your electrician may have been able to connect the wires, but someone experienced with RF should have done the testing and suppression work over the course of the commissioning.

Here in the US, the FCC licenses commercial radio operators with a global maritime distress and safety system (GMDSS) maintainer license. They are required to demonstrate an understanding of marine RF systems. Unfortunately, they are as rare as hen's teeth because the bulk of the work goes to: "guys who know something about electricity." And thus, your results.


Patrick
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Old 15-06-2019, 10:05   #15
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Re: SSB installation, installers and interference

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cpt Pat View Post

Here in the US, the FCC licenses commercial radio operators with a global maritime distress and safety system (GMDSS) maintainer license. They are required to demonstrate an understanding of marine RF systems. Unfortunately, they are as rare as hen's teeth because the bulk of the work goes to: "guys who know something about electricity." And thus, your results.


Patrick
N8QH, FCC licensed GMDSS Maintainer.
I think you mean GROL - General Radiotelephons Operator license? This is the license required to work on marine SSB installations and other non ham transmitting equipment.

73, N7BMW
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