Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SSB Battle - Professional Help Has Arrived

Back in the stern I went but this time with long sleeves and gloves

I called in a professional today.  Cory from Triton Marine showed up to take a look at the SSB.  He came aboard and took a quick look at the backstay antenna - "Looks ok."  Next stop was the nav station and SSB.  He went straight to the back of the unit and found one slightly loose connection.  DARN, why didn't I catch that!  Then he took out some sort of tester and connected it to the back of the SSB.  "Whoa!".....the SSB should be registering something like 1.0 or a little over on 8 megahertz and instead ours is registering like 12+.  Then he tested a couple of frequencies, one was so far off the chart it wouldn't register at all.  * I don't know what his machine was and I can't remember what exactly he said he was registering.  He just got straight to testing stuff, explaining as he went.  I was trying to keep up but our nav station is a comfy little space for ONE person.  I didn't want to freak the poor guy out by trying to jam my head in there right next to him to see what specifically he was doing.  And yes, I took my HAM test and got my technicians license but that doesn't mean I remember or know much of the tech stuff.
Looks good but we switched out the cable anyway

"You antenna isn't working.  "I KNEW IT!  I knew something wasn't right!  HA!....then.... Sigh and then slight panic...."Isn't that our backstay and what exactly does he mean "not working?"  Oh no.  Will we have to undo/de-rig the backstay?  Oh no.  I better quit talking to myself in my head and listen to what he is saying now."  Then he unscrewed the 90 degree elbow connector and tested again.  Better.  Turns out those can go bad/breakdown over time.  This is the original install - 1998.  he checked and tested a couple of other things.  Then we discussed how many connections we might have from SSB unit to backstay.  Next was a discussion about how the cable is run.  Long and short of it is he gave us some really terrific ideas of things to check and changes to make.
Not good.  This pulled loose when I unscrewed it at the ceramic insulator. Hum?

BONUS - Triton Marine has done most of the commissioning of most of the Caliber's after hull #150.  They know Calibers.  Once we found this out we started peppering both guys with all sorts of questions about everything Caliber.  They were willing to discuss and guide us on all the things we were throwing their way.  AND here is the amazing part, they were trying to get out of town.... today...right after their call with us!  Seems they have Garmin training the rest of this week in Baltimore.  But he knew from our conversation yesterday on the phone that we are under some time pressure to get the SSB issue figured out, so they stopped by prior to leaving town.  I didn't even know he was coming.  They didn't rush and took the extra time to discuss the other items we came up with.  How kewl is that!  We had our marching orders of items to tackle so I asked him "what do I owe you?"  "Tell you what, just get this stuff checked and changed on the SSB and then I will check back with you next week to follow up and we will worry about it then."  Awesome! 


  1. While having the system "right" essential, do consider that there have been bad solar influences on propagation over the time you have been struggling. You might want to subscribe (if you haven't) to the Space Weather Products reports provided by NWC. We do this to get warnings of potential GPS impacts, but it is critical for HF as well.

  2. I think that meter was "SWR" (standing wave ratio) and measures how much energy is being transmitted versus how much is being reflected back). A value of 1 is ideal and a value of 12 is terrible. The antenna tuner/coupler should compensate for the arrangement of the hardware and adjust depending on the frequency in use. Poor connections are beyond the capability of the tuner to compensate. The best wire to use from the tuner/coupler to the backstay is automobile ignition wire ... high voltage without shield.
    Good luck

    1. Thanks John. I think we are down (vs 1 to 12) but still not where we need to be. But today is another day and we will keep working on it.

  3. He was checking the SWR or Standing Wave Ratio. Essentially, for an antenna to work best it needs to be as close to 1:1 as possible (at least less than 2 to 1 for most antennas and rigs). At 8:1 your signal just isn't getting out and with you transmitting at 100 watts, that much energy coming back down the line could actually damage the transceiver. The automatic antenna tuner can only adjust so much, and if the connections aren't solid, you are starting out in a hole. Sounds like you've got yourselves some good help with Triton, I look forward to seeing how things progress.

    David C., N3XT

    1. Thanks for the input. Yesterday we checked the unit to tuner run of cable. Everything looks good. Now we are trying to find the 90 degree elbow connector (high quality) locally to try that. Cory's test did show it had degraded.