sadug

SSB Receiver for Pac Cup

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Looking for a new SSB Receiver for Pac Cup. We have a Sat Phone so only need the SSB to receive race and weather channels. We have been using a TECSUN PL-660 but it seems to have major issues at times in the receiving department.

 

Any recommendations on portable Receivers? 

 

Many thanks.

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2 hours ago, Slim said:

Some of these receivers aren't for SSB, so make sure you get one that is suitable.

I used to have  Kaito KA1103 as a backup, and it worked OK.  However, the recent reviews aren't too positive, so things may have changed.

The Tecsun PL-600 looks like a decent receiver.  At $84 it's worth a try.

None of the sub-$100 radios will be as rugged or easily-tunable as a higher-end receiver, but for picking up the Pac Cup SSB net they should be sufficient.  Be aware that even with top-quality radios and antennas, sometimes all the Pac Cup boats can't hear each other.

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SSB for race and weather channels?  Isn't all of that available over your satellite link?

 

 

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Yes, but it is a race rule that Sat Phone boats have alternative means of receiving weather broadcasts.

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Would the sat phone + a GO cover that requirement, or is diversity in the comms link required?

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Diversity is required.  As I recall, SSB reception is specifically written into the requirements.  You don't have to turn on the receiver (at least no one checks), but you have to carry it.

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6 hours ago, solosailor said:

Yes, but it is a race rule that Sat Phone boats have alternative means of receiving weather broadcasts.

Have you considered the Sirius XM weather service? Would that meet the requirement?

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5 hours ago, valis said:

Diversity is required.  As I recall, SSB reception is specifically written into the requirements.  You don't have to turn on the receiver (at least no one checks), but you have to carry it.

Is there a specific requirement about the antenna? Many radios have sensitive, low noise receivers and nice filtering, but without a good antenna, you mite as well leave it turned off.

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34 minutes ago, jarcher said:

Is there a specific requirement about the antenna? Many radios have sensitive, low noise receivers and nice filtering, but without a good antenna, you mite as well leave it turned off.

This is my interpretation of the current rules, based on my previous experience in the race, being the communications boat (while racing) for three of the races, and being a past member of the Pac Cup Board:

An external antenna of some sort is required.  The inspector may require that the racer demonstrate an ability for the receiver and antenna to function, or at least show that it all *should* function.  The inspector has some leeway in assessing the gear and the capability of the racer to use it effectively.  The external antenna may be as simple as a spool of wire and a cliplead, as long as the racer understands how to use it.  For someone with no radio knowledge the inspector may require a more "professional" installation.  It may be hard to demonstrate that an emergency antenna functions well in a noisy marina environment, but if pressed you should be able to at least tune in some strong stations such as WWV.

Here is the relevant section of the rules:

If satisfying 5.4 with a satphone, the boat shall also carry an SSB ("shortwave") receiver having headphones, digital tuning, an external antenna, programmed with race and weather channels, and demonstrably able to receive race and weather transmissions. 

Link to the rules: https://pacificcup.org/18/pcer

Interesting about the requirement for the receiver to be "programmed with the race and weather channels"!  Many perfectly fine receivers won't meet this requirement.  I would expect some leeway in the interpretation of this, perhaps depending on the operators skill.  If not, then buyer beware.  If that became an issue I would ask the inspector, or the Pac Cup race committee for a clarification.

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7 hours ago, jarcher said:

Have you considered the Sirius XM weather service? Would that meet the requirement?

i am not an experienced Sirius user - and i haven't used it at all in the pacific..., but in general, coverage doesn't extend to mid-ocean regions

perhaps someone can comment on coverage in the pacific.

it doesn't (or didn't, last time i used it) have complete coverage for deliveries from New England to the Caribbean - the issues are both with the area covered by the transmission.., and with the area covered by the forecasts and data

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10 hours ago, jack_sparrow said:

Pretty generous comms requirements for a Cat 1 race with only one long range transmit device.

Bermuda race doesn't require any long range transmit device other than a sat phone either... but in that race, a typical boat is usually within VHF range of at least one other boat. Really fast or really slow boats might not be...

the Bermuda race did have a requirement for a radio receiver - like this race - but it has been dropped. The requirement is not much of an imposition though

the Iridium system is very robust.., and pretty much every problem you hear about is due to poor installation and/or incorrect usage. for most people, the best long range transmission  backup would be to have 2nd phone.

I don't intend to reopen the SSB vs Satphone debate - it's kind of like religion..., and I believe everyone should equip themselves with what they think is best

 

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From the rule posted by @valis Sirius weather won't meet the requirement anyhow. The HF requirement is interesting. I think most receivers have programmable channels though. 

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Sangean.  I'm on my second one, had a good run with both over 15+ years.

Full HF coverage, memories, in-built recorder (mine is a cassette, I've had it a while) so you can replay the gnarly bits. internal antenna and jack-plug for external antenna which I usually clip to a chainplate bolt, if accessible, or clip to a backstay (that's how I lost the first one).

Replacing the batteries can be fiddly but read the instructions

I can't remember what I paid but it was reasonable.

Cheers

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I own two Sangean radios and, while performance is decent, both have really obvious mechanical design flaws that limit their useful lives. Their pricing is at the high end for what you get, so I won't be buying another. 

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Yeah even if we have a back up sat phone, we are still required to have the ssb receiver. A radio oriented friend suggested stripping the wire at the end of the external antenna and use alligator clips to attach to back stay.

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16 minutes ago, sadug said:

Yeah even if we have a back up sat phone, we are still required to have the ssb receiver. A radio oriented friend suggested stripping the wire at the end of the external antenna and use alligator clips to attach to back stay.

Do you actually plan to use it or is it just for the rule? If you want to just receive, get a long wire antenna (which is just that - a long piece of wire connected to a feedline) and when you need it, run it up on a halyard. You can show the inspector you have the radio and antenna all handy.

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Settled on this stuff:
 
1. This will be primary as it hooks directly into the laptop which should be great for downloading weather maps and such.....
 
SDRplay USB radio tuner, model RSP1A (stands for Radio Spectrum Processor).  The software is free and at SDRplay.com. Basically, the SSB stations will display on our laptop and we will be able to get weather and race data.  The frequency range is 1kHz all the way up to 2 GHz!  (model 150-3954).  It connects directly to laptop via USB.  Out the other side of the unit is the coax antenna cable.  This goes to a Balun (basically a splitter).  One side will ground to a thru-hull. The other will be antenna wire that will will hoist up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_PL--ZQ7hE
 
https://www.youtube.com/c/SDRplayRSP
 
2. This will be a backup receiver....
 
SSB portable radio: C.Crane CC Skywave SSB with shortwave band 1711-29999 kHz.  Apparently fiberglass is invisible to these waves, so the retractable antenna can be run inside the boat allegedly.

 

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Quote

both have really obvious mechanical design flaws that limit their useful lives

Mine still going strong 18 years later.

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I was going to suggest a SDR for the backup SSB, but decided not to open that can of worms.  I love SDRs (have two of the "SDRplay" units, plus a "Funcube Dongle Pro+" on my desk at the moment), but they do require a working computer so they probably aren't the best lifeboat radio.  Since lifeboat operation isn't mandated by the rules, it should work well.   Should your satphone croak you can use the SDR and OpenCPN WEFAX plugin to receive weatherfax via USCG broadcast.  The SDRs are generally more prone to overload and spurious responses than a more "normal" radio, but at sea you won't be seeing many strong interfering signals. 

SDR WEFAX may require fiddling with the computer sound source controls -- it seems that every version of Windows does this differently.  Just because the received audio comes out your speakers doesn't mean that an application looking for a soundcard will find the signal.

And a cliplead to a shroud can be a great receive antenna.  Transmitters are more particular, but with a receiver the antenna is not usually the limiting factor.

As for using a whip antenna inside the cabin, that should work well enough ***unless*** you have local interference generated by your on-board electronics (or electrical: refrigerator, alternator, etc).  Getting the antenna even a few extra feet away from the interference source can really help.

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Thanks Valis - words of wisdom to be sure. Will report back what we are finding. Just got everything today so we'll be playing with it all over the next couple of weeks. We'll have the backup receiver just in case as well...

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1 hour ago, sadug said:

Out the other side of the unit is the coax antenna cable.  This goes to a Balun (basically a splitter).  One side will ground to a thru-hull. The other will be antenna wire that will will hoist up.

Actually a balun is a matching transformer that matches the impedance the radio sees to the antenna. It's not particularly important for receive only installations.

 

 

12 minutes ago, valis said:

And a cliplead to a shroud can be a great receive antenna.  Transmitters are more particular, but with a receiver the antenna is not usually the limiting factor.

As for using a whip antenna inside the cabin, that should work well enough ***unless*** you have local interference generated by your on-board electronics (or electrical: refrigerator, alternator, etc).  Getting the antenna even a few extra feet away from the interference source can really help.

I support the longwire hoisted up approach but it would be interesting to see how well a shroud (or really, the entire rig) acts as a receiving antenna.

I can't imagine he could eliminate the interference generated by all the gear. The antenna he has planned seems a good approach.  

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1 minute ago, jarcher said:

Actually a balun is a matching transformer that matches the impedance the radio sees to the antenna. It's not particularly important for receive only installations.

 

 

I support the longwire hoisted up approach but it would be interesting to see how well a shroud (or really, the entire rig) acts as a receiving antenna.

I can't imagine he could eliminate the interference generated by all the gear. The antenna he has planned seems a good approach.  

Yes, the balun shouldn't be necessary.  Actually, a balun is a transformer that converts a BALanced connection to an UNbalanced one.  Depending on the balun design it may also transform impedances for better matching.  Since the SDR (and any other radio) is unbalanced, any coax cable being used is unbalanced, and a backstay or shroud or hoisted wire is also unbalanced, you shouldn't need one.  Some people hoist dipole antennas, and being balanced these can benefit from a balun.

Eliminating all interference is damn near impossible, but you can go a long way in usefully reducing it.  I've got a big box of ferrite clamp-on cores that can make a big difference when placed strategically.

I suggest that sadug try the shroud, and if that doesn't work well then try the wire.  The ground connection to the radio is potentially problematic, since the SDR uses the computer ground, and that goes through the power supply into the boat's battery ground.  A ferrite choke on the coax cable into the SDR might help mitigate noisy ground loop problems.  Of course you then need to find a good place to connect the coax shield to a ground or counterpoise.  I'll bet that grounding to a lifeline and clipping the coax hot lead to a shroud would work pretty well.  Testing this in a noisy marina is a challenge and can be unnecessarily discouraging, but it's definitely worth trying.

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Good points Valis. Thanks to all who contributed. We will be playing with the set up this weekend on a delivery and then next weekend for N2E. Hopefully will have positive results to post after.....

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On 4/16/2018 at 6:24 PM, valis said:

Yes, the balun shouldn't be necessary.  Actually, a balun is a transformer that converts a BALanced connection to an UNbalanced one.  Depending on the balun design it may also transform impedances for better matching.  Since the SDR (and any other radio) is unbalanced, any coax cable being used is unbalanced, and a backstay or shroud or hoisted wire is also unbalanced, you shouldn't need one.  Some people hoist dipole antennas, and being balanced these can benefit from a balun.

Eliminating all interference is damn near impossible, but you can go a long way in usefully reducing it.  I've got a big box of ferrite clamp-on cores that can make a big difference when placed strategically.

I suggest that sadug try the shroud, and if that doesn't work well then try the wire.  The ground connection to the radio is potentially problematic, since the SDR uses the computer ground, and that goes through the power supply into the boat's battery ground.  A ferrite choke on the coax cable into the SDR might help mitigate noisy ground loop problems.  Of course you then need to find a good place to connect the coax shield to a ground or counterpoise.  I'll bet that grounding to a lifeline and clipping the coax hot lead to a shroud would work pretty well.  Testing this in a noisy marina is a challenge and can be unnecessarily discouraging, but it's definitely worth trying.

I have noted with my home installation of SDRPlay, a couple of clamp on ferrites on the USB cable at the radio end of things helped noise, as did putting the SDRPlay in a shielded box.

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