31 July 2010

Testing the radio

After Carol spent a few hours doing the last few minor (yet annoying of course) tasks to finish the SSB such as run the copper foil from the tuner and put the ring connector on the GTO-15 antenna line, we opened Airmail and on the first try we sent an email. Of course, it took us a dozen more tries to connect to send the second and we have a learning curve ahead of us to figure out how to improve our sound. We knew we needed some more ferrite chokes (as I understand, these minimize stray RF from wires and thus reduce noise) and we definitely will be picking a few to fill out the ones we have on various cords.

Our biggest RF noise producer are our inverter and our water pump. Perhaps our second largest RF noise producers are both our main GPS and our USB puck style GPS and our wind/depth instruments. We get small amounts of noise from just about everything else. Our fridge only seems to cause a chirping sound but not a lot of static. We added a small sticky by the SSB power button reminding us to turn the fridge back on so we don't defrost it accidentally. Email seems more robust to RF noise than voice transmission/reception. For example, we can still send/receive email if we are inverting or if the water pump goes on.

Still, the first email went out with a copper strap running from the tuner to the middle of the boat. No thru-hull, no water tanks, no 100 sq ft of copper. We tested our signal with a friend and it improves in strength when we touched the copper strap to the thru hull and it is strongest with both the thru hull and our two water tanks tied in. We plan to install it that way. For now we are just touching the copper to the thru hull when we want to transmit and then removing it when finished.

So far, we've checked in with radio nets originating in Sidney & Port Alberni, BC in Anchorage, AK, we can hear boats checking into the Pacific Seafarers from as far as Hawaii and the S. Pacific and we checked in during the warm up of that net (based in Hawaii) and they could hear us. We seem to have figured out the email system a bit more, are connecting more regularly and more easily and are downloading text weather and grib (image) weather files.

More on the weather files and the nets later, but it works!

- Livia & Carol

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