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HF antenna recommendation? (no backstay)


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Hi all. Long time listener, first time caller. I'm a ham/SSB user, and it's about time to get up and running on HF. I'm looking for some good suggestions on what to do for an antenna.

I've got a Dufour 360, which does not have a backstay, and I'd like to keep it that way as it really opens up the cockpit. So, provided that takes wire antennas out of the discussion, am I left with just a Shakespeare-type fiberglass antenna?

If so, how and where would you mount it?

I suppose I'll expand this discussion to VHF/UHF as well, since I'd love a permanent antenna for those bands, but I get by right now with a long antenna for the HT (handheld) radios.

Thanks in advance! (and apologies if there has been discussion on this before. Two-letter searches (i.e. "HF") don't work so well.)

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5 hours ago, imokruok said:

Hi all. Long time listener, first time caller. I'm a ham/SSB user, and it's about time to get up and running on HF. I'm looking for some good suggestions on what to do for an antenna.

I've got a Dufour 360, which does not have a backstay, and I'd like to keep it that way as it really opens up the cockpit. So, provided that takes wire antennas out of the discussion, am I left with just a Shakespeare-type fiberglass antenna?

If so, how and where would you mount it?

I suppose I'll expand this discussion to VHF/UHF as well, since I'd love a permanent antenna for those bands, but I get by right now with a long antenna for the HT (handheld) radios.

Thanks in advance! (and apologies if there has been discussion on this before. Two-letter searches (i.e. "HF") don't work so well.)

You could use the boom  topping lift 

a running backstay would work 

 

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Perhaps consider a modern satellite communications device?

Even if you already own a SSB radio, modern sat communications devices are cheaper than the antenna plus tuner plus ground plane plus heavy DC wiring to the SSB plus the never ending attempts to silence the electrical noise from the engine and charging system that you must run while using the SSB due to power draw.

SSB on a boat is an expensive, frustrating, and ultimately useless endeavor because nobody is monitoring SSB anymore, and even if they are, trying to raise a signal under emergency conditions is a dangerous distraction from saving the boat. It is nothing at all like a long range version of VHF.

Satellite stuff is not perfect, but its already dramatically better, and all sat comm tech is getting better and cheaper all the time.

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8 hours ago, carcrash said:

Perhaps consider a modern satellite communications device?

Even if you already own a SSB radio, modern sat communications devices are cheaper than the antenna plus tuner plus ground plane plus heavy DC wiring to the SSB plus the never ending attempts to silence the electrical noise from the engine and charging system that you must run while using the SSB due to power draw.

SSB on a boat is an expensive, frustrating, and ultimately useless endeavor because nobody is monitoring SSB anymore, and even if they are, trying to raise a signal under emergency conditions is a dangerous distraction from saving the boat. It is nothing at all like a long range version of VHF.

Satellite stuff is not perfect, but its already dramatically better, and all sat comm tech is getting better and cheaper all the time.

Ssb is still good for ship to ship and safety calling 

data and voice costs with satellite are considerable  

A decent secondhand SSB can be bought for peanuts 

in the perfect world you have both pieces of equipment 

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15 hours ago, carcrash said:

Perhaps consider a modern satellite communications device?

OP is a ham radio operator, he is probably looking to get on the HF ham bands, as his hobby. 

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On 10/6/2021 at 3:53 PM, ulysses said:

Some people like the RopeAntenna : http://www.fairwindsdev.com/ropeantenna.com , which is an antenna inside a braid of a rope.

I do not understand paying $185 for a wire inside a rope. Couldn't I just attach my wire to the core of any double braid rope and pull the wire through, replacing the core with a wire?

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1 hour ago, Zonker said:

I do not understand paying $185 for a wire inside a rope. Couldn't I just attach my wire to the core of any double braid rope and pull the wire through, replacing the core with a wire?

You probably could just use a fid to push a wire through without even removing the core.

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Yeah but's a lot easier to pull on string (wire) and remove the core. I think the rope is just to prevent damage to the wire etc. No need for the core.

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1 hour ago, Zonker said:

I do not understand paying $185 for a wire inside a rope. Couldn't I just attach my wire to the core of any double braid rope and pull the wire through, replacing the core with a wire?

Is that price really out of line? What should a ~50' of double braid with two splices and ~50' of tinned copper wire with a terminator go for retail?

Sizes.9.jpg

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It's not totally out of line - just the work involved is something most of us could do in front of TV one evening 

If the show didn't require too much attention :)

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Ham Radio is very much alive and well. Plenty of operators monitoring worldwide. My wife saved 2 lives using HAM when both cellular and satellite signals were shit and  unobtainable due to weather. This was on a 10K summit. She was able to radio in a Heli for someone who fell down a 1000' slope. Then again, when a Hurricane pulled almost all communication down in a remote BAJA village we were in, we were able to contact and get some much needed info on road conditions going home.

 

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Just to spice this thread up a bit.. I know Jack about SSB other than as crew, we waited breathleslessly for the skipper to transmit our daily position and then, later get weather fax's. Now that I own the boat, what can/how do I deal with this thing called SSB?

Sincerely asked.

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2 hours ago, Borax Johnson said:

Just to spice this thread up a bit.. I know Jack about SSB other than as crew, we waited breathleslessly for the skipper to transmit our daily position and then, later get weather fax's. Now that I own the boat, what can/how do I deal with this thing called SSB?

Sincerely asked.

It has less to do with being SSB (single side band) which is a method of modulation, and more to do with the frequency band.

If you are a licensed amateur radio operator (AKA "Ham operator") you can use a bunch of different frequencies. Radio waves of a frequency below about 30 MHz will bounce off the ionosphere (rather than pass through it) and  land back on earth, where they can be received. This allows over the horizon radio communication. In general, different frequency radio waves will "skip" or bounce back from different heights, and so travel different distances and you can generally select the frequency to use based upon the range you need. That also depends upon the time of year and the sunspots, which makes it interesting. Amateur radio operators operate a maritime mobile network in 14.313 MHz, 24/7. But, getting a ham license requires passing a technical test. 

You don't have to have an amateur radio license for HF (High frequency) maritime communication. There are frequencies and equipment you can use with a ship's station license and a "restricted radiotelephone operator's permit" which don't require any testing. These frequencies range from 2 MHz ro 26 MHz and will also offer over the horizon communication. Having a ham license gives you much more, but there are still enough privileges without one to be useful. Also, you can always listen to ham frequencies for weather and such.

So, to answer your question directly, you can talk with people over long distances, pass messages and get weather data. It's not limited to voice; you can receive weather fax, send and receive radio teletype (RTTY) and even exchange email. Oh, you can of course scream for help, the USCG monitors like 6 different HF/SSB frequencies. If you're interested in listening to international broadcasts (often called SWL for shortwave listening) you can do that also. Now, all this said, it does require a level of knowledge and skill well beyond that needed to use your VHF radio or a satellite phone. It's also much less expensive, as you're not paying for any service (except maybe the email, which is not much).   

This is super abbreviated. It's a complex topic, and I don't know what your base level of knowledge is. For those interested in such things, it is a lot of fun. If you're not interested, well then a sat phone might be a better idea and, either way, if you're going offshore bring an EPIRB. 

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10 hours ago, Borax Johnson said:

Just to spice this thread up a bit.. I know Jack about SSB other than as crew, we waited breathleslessly for the skipper to transmit our daily position and then, later get weather fax's. Now that I own the boat, what can/how do I deal with this thing called SSB?

Sincerely asked.

Takes practice to become radio proficient 

You get this practice by joining one of those cruisers radio nets and using your radio 

Frequency choice ...time of day , distance to transmit , weather interference ....

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11 hours ago, Borax Johnson said:

Just to spice this thread up a bit.. I know Jack about SSB other than as crew, we waited breathleslessly for the skipper to transmit our daily position and then, later get weather fax's. Now that I own the boat, what can/how do I deal with this thing called SSB?

Sincerely asked.

1) Decide whether you care.  HF still has its uses but the declining cost of satellite makes it less and less worthwhile.  HF has its own costs and requires more effort.  Because of Starlink and other reasons the cost and utility of satellite are likely to continue to improve over coming years and there are likely to be fewer boats and shore stations equipped with HF.   Most of the commercial HF shore stations have already gone dark.  HF is great for mid-distance communications, that is, beyond the range of VHF out to a few hundred miles; while longer ranges are possible they require more effort (better operator skills and better installation) and careful choice of time-of-day and frequency.

2) Be sure your installation is a good one and is properly maintained.  Find someone who is experienced with HF and have them look at it for either money or beer

3) Use it often and learn its peculiarities and be sure you can both receive and transmit.  The nets are a good starting point.  Downloading daily weatherfax even if you don't need to is good practice.

4) Good HF communications requires a receive environment that free of electrical noise and a good electrical ground plane.  These are, at best, difficult to achieve in a harbor, on the hard, or in fresh water.  Run your experiments at anchor if possible

 

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So if one already has an installation - an SGC-2000, that might require some work in terms of a maybe new tuner, new cabling and counterpoise, but has an insulated backstay - what's the argument to spend the cash to re-commission it vs spending the cash to remove it and saving a small amount of not putting the insulated back stay back in?  The boat will be getting an iridium install.  

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36 minutes ago, Elegua said:

So if one already has an installation - an SGC-2000, that might require some work in terms of a maybe new tuner, new cabling and counterpoise, but has an insulated backstay - what's the argument to spend the cash to re-commission it vs spending the cash to remove it and saving a small amount of not putting the insulated back stay back in?  The boat will be getting an iridium install.  

If you like playing with HF, then keep it going. If you don't want to be bothered and don't mind the Iridium service bills, then skip it. What kind of Iridium? If it's just the Go, well the HF might be more useful. I recently did two legs of a delivery with a Go, and it worked reliably for text, but voice and getting gribs were a complete fail. This despite a properly mounted external antenna, an LMR-400 feedline and consistently 5 bars of signal. I was very disappointed. I'm sure people will tell me I'm full of crap, but this was my experience and I know what I'm doing. 

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1 minute ago, George Dewey said:

If you like playing with HF, then keep it going. If you don't want to be bothered and don't mind the Iridium service bills, then skip it. What kind of Iridium? If it's just the Go, well the HF might be more useful. I recently did two legs of a delivery with a Go, and it worked reliably for text, but voice and getting gribs were a complete fail. This despite a properly mounted external antenna, an LMR-400 feedline and consistently 5 bars of signal. I was very disappointed. 

I'd be using the Iridium for weather and text.  So your comment about not being able to pull GRIBS is worrying.  I no nothing about HF so I'd need to get a license and and education in how to use.  

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8 minutes ago, Elegua said:

I'd be using the Iridium for weather and text.  So your comment about not being able to pull GRIBS is worrying.  I no nothing about HF so I'd need to get a license and and education in how to use.  

Okay but what Iridium station equipment? Iridium is a good system, my problems probably had to do with me using a Go. 

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Ages ago we got weatherfax over HF and voice forecasts both official and amateur and then the AVN gribs, email, &c using pactor. These days, for all the digital and point-to-point stuff and voice I think Iridium is better.

What I think HF still does better is the party line stuff. If meeting new folks while cruising around is your thing then HF can help with that. When out cruising we made a lot of contacts, particularly on ham nets, that led us to unexpected opportunities and neat experiences.

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2 hours ago, George Dewey said:

Okay but what Iridium station equipment? Iridium is a good system, my problems probably had to do with me using a Go. 

I was thinking about the marine package.  https://www.satphonestore.com/iridium-go-marine-package-available-now.html I have a roll-bar to stick the antenna on. 

 

1 hour ago, weightless said:

What I think HF still does better is the party line stuff. If meeting new folks while cruising around is your thing then HF can help with that. When out cruising we made a lot of contacts, particularly on ham nets, that led us to unexpected opportunities and neat experiences.

Hmmm....having friends.  Is that worth a couple k? Am I too cheep to have friends. 

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3 hours ago, Elegua said:

I was thinking about the marine package.  https://www.satphonestore.com/iridium-go-marine-package-available-now.html I have a roll-bar to stick the antenna on. 

Yeah thats an Iridium Go. It has a very slow data rate, like 2,400 baud, like the dial up modems from decades ago. I tried to use it with Predict Wind offshore, which does not even try to get gribs, just routes created in their cloud. I tried pulling gribs, and several times we tried voice. None of this worked. Text messages worked very well, but that was it. I was very disappointed. 

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28 minutes ago, George Dewey said:

Yeah thats an Iridium Go. It has a very slow data rate, like 2,400 baud, like the dial up modems from decades ago. I tried to use it with Predict Wind offshore, which does not even try to get gribs, just routes created in their cloud. I tried pulling gribs, and several times we tried voice. None of this worked. Text messages worked very well, but that was it. I was very disappointed. 

So, that is a worrisome puzzle. So you had one of the Predict Wind, "Standard" or "Professional" packages and the antenna was properly located? 

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4 hours ago, Elegua said:

So, that is a worrisome puzzle. So you had one of the Predict Wind, "Standard" or "Professional" packages and the antenna was properly located? 

I had, and still have, the Predict Wind Professional package. But that is not relevant, it was not Predict Wind's fault. Yes the antenna was properly mounted, and the feedline was actually larger, lower loss, than is typically recommended, and no longer than needed. For most of the voyage the Go reported full strength signal.

 

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8 hours ago, George Dewey said:

I had, and still have, the Predict Wind Professional package. But that is not relevant, it was not Predict Wind's fault. Yes the antenna was properly mounted, and the feedline was actually larger, lower loss, than is typically recommended, and no longer than needed. For most of the voyage the Go reported full strength signal.

 

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Thanks! Curiouser and curiouser... What do you think the reason you couldn't get the GRIBs was? Were you timing out because of the download speed? Would getting one of the better iridium products would "fix" this? I ask because I'm about to spend some $$ on something and I'd like to understand it better. Real-life feedback is highly appreciated. 

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On 10/13/2021 at 9:43 AM, Elegua said:

Thanks! Curiouser and curiouser... What do you think the reason you couldn't get the GRIBs was? Were you timing out because of the download speed? Would getting one of the better iridium products would "fix" this? I ask because I'm about to spend some $$ on something and I'd like to understand it better. Real-life feedback is highly appreciated. 

I think the slow data rate was an issue. Still, even getting just a 3 kb route and nothing else didn't work. I didn't spend a lot of time trying to diagnose it, we were offshore and the weather was not great (meaning, it didn't work when I needed it most), so we were busy. Still, it should have worked at least to get small routes from PW. If I had the money I would look at a better system. 

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Also you can check out this webinar (read, commercial) from Predict Wind on using the Go with their stuff. It would be very good if it worked reliably. They ran this yesterday evening.

 

 

 

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On 10/12/2021 at 9:57 PM, George Dewey said:

I had, and still have, the Predict Wind Professional package. But that is not relevant, it was not Predict Wind's fault. Yes the antenna was properly mounted, and the feedline was actually larger, lower loss, than is typically recommended, and no longer than needed. For most of the voyage the Go reported full strength signal.

 

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Hard to believe that that is a good antenna installation for the 18 cm Iridium band. I'd keep all metal much further away, and below, such an antenna.

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On 10/12/2021 at 4:57 PM, George Dewey said:

Yeah thats an Iridium Go. It has a very slow data rate, like 2,400 baud, like the dial up modems from decades ago. I tried to use it with Predict Wind offshore, which does not even try to get gribs, just routes created in their cloud. I tried pulling gribs, and several times we tried voice. None of this worked. Text messages worked very well, but that was it. I was very disappointed. 

I'm thinking mounting the antenna inside a metal cage probably horribly affected performance!!

We used Predict Wind with a Go and worked fine. We pulled GRIBs via Sailmail, tons of emails, and I've even sent and rec'd 100-200 kB Autocad drawings with it.

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2 hours ago, El Borracho said:

Hard to believe that that is a good antenna installation for the 18 cm Iridium band. I'd keep all metal much further away, and below, such an antenna.

The Go! reported strong signal almost continuously and a few knowledgeable people told me the rails would not be an issue. I wanted to reduce the chance something would snag on it. 

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Just now, Zonker said:

I'm thinking mounting the antenna inside a metal cage probably horribly affected performance!!

We used Predict Wind with a Go and worked fine. We pulled GRIBs via Sailmail, tons of emails, and I've even sent and rec'd 100-200 kB Autocad drawings with it.

Well it's hardly a metal cage. 

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The signal is VERY weak. We found the built in antenna on the Go, even sitting on deck, would give very iffy results.

It would be easy to mount the antenna on the upper rail and do a test. Something is clearly wrong with your installation, with lots of people using Go with Predict Wind every day.

What type of antenna cable did you use? Was it premade LM-400 type?

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1 minute ago, Zonker said:

The signal is VERY weak. We found the built in antenna on the Go, even sitting on deck, would give very iffy results.

It would be easy to mount the antenna on the upper rail and do a test. Something is clearly wrong with your installation, with lots of people using Go with Predict Wind every day.

What type of antenna cable did you use? Was it premade LM-400 type?

100% agree the built in antenna is useless. The feedline was a custom made (by the vendor) LMR-400UF (ultra flexible), I think it's about 22 feet long. If the Go! didn't consistently report strong signal I would agree with you. 

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On 10/12/2021 at 9:57 PM, George Dewey said:

I had, and still have, the Predict Wind Professional package. But that is not relevant, it was not Predict Wind's fault. Yes the antenna was properly mounted, and the feedline was actually larger, lower loss, than is typically recommended, and no longer than needed. For most of the voyage the Go reported full strength signal.

 

 

All that metal around the antenna can't be good.  Also, that connector should have self-amalgamating tape (see Stan's article : http://honeynav.com/vhf-and-ais-masthead-antenna-installation-and-coax-testing ).  I think that antenna has a (TNC?) connector on the bottom, so it looks like there is a external adapter.  At those frequencies, every connector adds loss (and risk of leaks) and should be avoided.

 

I'd be interested to know what your symptoms were.  If it's intermittent, it could be the installation.  If it didn't work at all, it could be "user error".  I spend a few weeks w/ a Go a while ago and it's a strange device and takes getting used to. Eg : to work w/ a smartphone, I had to turn off the WWAN modem (put the phone in "airplane mode" and turn on the Wi-Fi).

 

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4 hours ago, George Dewey said:

The Go! reported strong signal almost continuously and a few knowledgeable people told me the rails would not be an issue. I wanted to reduce the chance something would snag on it. 

Strong signal is not the same as a good reliable signal. Whomever told you that nearby metal, or metal above, is not an issue is not being honest. Metal like that would be a perfectly good reason for poor performance. I’d try for nothing above and a foot all around. 
 

With my Iridium handset I found little difference between the remote antenna and holding the handset with antenna vertical seated below. Sailmail GRIB downloads were about 90 percent successful. When one failed I simply tried a few minutes later. 

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I used an Iridium Go this spring on trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Maine. I bought the package from PredictWind with the antenna. I never ended up installing the antenna and just put the iridium go on deck under the dodger 2 times a day. It is slow downloading big grib files and the routing plan on the PredictWind Offshore app ( 15-20min) email and text messages are much quicker. It worked flawlessly and helped us avoid a nasty storm. On a long passage you have plenty of time, we would set it to grab files and check it an hour later and it was ready to go. I liked that you can get the package on a month by month basis and turn it off any time. To turn it back on you have to get a new SIM card ( $10) 

if anyone wants to buy an antenna and cable for the iridium I’d be happy to give you a good deal. They say it makes it even easier to down load with antenna, not sure why GD had so much trouble with his. I did find that the PredictWind customer service was great to deal with for questions and tips and tricks. They are all sailors with lots of offshore experience. 

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