Geeky Stuff (part three)

I’m not sure the Geeky postings deserved a third in the series but, the installation of the Single Sideband radio (SSB) has taken a real twist….

Icom m802 SSB

Icom m802 SSB

I purchased an Icom M802 SSB radio. I had enough money in my PayPal account to buy the radio (I am selling our unwanted household stuff on eBay and as I get enough PayPal money I buy stuff for Cream Puff). This was good timing as our ship’s radio station license expires at the end of this year and I want to add the SSB to the license.  I honestly thought this would be a two day installation once I had all the components purchased. Ha! Little did I know.

I knew I needed a step-down DC convertor to take the voltage from our 24 VDC system to 12 VDC for the radio. I also knew from reading the instructions of the new SSB, the power it draws while transmitting is 30 amps. Yes, I am a person who reads instruction manuals from cover to cover. Easy enough; get online and buy a DC convertor rated to handle continuous 30 amps of power. Not so fast! I happened to mention to a boating expert the project I was undertaking. I did so beause there is some verbiage in the Amel Owners Manual I did not understand (yes, I read that manual too). It has to do with disconnecting some cabling on the boat for an aftermarket SSB installation. I am not by any means an electrician but, I do know which end of a soldering iron will burn me. So, when I get over my head, I ask questions and listen carefully. He told me to make certain I used an isolated convertor. No problem I thought. But first, two things:

  1. Darn good job I hadn’t purchased the convertor yet.
  2. What the heck is an isolated convertor and why do I need one (okay ~ I guess technically that is three things)

When you think of a car, you can touch a wire to any metal part (the negative ground) and another wire to the positive battery terminal to make a circuit. Boats are different from cars. Amels are different from most other boats.  Amel yachts are wired with what is called a 24v floating DC system. This is sometimes referred to as an isolated ground, meaning there is no common ground, like a car. To quote my expert source on what is a floating DC system, “Simply, this means all DC power comes out of the battery, to the device that needs the power, and then returns completely and directly to the battery bank. This prevents many possibilities of corrosion and keeps noisy things like fans and fridge motors from ‘talking’ to your radio, stereo and so forth. It is extremely important to never corrupt this system as, depending on how much power has been corrupted, you can suffer serious problems with electrolysis and feedback.” The words serious problems with electrolysis will make any boat owner stop what they are doing an give their undivided attention at this point.

I was told about the DC system when we purchased the boat but dismissed the need to fully comprehend the system until such a time came where I really needed to understand the wiring. Well, that time has come. I have just spent the last two days learning about my floating DC system. I know enough at this point to clearly understand I need help with this.  I have learned that a non-isolated DC converter could potentially will cause loss of continuity in the system and seriously damage the boat. I reached out to my good friend Bill Rouse. Bill and Judy are in their 8th year of cruising aboard BeBe, an Amel. Bill is the most sharing person in the world regarding his vast knowledge and learning’s about his Amel. Perhaps the thing I respect the most about Bill is, if he doesn’t know the answer he will tell me that.  I learned from Bill the Amel shipyard in France installed his SSB radio. Eureka! If I do mine the same as Bill’s then all should be right in Amel world satisfying both yin and yang.

After a series of emails, I learned Bill has an Icom PS-66 DC converter installed. The unit is rated at 30 amps continuous power and is ISOLATED. Perfect! I will just get one of these. Not so fast!

Icom PS-66

Icom PS-66

The Icom PS-66 is no longer manufactured. In fact, I have spent two days on Google looking for an equivalent isolated DC convertor that can handle the power requirements. I have come to the conclusion, there isn’t one. Well there sort of is, but it is thousands of dollars. eBay ~ here I come.

There are exactly two Icom PS-66 units for sale in the whole world on eBay. Well, as of 5 minutes ago, not any more. I bought both of them.


You just gotta know by now,  there’s a part four coming soon….

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