Ask SAIL: Frayed Mic Cables

Dozens of us cruising sailors have experienced problems with the black cable jackets on VHF and SSB radio microphones from ICOM. I, along with many other cruisers, have discovered our cables are mysteriously disintegrating!
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Gordon Long, S/V N’Aimless (cruising Central America) asks:

Dozens of us cruising sailors have experienced problems with the black cable jackets on VHF and SSB radio microphones from ICOM. I, along with many other cruisers, have discovered our cables are mysteriously disintegrating! When we contact ICOM, we are repeatedly told this is unusual and that the frayed microphone cables are most likely due to something in the immediate area that is reacting with the compound used in the cable jackets.

What can we do to get our fraying cables replaced without buying expensive new microphones? 

GORDON WEST REPLIES

I regularly conduct Coast Guard Auxiliary radio classes and have been surprised to see that my own SSB mic cable has split open in several spots. This is a serious problem, as marine VHF and long-range SSB radios are our direct link to rescue agencies throughout the world, and a frayed cable jacket can easily lead to broken wires. Being unable to make a Mayday call due to a mic cord failure can potentially be life threatening.

I am pleased to report that ICOM is now replacing all damaged mic cords that are sent to them and that they have improved the material they use in the cable jackets. This includes white cords that are still structurally fine but have prematurely yellowed over time. So dig out your instruction manual, get the company’s address and don’t sail away until you get this problem resolved.

Gordon West is an electronics expert

who specializes in radio communications.

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