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Author Topic:   RAY 55 Problem
17 bodega posted 07-02-2014 01:37 PM ET (US)   Profile for 17 bodega   Send Email to 17 bodega  
I have a problem with my RAY 55 and GAM SS-2 combination. The problem is the antenna icon on the radio display blinks (indicating there is a problem or weak signal coming from the antenna [this is later revealed to be an incorrect interpretation of the meaning of the blinking icon on the radio; there was no indication of antenna status or received signal strength conveyed by this blinking icon--jimh]). I addressed the problem initially by taking the radio and antenna to a local marine electronics repair facility that has a good reputation and is a RAYMARINE authorized dealer. He re-soldered the connections at the SO-239 connector that plugs into the back of the radio because that's where we suspected the failure. That did not solve the problem.


Here is my theory:

The antenna rod on the SS-2 needs to be cut to the proper length or adjusted to the optimal marine VHF length.

The antenna needs an "extension" to reach above wave height and obtain better reception.

The radio is damaged. (I find this unlikely because the radio worked fine with a long 8' whip)

Any suggestions here? Thanks

Steve

jimh posted 07-02-2014 02:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Re GAM SS-2: To assess the antenna's match to the transmission line, and the integrity of the transmission line, and the installation of the transmission line connector, insert a directional wattmeter between the transmitter and the antenna transmission line's PL-259 connector. Check the VSWR and plot the curve of VSWR versus frequency, as I have shown in my article at

http://continuouswave.com/whaler/reference/VHFAntenna.html

in the illustration with the graphic


This is a typical VSWR curve for a GAM SS-2 antenna mounted on a four-foot extension mast.

Re RAYMARINE RAY 55: I am not familiar with the Raymarine radio you are asking about, and I do not know what a blinking antenna icon on the display is intended to mean. Can you provide an excerpt from the operating instructions that explains exactly what that icon is supposed to mean?

Does the blinking antenna icon appear when the radio is not transmitting?

jimh posted 07-02-2014 02:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
quote:
The antenna rod on the SS-2 needs to be cut to the proper length or adjusted to the optimal marine VHF length.

I disagree. The antenna is delivered pre-tuned for the VHF Marine Band. There is no need to cut the antenna radiator to length on a standard GAM SS-2 antenna.

If you were to perform such tuning, what method would you use?

jimh posted 07-02-2014 02:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
quote:
[a dealer] re-soldered the connections at the SO 239 connector that plugs into the back of the radio

An SO-239 connector is a chassis mount connector for the UHF series. That is typically the connector on the radio chassis. You probably mean the technician repaired the PL-259 or similar connector on the antenna transmission line.

jimh posted 07-02-2014 02:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
quote:
The [GAM SS-2] antenna needs an "extension" to reach above wave height and obtain better reception.

All radio antennas tend to benefit from being mounted higher and more in the clear. There is nothing unique about the GAM SS-2 in this regard. Since the GAM SS-2 is only about 3.5-feet long, it is typically always installed atop a 4-foot extension mast. This is the installation I described and recommended in my article about the GAM SS-2.

Don M recently installed a GAM SS-2 atop an 8-foot extension mast on the gunwale of his Boston Whaler 21 OUTRAGE. He reported to me that from Port Huron, Michigan, his marine radio was now picking up NOAA weather broadcasts from Pennsylvania, a distance of over 150-miles. Don's experience with the GAM SS-2 is similar to mine. It performs extremely well.

jimh posted 07-02-2014 02:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
quote:
...the antenna icon on the radio display blinks...

I browsed the operating and instruction guide for the RAY 55 and found no mention of the antenna icon you are mentioning. I think you are misinterpreting the meaning of the icon. Please review the user guide and locate the icon in the user guide. Please give us the actual name or meaning of the icon.

The recongized icon for a radio antenna looks like this:

17 bodega posted 07-02-2014 05:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
Thanks Jim,

you're right about several things. The connector is the PL-259 and the blinking icon on the RAY 55 is the GPS icon, indicating there is a gps signal available.

I also believe that because my antenna is mounted at console height, human interference occurs when a person stands close to the antenna. I have witnessed signal change when I wave my hand around the antenna.

So I guess that the extension is the main problem I have!

Thanks for the detailed info and sorry for my hasty posting with all the errors left to correct. I really like the GAM antenna and hope to purchase another for my 13 footer.

dfmcintyre posted 07-02-2014 09:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Steve -

I'll describe how I've mounted a 8' whip on the stern. I'm assuming, based on your forum name and that you mentioned console, that you have a 17' Montauk....

I mount a chromed ratchet on the starboard side, inside of the hull, so when the antenna is down, it rests on top of the horizontal section of the stanchions that secure the stainless steel grab rails to the hull. I drill through the hull, and used mushroom nuts, painted the hull color to mount the ratchet to the hull. I believe there may be wood in that area, if so, I'd forgo the thru hull, and just use stainless steel wood screws.

By mounting it on the rear, it: minimizes the whipping moment of the antenna, keeps it well clear of human interference, and allows for a bimini to be up.

Only potential downside is the increase chance of engine interference. However, in the five Whalers that I utilized that location (port, rear) I've never had anyone mention engine noise when transmitting, nor had issues with reception.

Regards - Don

jimh posted 07-03-2014 01:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
If there is a small icon on the RAY 55 control panel that looks like a space satellite, that icon probably is used to indicate the presence (or absence) of valid position data being sent to the radio via the radio's NMEA-0183. This has absolutely nothing to do with the VHF antenna that is connected to the radio. It is not an indicator of any parameter of the VHF antenna, and it does not indicate the strength of received VHF signals.

The location of any VHF transmitting antenna should be at least three feet--absolute minimum--of vertical separation and at least three feet of horizontal separation from the radio and any other electronic devices. If you have mounted the radio antenna on the console at the helm you have made a very poor choice for a location. I recommend you install at least a 4-foot extension mast to raise the GAM SS-2 radio antenna above the console level. The worst possible location for the radio antenna is to be mounted on the helm console, adjacent to and very close to all the other electronics. Not only will this cause interference, but you will reduce the range of the radio by having the antenna so low.

17 bodega posted 07-03-2014 07:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
Don,

My boat is a classic 16, built in 1971. it had the original blue interior and now it has a smaller console than factory Whaler consoles. I have always used the 8' whip antennas until reading about the GAM here. I need to get an extension, and perhaps now I need a new mount after trimming the wire too short for a long extension.

I might do ok with a 4 foot extension as Jim suggests.

dfmcintyre posted 07-03-2014 09:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Steve -

If you have the factory s/s grab rails in the rear, and want to mount as I detailed earlier, you have two choices, either contact GAM, and request they send out a longer cabled mount (I've forgotten what the model number is) and use the shorter on in your 13', or order an extension cable. I chose the latter. I ordered a six foot pre made, shrink wrapped extension cable through the web. Came in three days. Very well made, high quality. Only caution would be to avoid placing (leaving) the connection between cables in the cabling tunnel.

Clear as mud?

Regards - Don

NOTE TO JIM - if your monitoring this thread, could you post the cable website I sent to you....I'm out of town, using different access tech.

jimh posted 07-05-2014 08:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
NOTE to Don--For some unknown reason, I can't find our email correspondence on the pre-assembled cable you ordered.
17 bodega posted 07-07-2014 06:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
I think I know what you mean about leaving any electrical connection in the cabling tunnel of the 16'7" hulls. That portion of the boat acts as the sump or bilge area which is always wet.

Do you have a preference between the [ADAP-I] side-exit mount and the [ADAP-II] center-exit mount for the antenna mount? Center-exit seems appropriate so you can run the [transmission line] down the extension.

Thanks for all the help

Steve

17 bodega posted 07-07-2014 11:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
For clarification, the cabling tunnel is often called the rigging tunnel because the steering cable and control cables (as well as fuel, electrical and miscellaneous) cables and wires also run through this tunnel.

I purchased a 4-foot Digital-brand extension from Defender that ran me $120. They had another option for $220. That was a bit steep for me, but it claimed to be heavy duty. I also bought some spare Ancor brand [transmission line].

Steve

jimh posted 07-10-2014 11:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The GAM SS-2 antenna and ADAP-II mount form a very light and very low wind resistance antenna, and I do not think it is necessary to use any sort of 4-foot mast extension that would be in the category of heavy-duty. The 4-foot Shakespeare Model 498 antenna mast extension that I recommended in my article about the GAM SS-2 antenna is about a $40 product. I am sure a $120 heavy duty 4-foot extension will work well, but I found that the $40 extension has given perfect service to me for eight years. Based on those eight years of use of the Shakespeare Model 498 with the GAM SS-2 and ADAP-II, I have no reservations at all about recommending them for use together.

The ADAP-II mount is the one I recommended in my article and I continue to recommend its use. Even if the antenna is mounted without an extension mast, as it might be if installed atop a hard top or RADAR arch, the ADAP-II mount seems like it would be preferred.

17 bodega posted 07-17-2014 10:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
Is there any disadvantage to having a longer length transmission line on a VHF antenna? In other words, rather than trimming the line to proper length, I would coil and zip tie the line for a potential future need to mount the antenna farther away from the radio?

I have gained much knowledge from this electrical forum since you started it years ago. Saltwater electronics has been a serious challenge in my small skiff.

jimh posted 07-17-2014 11:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As a general rule, there is no advantage to having a transmission line be longer than necessary because there is always some loss of signal in a transmission line, but there is very little to be gained in transmission line loss reduction by cutting off a very short length of line.

In the case of RG-58C/U transmission line, the type used in the ADAP-II mount, the attenuation characteristics at 150-MHz are a loss of signal at a rate of 6-dB per 100-feet. This suggests that cutting off one foot will save 0.06-dB. Cutting off ten feet will save 0.6-dB. If you can cut off ten feet, it may be worth it.

My own practice with the installation of the GAM SS-2 antenna on my boat was to leave the supplied transmission line intact. I figure there is always the possibility of needing to move the radio or antenna to a different location, and the extra several feet of transmission line might be very helpful.

If you have an antenna with a connector installed at the transmitter end of the transmission line by the antenna manufacturer, I would very strongly recommend leaving that intact. Installation of a PL-259-type connector is often a source of problems for many boaters, and having a pre-installed connector can be a plus. In the case of the particular antenna discussed here, the ADAP-II mount is supplied only with the transmission line, and no connector is installed. In that case, cutting off the excess transmission line is of no harm to a connector, as you must install a connector in either case.

It is always a good idea to leave a foot or two of extra transmission line--or really any cable connecting to any device--to allow for movement of the device during installation or service. Also, if a connector must be installed, it is very smart to leave enough extra cable to permit the connector to be installed without having to accomplish the installation in an awkward and cramped setting.

17 bodega posted 07-19-2014 07:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
UPDATE: It turns out the RAY 55 is either broken or defective. The antenna and transmission line works fine on another radio I installed in the boat. Because this model is discontinued, it probably is not worth the cost of repair or service.

It is odd, though, because all the displays and functions operate on the radio, I just can't get good reception or transmit on the unit. I will troubleshoot the unit from the manual and see if there is anything obvious.

jimh posted 07-19-2014 10:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I am sorry to hear that the Raymarine RAY 55 radio seems to be the source of the problems. As you have speculated, repair is probably not cost effective.

The bright side--well, the not so dark side--of this problem: a new Class-D DSC fixed mount radio is not very expensive these days. You can get a very nice radio for about $150.

I have been partial to Standard Horizon radios for many years, on this basis:

--Standard-Horizon seems to be very strict in its adherence to digital signal calling recommendations; their radios really work well in the digital signal calling realm;

--the cost of Standard-Horizon is generally less than other radios with similar features;

--Standard-Horizon offers a fixed-price service or repair policy that is very decently priced;

--Standard-Horizon radios have excellent radio performance, on both receive and transmit; and,

--Standard-Horizon radios have very well thought out user interface and controls, and are typically able to be operated without having to constantly refer to a user guide to understand complicated hidden functions or combination key presses.

If you don't need an integrated AIS receiver, check out the GX1600 radio. It sells for around $150. It has a large LCD display and three soft key user interface controls.

If you crave a radio with a circular channel knob for selecting channels in a hurry, move up to the GX2000. It sells for about $200.

If you want an integral AIS receiver, try the GX2150. It sells for about $250.

David Pendleton posted 07-20-2014 03:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
The Ray 55 has not been discontinued.

However, Raymarine's bench-fee for the Ray 55 is $175.00, so it probably makes more sense to buy another radio.

17 bodega posted 07-20-2014 09:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
I have also had good luck with a STANDARD HORIZON radio that I purchased years ago that replaced the original RAYMARINE radio that my dear pal Tony had on the boat when I acquired it. I still have that radio in a box somewhere, which has some saltwater corrosion, and sticky knobs, but will function fine as a back up. David, you're correct about the lofty service fees on RAYMARINE electronics... which is one of the reasons I have gone with GARMIN on GPS units. I paid $100 for the RAY 55, and used it for about 2 years. It was new in the box but had been opened before.

The good news here is apparently I CAN actually solder a PL-259 successfully! So now I'm sitting on a spare GAM antenna setup. I always thought it a wise idea to have dual fixed mount VHF radios for ocean use.

Steve

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