Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Permanent Vacation
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I built an antenna about 12 years ago for about ten bucks. I looked at the one that West Marine carried (they don't market it anymore) for about $89.95. It was a simple dipole antenna fashioned out of two half circles of pieces of aluminum to make a complete circle insulated at the junctions. Another piece of aluminum forms the support across the center (attached to the two insulating pieces. I used little chunks of starboard for the insulators. Then a vertical piece attached to the center support attaches it to the mizzen mast. The one I built is about 2 feet in diameter. Size isn't terribly critical unless you're trying to tune to a very specific frequency. The TV spectrum is fairly wide and includes FM (between channels 6 and 7). I use a 300 ohm to 75 ohm impedance transfomer (Radio Shack) at the antenna and RG59 coax cable to come down inside the mast and route it forward to the TV.
It still works well after 12 years. With a digital TV I get about 4 or 5 stations, crystal clear, especially at night when I'm at the marina. Masts interfere, especially with the digital signal.
When we are out at anchor on the Chesapeake, we get upwards of 20 stations - again crystal clear. You don't need a 'digital' antenna. They still use the same frequencies, it's just a digital signal instead of an analog. That's why each station is able to fit 2 or 3 signals (e.g. 2-1; 2-2;2-3) where before the analog signal took the entire bandwidth they were allotted.
You could, I suppose, amplify the signal and be able to receive more stations. You cannot use an older TV without an analog to digital converter. Most, if not all, TV's sold in the last 3 or so years are digital capable. A small flat screen which would be good for most sailboats should cost in the neighborhood of $200. I think we paid $189.95 for ours at Circuit City before they went belly up.
We use an AB splitter to send the antenna signal either to our TV or the FM radio. Good strong signal on the FM even in the marina with all the masts.
Saltwater Suzi and Cap'n Larry
"A sailboat is a fickle mistress. You’ve got to buy her things. You’ve got to understand everything about her. What you don’t know she’ll use against you." -Captain Larry
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