Topband: Salt-Water Qth!

donovanf at donovanf at
Wed Apr 1 14:52:22 EDT 2015

Hi Ray, 

If you're back five wavelengths from salt water or salt marsh, almost the 
entire Fresnel zone will be over land and the salt water will make essentially 
no improvement . That's okay if the land is salt marsh, but its very bad if 
it poor sandy soil... For a take off angle of ten degrees, the near edge of 
the Fresnel Zone is about 0.1 wavelengths from the feed point and the far 
edge is about three wavelengths away. For lower angles the far edge of 
the Fresnel Zone extends out the 5 wavelengths or more. 

By far the best reference I've ever seen on this topic is 


----- Original Message -----

From: "Ray Higgins (W2RE)" <w2re at> 
To: donovanf at 
Cc: topband at 
Sent: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 6:10:46 PM 
Subject: Re: Topband: Salt-Water Qth! 

Hi Frank, 

Thank you for your detailed answer. I appreciate your valuable time in responding. 

After a few emails and a phone call it looks like we need to be within the fresnel zone, which is five wavelengths according to the ON4UN book. 

Yes! I know Peter K3ZM location all too well. We put up his 190’ R25 support for his 4SQ in 30+ mph winds a few years back. Great location on a marsh about 1/4 mile from the Ocean. 

Thanks for the input, we looking forward to start building the contest station! :) 


Ray W2RE 

On Apr 1, 2015, at 12:17 PM, donovanf at wrote: 

Hi Ray, 

Two primary factors affect sky wave signal strength from Topband 
verticals close to salt water: 

1. ground loss in the immediate vicinity of the feed point. The feed 
point must be much closer than 1/4 wavelength from salt water 
or a salt marsh to significantly reduce ground loss. 

2. ground reflection loss, especially close to the near edge of the 
Fresnel Zone 

Perhaps the most practical solution to achieving very low ground loss 
is to place the base of the vertical in a salt marsh such as at W1KM. 
There is an AM broadcast tower on a pier extending well into San 
Francisco Bay but this would be exceptionally difficult to duplicate in 
a ham installation. Its not practical to place a vertical closer than 1/4 
wavelength of an ocean beachfront except in a temporary installation 
such as a DXpedition. 

Most ground reflection loss within the Fresnel Zone of a vertical with 
the feed point at ground level occurs within one wavelength of the feed 
point for low angle sky wave signals. This requires that a Topband 
vertical be located within several hundred feet of salt water or a salt 

For horizontally polarized antennas, the only significant factors are 
ground reflection efficiency within the Fresnel zone and blockage 
of the horizon by terrain. For very tall towers and very low angles, 
the Fresnel Zone extends out at least several miles but much closer 
than the horizon except in mountainous terrain that blocks the visual 
line of sight to the distant horizon. For horizontally polarized antennas, 
salt water isn't significantly more efficient for Fresnel Zone reflection 
than average soil on very flat terrain. 

Perhaps the biggest improvement for horizontal polarization at an ocean 
front location derives from its exceptionally flat Fresnel Zone, especially 
for VHF EME where the full 6 dB ground gain is very difficult to achieve 
over typical urban and densely populated suburban location. An 
exceptionally flat Fresnel Zone can be a significant improvement compared 
to locations where the Fresnel Zone encompasses many large buildings or 
any location with sharp elevation changes (greater than 1/4 wavelength) 
close to the near edge of the Fresnel Zone. 

Don't forget to consider the many serious maintenance problems of an 
ocean front location, not only antenna maintenance but also resolution of 
RFI from power lines for many miles around. K3ZM had serious RFI 
very efficiently propagated across the Chesapeake Bay from power lines 
nearly 20 miles away. This could be a significant problem in an area with 
power lines near the ocean. 


----- Original Message -----

From: "HVT" < w2re at > 
To: topband at 
Sent: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 12:47:23 PM 
Subject: Topband: Salt-Water Qth! 

This is my first post to the Top-Band Reflector, so please excuse my ignorance if this topic has been discussed in the past. 

Is there any scientific data in print to prove the theory that ocean front property is better than a location inland about a mile or so on a ridge overlooking salt water for HF. I had this heated debate over the weekend with two ham friends of mine while we traveled to Maine looking at real-estate along the coast. I understand the theory that verticals literally in or on the water have a huge advantage. The debate was about how far away from the water does it become a diminishing effect. I made the claim that the Ocean-Front property would be a better location than anything inland including a location on a ridge within a mile. This heated debate went on for about 500 miles while we were driving back to NY. It was a very interesting conversation and made the long drive back much quicker! :) 

Additional information about the debate: 

In the State of Maine there is a setback regulation on shoreline property regarding structures including radio towers. To play it safe with the shoreline protective rules, the proposed array system would be setback minimum 500’ from the water or as far back as 2000'. At these distances on 80/160 meter will a vertical antenna system see any positive effects with additional gain from the salt water? 

What about horizontal antennas? Do they see any effects from Salt-Water? 

I'm sure I can use HFTA to model the terrain, which I have done in the past with great accuracy. However, I'm not sure if it calculates Salt-Water. Maybe it does. 

We are anxious to start building in Maine ASAP. Any input would be appreciated. 


Ray W2RE 

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