Help Please! SSB antenna grounding/reception

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JohnZZZ

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I am on a sailboat in the Bahamas with no way to get weather. My SSB receiver is not receiving very well.

I have a portable SSB receiver [Kaito KA1103]. I need it for weather reports, otherwise all I can do is look at the sky [not good].

I am not getting reception on the channels and times as I should be. A few times I've gotten faint weather forcast for a few seconds. I HAVE picked up a little Russian, French, Chinese, Spanish and a little from Australia. But not the channels I need.

I have a 30 foot wire that plugs into the antenna jack, and Ive run this up the mast. Hasnt helped. I read one user said he took 'some random wire and a connector [I assume the type that plugs into the antenna jack?] and grounded the shield on the connector'. And then he had GREAT reception. But I dont know what he means. Can anyone help explain that in laymens terms?

The antenna wire seems to be a single thin wire. I could ground to the engine block or the negative terminals on the battery. What is ment by ' grounded the shield on the connector'? I know what grounding means, but not the rest. Again, I need this in laymens terms, I am no pro.

Unfortunetly, I dont have a soldering iron or flux, but I could probably get some in a week or so. I do have wire crimps and a crimping tool. The only wire I have is the antenna and a bit of spare wire.

Any help would be great. I am leaving tomorrow morning at 6am, and may not have internet again for a while.

Thank you!
 

LtDoc

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Hate to say it but all things considered, I think you would be better off seeking professional help from a shop that deals with this sort of thing. It's your neck, and you have to decide what it's worth.
- 'Doc
 

Eickerman

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Any help would be great. I am leaving tomorrow morning at 6am, and may not have internet again for a while.
I am sure you are already long gone, but perhaps for your next stop you can address a couple of things.

What frequency are you trying to hear? I noted there is a service providing weather in the Bahamas on a variety of frequencies on USB. Marine Weather Center - Marine Weather Center Services Which, if any or all of these, might you be trying to hear?

The reason for the question is that you may be able to use your wire in a way that helps more on a particular frequency (possibly the one you hear poorly at times).

Also, barring getting a much better receiver which isn't a bad idea, use of an antenna tuner can be beneficial. This allows a degree of optimization on any frequency with unfortunately a few knobs to twiddle to make things work better. An MFJ16010 would be an example of such a tuner MFJ Enterprises Inc. This is not a recommendation, just trying to illustrate an option. Keep in mind that an antenna tuner is not magical, and won't make a poor receiver or poor antenna suddenly work spectacularly. However, it may provide a little improvement and perhaps this is all you meed.

Also, where you run the antenna wire can have a lot to do with how well it works. For example, you don't want the antenna wire in close proximity to or touching other metal. Also, get the wire up in the air rather than laying horizontally at low elevation. If you don't have regular insulators to "tie-off" the antenna wire to a metal support, use anything you have that is insulating (cord, fish line, shoelace, whatever).

Now, having said all of that, do whatever it takes to get it working correctly. The life you save may be your own.

Curtis Eickerman
 
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W9BU

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BTW, while I don't think this topic is specifically about amateur radio antennas, I have decided to leave it here for the time being. If this becomes more of a commercial systems discussion, it will probably be moved.
 

JohnZZZ

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Eickerman

Thanks for the reply. I am held up a few days be bad weather, so I have more time to work on this.

The frequencies I am trying to get are 3.855, 4.045, 8.137, 12.359 and few others.

I had the wire antenna up a flag halyard, near a metal wire stay, vertically about 30'. I then tried it up the backstay, away from the mast and metal wire stays. No better reception.

Then the radio stopped working. I recharged it a few hours, but it still doesnt seem to be working. Could it have blown out?

Someone who had the same radio said they just placed the telescoping antenna against a metal wire stay [that runs vertically up to the mast, about 40 feet] and they had good reception. I have tried all this stuff, but still getting very little as I tune around all the different stations. Though FM comes in pretty good. Is it possible I just got a lemon SSB receiver?

Thanks for your help.
 

ab3a

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Small portable radios are not a good fit for use in marine applications. Static electricity is a serious problem. It usually burns out the transistors in the the first stages of a radio so that they become quite deaf.

My recommendation: Seek a marine electronics expert. If you're going to depend on this radio to get weather, you really should get this right.

I say this as an instrument rated aviator with decades of experience and as one who is very good friends with a master mariner: DO NOT FOOL WITH THE WEATHER. Stay away from portables except as an emergency backup. Get someone to install a marine rated HF receiver and antenna. Please.

Why? Well, what would you say if someone like me took off in a Piper Cub (no electrical system) in to foggy weather, with just a hand-held radio to navigate and communicate with? Really, that's pretty stupid. So why is it any smarter for you to do the same thing in a sailboat?
 

Eickerman

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I am sorry to hear of the misfortune regarding the radio. I suspect the speculation about static discharge blowing the front end transistor stage is problaby correct. I believe the first stage for the FM circuit is a separate device which is probably why that continues to operate.

I wholly support the idea of a good radio along with proper antistatic protection as being a very good idea.

Some of these very inexpensive radios can literally be damaged just by touching the antenna after walking across the floor.

In fact, your radio may have been damaged when you tried all the external antennas which may explain why nothing ever seemed to make it work any better.

Curtis Eickerman
 
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JohnZZZ

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Eikerman

I was wondering about that. I did get 10 stations today on the 25M band. With my much smaller Grundig Mini World 100 PE I got fewer stations. Do you still think I might have blown it out? Still not getting the broadcasts I need.

BTW, sometime the Mini seems to get better reception. And that antenna is much smaller. And if I touch antenna to a 40 ft metal wire stay, the receptions gets much better. Not so with the Kaito KA1103.

Thanks for your thoughts on this
 

majoco

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The Kaito 1103 has a FET RF amplifier that is very prone to going pop with a static discharge. If your boat has a fibreglass hull, then it's very likely that the superstructure can attain a high voltage. The Kaito was not a good choice - get yourself a proper HF receiver and a laptop to decode the facsimile transmissions. Most sea-going boats/yachts have the backstay insulated at both ends and that is used for the transceiver antenna with a tuner. I wouldn't dream of going out of sight of the land without a transceiver on marine and amateur bands and a GPS or two.
 
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