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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 03-25-2006
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SSB vs SatPhone

Hi All:

I am preparing a Beneteau 473 for a transatlantic crosssing this summer and I have a dilemma regarding long range communication.

My original plan was to install a SSB (duh) and a KVH Tracphone 252 satellite phone. I have always thought that you never go to sea without a SSB and the sat-phone is a luxury.

However, my electronics supplier tells me that since a ground plane was not installed when the boat was built that installing an effective ground plane will probably cost three times as much as the cost of th SSB. Other vendors tell me that simply attaching the chainplates, keelbolts and through-hulls will suffice, but 1.) I don't want a micky mouse arrangeent and 2.) I'm not really thrilled with the idea of using bronze through-hulls as the ground plane (Electrolysis, etc).

So... a potential fall back position is to install the KVH Tracphone and carry a back-up portable sat-phone for emergencies. The advantage here is you can take the portable phone with you in a liferaft.

1. Is this crazy; to go to sea without a SSB?
2. What do other people do on boats where a good ground plane is not built into the boat?

Thanks
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Old 03-25-2006
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Adding a ground plane to our last boat cost less than $1000. We used a Dynaplate ($800) and copper strap. It involved putting four holes in the bottom, bolting the solid copper strap on and connecting it to the radio. The work was done during a routine haulout.
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Old 03-25-2006
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Thanks for the reply

Thanks for the reply; a couple of questions:

How has the radio performance been?
What sort of distances have you been able to communicate across?

In some reading I've done on the subject, most experts recommend using about 100 square feet of 1/8" copper strap. That's anywhere from 200 to 300 feet of strapping (4-6" wide). The largest Dynaplate is 18"x 6" or about 0.75 square feet.

Will this really work?
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Old 03-25-2006
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Yes it works...you can do most of the work yourself just unrolling and sprreading out the copper foil through your bilges. We regularly communicated from the deep Carib to the US with the foil/Dynaplate set up. There may be better solutions as I am not an expert...but this does work and is not THAT expensive.
I guess the real question is why you want the SSB. If it is just for the crossing then perhaps a simple receiver will suffice to listen to Herb along with the Tracphone? I think you can rent portable Iridium/Globalstar phones as backup.
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Old 03-25-2006
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You don't need a big ground plane inside the boat. If you get a good connection to the sea water, your SSB will work fine, assuming everything else is ok. You are sitting on a great ground plane....salt water. If you have no direct connection to the sea water, then a ground plane in the boat would be prudent to couple to the sea water. Using copper ribbon for the connection is proper to minimize loss. FWIW, I design high power broadcast antennas for a living.

Gerhard
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Old 03-25-2006
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ssb install

If you are planning on transatlantic you really need a ssb for weather etc. we crossed the atlantic in our boat and had great reception from as far as canada from africa with just a dynaplate and a whip antenna.
fair winds
eric
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Old 03-25-2006
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My solution was to bond the water tanks (below the main cabin sole) to the engine, install a dynaplate and put bronze screening over as much of the inside of the hull below the water as I could easily get to (connecting everything with wide copper straps). Heavy roofing tar works well to stick the screening down. This has given me a good signal, covering the Caribbean well. Good enough to be a regular Maritime Mobile Service Net relay while on passage from Aruba to the Bay Islands.
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Old 03-26-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by camaraderie
... I guess the real question is why you want the SSB. If it is just for the crossing then perhaps a simple receiver will suffice to listen to Herb along with the Tracphone? I think you can rent portable Iridium/Globalstar phones as backup.
Yes, you are right. Generally, I like redundancies in case of failure. So..
The plan was to have a Tracphone (permanently installed) for best coverage and rent a portable sat-phone for emergency use, should the primary fail. (No SSB) The TracPhone will allow internet access for weather as well. (I beleive that even as slow as the bit rate is on the Tracphone 252, max 9600, it's still faster than a SSB/modem)

So the purpose of the SSB was only for emergency and really only for this trip.

In the case of emergency, with a Sat Phone we can call the Coast Guard, possibly hundreds of miles away, but there is no way to send a radio call to ships in the area. The Coad Guard could then try to find a ship nearby and maybe, that ship could raise us on the VHF. It just seems with a SSB, finding help in the area is a better possibility.

Or maybe I'm overthinking this and we should just go with the 2 sat-phone idea.
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Old 03-26-2006
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1. Is this crazy; to go to sea without a SSB?

The simple answer is yes.

Terry
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"Does the song of the sea end at the shore or in the hearts of those who listen to it?" Kahlil Gibran
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Old 03-26-2006
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sh*t happens at sea

i would still go with the ssb.
we have a nera sat phone permenantly installed, a ssb radio , and and iridium phone packed in our bail out bag.
there are many benefits to ssb. both marine nets, weather such as herb,
sailmail or winlink.
i believe it is a must for offshore,
eric
s/v kimberlite
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