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Author Topic:   New Radio Installation: Some Observations
jimh posted 05-21-2007 12:09 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
I installed a new radio recently, and here are a few observations from the process.

Why a new radio? The old radio was not a Class-D DSC radio. It was a DSC radio, but it was only in compliance with the older and less stringent RTCM SC-101 recommendations. I wanted to upgrade to Class-D to be in compliance with the Coast Guard's minimum recommendation for a VHF Marine Band radio. The old radio was also not capable of receiving DSC messages and converting them into a NMEA-0183 serial data output for use by other devices. This meant it could not do position polling (in which a remote vessel's position can be received and relayed to a chart plotter for display). I really wanted to experiment with that feature.

To get these improvements I had to get a new radio. But in the several years since I had purchased a radio there has been an amazing price drop. The new radio I got had many more features and was about half the price of the old radio!

The new radio is a Standard-Horizon GX-1500-S QWEST model. I ordered the radio in the black enclosure. You may recall I had a public discussion on this topic and black seemed to be the most popular choice. I had previously had a string of white radios--mainly ICOM radios whose white color is a great match for Boston Whaler Desert Tan gel coat--so I decided to try the black enclosure for a change. To tell the truth, I have already had second thoughts, but since the radio is mainly hidden out of sight and not mounted on deck, it is not a big deal. I will probably learn to live with the black.

The next thing I noticed was how much bigger the new radio is than the old. It is about 1.5-times the overall size. It's wider, taller, and deeper. It takes up more room on the shelf. Of course, this means the display is larger, too, and that is nice. But I would not put this radio in the compact category.

Another difference: the power cables on the Standard-Horizon are smaller gauge than on the old ICOM radio. They seemed a bit on the small side--I liked the larger wire on the ICOM. But the power cord connector is much nicer on the Standard-Horizon. It is a Deutsch plug, a nice plastic connector with a ribbed multi-layer rubber gasket to keep out moisture. These connectors are used extensively on Bombardier motors, and they are high-quality connectors. The ICOM had individual bullet and socket connectors for the power cord disconnect.

The ICOM radio also had connectors for the external speaker and the NMEA-0183 connection (which was just a single input). The Standard-Horizon radio has two short cords, about 8-inches long, with a pig tail of tinned wires. There is one cord for the external speaker and a separate cord for the NMEA-0183 inputs and outputs. This arrangement is something of a problem.

I like to have the radio connectorized so that I can remove it. Now I seldom actually remove it--maybe once a year or something like that--but I want it to be easy to unplug and remove. WIth the ICOM I could do this. With the Standard-Horizon I can't until I find some appropriate connector to use on the ends of those pig tails.

The Standard-Horizon radio follows the new recommendation and only allows the Martime Mobile Service Identity to be programmed ONCE. The ICOM let's you program the MMSI twice. After that you have to send the radios back to the factory to be reset if you need to change the MMSI. The fussy nature of the MMSI is intentional. The goal is to keep the radio from being capriciously reprogrammed with an MMSI, perhaps so as to discourage anyone from changing a radio's MMSI and making a false call, then changing the MMSI to a different registrant. I have not programmed the MMSI in my new radio yet. One reason I waited was because of fatigue. When I finally got the installation all finished it was late in the day, I was tired, and I did not want to goof up the MMSI number. There is only one shot at it.

Mounting the new radio required new holes. There is already quite a collection of holes in the shelf from the two previous radios installed in this boat. I fiddled around with locations trying to re-use the most number of existing holes. The best I could do was two holes, so I had to drill two new holes. The supplied mounting screws were too short to fit in my location, so I had to replace them. Fortunately I had a big selection of stainless steel machine screws on hand, and I found four matching screws of the proper length.

I also had to install the microphone hanger bracket. The holes did not line up for this, either, so I added another new hole and re-used an existing one. By the way, I like the ICOM microphone hanger bracket better than the Standard-Horizon microphone hanger bracket. The ICOM has some spring steel in it, while the Standard-Horizon is just plastic.

I have not really gotten around to using the new radio yet, so I cannot report on how it works. I will tell you more about it when I get it programmed with its MMSI, connected to the chart plotter, and exchanging positions with other similarly equipped vessels.

I could not believe how long it took me to install the radio. I must have spent almost two hours on the project. I had to try it in several new locations. One was very promising but would have needed a special mounting bracket to be fabricated--too much work for the moment I decided. I ultimately decided the radio would go on the shelf in the helm console cabinet. This is where Boston Whaler recommended the radio be placed, and I had the previous two radios on this boat there.

The way the microphone cord is connected to the radio is slightly different on the new Standard-Horizon than on the old ICOM. On the new radio the cord comes directly outward from the front panel. On the old radio the mic cord came off at a right angle, going off sideways. This actually was nicer because it meant I could mount the old radio closer to the door of the console. On the new radio I had to move the radio back an inch or two to allow room for the microphone cord to escape getting crushed when the door is closed. That made the display harder to see. All of these little things add up to the total installation and how well it works.

By the way, the sight lines to the radio on the shelf under the helm are somewhat academic concerns. I also have a remote handset for the radio, and I anticipate that it will be used more than the actual radio front panel. No, I did not get the remote handset installed yet, that is to come down the road.

After fiddling with all of this I wondered how anyone can make any money in the business of being an electronics installer. Most customers would faint if you charged them for all this time. And I still have a lot to do on the installation. I don't have the remote speaker connected yet, and I don't have the NMEA cord fitted with a disconnect or connector. Those will probably take a while to figure out and install.

Well, if you are still reading this rambling account, bravo. It seemed like there were a lot of little decision involved in this radio installation and it sure took a lot of time. Now none of these things had anything to do with figuring out stuff about the radio or electronics. I am pretty much a total radio wizard as far as that goes. All the time was eaten up with mechanical, esthetic, and functional considerations about the radio. Could I see the display? Would the door close? Can I easily hang up the microphone? There were only about ten seconds spent figuring out the NMEA connections. They were very straightforward, and they all appear to be working.

I hope to finish up the radio install next weekend, then get out on the water and see how it works.

Jefecinco posted 05-21-2007 09:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
Jim,

I saw your query on Panbo's comments section and was curious about your reaction to the Standard Horizon radio. I'm looking forward to your comments.

I'm in the market for a new VHF radio as mine lacks the Class D features. I installed a Lowrance combination display unit this year and want to use the DSC features.

There seems to be an issue with using Icom VHFs with Lowrance displays. Something about the Lowrance will only recognize an older version of the DSC language and Icom speaks only a later version???

I like my old Icom but will probably have to purchase a VHF that speaks "Lowrance" as Lowrance seems unwilling to do a software upgrade to speak the "new" language.

Butch

bluewaterpirate posted 05-21-2007 09:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
Has nothing to do ICOM it's Lowrance their units don't support two way DSC functionality they can only send data to the VHF. ICOM radios recieve NMEA data from Lowrance withour any issues.

Tom

jimh posted 05-21-2007 08:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Jeff--I will soon be doing some testing with the Class-D DSC radio in regard to the accusations made from the fellow mentioned in the PANBO.COM article, He also wrote to me several months ago (via series of emails) with the same allegations. I have been waiting to test them myself before bringing up the topic. I will be offering a first-hand report on the Standard-Horizon Class D GX-1500-S radio with regard to potential problems with DSC traffic preventing reception on other channels. At that time I will be able to provide some direct evidence one way or the other. Until then my preference is to NOT spread information which appears to not have much backing and is offered with very little in the way of evidence.

Tom--I had read that there was a problem with LOWRANCE chart plotters not having much support for position polling. One of the reasons I selected a Standard-Horizon radio--among many other reasons--was I also have a Standard-Horizon chart plotter. I reasoned that if there were any combination of a radio and a chart plotter that would be able to be integrated into a DSC Position Polling system, it would be units which were both made by Standard-Horizon. Since I already had the chart plotter, I decided to get the radio of the same brand. I was also assured by Standard-Horizon that my older chart plotter, a CP-150, would be up to the task. I will let you know how that works out.

I also thought the radio had some great features for the price. That was a big plus, too.

themclos posted 05-24-2007 10:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for themclos  Send Email to themclos     
Jim,

I look forward to reading about your progress "connectorizing" your new radio. I am about to purchase the same model radio (opting for the white) and I prefer to remove my electronics from the boat.

I have an older Lowrance LMS-240 GPS/Sonar, and will gladly report on my attempts to integrate these 2 products.

Dan

andygere posted 05-25-2007 02:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
Jim,
It is heartening to know that I am not the only one who agonizes over the tiniest details when modifying my Whaler. Please post some photos of the final installation with the remote hand set so we can enjoy the fruits of your labor. Bye the way, I think all Whaler owners eventually have a well stocked assortment of stainless steel fasteners on hand--but only after making too many trips to the hardware store to get that one last screw!
jimh posted 05-30-2007 01:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I got back on the new radio installation project this weekend. But first I was side tracked on three other related projects.

I had to disassemble my GAM ELECTRONICS ADAP-II antenna base from the Shakespeare 498 extension mast, saw off about four threads from the extension end, and reassemble them. I managed to do this without cutting the transmission line cable, but I came close a few times. The work was worth it. The new installation looks much cleaner. I was inspired by this picture that Seth Campbell sent in:

http://continuouswave.com/whaler/reference/images/GAM/ GAM_trimmed425x547.jpg

The base fits much better on the mast after you trim the mast coupling back a few threads. (I added this to the REFERENCE article about THE GAM antenna installation.)

Next I decided to check the water in the conventional flooded cell lead-acid batteries. I could not recall the last time they were checked. They had sat outdoors all winter (in an unheated storage shed). The one-year-old battery did not need any water. The two-year-old battery needed an ounce or two in each cell. Not having a sealed battery is something of a chore to occasionally check the water, but once a year is not too much trouble. And it is a blessing, in a way, that you can check the water. If you vent from a valve-regulated lead-acid battery there is no way to put the electrolyte back in.

After the batteries were topped off with distilled water, I put the OEM Boston Whaler embossed Desert Tan battery box covers back in place. Then I snugged up the OEM hold down straps, and, for the first time, I properly installed the KevLok Model K437 accessory SAFETY PIN ASSEMBLY. I had never figured out what this thing was supposed to do until just a few days ago when the topic came up in another thread:

http://continuouswave.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/014282.html

Now it was time to charge the batteries. This is when it began to rain, again, as it did most of the three-day holiday weekend here in SE Michigan. I took cover on the porch, where I looked at my miserable outdoor AC outlet with loose cover and ancient two-prong plug which must date from the 1940's. A trip to the hardware store and $10 in parts, and I was back with a new outlet and cover. When I pulled the old one off there was a rat's nest in the outlet box--well not literally but maybe a small field mouse's nest. The 1940's rubber insulated and double cotton covered wiring was in bad shape. I used about 10-feet of friction tape to re-insulate the wiring, and then I installed the new outlet box and cover. About then the rain stopped.

I got the cover off the boat and hooked up the on-board battery charger I installed last Spring. It is a dual-bank charger with about 8-ampere output. I don't have any permanent 120-VAC wiring on the boat, so I just fish out the power cord for the charger and plug it in when I want to top off the batteries. The charger is fairly smart and switches to a conditioning mode after the battery terminal voltage rises. I think it is a good investment. Before any boating trip I leave the charger plugged in for several hours, and this assures me that I have two fully-charged batteries when I get to the launching ramp.

Photo: Battery Chager mounted to bulkhead of Boston Whaler boat.

OK--enough of the side track projects, back to the radio. The project was to install the remote microphone. I opted to get the telephone handset style remote microphone, a Standard-Horizon VH-310. It uses the same cord and connector as the smaller remote hand microphone. The telephone style handset costs a bit more, but I got such an amazing low-price for it using GOOGLE.COM/products/ that I splurged.

The remote handset comes with a very long extension cable. You could use it on a 45-footer to go to the flybridge, or at least it seems like it. I was going to stick much closer to the radio. The next hour or so was spent considering various locations and how difficult it would be to route the remote cable to them. The connector on the radio end of the cable is smaller, and it needs about a 1-inch hole to pass through. I was thinking of leaving the handset in the cabin and putting it on the port side (which is "my" side of the cabin as opposed to the starboard side which belongs to Chris). But it looked like a problem running it across over the companionway as there was not room for the connector to squeeze through a couple of tight spots. I'd have to saw off part of the cabin bulkhead--not good.

Finally I gave up on the cabin and decided to mount the telephone handset in the vicinity of the helm. I found the perfect place for the connector panel. I have this odd switch for my electric fuel primer pump that is mounted on its own escutcheon panel, and the previous installer had cut a huge hole in the helm panel for this switch. The remote microphone connector also has its own escutcheon panel, and it was darn near a perfect match for this other one. I could put the remote microphone connector in place of the fuel primer switch, and move the switch--minus its funky escutcheon--to the electrical panel.

It only took about two minutes to disconnect the fuel primer switch and remove the escutcheon, but then it took over an hour to reinstall it. First I had to find a 15/32-inch drill to enlarge another existing (but now unused) hole in the electrical panel to accommodate the toggle switch. A deep search of the drawer marked "Drills" in my tool room turned up a beautiful 15/32-inch twist drill that looked like it had never been used. And it even had a turned down shaft to fit into my little hand electric drill chuck. This got metal chips all over the cockpit, so I had to haul out the big Shop-Vac to clean up.

The electrical panel is only about 1/8-inch thick aluminum, and the plastic escutcheon was about 1/4-inch thick. This created a problem. The toggle switch has a decorator nut which only threads on a short distance, and with the thinner panel it would not tighten properly. I needed a second nut to thread on the toggle. OK--Where to get a goofy electronic toggle switch nut (which I think is some odd size like 29/64-13 thread) on Memorial Day at 4 p.m.?

I have drawers and drawers full of electronic hardware like that from my old days of amateur radio and gung-ho electronic fabrication in the ham shack--a previous life you might say. But were was all that stuff now? It was out in a shed in the backyard that I had not been into in five years. So off to the shed.

While I had not been a regular visitor to my shed, it seems the squirrels had, in fact they had more or less taken it over. There were signs of squirrel habitation everywhere, but in the debris I did find two sets of Akro-Mills parts drawers, covered in dust and also looking like a mouse motel. Out they came into the light of day, and in 30 seconds I harvested the exact nut I needed from the pile of nut debris the squirrels had left behind. I set aside the parts drawers for more clean up later, and horsed the warped door closed on the shed--we are going to tear it down to make a parking pad for the boat soon.

OK--now I had the nut I needed. I installed the switch. Now just an extra set of hands to tighten it. Into the house--about the 100-th trip of the day back and forth between house and boat, climbing in and out of the trailer each time--to find my assistant, Chris, to tighten the decorative nut on the panel while I hold the switch from behind in the cabin.

Well, Chris was on the telephone, talking to her sister in California. It looked like it might be a while. I went back to the boat to fill in some time while the conversation wound down.

Looking at the underside of the dash and helm panel, I decided I could clean up some of the wiring. Soon I had cut out about 20 Ty-Wrap's, re-routed practically every wire, and installed 30 new Ty-Wraps. This took about an hour, at least.

Eventually my assistant showed up and we tightened the fuel primer switch in place in its new location. Then I moved the wiring back to the switch--more ty-wraps and more tidy-up on the wiring. Now it is almost dinner time and I have not installed the remote mic yet!

At a fast pace the remote microphone connector was installed, and the 25-feet of cable neatly coiled up and stowed away. All that was left was to decide where to install the handset and its hanger bracket.

By the way, the VH-310 handset is pretty cool, and I will tell you more about it as I use it. It has its own volume setting, completely independent of the main volume on the radio. You can run the handset volume up and down with arrow keys. When you have the handset in the cradle, the volume range is loud, almost like a little speaker. There is a small magnet in the cradle, and there must be a magnetically operated switch in the handset. As soon as you move the handset out of the cradle it ducks the volume about 10-dB. This way it won't blow out your ear drum when you hold it up like a telephone. That is very good engineering on Standard-Horizon's part.

By now it was 7 p.m. and dinner had to be cooked. Memorial Day dinner was appropriately nautical: fresh--in the Midwest that means just thawed--Alaskan Sockeye Salmon from the local high-end grocery. No, we did not get the $24-per-pound Copper River branded Sockeye Salmon, but it was darn good, even if half that price and from a less famous river stream. Hey--it probably works out to be cheaper than catching it yourself unless you hit a school of 30-pounders with six guys aboard and limit out.

So I never did settle on the final location of the telephone handset. But this is the beauty of the thing: I just disconnected it, put the rubber cap on the dash panel connector, and took it in the house to play with for the week.

By the way, we did get the boat out and on the water this weekend. We took a short cruise around Orchard Lake on Sunday evening. Everything seemed to work fine, once the fogging oil burned off and all six plugs cleared.

And I did fiddle around a bit with the GX-1500-S radio. I successfully programmed my Marine Mobile Service Identity. And I programmed Dave Buckalew's MMSI into my directory. Now all we have to do is get our boats in range and see if all this DSC science works out!

Sorry--no pictures. But I will get some as soon as I finalize the location for the handset. Right now the prime spot is take up with a bunch of decals from the factory which give you all sorts of warnings and disclaimers. I hate to spoil those 17-year-old decals because they are in pristine condition and give the boat that "new boat" look.

All in all it was a busy weekend, and I managed to not have to drill any new holes in the boat. I reused existing ones, and only had to slightly enlarge one of them. It is a good thing this boat has a lot of pre-existing holes. It takes a lot of nerve to take a drill to a completely blank dash panel and make that first cut into the laminate. I don't know if I could do it without hemming and hawing for a week!


jimh posted 06-10-2007 03:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
After a couple of rainy weekends I picked up the boat and hauled her over to the house for some more electrical fixing up.

First order of business was wiring up the external speaker to the new radio. The GX-1500-S radio is really priced very aggressively, and one of the ways you can shave a few cents off the manufacturing cost is to avoid using connectors. The GX-1500-S does not have connectors for the external speaker or for the NMEA serial port. These two circuits just come out of the back of the radio on two cables and terminate in bare wires. You are left to connect them or add connectors as you see fit.

For the external speaker connection I used Molex connectors--the original Molex style that has been around for decades and is what used to be their main connector line. Now Molex makes a huge number of connectors, so perhaps it is no longer of much information to just call them "Molex" connectors. But anyone who has been working with electronics for a few decades will know what I mean. There is even a Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molex_connector

I think they call them "standard 0.062" connectors now. But they are very inexpensive, and you can assemble them easily. The crimp tool only costs a $20, and even if you don't get the official Molex tool you can find the jaws on most wire stripper tools these days for crimping the pins and sockets.

The main reason I chose a Molex connector is that my external speaker already was wired with one. It is a surplus Motorola MOTRACK mobile radio speaker, a very fine and high-grade communications loudspeaker. It will reproduce the radio audio as loud as you can stand. It was the standard speaker in mobile communications for decades. I don't know where you can buy one new like this one, but it would probably sell for $75. It is an excellent speaker.

My old ICOM radio had a connector for an external speaker--the common 1/8th-inch two-cricuit jack (now often called a 3.5-mm jack). This is a good choice for a remote speaker, and many speakers will be pre-wired with a matching plug.

Once I got the external speaker connected, I was very pleased to hear that the GX-1500-S had enough audio power to blast you right out of the boat. You have to be careful with the volume control now because you could cause hearing damage with this set up.

The NMEA serial cables are still waiting for me to figure out what connector to use. I think the cheapest route will be to use a Mini-DIN circular connector. This is the type used on computer serial ports and peripherals. Apple serial ports on older Macintosh computers used them, as did IBM's PS/2 computer for keyboard and mouse connections. The Mini-DIN is cheap and easy to get, but it is hard to wire. You have to have a miniature soldering tip and use finesse with the heat and solder to make a good installation. For now I left things the way I had them--wired directly to a terminal strip.

Next I decided to clean up the mounting and cable routing for the GPS chart plotter and the SONAR. These two devices had been mounted with somewhat sloppy technique because I had just used some existing screw holes in the helm dash panel. Also the cable path to them was not particularly well done.

The SONAR is a Lowrance X-87. It has very large connectors, which means you have to bore a huge hole in the dash panel to pass the connectors through. The hole is about 1-inch in diameter, and even at that it is a tight fit for the larger of the two Lowrance connectors to pass. When I got this boat these holes (there are two of them) were sealed up with a wad of blue silicon or RTV sealer. I had to break that out because I needed to move the SONAR location, and also because I wanted to completely re-dress and re-run the cables. Leaving a big hole in the helm dash was a mistake, because it always leaked water into the shelf of the locker below it. To fix this I added clamshell vent covers over the holes, with the opening on the down slope side. This should keep water out of the holes. The clam shell covers the hole, so even raining coming down hard should not get in. I also plan to fill the holes with some caulking putty, the type you use to seal windows and will remain pliable. I can't take credit for the clam shell vent cover idea; someone used it on my older 1987 REVENGE, and I though it was a good application.

By the way, let me again stress that when you are screwing in a fastener into a hole in a laminate surface with a gel coat finish, never force the screw to enlarge the portion of the hole in the gel coat resin--it will crack every time. Always relieve the hole to a larger diameter so the screw threads and shank will pass through the gel coat resin layer without interference. However, don't make the relief too deep or your screw will not hold well.

I discovered that the original installer who drilled most of the existing holes in the helm dash panel had not followed that advice, and every hole had a very ugly and very large cracked gel coat surrounding it. By the time I chipped out these cracks and beveled them down with a larger drill tip, the size of the original hole had been enlarged about threefold. Also, don't put in a huge fastener and tighten the screw to excessive pressure. All of the old mounting holes had been tightened so much that the laminate had been pulled up into a little mound around the hole, complete with all the cracks.

Like all classic Boston Whaler boats, the helm dash panel on my boat has a decorative trim applied. It is a black faux-leather vinyl known as Mat-Tak (or Mat Tack). And like many, a corner or two of the applique had worked loose and needed to be glued down.

A previous restorer had made the very ugly mistake of using some inappropriate adhesive to glue down these loose corners. This adhesive did not hold, and it damaged the surface of the vinyl, partially dissolving it and making it a rough mess. I carefully pulled up the Mat-Tak and removed the old original adhesive. You can get it off easily by just rubbing with your thumb or scratching with a finger nail. To re-glue the Mat-Tak I used plain old fashioned rubber cement. I think the original was also rubber cement, although perhaps a stronger version. But rubber cement works well for this.

By the way, if your Mat-Tak is all stiff, faded, and discolored, try rubbing it with some hydraulic fluid. It seems to do a good job of restoring Mat-Tak to like-new condition.

jimh posted 06-10-2007 07:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Poor Wiring Practice

The wiring to provide current for the stern white all-around light on my Boston Whaler REVENGE 22 W-T WD was a mess. I don't know who to blame--Whaler, a dealer, a previous owner--but it was an abomination. It worked perfectly. But the wiring was awful.

The cable run from the helm console to the stern consisted of FIVE separate pieces of paired conductors! There were four splice joints connecting these five pieces of wire--a total of EIGHT butt splice crimp-on connectors in the circuit. And to top it off, at the helm end the wire was too short and was "bow-strung" (a favorite expression of mine and used to describe an electrical conductor which is stretched and under tension) from the cable clamp retaining the wire over to the switch controlling the circuit. This had to go.

I will give some credit: the cable was carefully strung in a series of metal clamps with rubber insulation all the way from helm to stern down the starboard side, across the transom, and back up the port side to the lamp mounting bracket. The care with which it was installed makes me think it was a factory job. Your usual brother-in-law electrician helper sort of job would not have gone to the expense and bother of all those clamps.

There was no way to pull this cable out. The big butt splices would not fit through the cable clamps. And the reason for the short wire at the the helm was obvious: the first of the many joints was pulled tight against a cable clamp, which prevented the wire from passing. I cut the cable back into its five pieces, cutting out each set of butt splices. However it was next to impossible to cut out the butt splices which were pulled tight against a cable clamp. This operation took a while to perform. You had to REALLY want to cut those splices in order to accomplish this task.

Also, the cable was very tightly bundled with nylon cable ties with several other conductors. In order to be able to pull out some slack to ease up the wiring behind the panel I had to cut out about 20 nylon cable ties--all of them in awkward and hard to reach positions.

The final revenge of the nerd who installed this mess came as I reached far into the wiring under the helm to snip out the last cable tie. I would say that one hundred percent of the cable ties on this boat had been improperly installed. Every one of them had a short piece of angled nylon sticking out of the ratchet clamp on the end of the cable tie. These little extensions make the perfect razor sharp knife. As I reached into the wiring I gave myself a four inch long cut in my forearm from one of these nasty little blades.

Where I work we have hundreds of rack cabinets filled with thousands of cables and organized with tens of thousands of nylon cable ties. We have a rule that every one of those cable ties MUST be cut off flush and square, with no little protruding dagger left to cut the next guy's arm into shreds. On my Boston Whaler, this part of the installation was certainly done at the factory. I hope things have improved since 1990 when this boat was built. But word to the wise: be very cautious working on your Boston Whaler. It may have dozens of cable ties improperly cut and waiting to give you a nasty incision.

The blood and the pain put a temporary halt on progress. After I swabbed my arm down with anti-bacterial ointment and the bleeding stopped, I went to work again.

I bought some 16/2 SJO cable at the hardware store. This is a rubber covered cable and should be good in a wet environment. To get the rubber boot of the connector to slide on the rubber jacket of the SJO I wetted them both with denatured alcohol. This makes the rubber slip over easily. Then I installed the old 2-pin connector I salvaged from the original. Now I have to run out and finish the installation. But when I am done I will have removed a bunch of bogus splices and probably cut the resistance of the circuit in half. That white all-around light will be burning brighter than ever.

jimh posted 08-05-2007 10:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
UPDATE: New features discovered on Standard Horizon Class-D Radio

A few days ago we came into an anchorage and dropped anchor among a few other cruising boats. It was a very quiet and remote location, and we were doing our best to keep our voices down while anchoring, as we have often heard other boaters yelling back and forth from bow to helm during these maneuvers. Sound really can carry in a quiet harbor.

Well, no sooner had we set the hook and cut the engine, but the new Standard Horizon Class-D DSC radio began to emit a very loud BEEP BEEP BEEP. I mean, this was a LOUD noise, something you could not ignore. I dove for the volume control and gave it a twist to minimum. The volume of the alarm did not change! Finally, in desperation, I turned the radio off. This silenced the alarm.

A few minutes later I turned the radio ON, and I was pleased to hear the BEEP was gone. The weather channel was selected, and, ironically, just then I heard the announcer say, "That Weather Alarm you heard today at noon was a test..."

I checked the time (using the GPS's clock), and found it was just 12:03 p.m. That tone must have been the weather alert. Several days later, on Page 25 of the instruction manual, I found more information on this weather alert tone.

"When an alert is received on a NOAA weather channel, scanning will stop and
the transceiver will emit a loud beep to alert the user of a NOAA broadcast.

"Press the [WX] key to stop the alert tone and receive the weather report."

The second new feature of the radio revealed itself a day later. We were sitting at the dock in a very busy harbor, and I had the radio tuned to the local harbor master's working frequency. We were reading the mail on all the boats coming and going, requesting dockage, fuel, and so forth. Suddenly the radio began to emit more BEEPs, but this time at a gentler volume. I went to investigate. The display panel on the radio announced that the GPS position information on the radio was four hours old. Interesting! I had shut off the GPS and other electronics while at the dock, and just the radio was on. But the radio was smart enough to figure out that it had not received any GPS updates in several hours, and it was alerting me to this situation. I could not find any information on this in the manual, but the display gave a good explanation.

Peter posted 08-05-2007 09:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
I have the same Standard Horizon GX 1500 radio as Jim now has. It's a fine radio and it was inexpensive.

I was in an anchorage about a month ago on a day when they were forecasting late afternoon thunderstorms. I always leave the radio on for the weather alert feature and to listen for friends but just plain forgot about it being on as we were enjoying the day out on the water. Well sure enough later in the day the weather alert alarm went off with a nearly ear piercing sound. With this radio, whatever you are in the middle of doing you will stop doing it to turn the alarm off because its that LOUD.

I think the DSC beep is similarly loud.

towboater posted 08-07-2007 05:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for towboater  Send Email to towboater     
JIm, heaven forbid you ever need to explain how you install a RADAR.

Just a heads up on VHF options...external speakers triple the volume.

I know you are a audiophile. Im usually listening to my Itune library shuffle as I ramble away on your forum.
Now playing Honky Tonk Women.

I connect two speakers (1 in the helm, 1 deck monitor horn) off the single ext plug & found the Standard radio doesnt much care if you run series or parallel (16, 8 or 4 ohm). Of course your model might be different but I doubt it. My Marine Elect Pro tells me most Standard radios have powerfull speaker amps hooked up to tiny cheap speakers to keep the radio size minimal. Standard doesnt say it outright but they dont spend a lot of money on speaker quality. Maybe your radio is bigger because it has a larger upper end speaker installed. If not, you are listening to AM quality from a DECENT FM tuner.

Ive used several types of Marinized speakers over the years and they work ok outside but they are not as loud, clear, and cost more than a 4" COBRA external CB speaker I bought at a truck stop long ago. It has a poly cone and mounted inside. I know it cost less than 20 bucks and has a noise limiter built in. Hope you can figure out a place to put it on your Revenge, I am sure you will find will be well worth the trouble & inconvieniance of another object cluttering up the dash.

I wonder if you could mount it close to the window as possible tilted down a little & out of your line of sight at the helm. Spray/moisture wont hit it directly yet sound will reflect off the dash towards you.

mk


jimh posted 08-15-2007 09:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I am using a professional mobile radio loudspeaker, from an old Motorola MOTRAC radio. It will produce enough audio that a police dispatcher can get a patrolman's attention when he is 200-feet away from his cruiser in line at the donut shop. In audio terms, it will "rip your head off."
Tom Hemphill posted 08-15-2007 06:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom Hemphill    
The old Motorola external speakers are indeed effective. The new ones are pretty decent, too.

But it doesn't please me that our otherwise gracious forum owner, in his apparent attempt at humor, suggests that police officers are less-than-capable at communicating via radio. We should drop the old stereotypes and understand that police officers nowadays:

1. Get their coffee at the drive-thru and eschew the doughnuts;
2. Use their portable radios when out of the car, or, lacking that;
3. Put their mobile radios on PA (using the siren amplifier/speaker), which will definitely wake the dead.

Respectfully,

Tom (whose day job involves supporting the emergency services and their radios)

jimh posted 08-15-2007 08:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I do regret having used a old bromide about law enforcement officers on patrol car duty and their dietary preferences for concentrated carbohydrates and saturated fats. I should have said that the sound pressure level produced by these Motorola loudspeakers being driven by a few watts of electrical power is sufficient to convey crucial communications between central control authorities and field enforcement personnel even when the routine duties of the field enforcement personnel take them a significant distance from their patrol car radio installation and its loudspeaker.

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