Tuesday, 1 April 2014

GPS Antenna (Re) Placement

Have you ever wondered what the inside of your GPS antenna looks like?  Me, neither.  Unfortunately, this week we had curiosity thrust upon us and were forced to cut into our Magellan FX324 GPS antenna. 

Our problems began two years ago when we decided to be more clever than the average sailor (uh-hum…) and install our new antenna inside the boat, thus protecting it from sea, salt, and accidents involving things on balconies being occasionally mangled. 

GPS antenna out of harm's way in the closet behind the toilet.

The placement of a GPS antenna inside the boat is hardly revolutionary and we know people who have great reception with this arrangement.  We found a snug place for it in the closet just behind the toilet which, when initially tested, worked extremely well.

After about one year, the kick-ass satellite signals we used to get diminished to the point that obtaining three full signals was like pulling teeth.  We couldn’t find any physical reason for this and of course it only happen occasionally, making it one of those mystery problems so beloved of boat owners.  Several times, after waiting for more than 30 minutes with no luck at all, I unscrewed the antenna from its wall-mount and moved the antenna outside.  Within less than one minute of doing this, we would obtain 9-12 full-strength satellite signals and all was right with the world…except that I was left standing like the Statue of Liberty in the cockpit holding my GPS antenna proudly aloft. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”  That’s only funny for so long.

As (bad) luck would have it, the fact that I un-screwed and re-screwed the antenna from its wall mount several times led the cable to split (I swear I was careful not to get kinks in the cable…), and the wires around the cable became frayed to the point that there were only a few hair-thick strands holding everything together.


For sailing season 2014, we’ve decided to move the antenna back outside and to fix it to the balcony, come what may.  We had to cut away the frayed part of the cable and re-solder the new cable end and wires to the electrical circuit board of the antenna.  It looked so easy. 

Before and After.  Here's to hoping that beauty is only skin-deep.

Neither of us is too proud of the resulting soldering job, but we worked on it for over an hour and decided that this was the best it was going to get.  And the best part is that we don’t even know if it works yet, since the batteries won’t be reinstalled on the boat until later this week.  Stay tuned …all bets accepted until the batteries get installed. 

Spray will be in the water on 12 April !!!!  Busy busy !