As a former owner of a wireless company who spent a fair amount of time out in the field and up on cellular towers installing or fixing equipment, One of the things that has bothered me since the day I bought the boat was the way the VHF cable was ran through the deck and connected to the mast cable. It was ran through a hole in the deck and sealed with silicone, had a male connector attached to the end, had a female to female barrel connector on that, with another male connector on the end of the cable coming down the mast. This meant that A) the connectors were not secured anywhere and thus able to move around unrestrained, and B) the female barrel connector was serving no purpose other than connecting the two male connectors since it seems no-one manufacturers female cable ends.
I have wanted to replace this with a proper deck fitting of some sort since the day I bought the boat, but had yet to come across one. The only thing I could find were long barrel connectors that you could stick through the deck, but had no flange of any sort to mount to the deck.
Spring commissioning found that the insulation around the VHF cable coming through the deck was cracked and leaking water into the cable jacket. What had been a minor annoyance from a poor installation was now moved up to a must fix project. The easy fix was to replace the cable, and install a through deck cable clam or something similar, while that would fix the poor silicone seal job, it wouldn’t eliminate the unnecessary barrel connector, or the connectors being loose to move around.
I started digging through every distributor and marine catalog I could find, as well as all the RF distributors I used to work with when I had the wireless company. Since I couldn’t find any way to forego the barrel connector I wanted one that actually provided benefit, not just sat there for the sake of connecting the two cables. Eventually I came across this Italian company Glomex that manufacturers exactly what I was looking for. It is a proper marine grade gold plated VHF deck fitting with stainless steel mounting flange and dual sealant grooves underneath to ensure it doesn’t leak. It also includes a silicone cable boot to help keep the connector protected from the elements, and a new connector for the mast cable.
Then came the hard part, actually getting my hands on one. A internet search for the part number showed numerous places to order it from. I contacted every single one of them, and not one of them had them in stock, or had ever sold a single one. They all downloaded the parts list from their distributor (who I found to be Imtra Marine), and just listed the items online. I contacted Imtra and inquired about ordering it directly from them (they have a online retail store as well), but it turns out they also had just downloaded the parts list from the manufacturers and had never once ordered or stocked that part in the US. They gave me the name of the other Glomex importers in Canada and Mexico, I contacted both of them and got the same story. In short this part was listed for sale in a number of places, but not a single company in all of North America had ever stocked or sold, much less even imported this item from the manufacturer in Italy.
I tried to get Imtra to order the part but they said they wouldn’t go through the trouble of importing this item from Italy just for my one order. So I went to my local West Marine and asked the store manager Jan, who I’m on a first name basis with, if she could look into ordering it since West Marine is a very large client of Imtra’s. Imtra decided they wouldn’t say no to West Marine, and went ahead and started the process to import this item from Italy for me. In the time it took to go through this process I had 2 different friends go to Italy and come back, one for work, and the other their honeymoon, I could have probably had them find it and bring back with them faster, once West Marine was able to get Imtra to confirm the order, It took about 6 weeks to finally arrive.
It was such a process to get, it was almost August before it finally arrived. By this time the cracked and leaking insulation had all but ruined the old VHF cable and was severely limiting my VHF range. To improve things a little I had installed the new VHF cable in the cabin and put a temporary connector on the inside of the deck on the old cable, connected with a barrel connector. This meant that when the fitting did arrive I only needed to removed the old cable through the hole in the deck and install the fitting. When it did arrive I immediately installed the new fitting, only thinking to take pictures after the fact, so I have none of the installation process.
I drilled out a new hole over the old VHF passthru hole large enough for a regular connector to (tightly) fit through, marked my mounting holes and drilled them out. Bedded everything with butyl and installed the new deck fitting. Since the deck is pretty thick next to the mast, and the deck fitting isn’t too generous with the length of the barrel connector, the inside end of the cable had to be installed before mounting the fitting, which actually works out well since there isn’t a lot of room between the headliner and the deck for the connector so this allows room for the cable without causing a problem with the bend radius.
It looks like a tight fit in these pictures, but everything actually fits nicely and nothing rubs or abrades on anything else. The mast base turning block was moved to provide a better view of the VHF fitting.
I hope to replace the VHF cable in the mast next spring and will install the silicone boot over the connector at that time as well.