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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electronics > SSB Installation
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Thread: SSB Installation Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
1 Week Ago 11:48 AM
JonEisberg
Re: SSB Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by SVAuspicious View Post
I don't disagree with Bill often, and when we do differ I go back and check my facts and assumptions.

Usually we find there are only perspective or vocabulary differences. I presume that will turn out to be the case here.
More great info, thanks for taking the time, Dave...

Quote:
Originally Posted by SVAuspicious View Post
I am not a dealer for major electronics. For things like new SSB radios I recommend Gary Jenson at Dockside Radio.
I'll second that recommendation, bigtime... Purchased a Pactor modem from Gary a few years ago, but had a fair bit of trouble - being the computer dumbass that I am - configuring it to work with my Mac at the time... Gary walked me thru it all, his patience with me was amazing, he even called me back a month or two later just to follow-up, and see how I was making out...

GREAT guy to deal with, HIGHLY recommended...
1 Week Ago 10:44 AM
SVAuspicious
Re: SSB Installation

I don't disagree with Bill often, and when we do differ I go back and check my facts and assumptions.

Usually we find there are only perspective or vocabulary differences. I presume that will turn out to be the case here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
1. It works!
Agreed. The testing done by John MacDougall KA4WJA and posted on the SSCA Forum was interesting but not meaningful for the overwhelming majority of cruising sailors (sail or power).

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
2. Radial systems are not new.
Agreed.

That said, the manufacturer of the KISS-SSB has made an effort to use component wires that are resonant in bands and at frequencies of interest. He has attempted to adjust the lengths to account for the folding in the tube and the interaction of the component wires. John M.'s testing indicates that he was not completely successful. As Bill states it doesn't make a lot of difference in ultimate performance.

In this instance the benefits of the KISS-SSB include the low acquisition cost, the low installation cost/effort, and the watertight integrity of the product. Oh - it works great as a counterpoise - without that the rest wouldn't be very relevant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
3. It is NOT necessary to make actual contact or capacitative contact with seawater or with the ground.
Here is where Bill and I appear to drift apart.

Counterpoises and grounds are different things and both contribute to system performance. I infer from Bill's statements that he feels that counterpoises or radials (synonyms for our purposes here) are more important than grounds. I suspect he wouldn't actually say that.

Ashore, I agree with his statement that elevated radials work better than buried ones. When considered as a ground plane, sea water in the normal range of salinity acts as a ground plane 12 to 15 feet below the surface. In actuality while performance can be accurately modeled that way, the performance is a function of the imperfect conductivity of seawater.

A single-point ground (SPG) contributes greatly to the performance of a radio installation. One can certainly float a SPG but performance will be more reliable if the SPG is tied to something - thus thru-hulls and Dynaplates. This is not instead of radials (or counterpoises), but to tie things together in a coherent and repeatable fashion. The biggest benefit seems to be a reduced noise floor. That has been my experience with very large government installations ashore and both recreational and military installations afloat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
4. Sea water contact is not necessary for good RF propagation from a boat, whether using a radial system or other RF ground system.
Agree in part. A good radial system is important. A good RF ground system is also important, as is the interaction with other grounds aboard (DC, AC safety, lightning, and bonding).

That metal boat starts looking pretty good, doesn't it? *grin* Actually, in many ways a metal boat is more challenging but by golly the counterpoise issue is resolved.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
An example: one of the most effective RF radiators from a sailboat is a plain old vertical dipole
I agree with Bill on the performance of vertical dipoles but they are a bit of a red herring in a discussion of counterpoises and grounds. A vertical dipole works against a really good near-infinite ground plane 12' to 15' below the water surface. That approach doesn't apply well to the approach of an end-fed random length sloper most cruisers are using.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
4. Sea water contact is good for bleeding off some static charges and, of course, for DC (not necessarily RF) grounding.
... and for providing a SPG. I firmly agree that the "100 square feet of metal" concept can not be substantiated. I haven't seen credible substantiation of capacitive coupling either, by the way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
5. At the frequencies we're talking about here for SSB, RF energy simply doesn't travel well thru seawater.
Agree. The connection to seawater is for grounding, not a counterpoise. Both contribute to performance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
6. Contact with the SURFACE of the surrounding water is good. In particular, salt water is a good conductor of RF energy ON THE SURFACE....not more than a few inches below the surface.
That isn't quite what the literature indicates. The ground plane for purposes of reflection of RF is 12' to 15' below the surface. For good grounding purposes connection with as low impedance as practicable is desirable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
7. There is considerable confusion as to why seawater is often touted as a "near-perfect" ground.
I think we're lumping disparate things together again here. There is the ground plane that contributes to reflection. Like ionospheric reflection, reflection over seawater is not perfect.

Grounding is a different item and one can't (or shouldn't) ignore the local effects and the impedance over relatively short distances Bill properly describes. Sea water is not a perfect ground. It is a pretty good one in most instances.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
8. Bottom Line: The KISS-SSB is a good radial ground system.
Agreed. To quote Bill further: "But it IS robust and well constructed, very easy to install, and simply works quite well." Agreed also. Add in the economics of a system that is quite waterproof and takes minutes to install it is a very economic way to achieve a nominally "90%" solution. The counterpoise installation on my own boat marginally outperforms the KISS-SSB. You don't want to pay me to duplicate it, and you probably don't want to do it yourself. Heck, I don't want to do it again. Starting from scratch I'd put a KISS-SSB on my own boat in a second.

To repeat my periodic disclaimer: I too am a dealer for the KISS-SSB. I don't sell except to installation customers. I take the same approach to the other items for which I am a dealer.

I am not a dealer for major electronics. For things like new SSB radios I recommend Gary Jenson at Dockside Radio.
1 Week Ago 07:53 PM
JonEisberg
Re: SSB Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by SVAuspicious View Post

I haven't read the instructions in a long time, and the KISS-SSB counterpoises I have in stock are wrapped up. I'll say adamantly that multiple connections to ground studs of antenna systems (of which the tuner is a part) are best practice. Multiple radials/counterpoises are very very common. The appropriate place for a ground connection is the ground stud. The appropriate place to connect (a) counterpoise(s) is the ground stud. See post 134 in this thread.

All other things being equal, and assuming no ground loops connecting your grounding plate back up should improve overall performance.
Thanks, Dave - much appreciated, as always... Nice to hear my ill-informed 'gut instinct' isn't too wide of the mark, at least... :-)

Good info from Bill T, as well, thank you...
1 Week Ago 04:50 PM
btrayfors
Re: SSB Installation

Coupla things re: the KISS-SSB system:

1. It works! Literally thousands of satisfied users, including me and my clients. Virtually no complaints among users. Criticism of the unit has mostly come from would-be RF engineers who don't fully understand how radials (or RF ground systems for that matter) actually work in the real world, as contrasted with theoretical constructs and modeling software.

2. Radial systems are not new. They've been used for many decades by commercial broadcasters, hams, the military, and others. Radial systems do not need to be resonant at user frequencies. They work quite well at random lengths. The KISS is NOT resonant on most user frequencies. It's akin to a bunch of random length insulated wires.

3. It is NOT necessary to make actual contact or capacitative contact with seawater or with the ground. That is pure bunk which has been repeated ad nauseum for many years. In reality, elevated radials -- those above the ground -- work better than buried radials or those lying on the ground. This has been proven hundreds of times by amateurs, commercial broadcasters, and others. The literature is rife with examples. I've personally used them for many years in many locations around the world....ashore and afloat.

4. Sea water contact is not necessary for good RF propagation from a boat, whether using a radial system or other RF ground system. An example: one of the most effective RF radiators from a sailboat is a plain old vertical dipole -- a center-fed dipole turned on its end and rigged low down to the deck. These antennas will out-perform virtually any other antenna you can put on a sailboat and they don't require a seawater ground or any other RF grounding scheme. When properly tuned, they don't even require a tuner. But, of course, these are for a single-band only, mostly 20m and above unless you have a giant sailboat with a 70ft or higher mast.

4. Sea water contact is good for bleeding off some static charges and, of course, for DC (not necessarily RF) grounding. That's why Gordon West found that a short length of copper foil tied into a nearby bronze thru-hull fitting is a pretty good RF ground. No need for the classic "100 square feet of metal" as has been touted by just about every author on SSB for decades, including those who should know better, resulting from an ancient U.S. government recommendation on radio installation on ships.

5. At the frequencies we're talking about here for SSB, RF energy simply doesn't travel well thru seawater. In fact, it is attenuated sharply in just a few inches of water. The only reason to use a deep-in-the-water ground is to heat the adjacent seawater with wasted RF energy. Why do you think HF is not used for submarine communications? Tie in your keel? Why?

6. Contact with the SURFACE of the surrounding water is good. In particular, salt water is a good conductor of RF energy ON THE SURFACE....not more than a few inches below the surface. It helps to collect un-radiated RF energy, channel it back to the antenna feed point, where it can be re-radiated with a tiny time-lapse and thus increase the effective radiated power (ERP).

7. There is considerable confusion as to why seawater is often touted as a "near-perfect" ground. Yes, its SURFACE is great for collecting and returning un-radiated RF energy. But, the main advantage is its incredible REFLECTIVITY, i.e., its ability to bounce transmitted energy off into the ionosphere. You don't have to have physical contact or capacitative contact with seawater in order to realize this second -- and in my opinion most valuable -- property (see dipole example hereinabove).

8. Bottom Line: The KISS-SSB is a good radial ground system. However, it is not a great system, nor is it the best you can fashion on your boat. I've said that numerous times. But it IS robust and well constructed, very easy to install, and simply works quite well. It works on boats, in portable situations, in land cruisers, and in my basement shop.

Disclaimer: I'm a dealer for the KISS as a convenience for my clients. It's certainly not a profit center for me, and it's the ONLY product for which I am a dealer. I install, use myself, and recommend these systems because they work quite well.

FWIW,

Bill, WA6CCA
YachtSense
s/v Born Free
1 Week Ago 03:55 PM
SVAuspicious
Re: SSB Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by WGEwald View Post
Conductive Grease
I take no issue at all with the observations of W8IJ. I use Vaseline or Lanocote as a temporary adhesive to keep things together until I can get things threaded.
1 Week Ago 11:56 AM
WGEwald
Re: SSB Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by SVAuspicious View Post
.

Sometimes I'll use tiny dabs of Vaseline or Lanocote to hold things together, including keeping the nut on my finger. Once the thread is started needle nose pliers provide more leverage.
Conductive Grease

Quote:
Conductive greases and anti-seize compounds have a suspended base metal powder. The suspended metal powder is a fraction of the area occupied by insulating grease, and so the grease still insulates the connection. The grease does not conduct.

The working theory is grease squeezes out of the way, leaving a fine metal powder that can pierce any oxides. Using aluminum and copper blocks with various surface conditions, I've been unable to verify any connection improvement from specialized conductive greases. In all of my tests, it appeared the grease carries most of the suspended powder away. Any remaining powder has never been enough to reliably reduce voltage drop across clamped connections. The change in voltage drop has always been indefinable, even with careful repeats of clamping pressure. I'd appreciate anyone having useful data sending me a copy.

The suspended powder creates a problem that does not exist with dielectric grease. The suspended metal must be fully compatible with the metals being clamped. This means conductive grease is application specific. If the metals being clamped are incompatible with the grease's suspended metal powder, the connection will eventually fail.

I have no opinion if conductive greases help or are necessary. I still use Noalox on clamped aluminum slip joints in antennas because it is generally less expensive than silicone dielectric greases. I do NOT use conductive greases on electrical connectors, or if I am unsure of metal compatibilities.

Conductive greases should specifically match materials being clamped. Conductive greases should never be used in electrical connectors with multiple terminals. Conductive greases should only be used in connections that are well-isolated from connections with differing voltages, and never in high voltage connections.
Dielectric Grease vs Conductive Grease
1 Week Ago 10:59 AM
SVAuspicious
Re: SSB Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonEisberg View Post
Dave, if you routinely work on those freakin' things, you must have fingers that are the equivalent of miniature needle nose Vise-Grips...
You get better at getting the thumb screw threaded with practice. Often the biggest challenge is to keep the ring terminals and star washer on the stud while getting the nut started.

Sometimes I'll use tiny dabs of Vaseline or Lanocote to hold things together, including keeping the nut on my finger. Once the thread is started needle nose pliers provide more leverage.

More than once I have dismounted the entire tuner and attached the ground and antenna connections before remounting the tuner.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonEisberg View Post
OK, while we're on the subject Dave, I've got a dumb question for you... My recollection might be hazy on this point, but when I hooked up my KISS, the instructions seemed to be that nothing else should be connected with it to the tuner... But, since I've still got this perfectly good sintered grounding plate sitting right there no longer connected to anything, would there be any advantage - or potential downside - to re-connecting that to the tuner, as well?
I haven't read the instructions in a long time, and the KISS-SSB counterpoises I have in stock are wrapped up. I'll say adamantly that multiple connections to ground studs of antenna systems (of which the tuner is a part) are best practice. Multiple radials/counterpoises are very very common. The appropriate place for a ground connection is the ground stud. The appropriate place to connect (a) counterpoise(s) is the ground stud. See post 134 in this thread.

All other things being equal, and assuming no ground loops connecting your grounding plate back up should improve overall performance.
1 Week Ago 02:16 PM
JonEisberg
Re: SSB Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by SVAuspicious View Post
I don't know. It is hard to get one answer from Icom on anything. Sometimes Icom HQ in Japan doesn't share with Icom America. Anyone that can get me an independent source for the M802 microphone plug will be my hero. *grin*.
Well, anyone who could convince Icom to put a larger, more accessible ground stud on the AT-140 would be mine... That has to be the worst bit of engineering on virtually anything I have on by boat, and that includes a Perkins diesel... :-)

Is there any legitimate reason for not making that stud easier to use? I can't believe they've stuck with that puny POS thru every iteration of their tuners - especially considering tuners are so often situated in places that are very awkward to access, to begin with... At the very least, why couldn't they have located it just ONE INCH further away from that cable clamp? Dave, if you routinely work on those freakin' things, you must have fingers that are the equivalent of miniature needle nose Vise-Grips... :-)





OK, while we're on the subject Dave, I've got a dumb question for you... My recollection might be hazy on this point, but when I hooked up my KISS, the instructions seemed to be that nothing else should be connected with it to the tuner... But, since I've still got this perfectly good sintered grounding plate sitting right there no longer connected to anything, would there be any advantage - or potential downside - to re-connecting that to the tuner, as well?
1 Week Ago 02:00 PM
SVAuspicious
Re: SSB Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by WGEwald View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by SVAuspicious View Post
From a modeling point of view an elevated radial system is exactly what we have on a sailboat.
See, that's why I think antenna models are open to question, but antenna testing is so much more expensive, prohibitively so for most commercial purposes. I guess that's why the government can afford it and not other folks.
The models are fine.

The problems come because 1. people don't understand the limitations and constraints of the models and therefore may use them inappropriately and 2. people don't interpret the model results correctly and draw conclusions not supported by the analysis.
1 Week Ago 01:45 PM
WGEwald
Re: SSB Installation

Quote:
From a modeling point of view an elevated radial system is exactly what we have on a sailboat.
See, that's why I think antenna models are open to question, but antenna testing is so much more expensive, prohibitively so for most commercial purposes. I guess that's why the government can afford it and not other folks.
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