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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 04-15-2007
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Rape of the Backstay

You hear it over and over, "I'm about to cut my backstay to install insulators for a SSB radio". Some guys just don't get it. In most cases, this is ENTIRELY UNNECESSARY.

Of course, the insulator manufacturers love it. And the riggers do, too. After all, you could spend upwards of a boat unit to get your backstay ready to serve as a (rather mediocre) SSB antenna. And, in the process, you introduce a minimum of 6 additional points of potential failure in a VERY CRITICAL component. Folks...you heard it here first: THE BACKSTAY HOLDS UP YOUR MAST (many Hunter owners excepted...for them, a backstay of any sort would be a blessing). Why in the world would you want to compromise it when there's no need to?

Alternate approaches:

(1) rig an alternate backstay antenna, made of s/s lifeline, hoisted with a spare halyard and tied off on one side to your pushpit. I've successfully used this approach for almost 18 years and many thousands of miles of offshore sailing, and many hundreds of SSB contacts (check out pic here: Gallery :: Miscellaneous 2007 :: AltBksty1_0131

(2) another sort of alternate, like the "Rope Antenna" or the .... dare I say it?...the GAM antenna which fits over your backstay. Both of these work, the rope probably better than the GAM, but they're pretty expensive for what they are.

There's nothing magical about an SSB antenna. With a good tuner, like the SGC SG230 or almost any of the Icom tuners, you can tune a wet noodle, provided that you also have a decent RF ground system. An "alternate backstay antenna" works every bit as well as a traditional backstay antenna. You just don't have to worry about your mast going over the side if an insulator breaks, and you can take the BIG BUCKS you save and spend 'em where they're more likely to do some good (like on Mt. Gay and the ladies!).

Hope this isn't just a cry in the dark!

Bill
WA6CCA
S/V Born Free

Last edited by btrayfors; 04-15-2007 at 08:37 PM.
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Old 04-15-2007
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A voice cries out in the wilderness.... but is any one listening. I agree, cutting a backstay just to create an insulated antenna for the SSB is not a great idea.

Now, if you are in the process of replacing your standing rigging, this might make a little more sense.... but to do it to a perfectly good rig... you're just asking for trouble.
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Old 04-16-2007
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My radio experience is limited to SW reception off 16 gauge wires strung 100 feet to the garage and putting up directional antennas for CB when I was 15 some thirty years ago, but I too have never grasped the logic of amputating a structural support when you could simply haul up a wire with an antenna clipped to it on the topping lift.

Of course, I have a steel boat and know nothing of Dynaplates and other mystical beasts. The whole boat's a freaking antenna, in a pinch.
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Old 04-16-2007
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Bill

Our backstay is insulator-equipped, presumably by a previous owner/ham operator.

Is this enough of a structural concern that I should consider replacing it?
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Old 04-16-2007
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Probably not, but it would depend on how well the installation was done, which components were used, age and condition of the backstay and fittings, and how you intend to use the boat.

Next time you get a chance, have a competent rigger look at your setup and give you his opinion.

My post wasn't intended to have folks rush out and replace their traditional insulated backstays, nor to solicit a flood of folks saying, "I've circumnavigated X times with mine"; rather, it was to emphasize that there ARE very good alternatives and they should be considered before breaking up a perfectly good backstay.

Now on many Hunters.....I just saw an ad this morning for a new $250K Hunter without a backstay; maybe an insulated backstay would help keep the mast up??? :-)

Bill
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Old 04-16-2007
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Bill...I only wish I would have had such advice a few years back. Hopefully your post will save some folks some money, and some possible grief down the road while providing better performance. Thanks.
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