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SSB whip?

PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 2:37 am
by SFBaysailor
So I’m thinking abut communications, and I’d love to have a ham/marine ssb radio aboard. Not really any standing rigging in which to incorporate the wire, so I’m starting to think about installing a Shakespeare multi-band whip immediately in front of the mizzenmast.

Love to hear any thoughts/caveats. Thanks! JEFF

Re: SSB whip?

PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:49 pm
by Castaway
The PO of Castaway had fitted an SSB radio (ICOM), which he used when making Atlantic crossings. The radio was installed by the chart table – forward end of saloon in UK model), with the aerial tuner unit under the side deck and a cable gland for the aerial itself in the low bulwark formed by the hull/deck joint. The aerial wire then ran to an eye at the head of the mizzen mast, attached with some thin stuff and an insulator. To accommodate bending of the mast, near the lower end was a loop, with a rubber mooring snubber attached to the toe rail and the aerial by a shackle at each end. A small block about 2/3rds of the way up allowed a thin halyard for courtesy ensigns, burgees and signal flags – the last rarely used, I have to confess, even though we have removed the SSB set. Poor communicators!

Because of the flexible fastening, if the boom swings forward to touch the wire, there is no stress or damage. The wire is plastic coated stainless steel multi-strand and worked quite well, the coating provided adequate insulation, and it was strong enough to provide a handhold when boarding from the quayside. We have a similar set up on the other side to stow the running backstay when we are not using the staysail.

wave.jpg
SSB aerial to starboard, backstay to port
wave.jpg (166.89 KiB) Viewed 785 times


This set-up has covered many thousands of miles, both offshore and coastal cruising, without any failure. It is much less vulnerable than a whip antenna, and gives an aerial length of about 10m. Since we still have wishbone booms, there is insufficient room to mount anything between the two masts, as there is a slight overlap. and the antenna would not have survived a tack or gybe.

The SSB was handy for us when the BBC World service included European news and features, but our coastal lifestyle means that we get any station we want on the internet, nowadays, hence the removal of our transceiver. For actual reliable communication, I think that a satellite phone is the method of choice for ocean cruisers, expensive though they still are.

Re: SSB whip?

PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 2:43 pm
by bad
We are pro SSB. Weather data, email and nets seem like a benefit, though satelite com is more straightforward. Some local boats here are burying the antenna cable in the 12 strand dyneema of their backstay (Moore 24s, etc). For freestanding masts, the elastic connection at one end makes perfect sense. To me, hoisting it on a flag halyard during use seems like a good solution. If you want something permanent, there should be a gap between the mizzen mast and the rail where the main leach/boom would not catch it, and the mizzen boom can not interfere then sailing deep. Else maybe use the topping lift? Part of the antenna would be shielded inside the the mast and I have no idea how that effects performance.

Let us know what you do because we still need to install ours. Also, I have a new ICOM M700 Pro for sale with a A130 tuner. It was a purchased be a West Marine employee who never got the boat going, died, and sold in anger by the widow. Still in the shipping box. We went with a head unit which is easier to install in our space.

Re: SSB whip?

PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2020 5:19 pm
by mike cunningham
Castaway wrote:The PO of Castaway had fitted an SSB radio (ICOM), which he used when making Atlantic crossings. The radio was installed by the chart table – forward end of saloon in UK model), with the aerial tuner unit under the side deck and a cable gland for the aerial itself in the low bulwark formed by the hull/deck joint. The aerial wire then ran to an eye at the head of the mizzen mast, attached with some thin stuff and an insulator. To accommodate bending of the mast, near the lower end was a loop, with a rubber mooring snubber attached to the toe rail and the aerial by a shackle at each end. A small block about 2/3rds of the way up allowed a thin halyard for courtesy ensigns, burgees and signal flags – the last rarely used, I have to confess, even though we have removed the SSB set. Poor communicators!

Because of the flexible fastening, if the boom swings forward to touch the wire, there is no stress or damage. The wire is plastic coated stainless steel multi-strand and worked quite well, the coating provided adequate insulation, and it was strong enough to provide a handhold when boarding from the quayside. We have a similar set up on the other side to stow the running backstay when we are not using the staysail.

wave.jpg


This set-up has covered many thousands of miles, both offshore and coastal cruising, without any failure. It is much less vulnerable than a whip antenna, and gives an aerial length of about 10m. Since we still have wishbone booms, there is insufficient room to mount anything between the two masts, as there is a slight overlap. and the antenna would not have survived a tack or gybe.

The SSB was handy for us when the BBC World service included European news and features, but our coastal lifestyle means that we get any station we want on the internet, nowadays, hence the removal of our transceiver. For actual reliable communication, I think that a satellite phone is the method of choice for ocean cruisers, expensive though they still are.


There is an ongoing debate within my sailing club re SSB vs Sat. I own an Iridium Go and it is fantastic for voice and data (albeit low BW data) with a generous data plan. Downside is if you have to abandon the boat, you have several vulnerable bits to remove and protect from the elements (the GO, your cell phone/tablet). But having several devices on the boat I was able to dedicate one to weather reception - my laptop, and another the voice comm - my phone/tablet but these could be interchanged if needed. I also had a burner phone on board (old smart phone) which I used as a backup. All my Iridium, nav plotter and utility apps were loaded on all devices so I had a deep bench if the fertilizer hit the fan.

I really felt it was a great set up. I have an external antenna which I had connected up of course, but I did some experiments and was able to get a useable signal inside the cabin just using the little Go stub antenna on the unit.

With regard to SSB, the main pro argument seems to be community. That is the ability to have a group conversation and share weather, status, etc. And the airwaves are free. I felt the cost and complexity and power needs of the SSB purchase and installation were more than I wanted to deal with. My intermittent use made the subscription model a better option in my case. I have an inreach an epirb and a plb aboard as well so I feel like safety is pretty well covered as long as I grab one of these on the way out the door. My plb is permanently affixed to my PFD so taking the PLB is pretty much a given, even if my exit stage left is really falling overboard stage left... God forbid.

Re: SSB whip?

PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 6:10 pm
by GeoffSchultz
I've had a SSB on BlueJacket since 1999 and use it extensively. I have a 24' Shakespeare whip antenna mounted to the transom and have had zero problems. Many people comment on what a great signal we have. I do suggest that you paint or epoxy it, as it will get rough/splinterey after a few years. I use Dynaplates for grounding.

SSB communications and satellite communications have their own uses. We have an Iridium Go that we use for data/text/e-mail/phone-calls, but that doesn't replace the SSB which gets used daily for Nets and listening to broadcasts like Chris Parker's weather. I recently replaced all of the electronics on the boat after a lighting strike, and didn't think twice about putting another SSB on. I did ditch the Pactor.

-- Geoff (sailing in Belize)

Re: SSB whip?

PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2020 2:17 am
by SFBaysailor
Thanks for the feedback! I don’t think it’s possible for me to mount a whip on the transom, as my mizzen wishboom overhangs, and my idea of trying to sneak it in front of the mizzen doesn’t seem viable either.
When the time comes, I’ll probably depend on Iridium, but I’ll bring along my Elecraft KX3 for fun. I’ve had digital contacts from the Bay Area to Japan with 4 watts and a magnet wire thrown in a tree. Not for critical comma, but fun.

Cheers!

Jeff