Whilst talking to Paul on Tallulah Ruby on our recent passage we discovered he was only picking up our AIS signal intermittently. Later in Sunday we found that whilst our VHF transmissions could be heard we weren’t hearing very well if at all any one calling us. Our AIS and VHF share the aerial at the top of Temptress’ mast. We had had signs of an issue previously but had put it down to our location rather than a fault.
The skipper tried various things including rigging up the emergency aerial (the one designed for use if Temptress is ever dismasted) and came to no real conclusion. We dug out the manual but discovered that though it would be great if you ever wanted to build your own VHF as it has pages of wiring diagrams, there is little in the way of diagnostics or troubleshooting advice. Our Danish Sailor RT2048 is over twenty years old and has given reliable service throughout, sadly it looks as if it may need replacing an expense that we can ill afford what with the dinghy also reaching the end of its useful life.
So once we’d settled into life at Copra Shed Marina, Savusavu Kevin spent a morning trying again to trace the fault. It seemed the emergency aerial was fine so it was more likely the main aerial that had the problem not our VHF set. The easiest place to start looking was at the bottom where the cable down the mast joins the cable from the set behind a panel in our cabin rather than climb the mast to the aerial itself.
The culprit was soon uncovered -a rusting corroded coaxial joint; salt water had found its way into the deck gland where the cable comes through from the base of the mast and has dribbled down the cable to the joint. After an hour or so of concentrated effort new male and female connectors are in place, good job the skipper is handy with a soldering iron. We held our breath and tested the repair via requests for radio checks from other boats – it seems we were loud and clear or 5 5 as the Americans would say. Our marina neighbour Tallulah Ruby kindly reported Temptress was now appearing on their AIS display so all seems to be working once more. All that’s needed now is to dig out the old sealant round the through-deck gland and reseal.