Sunday, October 20, 2013

SSB Battle Continues - Wounds Are Surfacing

We are still trouble shooting the SSB trying to get better reception.  Some days I hear about half of the boats checking in and net control.  Other days I don't hear anything.  Lots of cruisers have been trying to help with suggestions.  Checking the connections and grounding was suggested by several people.  Of course, but that is easier said than done.  Checking the connection at the backstay antenna was easy as it's in the cockpit.  "Yes, looks good."  Checking the connection at the AT130 tuner is a totally different story.  It's located in the far stern of our boat on the starboard side.  The only access is through a very small hatch in the back of the aft cabin - the spare cabin.  For fellow cruisers, you know what this means.  For those that are not liveaboards, it's the storage area of the boat.  We call it the garage on s/v Honey Ryder.  Imagine you main breaker box being located in the very far corner of your garage or basement behind all the stuff you store in there.  Now imagine it isn't just on a wall but in a secret compartment through a small opening.  I honestly don't know how they got it in there originally.  I suspect it was added as the boat was being built.  Seriously, because the copper grounding strips are attached to the hull and partially painted along with the fiberglass.
Tom on a previous project - access hatch in the background

Anyway, in the battle to master the SSB, we needed to check that connection so last night after a fortifying dinner, we started the process.  First we moved all the stuff out of our garage into the salon.  Then Tom removed the panel.  He could sort of feel the connection but he couldn't reach it to work.  The hatch opening was too small.  I was able to partially climb in through the hatch by putting one shoulder in at a time.  It really would have been better to have a 10 year old at this point in the project.  Where is the "Rent a Kid for Small Places" number when you need it!  I keep misplacing that number. 
This hatch was our only way to access the AT 130 SSB tuner
Once in there I had to crank around sideways and wedge myself up against the hull, resting on the exhaust thru hull at a slight down angle (with the hose clamps sticking straight out and into me of course) while resting my left hip bone on the sharp fiberglass hatch opening and the rest of my legs out in the aft cabin.  In the mean time, Tom dug around in the port cockpit locker - deep down and found the cooper grounding over there.  It was all attached, painted into the fiberglass in as well and looking good.   Once we opened the hatch to see what was what we just dove in.  There was no planning.  We just grabbed tools and dug in - I will expand on this later. 
It's the 3 tiered circle thing - it's actually cone shaped
The connection was a little corroded.  Honestly, I was hoping it would be really corroded, or loose or dangling, because then we would have had a big "Ah-Ha, that is why we are getting so much static." but there wasn't.  However, I was in there so I went ahead and cleaned the connection just in case the SSB is that sensitive.  This connection comes up directly under our stern cockpit coming.  I couldn't get my hand directly up to disconnect it from the angle I was at so I had to reach up and around the exhaust hose.  There was only room to turn the crescent wrench 1/4 turn each time.  Oh Joy!  Just as I was starting to worry about the nut dropping down into......Awe CRAP!  Yes, it dropped down into the bilge.  Argh!  Tom climbed back down into the port cockpit locker, across the battery bank and stretched to the far side toward me and blindly started feeling for it as I guided him...."more this way, more that way - oh...I mean port 1/4 inch, forward, starboard 1/2, aft.  Got it!"  Bonus, he found two washers as well. 
Cooper ground connection

By now I was feeling like an assistant in a magic show...."Now I will cut my assistant Sabrina in half" - my left hip was killing me and it felt like my spleen was about to burst from the pressure of laying across the hatch opening.  *I don't actually know if my spleen is on my left side.  I just know I am NOT a Chinese contortionist and I really can't be doing things like this.
Connection at the top of the tuner
With the connection clean and greased up with silicone grease (the kind for electric connections) I tried putting it all back together.  Oh but first, I put down a towel so that if I dropped anything, it wouldn't roll into the bilge.  See -I'm learning.  I carefully put it all back together but the nut wouldn't go on.  I tried and tried.  By now my legs outside the compartment were shaking, I was bleeding from a couple of good snags on various hose clamps and right hand had a open wound from rubbing across the top of the exhaust hose while working the crescent wrench.  It wouldn't screw on.  It was the wrong size nut.  I assumed the nut I saw in the bilge was the right one.  Turns out it was another nut.   Who knows where the SSB nut bounced off to.  Tom got another nut and I eased back into place and tried again.  It went on.  Woo Hoo!  Now the tightening, slowly 1/4 of a turn at a time reaching over the exhaust hose.  I could only get it so tight.  I backed out and somehow Tom cranked himself around on his back and wedge 1/3 of the way in the hatch to check it.  He declared it was on good enough.  I stood checking my wounds when I started to itch.  Oh, no.  Remember when I said once we got the hatch open we just dove in?  Well, I should have changed into a long sleeved shirt or even a turtleneck.  I had microscopic, invisible pieces of fiberglass all over my arms, neck and face.  Fiberglass rash.  I spend the rest of the evening and up to shower time this morning scratching because of fiberglass rash.  Today the full extend of the wounds surfaced.  They are numerous on this particular SSB fight but at least now we can eliminate the thought/worry of a loose and or corroded wire at the tuner.  And please don't comment or email me "have you read the instruction manual."  Tomorrow we battle on.   


  1. Finding the wrong nut in the bilge is an instant classic. Hope the effort makes a difference....

  2. Oh gosh, that sounds miserable! I hope all those injuries are good for something and that the blasted thing works better now -- but I'm not holding my breath. On the positive side, it does make for a good story. ;-) Sorry....

  3. "Rent a Kid for Small Places" Hahaha