K0GKJ – Just Another Ham
The New QTH – A Floating Shack

Boat QTH Progress

Since we were at anchor away from home for a couple of days, the YL pursued her favorite on-the-hook passion (read) as I pursued mine (putz on projects, one of which was making progress on my radio installation).

Installing my Icom AH-4 antenna tuner (coupler) was priority one for me now that I had materials on board to work with.

Four priorities for this part of installing my HF and VHF QTH aboard:

  1. weatherproof installation (tuner and all connections to it),
  2. close to the end of my 45 foot end-fed wire antenna (a piece of sailboat rigging called a backstay, once insulated from the rest of the rig – but that’s another phase of this project I’ll post later),
  3. out of the way, protected from physical impact, but easy to pull out for visual inspection of all connections, and
  4. the best RF ground connection I could manage with my feeble brain and diminishing resources.

First, I assembled the tools necessary for the job.

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I had used a plunge cutter (lower left in pic above) to cut a slit in my port cockpit lazarette (locker) for the 20 mil (16 ounce) 3” wide copper RF ground strap to pass through. Worked handily!

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Next, I wanted to bolt the tuner to a removable shelf (slides out) so I could periodically inspect the ground and antenna connections for corrosion.

Two years ago, I had constructed these shelves out of maintenance free house decking material, and these hold up great in the hostile salt water marine environment, and a helluva lot cheaper than anything with the word “marine” associated with it!

One of these shelves, composed of two planks, slides out between two horizontal pieces of deck railing material glued ‘n screwed to the lazarette bulkheads. This shelf, removed, is shown below with the tuner bolted onto it with 316 stainless wood screws, washers and lock washers:

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I wanted ample clearance around the tuner, and to provide it with good protection from locker stuffers as well as the weather. Even though the AH-4 is ostensibly weatherproof (it did survive three Minnesota winters under the eaves of my house before we moved south), I wanted all my connections to it to be below decks and out of the weather.

Now being a simple guy who likes to figure out simple solutions to complex problems, one of the more interesting puzzles to piece out was how to “fold” my rather stiff copper strapping to cleanly route it to the tuner, so I made a paper template based on my wife’s input from her experience sewing. This helped me, fold by fold, twist the copper the right direction the right number of turns,

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Given what copper costs, and how much farther I need to route it through the rest of the boat in order to get it to my bronze block way down in the bilge, and given that I’m not sure if my strap is long enough (30 feet), I only wanted to use the length absolutely needed in the lazarette.

So after figuring out the folding pattern, and twisting the strap in the right direction the right number of times, I attached the end of the strap to the tuner by drilling holes for the RF ground lug and for the mounting bracket:

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burnishing the contact points and using liberal amounts of Ox-Gard:

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I also drilled a hole in the strap and screwed it into the shelf itself as a strain relief since I plan on being able to occasionally slide the entire assembly in and out without disturbing these electrical connections with that movement:

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After I slid the copper strap from below decks into the lazarette (using leather work gloves, obviously – this stuff has SHARP EDGES), via my newly cut slot,

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You can also see where I’ve flattened the first twist into a neat 90 degree “turn” .

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I temporarily slid the shelf into place with the tuner firmly bolted to it. Notice the maintenance-free deck “railing” material (upper left in the pic below) into which the shelf planks slide. Pretty cool, huh?

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After running out of daylight (remember, we’re out in a DARK anchorage away from any lights of civilization),

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and after trying the YL’s patience with my absence “putzing” for hours (no hurry, no worries), I secured the project for the time being, went down below to light some oil lamps for her, start the generator to charge the house battery banks and to eat dinner.

By the way, our house batteries (four Trojan T105 6VDC golf cart batteries) have about a 440 amp-hour capacity. Just running lights, refrigeration, fans, radar (when on), satellite radio/weather, Internet connection, ragchew QSOs, etc, easily eats up 100AH or more in less than twelve hours, so she’s a power-hungry ship, making it necessary to run the generator a couple hours every morning and again a couple hours in the evening while we’re away from the dock and shore power (60A of 110VAC piped aboard from the dock).

But it is fun managing our own little eco-system, including water, electrical power, waste, heat, food, drink, navigation, mechanical systems like two diesel power plants, corrosion, wind power for propulsion, etc.

I am looking forward to the day when we can afford a decent array of solar panels and a wind generator, if for no other reason, to get away from the noise of the diesel genset and the 1.5 liters per hour she burns while hummin’ away feeding the beast !

Like they say, a boat project takes (should take) five times longer than the same project in/on a house. That’s ok – it’s F-U-N, and I know I’m blessed !!

After dinner, I temporarily jumped power to my Icom 746 and connected it to the marine VHF antenna atop my 54 foot (sailboat) mast and made a few 2M contacts:

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I also occasionally hook up my HT (Yaesu VX-8R) to that antenna to fire out our APRS position or to get onto 70CM.

Til next time… be it ever so humble, here’s a view of our (mobile) QTH from the dinghy after returning from a hike ashore the next day. For more info on the boat itself, see www.oursojourn.wordpress.com if interested… also, the ship’s online log can be found at: http://freepdfhosting.com/740b51021b.pdf (pretty boring stuff, though!)

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