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Ground (counterpoise) for your SSB

Cayenne, which has served as fleet communications vessel for several Pacific Cups and has been described as "the strongest signal I have ever heard" among the fleet, uses the following steps:


1.  Ignore Dynaplate for the junk that it is. (My Opinion)

2.  Try to place your antenna tuner as near the antenna as you can.  For us, this meant placing it under the cockpit near the thing that passes through the hull to connect to the antenna wire.

3.  Counterpoise (ground) as follows:

    a.  Run copper tape to the two through-hulls used as drains.  Scrunkle it around the drain and secure with hose clamp.  There are those that say this will be enough.  It creates an electrical connection to the entire ocean.

    b.  Run copper tape up to a place where you can bond it to a stanchion.  An electrical connection to the lifelines creates a lovely counterpoise.

    c.  If you feel like it, bond in a few other things.

4.  The magic:  After you have added your ground to a certain amount of ground, fire up your ssb and hit the tune button.  You will hear the clickety-click as the tuner balances the ground and antenna for a given frequency.  THEN add about ten feet of aluminum foil to the overall setup and TOSS IT IN THE SEA.  Hit tune again.  If it goes clickety-click, it means that yes, you were able to add more effective ground.  If not, you have created all the ground that is of any use and you are done.  You do not NEED to max out, but it does help.


MIchael Moradzadeh

Cayenne P40, 1984


Phil Sherwood adds:

I installed a ground plane (counterpoise) per a Gordon West article I read. The copper strip runs from the SSB radio installed at the nav station down to the starboard water tank, where it attaches to one of the inspection-plate hold-down bolts.

From there it runs down and under the cabin sole to the aft-most little bilge compartment where the through-hulls and seacocks for the engine raw water intake and galley salt water intake are, a run of only about 4 or 5 feet. It then attaches to the bronze galley salt water seacock.

The tank itself probably doesn't have quite the surface area square footage to be a good counterpoise by itself and might even be superfluous given the copper's connection to the seacock. But the part from the nav station to the water tank was already installed and in good shape, so I left it in place. The part from the tank to the seacock was very easy to install.

The antenna tuner, which is mounted to the inside of the transom just starboard of the backstay chainplate, is grounded to the rudder cage with a hefty (#8 or #10) wire.

The setup, which includes an Icom 706 MkIIG radio and AH-4 antenna tuner -- seems to work fine. People on various marine and ham radio nets have said my signal is strong and clear. The setup gets around the hassle of running copper strips all over the place and the undesirability of having a bronze plate mounted on the exterior below the waterline. It won't work if you have marelon through-hulls, of course.

According to Gordon West, by attaching to a through-hull you're essentially using the ocean as the counterpoise. Here's the link:

Oh, and it doesn't matter if the copper turns green. The electrons don't care what color the copper is as they run along its surface. You just need to maintain a continuous length of copper, wherever it leads, and have only to clean off the green stuff if you have to solder in a patch somewhere.


Phil (KE7RLW)
s/v Cynosure
stuck in Mazatlan for a while w/ transmission repair
"Oh Br'er Fox, please don't throw me in that briar patch!"

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