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Thread: Another Dura Mater Question

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Another Dura Mater Question

    I have a Dura Mater folder here on my laptop, and many other folders therein, such as: Rudder, Electronics, Engine, Fuel Tank, Rigging, hardware, Bilge pump, etc etc. Those of you who own older boats probably have the same folders either on your laptops or in piles of paper. I used to also have a folder of receipts, but I deleted that long ago. You know why.

    Anyway, today I created a new folder: Radio. But maybe someone out there in SSSVille has had a similar experience to mine.

    In 2014 I bought a Standard Horizon GX200 Matrix fixed radio with AIS. Yes, I know that a lot of people have that radio. It’s been a good radio, and until May 11 of this year it worked great. Then it didn’t and Jim Vickers almost sent the Coasties out to collect me when I didn’t need collecting. He didn’t know that, of course, and luckily I also had my handheld Standard Horizon HX870 with GPS and DSC. Because I am (somewhat) obedient regarding rules and regulations. So I tried to call in on that radio, and somewhere between the Lightship and Point Bonita Vessel Traffic relayed the message as per my request and Jim calmed down. Thank you again, Jim and Jen, for waiting up.

    Here’s the issue: When I try to transmit the message LO BATTERY shows up. When I try to talk the screen goes blank. I dug around and found the digital doohickey that Carliane gave me years ago, crawled into DM’s starboard lazarette and touched the black wand to the black side of that battery, then the red wand to the red side, and it read: 14.2; did the same thing over on the port side and it read 13.8. Then I crawled out and felt all sweaty and irritable and made a cup of bad coffee. What did these numbers mean, anyway? Well, after trolling through all the technical verbiage that I couldn’t understand, I think those numbers are good. I think the batteries, which are brand new, are in good shape. Huh.

    Have I called Standard Horizon yet? Well, yes of course I have, but nobody answers. Then I called Star Marine, where I bought the radio, and Ian will get back to me. He’s busy right now.

    In the meantime, should I really climb the mast or replace my inverter? I don’t think DM has an inverter, or at least nothing reads “Inverter” down there. I don’t mind climbing the mast. That’s kindof fun and would lead to a “High in Richmond” video, but I will wait for the rain to stop before I do that. Any advice would be appreciated.
    Last edited by Philpott; 05-21-2019 at 09:58 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    SF Bay
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    Jackie,
    Your radio is telling you that itís not receiving the voltage it needs to transmit. Thereís nothing wrong with your batteries or the antenna (up the mast). The problem is with wiring and/or (most likely) one or more bad connections. Your radio is saying that there is resistance in the power supply. You need to trace the electrical path (round trip) to find the problem. Assuming all the wiring is properly sized to minimize voltage drop, you need to then look at all the connections to determine that they are clean and tight. You might even need to redo some connections. With boat wiring itís best to assume that connections will eventually get wet. Always use a ratcheting type crimping tool and heat shrink on crimp terminals.

    The most common electrical problems on boats are from bad grounds.

    Tom

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    191

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    Agree with Tom. When you push the transmit button, the radio now requires 25 watts (assuming you are not in low power mode) of power to transmit.... compared to maybe 2 watts when in receive mode. One of your connections to the power source is suspect.

  4. #4
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    Thanks, Fellas. Probably in the most difficult of locations, right? Sigh. Of course. Okay, Away she goes ...

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philpott View Post
    Thanks, Fellas. Probably in the most difficult of locations, right? Sigh. Of course. Okay, Away she goes ...
    Maybe try the low power mode and see if similar symptoms persist. Not a costly exercise, which could confirm some wiring needs touching. I think measuring voltage at the radio, at the panel (before and after) may help pinpoint voltage drop ... I'm certainly not anyone who's advice with electrical system weigh much having personally lost two batteries in less than a year due to poor charging :-)
    P___/)___J

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamottep View Post
    ... having personally lost two batteries in less than a year due to poor charging :-)
    However does one "lose" batteries? Is that like leaving a hat behind in a restaurant? Thanks, Philippe. I've heard back from Endaf Buckley @ Standard Horizon:

    "Hello Jackie, The symptoms you describe i.e. LO BATTERY warning and the fact the radio display goes blank indicates to me the radio is not getting enough current from your power source to transmit. I would test the radio by temporarily connect it to another power source to see how it acts. If it acts the same, then quite possible it could be the radio but I would like to rule out the power source. Best regards, "

    Tomorrow morning my dockmate on E Dock, Howard Elfant s/v See Ya, will switch out his radio for mine and we will do as Endaf suggests

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    Skip gave me wonderful advice, as always. David Herrigel called and told me which wires to check and how to do that. Tom Patterson s/v Cloud, is coming down to make sure I don't electrocute myself. Thank you to everyone.
    Last edited by Philpott; 05-22-2019 at 10:17 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Santa Rosa
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    500

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    Jackie, I'm a big fan of direct wiring the 25 watt VHF to the battery. Of course using appropriate fuses in both the + and - wiring (6 amp). Keep the wires as short as possible. Use the proper gauge wiring: larger cable for longer a longer run. Probably 12-14 Gauge AWG wire as the smallest size. Longer run (more than 10-12 feet?); larger wire. The more you put connections, switches, and things like that between the battery and the radio the more possibilities there are for something to go wrong: corrode, break from vibration, a screw coming loose, insulation to wear again a sharp corner, etc. Do NOT put any other electrical device in the VHF radio power wiring.

    Check the Standard-Horizon GX200 Installation Guide. If you don't have it you can download it. Look for the distance run/cable gauge chart. 25 watts draws a lot of amps and a small wire is like putting a lawn sprinkler hose on a corner fire hydrant. A large fuse is like putting a pile of leaves in the street gutter where the rainwater is supposed to drain.

    Old boats suffer from wiring woes. Over the years circuits get added/subtracted/divided. Dead wire/circuits are left hanging, short pieces spliced together, twist connecters instead of good splices, connections without proper sealing, non-tinned wire. And the list goes on. Anything looks green in the wiring it is a definite sign it's time to get serious.

    To test things, I'd do this. Turn the engine off. Turn the dockside battery charger off (disconnect shore power). Direct wire a temporary cable between the battery and the VHF. Use your house battery (you did connect to the "house" battery, didn't you? (NOT the starting battery!!!!!) If you have 14 volts or so in the battery, you should be able to transmit on "high." The DC supply voltage at the VHF radio should not drop below 12.6 volts while transmitting. If this works, go back in and rewire the radio-battery cable the way it will be permanently. Be sure to keep any fuses where you can access them without tearing the boat apart. And avoid running the cable over/around any sharp corners, secure it well so it doesn't swing and sway when the boat moves. Here's something from the Internet:

    The supplied DC power cord has two wires — black and red. Connect the red wire to the positive side of your distribution circuit or battery. Connect the black wire to the negative side of the distribution circuit or battery. Keep the battery leads short. Direct connection to the battery is best. If a direct connection cannot be made with the supplied power lead, then any extension should be made with #12-14 AWG wire. Long extensions (avoid) require the use of larger gauge wire. The power cord is equipped with a fuse to protect the radio. Use only a six-amp fast-blow fuse for replacement. Connect the power cord to the keyed connector on the power “pigtail.” Connect the antenna and any other accessories. Install the radio in the mounting bracket and connect all cables and accessories to the appropriate jacks and connectors on the back of the radio.

  8. #8
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    Jan 2013
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    Montara, CA
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    Jackie, you're getting GREAT advice and support. I'm just thrilled you really used the voltmeter Don't blame me though if you got hot and sweaty. You'll actually thank me when you whip that thing out next time and can troubleshoot any electrical issue. Remember we had started to think about this from the top of the mast but you really want to keep it simple and rule out the obvious. I'd suggest continue down the battery path by making sure you have turned off shore power. Let the batteries sit for an hour or so and then check them again. A reading of 13.8-14 volts from the meter sounds like your float charge with the AC power still on. The next thing is to try to keep the voltmeter attached to the battery terminals while you make a voice call on the VHF and see what it reads. My guess had been that you just ran low on battery power that day. Check the gauge and length of run of the wire between the radio and the battery. There are tables on the internet that recommend the sizing for length. This is an easy fix and you can also ensure the connections are sound. You should be able to tug on the connections and they don't easily pull loose. Also, use heat shrink connectors. For the wire, you can go next size bigger but don't go smaller. I probably have enough extra supplies you can easily do this without buying anything. Tools too...

  9. #9
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    May 2019
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamayun View Post
    The next thing is to try to keep the voltmeter attached to the battery terminals while you make a voice call on the VHF and see what it reads.
    This.

    And if the radio worked before and not now, Iíll give you dollars to donuts that thereís a wonky connection somewhere between the batteries and the radio. If you have the wire, you could also run power in a single run (no splices) directly from the battery to the radio. That could help confirm a bad connection.

    JD

  10. #10
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    Thank you to everybody for your suggestions. Here is what happened.

    Tom Patterson arrived at Dura Mater yesterday ready to roll. First we walked over by Surprise! the better to admire her. I made a pot of espresso-strength coffee, which we drank sitting in the cockpit while DM rocked back and forth in wind that Tom estimated to be higher than the 10 mph suggested by my phone’s weather app.

    Then we reconnoitered below, assessing the six switch panel and big red Perko dial, both of which Tom declared to be “old school”. Like I hadn’t heard that before. Tom rolled up his sleeves and crawled into the port lazarette. Then he crawled out and went into the starboard lazarette. Long silences. Lots of “Huh”s from below. I was dying to know what all the “huhs” and silences meant, so I crawled down into the starboard lazarette behind him. I held the flashlight over his shoulder while he poked around in the mess of wires down there. Like a doctor making a difficult diagnosis.

    I patted DM's tummy. “Don’t worry, honey. We won’t hurt you. Everything will be fine.”

    Tom turned around and smiled. He’s the father of children. He understands.

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    Then we emerged and made some decisions. The wire leading from the battery to the power source was, according to Tom, of a too-small diameter. It had also been spliced in three different places and there was a long, unnecessary length of it. As I recall, the wire used was what I had on hand when it was installed. At every length, this wire also changed colors. Extruding from the radio it was black and red. For awhile after the first splice it was black and white, probably wire from the old AM/FM radio, no longer around, that led to the disconnected speakers still mounted in the cabin. After the next splice the wire became black and red again. This was, apparently, inadequate wire and bad to the bone. Sigh.

    So we walked up to Tom’s nifty little BMW zoomzoom car and drove to KKMI in order to buy mo betta wire. Which was black and yellow, and “sheathed” in white. Very beautiful. I also bought “step up” doohickies, which enables one to crimp small wire at one end and slightly larger wire at the end. If you have to ask what that means, then you simply don’t belong. Like a country club. The Dura Mater Country Club and Hotel.

    While we were at KKMI we waltzed over to see Tom’s boat. Cloud was being painted a Maserati Red. Truly a gorgeous, shiny color. Then we ogled a huge 40’ orange spider-looking multi-hull that rested on its carbon-fiber cradle, which would soon become attached to an even huger vessel as its tender. There is some serious money represented over at KKMI.

    After that, of course, it was time for lunch. So we went to –where else? Louie’s in Point Richmond. It was either that or Burger King, but I left my coupons at home. So we went up top and had chicken Caesar salads and they tasted particularly good.

    Back at DM Tom and I talked about boats and all the sailors we know. He noted that the boat stern to stern with Dura Mater is his former Wyliecat, Dazzler, since re-named Salty Cat. Tom’s been sailing a long time, and he knows the history of lots of boats in the RYC marina. He pointed out the boat that did all the damage to the Southampton Shoal pilings. It has since been repaired. The boat, not the pilings. And then it was time for me to switch out the wiring and Tom to become a consultant who puts his feet up in the cabin and calls out suggestions. Lots of suggestions, to be sure, and he handed me items as needed, too.

    It was very satisfying to locate the appropriate wire inside that mess of wires, and to chop it up into pieces with my wire cutter. Even more satisfying to lead the new wire through that hole in the companionway, strip it, crimp it, heat shrink it with my bic lighter and screw it into place. MOST satisfying was when I crawled back out of the lazarette, went down into the cabin and turned the red Perko dial. The radio came on with that loud “Bloop!” and there was no longer a LO BATTERY signal. Yeah! I called for a radio check on channel 9 but everybody had gone home by then so no one responded.

    On Sunday Philippe and I are sailing offshore for fun. While I’m out there I’ll try to communicate via channel 9. Maybe someone will answer. Because my radio now has a fine strong signal and yellow and black wiring. The best. Thanks, Tom.
    Last edited by Philpott; 05-24-2019 at 08:20 PM.

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