I don't know if the links above mention this, but on a related note, an old salt
who was also an experienced HAM showed me that you can turn a metal toerail or the stern pulpit/lifelines of your boat
into your ground plane instead of needing to run copper foil to thru-hulls or installing a ground plate in your hull
We had a ~15 ft length of coaxial cable feeder wire (with a crimp-on RG59 plug) running from the back of our autotuner, through the cabin
and outside to the stern of the cockpit
. From there, the coax is split into 2 wires:
- The inner core wire was stripped back and crimped to a homemade rope antenna made from some hollowed-out Home Depot rope with a long single wire strung through it. This wire was strung up on a halyard.
- The braided foil jacket surrounding the coax inner core insulation was exposed a few inches back, a slit was cut in it, and the foil was twisted into a new "wire". This wire was crimped to a length of electrical wire, which was then run to the stern pulpit/toe rail and secured metal-to-metal with a hose clamp.
- All connection points were insulated and protected from the elements (though sometimes the elements got in anyway and we had to redo the connections)
The foil jacket acts as the antenna ground, and if you connect it to a large enough surface area of metal it will provide sufficient "platform" for the signal to "push off" from the antenna wire. You could also simply toss the end of the jacket wire into the ocean and get an awesome ground plane, but the wire will corrode extremely quickly this way. Our radio
setup was a little janky, but we were able to talk to Florida
and Wisconsin from Panama
on a good day.
If you have the money
to install a cleaner system, by all means do so, but if you don't . . .