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Old 26-10-2020, 20:15   #1
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HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

As part of skills building for cruising I have been experimenting with HF at my house. I've held an amateur radio license for decades and recently upgraded it to general to facilitate this.


I would like to continue my experimentation on my boat. My Hunter 26 doesn't have a backstay -- the fractional rig has a forestay with a roller furler on it, and swept-back shrouds, upper and lower.


What is the most reasonable antenna to use on a boat like this?
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Old 26-10-2020, 20:45   #2
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

An HF whip antenna - about 20 feet long. A good ground (counterpoise) is also needed.

If you only want to operate while at anchor you could try an inverted V. Mast height is an issue and the base of an inverted V farther apart than you can get on a 26 ft boat is better. You may have to limit your operation to 20 meters and higher. A good antenna tuner is essential.

You can also rig an end fed wire raised on your main halyard. Again, you need a good counterpoise and antenna tuner.

There are also magnetic loop antennas.

Look at mobile antennas such as hamsticks and screwdrivers. There is an outback antenna that is basically a multi tap hamstick but I don't think you can get them in the US anymore.

Of all of the solutions listed only an inverted V can operate without a good counterpoise.
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Old 26-10-2020, 21:24   #3
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

Well, you could do what I've done for the last 34 years: use the whole, uninsulated rig. On our previous boat I fed the backstay chainplate below decks, and on this boat the port shroud chainplate. I use a manual MFJ tuner and it works on all the HF bands. I've tried it with the mast base grounded and floating, noted little difference in perceived performance, but the tuning is slightly different.

Gets lots of negative responses here on CF, but it's worked for me for all those years... countless contacts, mostly on 40 these days, but on 80,40, 20, and 15 back when there were actually a few sunspots!.

Perhaps not the best antenna possible, but the easiest to set up, and for sure the least expensive!

Jim N9GFT/VK4GFTmm
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Old 26-10-2020, 23:16   #4
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

This intrigues me too, although for use on a cat also without a backstay.

I have very successfully used a home made bamboo pole whip for long range DX before on a previous boat, even though it already had the insulated backstay.

I have been wondering about using the rig itself as an antenna. At least for receiving which will be my primary initial use (receiving wefax for the few times when out of vhf range). I'd rather not put up a whip when long term might go for a satphone despite being an ex ham. Nevertheless I'm going to give it a try simply because the radio will be located close to the mast.

I am aware this seems not often done which should tell me something. There are lots of insulated stays and apparently lots of negative views on rig antennas -Thanks Jim for your insight I had not dug deep enough.

Even though the mast could be a perfect vertical antenna as it's on an insulated grp base, the stays themselves will interact and possibly kill the radiation pattern -maybe not if connected together at bottom making a cone.

I am also aware that with a whip the rig forms part of the antenna anyway due to parasitic effects as was recently pointed out on another topic in the forum(on ATU's)


I really dont want to divert the discussion and reopen old ground - Happy to rely on Jims experience.


Phil
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Old 27-10-2020, 08:10   #5
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

Believe it or not, there is this thing called an Alternative Backstay Antenna. However, I have heard that boats without backstays have either longer booms or the roach of the sail is more vertical than the standard mail sail roach. I have also heard that this vertical roach, if there was a backstay, would hit the backstay when changing tacks.

If you do have room between the top of the mast and the stern, you can install a non-load bearing backstay antenna. That would solve your problem of an antenna.

One more possible location would be forward of the shroud but not too forward where it would interfere with the operation of the headsail.

JMHO
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Old 27-10-2020, 08:14   #6
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Well, you could do what I've done for the last 34 years: use the whole, uninsulated rig. On our previous boat I fed the backstay chainplate below decks, and on this boat the port shroud chainplate. I use a manual MFJ tuner and it works on all the HF bands. I've tried it with the mast base grounded and floating, noted little difference in perceived performance, but the tuning is slightly different.

Gets lots of negative responses here on CF, but it's worked for me for all those years... countless contacts, mostly on 40 these days, but on 80,40, 20, and 15 back when there were actually a few sunspots!.

Perhaps not the best antenna possible, but the easiest to set up, and for sure the least expensive!

Jim N9GFT/VK4GFTmm

What kind of counterpoise do you use?
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Old 27-10-2020, 08:53   #7
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

The radio is not going to care whether you using the back stay, shroud, fore-stay or a rope antenna as long as it conducts and is the right length.
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Old 27-10-2020, 08:59   #8
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

I now have a 32' section of backstay insulated and working nicely for HF. But before I installed that, I had good results with the good old "Hamstick" antenna, clamped onto the pushpit railing. The lifelines made a good counterpoise and performance was very good. With "Hamsticks" you have to have a different antenna for each band, but expense is minimal and changing them as needed was easy enough. The approximately 8' length at the back of the boat did not interfere with sails or fishing poles. Not the ultimate, but worked well, for the time and money invested.
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Old 27-10-2020, 09:14   #9
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

Iíve got an inverted V dipole, an end fed wire, and the whole rig.

They all work well but differently.

The dipole is an off center fed v. Itís hoisted to the main masthead and can usually provide great contacts when the station is more abeam than at the ends of the boat.

The rig surprises me at times. I just had a 1300 mile contact last week on 20m using the whole rig with the water tank as a counterpoise.

The end fed wire I just built but so far itís been working decently.
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Old 27-10-2020, 09:52   #10
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

After 20 years cruising and helpiing on many boat to set up their SSB, I strongly recommend a G5RV in an inverted VEE configuration. If the aft wire interfeers with sail an boom extend a short rod aft to anchor the aft wire. With the pacific ocean as a ground you will put out a really good signal. W7KFI
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Old 27-10-2020, 10:17   #11
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

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After 20 years cruising and helpiing on many boat to set up their SSB, I strongly recommend a G5RV in an inverted VEE configuration. If the aft wire interfeers with sail an boom extend a short rod aft to anchor the aft wire. With the pacific ocean as a ground you will put out a really good signal. W7KFI
What size of ground plate have you used in water for ground?
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Old 27-10-2020, 10:48   #12
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

try this..replace the boom topping lift with a wire cable...1/8" s/s works just fine, (but can also be galvanized wire)...you can get this plastic coated if you want...you'll need to place insulators on each end of the wire and then connect the wire cable to the top of the mast and end of the boom with braided rope. That wire needs to be insulated from the mast, rigging, boom, etc.
you'll need a tuner...locate this in some appropriate location in the cockpit, as close to the end of the boom as possible, and connect to your topping lift , (now antenna) with a single wire insulated feeder from the tuner. You'll want this connecting cable to "removable" as you won't need it while sailing, but can clip it on when needed.
now comes the ground....you'll need to install a grounding plate to the hull..there are many ways to do this...it will likely require a haulout....you buy bronze grounding plates from West Marine, Defender and elsewhere...

Do not allow anyone to touch this wire while you are transmitting...

Failing all that....you can install a sch 40 pvc plastic pipe at the stern of your boat, say 8' high....from the top of this pvc pipe to the top of the mast, you can connect the 1/8" wire cable as before, but now it will be a permanent antenna, connect as before to the tuner.

I know that it will work, as I've it done it both ways....
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Old 27-10-2020, 11:10   #13
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

I used a Hygain vertical system designed for automotive use. The antennas are short, no more than 8'. There is a separate loading coil for each band, but it is simple to change. This was on a Cal 29. Put it on the stern with a ground to the engine. Worked fine, made many contacts. The transmitter was a Swan 350 with lots of power. Blew out the tiller pilot. I should have wound the power wires to the autopilot through toroids.
When conditions were good in the 90's, I talked to Japan from my car with the same antenna. I still have it and plan to use it at my house soon.



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Old 27-10-2020, 16:32   #14
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

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What kind of counterpoise do you use?
On this boat, a wide copper strap to a keel bolt, circa 5 feet in length. Keel is a steel shell full of lead.

Previous boat used braided strap (yes, I know that folks say this is bad practice) to engine, metal tanks and a keel bolt. That keel was cast lead, but I was not confident of good electrical contact between bolt and lead... hence all the other connections.

Can't make any substantive judgement about whether one was better than the other, but we were often in anchorages with other vessels who sported insulated backstay antennae and had equal or better signal reports when contacting the same distant stations. Not good evidence, but all that I have.

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Old 27-10-2020, 20:19   #15
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Re: HF alternatives to backstay antennas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Well, you could do what I've done for the last 34 years: use the whole, uninsulated rig. On our previous boat I fed the backstay chainplate below decks, and on this boat the port shroud chainplate. I use a manual MFJ tuner and it works on all the HF bands. I've tried it with the mast base grounded and floating, noted little difference in perceived performance, but the tuning is slightly different.

Gets lots of negative responses here on CF, but it's worked for me for all those years... countless contacts, mostly on 40 these days, but on 80,40, 20, and 15 back when there were actually a few sunspots!.

Perhaps not the best antenna possible, but the easiest to set up, and for sure the least expensive!

Jim N9GFT/VK4GFTmm
Interesting Jim.

1 - I did not know you were a licensed amateur
2 - I have considered this but been concerned at high voltage points appearing in places on the mast etc where they can kill things such as wind instrument, radome, VHF antenna - or even nav lights. Sounds like this has not been a problem for you at all?

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