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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electronics
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Old 03-13-2010
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New SSB install - troubleshoot (ICOM 710 & SG230)

buenos dias ya'll :-)

So I'm in Mexico and just got a new SSB system installed, but I can’t seem to pick up any signal. I’ve gone through all the 160 user channels that are programmed in, several times. I can’t pick up any time signals on #15 or #16, or any of the WLO broadcasts either. I don’t quite understand the frequency/channel/mode stuff clearly….but seems to me that the user channels already select the correct freq/chan/mode….true? I’ve spent several hours plodding through the stations, and have only managed to pick up a very faint signal two times.

It may just be me not knowing how to use the radio….but let me give you a summary of the components, cables, and install details, and maybe we can do some troubleshooting?

~ The boat is a wooden Kettenburg 43' sloop
~ The radio is an ICOM 710, and an SG230 coupler/tuner.
~ Radio is connected directly to the house batteries (from battery terminals to radio using 8 gage wire, 10 foot run….nothing in between)
~ The ground lug on the radio is NOT connected to anything.
~ Belden RG58U coax and pos/neg 16 gauge wire goes from the radio to the tuner. This is a run of about 25 feet of wire, from the radio about midship to the tuner which is in the lazarette. I opened the SG 230 and made these connections, everything seemed well labeled and I had no doubts.
~ I have an insulated backstay antenna, which is about 45 feet between insulators. (Note that my VHF antenna coax also runs up the backstay, it is a RG213 A/U cable. I know this may cause issues, and I will likely run it down the mast later.....but this shouldn't cause me to get nearly zero reception even when VHF is off...i don't think).
~ I ran a ‘Tuf hide’ GTO 15 14 AWG wire to just above the lower insulator…..stripped an inch or two of wire and attached with a hose clamp, then a couple layers of liquid electrical tape.
~ The GTO15 wire is about 10 feet long and runs to the high voltage stud on the SG230, which is mounted to the underside of the deck only about 8 inches from the bottom of backstay.
~ I’ve run a 3 inch copper ground strap from the tuner ground lug about 10-15 feet and attached to the rudder post housing (I don’t have any near by underwater bronze thru hulls…only an above water one for my exhaust). I do however have a solid brass binnacle near by…..or two monel water tanks around midship, which I considered using, but opted to start minimal/simple. I wire brused the rudder post housing to bright bronze the coated with lanocote and attached copper strap with stanless bolts and fender washers on two corners.

I think that pretty much sums up the installation. I’m not real confident about the ground connection, I know that the rudeer post runs through a bronze housing which passes through about 18 inches or so of keel (wood boat). The rudder post itself is about 5 feet long and 1.5 inch solid bronze rod, but I’m not sure if the connection to the rudder post HOUSING (not the rudder post itself, since I was worried that it moves) is sufficient. I’m also not real confident in the SG230, since I bought it used on eBay (for I think $250). Everything seemed clean and brand new looking under the cover, and it makes a loud click as all the transistors (if that’s what they’re called) power up when I turn on the radio. When I press the tune button the radio, the RX symbol goes away and the word TUNE appears for about 1 second then disappears again. Not sure how to tell if the tuner is actually tuning. Also note that all of this installation/testing is being done in san quintin, mexico (150 miles south of Ensenada)…..at anchor in a large lagoon, no other cruising boats around really….but there is military nearby.


That’s about all I can think of for now, please let me know your thoughts.

best,
morgan
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Old 03-13-2010
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Morgan,

Could be a couple of things.

First, propagation right now is VERY good....lots of stations, even on the 20 meter band. I just worked some Eastern European stations with 5 watts!

There's a contest on, too, and the bands are hopping today. You certainly should hear something.

You didn't mention the 12VDC power wire to the SG-230. It requires 12VDC in order to operate, but I assume you have it hooked up correctly because it clicks.

The Tune button on the 710 doesn't work with the SG230. The 230 senses RF and tunes accordingly...it will work with ANY radio. Best way to tell if it's working at all is to tune to a different BAND (4mhz, 8mhz, 12mhz, etc.) and turn to a clear channel where you don't hear anything. Then, whistle into the mic for a few seconds. You should hear the tuner clicking, then stopping when it finds a tune. This isn't 100%....there are better ways to test. One of them is written up in the SG230 manual and involves the use of light bulbs. The best way is to put a cross-needle power/swr meter in the coax line between the radio and the tuner...near the radio. It will tell you very quickly if you're putting out power, and if the tuner is indeed tuning properly.

The 710 isn't the easiest radio to deal with because it lacks a VFO so you can only hop between frequencies stored in memory, rather than tune up and down the bands. Try listening on net frequencies (good listing of nets can be found at docksideradio.com). Keep trying the time signals on 5, 10, 15mHz.

Also, very important: double-check the connections on the RG58U to be sure there's no short. Also, when you get time, it's much better to use RG8X if you must use the thin stuff, or RG-213/RG214 between the radio and the tuner, principally because of it's physical strength and better RFI attenuation properties. But, you certainly should be hearing stuff with the RG-58.

Here's something else you can try: for LISTENING ONLY (don't try to transmit), just stick a random length wire into the center of the antenna connection at the back of the 710....any kind of insulated wire. Hoist one end above decks. You should hear some signals.

Meanwhile, download the 230 manual and try the tests. And, I advise all my clients no matter how skilled they may be with radio to get a good SWR/Power meter like the Daiwa CN-101L and put it in the coax line permanently so you can monitor what's going on. I find these invaluable, even after 44 years of hamming and many years of radio installing aboard boats!

Let us know how it turns out.

Bill
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Old 03-13-2010
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He did mention the 12v power to the tuner

"Belden RG58U coax and pos/neg 16 gauge wire goes from the radio to the tuner."

The tune button function of the M710 only works when connected to an Icom tuner. The M710 does have a VFO mode. When your on one of the user progammable frequencies, just press the CE button and then you can rotate the channel knob to change frequency in 100hz steps or enter a frequency directly with the keypad. If you want to transmit on a frequency you have come to using VFO mode, you must then program both receive and transmit frequencies into a user channel. There is a much easier way around this but it first requires programming the radio with a computer. Otherwise, follow Bill's good troubleshooting advice.

Eric
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Eric,

Thanks for the catch...er, catches.

Yes, there's a sort of VFO mode (100Hz increments doesn't really do it for me) and, like you, I've programmed several 710's to be "almost" like VFO, but it's really pretty clunky compared to any real VFO, IMHO. Great radio, though....wish Icom had done just a bit more engineering. The M700Pro is easier to use as a ham radio.

Bill

Last edited by btrayfors; 03-13-2010 at 07:28 PM.
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Old 03-14-2010
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Thanks for help guys! I found that I had a short in the connection I made the the RG58 (was one of those crimp-on connectors). I replaced it, and now i'm getting some reception. i'm picking up time signals, some weather, a little news, and the odd conspiracy theory conversation. Changing the frequency using the CE/channel tune knob makes quite a difference.....but of course I'm not sure if my recieve signal is strong enough....there is always a bit of static.

What should the RF gain be set to generally? Also, I don't ever see the S/RF meter unless I set the gain way down to the 1-5 range....is there something I can do to enable the s/RF meter?

Is there some sort of benchmark test to see how good my reception is?

I have a solid bronze binnacle that is near the copper strap, I'm going to try tying that into my ground, see if it improves anything.

I still have some testing to do on the transmit side. I've downloaded the 230 manual, and I'll start testing that tomorrow.

Any good articles you guys can point me towards on how to use/tune the 710, or even just on the basics of how channel/frequency/mode works? How about something on how/if I can plug my PC into the SSB to recieve weather info without a pactor modem?

Thanks again Bill/Eric!!
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Old 03-15-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morgan3 View Post
....there is always a bit of static.

What should the RF gain be set to generally? Also, I don't ever see the S/RF meter unless I set the gain way down to the 1-5 range....is there something I can do to enable the s/RF meter?
There is always going to be atmospheric noise on the HF bands. How much noise depends on a variety of things. If your in a marina, you will probably be hearing lots of man-made noise from motors, inverters...etc.

S Meters are typically not implemented as a dedicated signal strength measuring circuit, but are just an add-on to the automatic gain control.

The automatic gain control (AGC) voltage is simply scaled and sent to the actual S Meter. It's also common that the RF gain control is implemented in this portion of the overall circuit. One indication of this is that reducing the RF gain causes the S Meter to deflect upward. This happens because the RF gain control reduces the gain of the receiver, which is the same as what happens when a strong signal is received. The RF gain control fools the receiver into thinking that there is a strong signal present, so the receiver reduces its gain, and the S Meter deflects upwards, showing the strong but artificial signal. The S meter is only really accurate and of use when your gain is set to maximum. I usually have my gain set at around 5-6 which helps greatly to reduce noise while still allowing me to copy the other station no problem. It's just something you have to get a feel for.

As for receiving weatherfax, you just connect pin 5 (fixed audio output) and pin 2 (gnd) of the 710 accessory connector to your PC's audio line input and get a program that does weatherfax such as SeaTTY or JVComm. Tune your radio to a weatherfax channel when they are broadcasting and your good to go. You'll need to tune the frequency to 1.9Khz below the published weatherfax frequency.

Eric

Last edited by fairbank56; 03-15-2010 at 05:21 AM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
Yes, there's a sort of VFO mode (100Hz increments doesn't really do it for me) and, like you, I've programmed several 710's to be "almost" like VFO, but it's really pretty clunky compared to any real VFO, IMHO. Great radio, though....wish Icom had done just a bit more engineering. The M700Pro is easier to use as a ham radio.
The M700Pro also only tunes in 100 Hz minimum increments and once you set the M710 up with a computer, I believe it actually works better as a ham rig. You can set each ham band to use the channels of one of the unused ITU simplex groups. This makes it quick and easy to change ham bands. Once your in the band you want, just press the CE button and use the channel knob as a VFO to tune around in that band and then press/hold for 1 sec the RX button and you can transmit. The only advantage of the M700Pro is that you don't have to press/hold the RX button (doesn't have one anyway) and you can use the group knob in VFO mode to change in 1Khz steps. It's also very easy to work split mode with the M710, which I do often when working dx stations. You can't even do this on the M700Pro unless you go in and re-program a memory channel. The more I think about it, I guess they both work well enough as a ham rig each with their own separate advantages but with the M710 also having a gain control and 3 power level settings, I give it the edge.

Eric

Last edited by fairbank56; 03-15-2010 at 11:27 AM.
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Today I tuned into the manana net and picked up a reasonable signal. The only voice I was able to really hear though was Kevin up in Portland, who was the main guy. Then I faintly picked up one or two other voices.

I'm still not having any success with transmitting. The tuner does not make a sound other than on power up. I also threw about 20sq ft of aluminum foil overboard and tied it into my ground strap.....which made no distinguishable difference in my reception. Then I went one step further and disconnected the ground strap from the SG230 completely......and even that made no difference in my reception. Even with no ground at all I could still hear Kevin in Portland on manana net.

So i'm a bit confused now. Why does changing or even eliminating my groundplane not affect my reception? I'm a bit suspicious of my SG230 ebay purchase.....

any thoughts?
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Old 03-15-2010
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With what you have...and what you've tried...you are unlikely to be able to discern any difference in reception, even if there was one. This is because the AGC (automatic gain control) in the receiver adjusts for received signal strength. Generally, you can receive quite well with just about anything for an antenna -- NOT the case for transmitting, which requires some impedence matching, a decent ground plane, etc.

Sounds likely that the SG-230 isn't working right, so you could move on to the tests I outlined above (light bulb with SG-230...described in the 230 manual), stick a wire into the radio itself, and/or get hold of a cross-needle Power/SWR meter to see what's really going on.

Bill
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Old 03-31-2010
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Am/ssb receiver help

On 44. ' fiberglass sailboat we have a si-Tex nav-fax shortwave receiver. Note that is not permanently installed in the boat.
We are traveling statesbound currently. In ponce puerto Rico.*

At times when weather, chris Parker or herb are transmitting we seen to gear done static and squealing noise but never words.


Two antennas to choose from both seem to have same results.
One is rg8x marine antenna of 30' length connected to an antenna mounted on the stern rail.

The other is simply a phono plug and two thin wires one white 30' and one black 5'. the black is apparently *meant for a ground. *Have tried touching this to the ground prong on a three prong power outlet while on Shore power. * * *

Unable to hear anything as long as we have tried the past few weeks. *One exception is a boat across the dock at one point we heard okay. And local am puerto Rico am radio stations

No weatherfax no navtex able to be received.*
Not sure how ground should or could be connected. *The keel is held on with*
Stainless steel *bolts. *Tried connecting a very thin copper wire*there. No result.

Can right now get 1720 am station and understand some words. And quite well a ponce am radio station. **

When unable to hear transmissions, we Can often hear that there is something, but no descernable *words at all just noise.

Any ideas? Advise? *Or even pointing toward a good web site fir troubleshooting? *Internet connection is quite slow and variable, so my searching brings up not much usefull yet.*
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