Going cruising soon...
Great. Have a wonderful time. Have you joined SSCA yet? Are you flying your burgee?
I've got an Icom M710 that's been tweaked and unlocked...I've got my RR and station license is in the mail.
Your ahead of many on doing the right things the right way.
Tuner wise, what's the difference between the AT-130 and the AT-140?
Specified performance is the same. The biggest difference is in fabrication -- many of the thru-hole parts on the circuit board are replaced with surface mount devices in the 140 reducing manufacturing cost, reducing early failure, and increasing long term reliability. The 130E (note the 'E') and 140 have extra circuitry to speed tuning on 2182 kHz - the emergency frequency.
There are lots of 130s out there providing good service. I wouldn't take one out if you already have one, and wouldn't turn up my nose at some savings on one.
Hook up on the 140 is a little easier since connectors are brought out of the box on pigtails; you won't have to open the tuner to connect cables. That may be a factor for a DIY installation.
I'd like to be able to use ALL bands, but at the moment, weather fax is going to take priority, so if I hold off on the tuner for now, which antenna would I build if I just needed weather faxs? I'm planning on running weatherfax2000, although I've currently got a copy of JVCOMM that I'd like to try as well.
Get as much wire as high up in in the air as you can. On delivery I often run 12 or 14 AWG copper stranded wire up on a topping lift. I've even used sail tape to hook it to the leech of the main. Keep it insulated from anything that you even think might be grounded and you'll be fine.
Since you plan a more capable system you might do just as well to install the antenna you finally plan on and use that from the beginning. Why spend money on something you're just going to replace?
Try JVCOMM32 before you buy Weatherfax2000. As long as you have a halfway decent laptop with a good soundcard you won't see any benefit of Weatherfax2000 and the external demodulator. The only way to get an improvement would be a hardware demodulator fed by the radio discriminator and if that was something you wanted to tackle you wouldn't be asking these questions. You'd have a bunch of other questions instead. *grin*
What are my antenna options if I want to receive ALL bands, but don't want to use a stay, the GAM split lead, or a random wire strung on a halyard? Do I have any other options?
An insulated stay, usually a backstay, is the classic approach. It certainly works.
The GAM split lead has unpredictable performance. On some boats it works well, even quite well. On other boats, sometimes of the same make and model, it works poorly. To my understanding the NEC antenna model used by the designer wasn't appropriate for the application so external factors unduly influence performance. I would avoid it.
I'm not clear about your aversion to random wire on a halyard. Ultimately an insulated backstay is just as random in length. As long as you avoid multiples of a half wavelength on bands of interest you're fine.
The only other option that comes to mind is a fiberglass whip. There are many commercially available.
If you have a ketch, yawl, or schooner the triatic stay becomes an option but it is surprisingly challenging to get right. When you get it dialed in the inverted ell is outstanding. If this applies to you I can get you pictures and a lessons learned diatribe from a friend that did his this way.
first, if I go with the traditional backstay, what's that run, roughly, for the isolators and install?
All over the map depending on the complexity of your rig, how much you do yourself, which insulators you choose, yard rates in your area, and the particular rigger.[/quote]
If I have a solar array over the cockpit, how will the antenna and array affect each other?
Not all beyond the shading you would get from the backstay anyway.
Second, are you familiar with alternate backstay antennas? If so, how does that get set up?
Very viable approach. For a permanent installation just rivit a padeye up high on the mast off to one side. Stand the wire off from the padeye a couple of feet with any kind of insulator (small line is fine - be careful of your knots as you don't want it coming down). Run the wire down to the pushpit corner on the same side as the padeye is offset. You'll need some kind of load transition like a porcelain egg and a load absorber like stiff rubber or a very heavy bungee. The load absorber will keep the antenna from taking structural loads as the masthead moves around that should be taken by the rig.
You can buy the whole works with the wire run inside double-braid sheathing for not a lot of money. http://ropeantenna.com/
Let me know what I can do to help.
I'm based in Annapolis but advice and counsel are free. For folks passing through I have DIY support consulting services.
Oh -- when you have everything in hand get the antenna up first. Then hook everything together spread out in the cockpit, on an aft berth, on boxes, or the sole and test it. If there is a problem with any of your hardware much better to figure it out that way then after spending an hour getting that one last screw in on some fussy bracket.
Connectors are the source of more troubles than everything else put together. Especially DIY installed "UHF" or PL-259 connectors. Get help. Order custom lengths made up already. Don't experiment with your boat. Don't cheap out on the connectors either. Really nice silver-teflon connectors may be $3 each. Cheap ones are $1. Not a good source of savings. SSB is a life safety system and needs to be done right.
Let me know where you are located and as long as you aren't time-constrained I can help you find expert, possibly free, certainly cheap help on PL-259 connector installation. Might cost you a couple beers or a day sail.
Docksider Radio has a good book on SSB and Pactor.
Dockside Radio http://docksideradio.com/
. Gary Jensen is good people and provides good support. He has two quick start guides, one for SSB installation and operation and one for using Pactor to get e-mail service over SSB radio. Gary also maintains a great list of marine and marine-related ham nets: http://www.docksideradio.com/Cruising%20Nets.htm