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Author Topic: First HF Station: FT-857D  (Read 6063 times)
KF7GFL
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Posts: 44




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« on: July 19, 2010, 06:30:14 PM »

I know this topic comes up quite a bit, but as we are all different, we have different criteria for our own "first" HF radio setup. I passed my General ticket back in November but had other financial commitments until now. I can finally start putting things together.

My situation is a little unique in that I work in the San Francisco area and only fly home on weekends. I live on my sailboat during the week and am looking for a small radio. After doing a lot of comparing, I have decided on the Yaesu FT-857D. I will wire it directly the boat's batteries and don't need a power supply. That just leaves the antenna configuration to sort out.

I work with the local ARES group and am looking at an inexpensive 2-band J-pole (for 144/440 MHz). For HF, I plan to do a bit of experimenting with the plethora of designs out there. I have a degree in Electrical Engineering and plan to use it. Some antennas will work better than others on a sailboat and so I am looking for an inexpensive SWR/Tuner. I am thinking of the MFJ-904H (because of its smaller size) or the MFJ-949E.

I plan to listen to the sailing SSB nets (phone) and passing away the evenings doing something other than watching TV. I don't have a lot of experience and so I want to try a sampling of a little bit of everything. While I don't know CW now, I have lots of times in the evening to study and may want to pick that up. My son currently has his Tech ticket, but will be upgrading to General within the next two weeks while at the National Scout Jamboree on the East Coast. It would be fun to talk to him in Utah during the week (our home station is a topic for a later date). Am I missing anything? Any comments will be appreciated.

Matt
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WX7G
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« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2010, 01:45:05 PM »

The FT-857D is an ideal radio for you. I have one in the car and like it just fine. 

A a small manual antenna tuner such as the MFJ-901B will allow you to turn just about anything into an antenna.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2010, 04:01:01 PM by DAVE CUTHBERT » Logged
AG6WT
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Posts: 448




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« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2010, 05:39:05 PM »

Take a look at SGC's HF Users Guide book:

http://www.sgcworld.com/PubInfoPage.html

It has tips on how to install marine HF antennas and importantly has as discussion of how to get a good ground on a boat.  If you want to do something simple like using the back stay as a random wire, you must have a good ground. The information is slanted towards SGC's line of auto tuners but is still applicable to manual tuners.

Also, check in to the N6NFI repeater on 2-meters. It is a very active repeater and there are plenty of people who can help. If it sounds dead, announce your call and someone will answer. Many locals monitor while at work or doing chores around the house.

Good luck,
Ray KJ6AMF
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KF7GFL
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« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2010, 10:09:04 AM »

Ray - Thanks for the information. There are a number of articles out there specific to Ham radio and sailing. I want to try a number of different antenna configurations (using the backstay as a random wire is one of them) and figure out what works best for me.

WX7G - I figured a good antenna tuner like the MFJ-901B is a necessity for what I am doing and I appreciate the recommendation.

Matt
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KE7UFQ
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Posts: 44




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« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2010, 11:14:06 AM »

Matt,
Congratulations on upgrading! I have a Yaesu 897 and I love it. I also have an MFJ-945E that runs a G5RV.
http://www.mfjenterprises.com/Product.php?productid=MFJ-945E
And it works well.

You mentioned an inexpensive J-pole antenna. I have an Arrow Dual Band J-pole and I love it.
http://www.arrowantennas.com/osj/j-pole.html

I have it in the attic of my house and it works very, very well.

73,
Jamie KE7UFQ
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WX7G
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« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2010, 01:55:48 PM »

For field day operation we have loaded one of the side stays for three years and have used dipoles for two years. The side stays work fine on 80-10 meters. We load it against the keel. I don't know that a dedicated monopole would work any better. NEC simulation shows such heavy coupling between all of the rigging and any vertical antenna that it hardly matters what you connect to the tuner.
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KF7GFL
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« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2010, 10:35:31 AM »

WX7G - Thanks for the input on using a side stay. I actually read about a guy who used his backstay as his antenna (without insulating it from the rest of the rigging) and toe rails for ground. I plan to try a number of options and find out what works best. While in the marina, I can easily set up an inverted-V. I also plan to try various dipole configurations. It will also be fun to see what works best while sailing.

The current recommended method of installing marine SSB antennas on sailboats is to cut and insulate the backstay (a very important wire to support the mast, for those that are not familiar with sailboats) as sort of a random wire antenna. That sounds risky and I think that has a lot of sailors looking for other types of solutions. I have an article in an upcoming sailing magazine about Ham radio and would like to follow it up with some suggestions for antennas. That means I need to do some research first. I would hate to write about something I haven't verified works.

Matt
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WX7G
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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2010, 08:25:52 AM »

We ran a NEC simulation of the sail boat with all of the rigging. Feeding the side stay results in an omindirectional radiation pattern on 160, 80, and 40 meters. On 20 meters and above the pattern gets wild with deep nulls and high angle lobes. That is why we tried a dipole 20 meter dipole on two field days and a quad element on another. I have to say that it is difficult to compare the antennas with a year between each one but our field day scores were a bit higher during the side stay field days.

The side stay is certainly a convenient antenna. If you can get to the bolt inside the boat run that to a tuner. A wide range (t-type) manual tuner - the MFJ-901B - worked well. An autotuner did not like tuning the stay.

We run 5 watts on CW in the 1C class and that's a good test of antenna effectiveness.
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VA7CPC
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« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2010, 09:33:35 PM »

FWIW (I'm late to the party -- don't usually monitor this forum) --

The FT-857 and IC-706 are very good choices -- all bands, all modes, very compact, separable head.  I believe the FT-857 is the cheaper of the two, now.  You will want a narrow IF filter if you do serious CW work.

You might try using a coax-fed dipole.  Tie the lower end to the stern pulpit, and hoist the upper end toward the mast.  It'll be a "not-quite-vertical" dipole, with good low-angle radiation (if you're over salt water).

There has been considerable discusson of the setup in the Seven Seas Cruising Assn "Communications" forum, with Bill Trayfors as its leading advocate:

www.ssca.org  [click on "discussion forum"]

I've used one for testing on my 36' sailboat, and it works well.  Bill has some construction techniques that make it last a long time in the marine environment.

For regular HF use, I insulated my backstay.  Stay-Lock insulators have a pretty good reputation, unlike many swaged insulators; they're expensive.  My counterpoise is several wires (of different lengths) running from the tuner (in the aft cabin, at the base of the backstay), forward along the toerails, to the bow.  That's not supposed to be enough ground plane, but it's worked OK for me with an SG-230 autotuner.

I use my VHF masthead antenna for 2m work.  I haven't measured the SWR, and operate my IC-706 at half power on VHF.  You'll hit _all_ the repeaters, way out.

If you haven't been warned about high noise levels in marinas, I'll do it now.  Expect S8 - S9 noise from battery chargers and inverters on surrounding boats.  If you want to work SSB, leave the dock.  You may be able to work CW and digital modes through the noise.

                 Charles    ("Right Galah", 36' Morgan Out Island)

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