More on SSB gear

To the editor: I am writing to add some thoughts to the excellent article on HF SSB by Jeff Williams (Still holding its own, July/August 2012). Williams receives high marks for his support of this vital technology: it’s not yet time to trade the SSB for a satellite-based device. In addition, he provides some specific and appropriate information on SSB installation such as heeding conductor size by using the round-trip distance between a power supply and the radio.  

Installing an SSB is still considered by many to be more art than science, although why that is so mystifies me. SSBs were introduced in the 1950s so the technology is mature and well-understood. Nevertheless, books and online resources provide the same misinformation that has permeated the field for many years. Williams offers the first reasonable explanation I’ve seen in awhile.  

I’d like to draw attention to two resources that shed some light on the installation topic: Any radio articles by Gordon West, and the new (published in April 2012) paperback book by the appropriately named Terry Sparks, Icom IC-M802, Starting from Scratch. Mentioning this book in no way lessens the importance of products made by other manufacturers. I happen to own this radio and so sought information on its installation. The book is generic enough to be of value to installers of other models by other makers.  

In addition to these two resources, I’d like to introduce readers to two devices that will make installation easier and performance better. One is the GAM/McKim split lead antenna and the other is the KISS counterpoise.

The GAM/McKim split lead antenna eliminates the need to cut the backstay to install insulators, and produces excellent results. This antenna has been on the market for many years and has a proven track record.

The KISS counterpoise is easy to install and that produces excellent signal strength. The KISS is simply laid in the hull somewhere near the antenna tuner and connected to it. Done! The KISS performs much like the radial system used in terrestrial ham radio installations so although a fairly new product, it’s based on tried and true engineering. Since it does not need any inductive or capacitive connection to seawater, a marine SSB can even be used when “on the hard.” Pretty cool.

The intention of this note is to make readers aware of new developments in the marine SSB industry and how they can affect their own installations. It’s 2012 and we need to reduce the confusion surrounding the installation of a marine SSB.  

— William Ennis, a retired Alaska high school physics teacher, cruises with his wife on board Wings, their Passport 40. Wings will join the 2013 Pacific Puddle Jump and its SSB will be the main communications tool.  

By Ocean Navigator