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Simple Antennas for Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

I trust that Santa Claus was kind to you this holiday season.  I didn't get the new Elecraft K3 I promised myself, but I did enjoy a wonderful break from the classroom and my former responsibilities as a newsman at Pacific Radio Group.  This has been the first time in many years that I didn't have to rise and shine at 0230W and drive through the darkness to Hilo.  Although my former role as a broadcast journalist (and I use that term very loosely) was a thoroughly enjoyable job, I now relish time at home with my better half, working for my local community as a school teacher, and, finally, getting to spend some more time with amateur radio.

Presently, I'm preparing to dive into the ARRL's "SKN" (straight key night) on New Year's Eve.  This should be a fun event with little of the contest pressure that dominates other events.  About the only thing old I'm bringing to the effort is myself, my trusty J-38 key, and the old Kenwood TS-520 and the venerable …

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bigislandnewsman's photostream on Flickr. Russ Roberts, KH6JRM, editor of "KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog" and editor of prgnewshawaii.

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

Merry Christmas to all!  I trust that Old Saint Nick left a few presents under your Christmas Tree.

During the holiday season, I've been  busy with various household chores, visiting friends, and just relaxing until the new school term begins on 04 January 2012.  I'm sure the coming year will be exciting both in the classroom and out in the real world.  The holiday break is also giving me some time to do basic antenna maintenance and general shack clean up.  The December weather has been quite wet along the Hamakua Coast with over 13 inches recorded at the qth since 01 December.  Despite the recent storms, Hawaii Island rainfall totals are about 30 % below normal.  The Kailua-Kona area on the west side of the island  is even more parched, with most leeward areas getting less than 50% of their normal rainfall.

SIMPLE ANTENNAS FOR NEW YEAR'S EVENTS

Three major operting events remain as this year morphs into 2012.  The 2012 ARRL Straight Key Night is set for 01 January 2012, 000…

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Island amateur operator, a continuing series

SCHOOL'S OUT--TIME TO PLAY, AMATEUR RADIO THAT IS

Today is Thursday, 15 December 2011, the last day of school for the 2011 academic year.  Most of Hawaii's public and private schools will be taking a winter break until 04 January 2012.  For my xyl and myself, the intersession will give us a break from out substitute teaching assignments at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  During the two months I've served as a substitute teacher, I'm not sure who taught who.  Both the students and I have learned a lot about each other.  I don't regret leaving the commercial broadcast business for the classroom.  At least I don't have to get up at 0230 W and drive 30 miles to Hilo and sit before an audio board and a computer for 14 hours a day, six days a week.  My radio experience was rarely dull and I got a chance to use some of the most sophisticated equipment in the profession, but, when all is said and done, I don't miss the stress.  My co-workers were some of th…

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Island Amateur Radio operator--a continuing series

This has been a busy week at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  Both my xyl and yours truly have been doing our thing as substitute teachers.  Today, we had a break before resuming our assignments on Friday and Monday.  Never a dull moment in the classroom.

SUNDAY DRIVERS--HOPE FOR THOSE OF US CAUGHT IN THE CONTEST FRENZY

During a few spare moments this morning, I found several interesting and entertaining articles in the December 2011 issue of "QST".  One that caught my eye was a short essay on page 63 by Rick Lindquist, WW3DE.  "Sunday Drivers--contesting in the slow lane can add a little spice to your life."  Being that I only dabble in a few contests and have a rather modest ham station, I found Rick's approach to the contest phenomenon both humorous and relatively stress-free.  Like Rick, I find the last day of a contest sometimes the best time to jump in and make a few contacts.  If you treat the contest weekend as mostly fun and don't care how ma…

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operator, a continuing series

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  I'll return to my diet after I eat the traditional feast of turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, assorted vegetable, and some pumpkin dessert.  I walked an extra 2 miles today to compensate for my once a year indulgence.  I know, what I consume will take a marathon run to erase.  I'll try to limit my portions--at least that's the idea anyway.

Among the articles I read over the past few days, were some of the comments from hams living in CC &  R and otherwise restrictive environments.  E-ham.net's antenna forum contains several interesting articles that may prove useful to those of us challenged by our lack of real estate.  One operator whose call escapes me at the moment mentioned his successful use of the MFJ-1622 Apartment Antenna that allows coverage from 40 through 2 meters.  The antenna is described on page 69 of MFJ's 2012 Ham Catalog.  The antenna consists of a sturdy clamp for attachment, a "bug catcher" loading coil…

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio operator, a continuing series

A loop approach to restrictive antenna conditions.

As I was reading the November 2011 "QST" today, I ran across an interesting antenna idea from Cristian Paun, WV6N.  His article entitled "An Antenna Idea for Antenna Restricted Communities" on page 35 really hit home.  My space restrictions are severe and the antennas I use certainly work (inverted "vees", vertical monopoles, and loops), but they could be better and perhaps even smaller.  Cristian describes a small loop he built and placed in his garden.  Previously, he had been using various mobile antennas between 3.5 and 30 MHz with some degree of success.  He wondered if he could use less space and yet produce results surpasing his best efforts.  Apparently, the small magnetic loop he designed and used proved most useful, with some improvement over the mobile antennas he once used.  Cristian's instructions are fairly simple and the final product is attractive, discrete, and almost sculture-like.  H…

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operator, a continuing series

East Hawaii begins to dry out

After nearly two weeks of rain, East Hawaii skies are clearing.  Although the island is about 60 percent below normal rainfall, this rainy period seemed longer than it really was.  Most of the days were highlighted with heavy showers, flooding, and occasional lightning.  Evenings were mostly wet with scattered thundershowers and lightning--not really an ideal time to be on the radio.  Despite the heavy rains, the modest antenna "farm" in the back yard escaped damage.  The verticals were nested near ground level on cinder blocks 1-foot high, just enough to escape the run off.  The only antenna pressed into service was the 40-meter under the house loop.  Since the sun was mostly absent during this period of storms, the solar cells didn't do much to charge my batteries.  So, I generally stayed off the air and kept things out of harm's way.  Radio time was spent in maintenance and repair of my aging rigs (Swan 100-MX, Kenwood-520, and the tru…

Hawaii QRP Club

Hawaii QRP Club meets

After the passage of a few months, the Hawaii QRP club held a meeting with the Hawaii Council of Radio Clubs at the "Back to the 50s Fountain" in Laupahoehoe--my qth.  Since the meeting was only .7 of a mile from the qth, I decided to drop in and talk with the Hawaii Island hams I hadn't been able to see in person because of my former job.  As a newsman, I usually worked seven days a week in Hilo, making direct contact with local amatuers very difficult.  So, once I retired, I vowed to keep a more active schedule with my fellow hams.  The Hawaii QRP Club meets daily at the Hilo Jack In the Box, just outside of Hilo, from 0600-0800 local time.  I won't be able to make most of those meetings, because I'm on standby as a substitute teacher for Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  So, it was a great experience to trade tall stories with those I've only contacted on the air.  Since I retired on 30 September, life has become more casual and…

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 15

Antennas--a cautionary tale

While reviewing the latest edition of eham.net, I ran across an interesting antenna "classic" by Don, W8AD.  "HF Antenna installation hints", originally published on 12 November 2006, offers many useful installation tips for those of us facing space retrictions, HOA and CC & R problems, and nosey neighbors.  Don provides a review of slopers, dipoles, antic antennas, and site locations for the intrepid radio amateur.  The follow up comments are also worth a read.  Don has written a good, basic primer for those of us a little rusty on the design and limitations of our "antenna farms."

Halloween is past and all of winter lies before us

This Halloween at the qth was wet, windy, and dangerous for those brave enough to do the "trick or treat" routine.  A cold front passed Hawaii Island Monday afternoon bringing several inches of rain, wind gusts of up to 40 knots, and generally dangerous driving conditions.  Many fruit tre…

A contest weekend and other assorted trivia

CQ WW DX SSB contest

I've never been much of a contester.  Before I retired, there just wasn't enough time to fully engage in one of the exciting phases of amateur radio.  There was always something that restricted my time at the old Swan 100-MX.  Now that I've removed myself from the daily routine of getting up at 0230 hrs local time for my news shift at Pacific Radio Group, time has been more generous.  With the CQ WW SSB contest in full swing, I tried my hand at a few pile ups...not too successful, but I did manage a few contacts with my modest station.  Running around 10 watts SSB into an inverted "v" and a homebrew 20-meter vertical dipole surely made for some frustrating moments, but I enjoyed every minute of my limited exposure to the contest.  The October 2011 edition of "CQ" had a nice article on contesting by Geroge Tranos (N2GA), who showed how emergency responders and contesters share many of the same attributes.  This is an article worth rea…

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 14

Final step completed--new career awaits

After 3 weeks of intensive study and three exams, I finally finished my substitute teacher course and submitted all of the necessary paperwork.  In a short time I should be getting my certificate and the opportunity to end this lifetime as a teacher.  It's sort of ironic.  Before I became an amateur radio operator back in 1977, I started out as a teacher.  Life took its inevitable twists and turns, with work ranging from an air force officer to a radio newsman and broadcast engineer.  And now, I've come full circle.  I'll end my days as a teacher.  The circle is closed.

More time for Amateur Radio

Between teaching assignments, I can devote more time to my main diversion all these years--Amateur Radio.  I hope to get on the air more often and build more antennas.  Speaking of which, I was reading a 1978 edition of "The ARRL Antenna Anthology" and came upon a simple ground plane antenna that should fit in my small backyard.  On …

Beginning a new life outside commercial broadcasting

Exchanging the old life for a new one

Eversince I retired from Pacific Radio Group on 30 September 2011, I've been attending classes to get a substitute teaching certificate from the state of Hawaii Department of Education.  I should complete the academic work and the required exam by 21 October 2011.  Once I get interviewed by my wife's school (she is a substitute teacher at Laupahoehoe High School and once served as its school librarian), I should find some temporary work until I get my life fully in order.  After 40 years of broadcasting (both in the military and in civilian life), I welcome the chance to try something new.  I suspect I will enjoy teaching, so this retreaded announcer could find himself before the toughest audience of all--students.

Amateur radio will occupy more of my spare time

I have a list of antenna projects to complete, numerous household chores that are due, and some slack time to enjoy the remaining years of my life.  No regrets, but I do look forward …

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

New Beginings

On 30 September 2011, I left my post as News Director of Pacific Radio Group (Hawaii Island) to enter a new phase of my life--that of retired  senior citizen.  After almost 40 years of delivering the news, questioning politicians, and answering thousands of phone calls from the thoroughly sane to those bordering on the truly outrageous, I've turned off the Shure S-7 broadcast micorphone and opted for a more quiet life along the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island.  Presently, I attending recertification classes to qualify for a substitute teachers certificate  so I can teach at the same school my xyl does.  So much for idle time.

The Old Antenna Farm gets a face lift.

With retirement and some teaching time, I'll be able to devote more attention to squeezing every last watt out of my modest range of antennas--the inverted 40-meter "vee", the 40-meter vertical, and the 40-meter loop under the house.  In the past, my amateur radio time has been spotty because of m…

Amateur Radio rides out the storm

WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE OF INSTABILITY

The weekly news cycle is coming to an end.  After a week of generally disturbing economic, political, and international news,  I'll be glad to flee the radio station news room for some peaceful hours at the amateur radio station nestled in the back bedroom of my home.  One thing is for sure in the news business--it is never dull, no matter what you hear and read.  There is always something building that will break out in a banner headline in the days to come.  Keeping up with all of the twists and turns of the current day surely makes for a busy day.  After doing 30 or so newscasts on our four program streams, I am ready to vacate the media circus for the relative calm of my modest neighborhood along the Hamakua Coast.  Sometimes I wonder how things got so out of hand in my country.  Even after 33 years in the news gathering business, I am still amazed how normally decent, intelligent people can be so taken in by the hucksters passing themselve…

Simple antennas for Hawaii Amateur Radio Operators, part 12

NEW ANTENNA FINALLY UP

Over the course of the past few days, I finally added another skyhook to my modest antenna farm.  It took a few days to secure a few sections of 2" pvc pipe and to  assemble the wire, coax, and twin lead for the project.  The antenna consists of 32' of pvc pipe, 32' of 14-gauge housewire, 32' of 14-gauge wire serving as an elevated counterpoise, and 40' of 450-ohm twin lead attached to a 4:1 balun.  Approximately 15' of RG-6 coax runs from the balun to the Drake MN-4 ATU. 

IS THIS BASIC ANTENNA A DX BUSTER?

No.  But it does work and can be used from 40-meters to 10-meters.  The design goes back to the 1920's and has been refined over the past years by many noted amateurs.  Other than buying a few pieces of pvc pipe, my expenses were zero.  Fortunately, I have a well-stocked "junque" box and was able to find nearly everything I needed on site.  I'm enjoying this simple antenna, given the space restrictions of my back ya…

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 11

9/11 REMEMBERED

Hawaii amateur operators joined the rest of the nation in commemorating the tragic events of 11 September 2001--an event that changed this country and affected the lives of thousands around the world.  On Hawaii Island, residents observed a moment of silence at 7 a.m. Sunday to observe the event.

I remember that day very well.  I arrived shortly at the radio station shortly after 3 a.m. and joined my then morning man, D.C. Carlson, in an all-day, total news broadcast.  Our usual Adult Contemporty format was shelved until 3 p.m. as we aired coverage from the Associated Press, ABC, and CBS.  Chris Leonard, the manager of our cross-town rival KWXX-FM, lost two close friends and a cousin in the tragedy.  Many Hawaii  Island residents knew friends and family who perished on that terrible day.  On that day, at least, all of us were one in mourning that dreadful day.  If my memory serves me, I lost my voice shortly after 3 p.m., signaling that I had "run out of gas" f…

Simple Antennas for Hawaii Amateur Radio Operators, part 10

HOLIDAY IS OVER...IT'S BACK TO AMATEUR RADIO

Now that the Labor Day weekend is over, the news room can return to the normal mix of devious politicians, economic confusion, and the usual helping of local crime, prep football, and the ongoing financial crisis in Hawaii County.  Sound familiar?  It seems as if every community in the nation is facing pretty much of the same thing.  Add a few natural disasters such as raging fires in Texas, drenching rains along the Gulf Coast, hurricanes in the Atlantic, and typhoons in East Asia and you have the ingredients for keeping news people employed.  Welcome to the new definition of normal--whatever that is.  With a return to the normal work schedule, I can allocate some more time to Amateur Radio and the reheating of the ionosphere.

ANTENNA IDEAS REVISITED

During my lunch break, I paid a visit to eham.net and its always fascinating forums.  An antenna article by Craig LaBarge (WB3GCK) caught my eye.  In the middle of his website was a section o…

More simple antenna ideas for the Hawaiian Amateur Radio operator, part 9

How the time flies--the busy Labor Day Weekend is upon us. For those of us who call a radio newsroom our "home away from home", the next few days will be busy indeed.  While I've got the Labor Day Drag Races to run (I'm the tower announcer), the rest of the staff at KKBG-FM/KHLO-AM will be occupied with remote broadcasts, UH-Hilo women's volleyball games, and a variety of cultural activities.  Hawaii Island may be a large rock in the middle of the Central Pacific, but residents do their best to keep their history and traditions alive.  Once you add some excellent tropical weather,  the Labor Day Weekend will be a genuine pleasure.

With all of the above mentioned activities, there won't be much time for amateur radio until after Monday.  Between all of this activity I'll squeeze in some more antenna research and perform the weekly maintenance on the inverted 40-meter inverted "vee" and the 40-meter loop under the house.  Antenna maintenance and re…

Reflections on simple antennas-a Hawaii perspective

MOTHER NATURE KEEPS US BUSY

This week has been filed with enough stories to keep any news person busy.  For those of us on Hawaii Island, what was left of Tropical Storm "Fernanda" didn't create any disturbance other than a few windward showers and some higher than normal surf along the southeast shore.  My heart goes out to those facing the trial of Hurricane "Irene"--this looks like a very nasty storm.  It's good to see many people are preparing ahead of time for the storm's arrival or leaving the danger area before high winds begin.  I expect amateur radio operators are gearing up for  whatever Nature throws at them.  Having experienced several hurricanes and tsnuamis in Hawaii, I know these developments should not be ignored.  It always amazes me that there are those who choose to ride out the storm rather than "get out of dodge".  I suppose it's a personal decision, but why tempt fate?   For us in Hawaii County, the passing of "F…

Surviving a tropical storm in Hawaii

Hawaii Island amateur radio operators are breathing more easily now that the Central Pacific Hurricane Center has downgraded Tropical Storm "Fernanda" to a tropical depression with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.  Remnants of this once potent storm should pass south of Hawaii Island Sunday or Monday, bringing a few showers and higher than normal surf.  It appears those of us on Hawaii Island have dodged the proverbial "bullet".  Local civil defense officials are keeping an eye on "Fernanda" just in case it pulls a switcher-roo like Hurricane "Iniki" did twenty years ago.  "Iniki" passed south of Hawaii Island as a weak tropical storm and then found warm water, regained category 4 strength, and flattened most tall objects on the Island of Kauai.  The "Garden Island" lost nearly all of its communications infrastructure, many homes, and several businesses.  It took months to rebuild the place, thanks to National Guard personn…

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur, part 8

Homebrew antennas are an endless source of experiment, creativity, and occasional frustration.  Armed with a few good antenna books from the ARRL,CQ Publications, and the RSGB, I've built a variety of  verticals, dipoles, and loops which work most of the time.  Since I'm not an electronics wizard, there have been a few ideas that just didn't pan out, including a homebrew 1/2 end-fed hertz that developed a bad case of corona discharge at the end of the antenna.  That 40-meter project was a disaster, but it taught a few valuable lessons about matching devices, baluns, and swr.  I think the next time I want to use an end-fed hertz, I'll violate my long-standing rule of "rolling my own" in favor of a commercial product by Par Electronics, Radiowavz, or Comet.  I'm alright when it comes to simple verticals, dipoles, and loops.  Anything beyond that calls for more study and careful attention to detail.  I'm still in the learning process--something that will…

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio operator, part 7

This week has proven busy for those who call a broadcast news studio "their home away from home."  With all of the debt-ceiling talk and arguments on just how insolvent we are, there is sufficient news to keep this announcer occupied.  There hasn't been much time to relax before the ole Swan 100-MX and enjoy a casual qso.  This weekend will be fully engaged as well with a full schedule of drag races at the Hilo Drag Strip.  I work as the tower announcer, a role that keeps me out of trouble for the entire weekend.  Despite a jammed week, I've managed to pursue a number of antenna articles and related projects.  The August issue of "QST" contains an interesting description of an elevated 40-meter monopole with two-tuned counterpoise wires.  The skyhook seems to work alright, so, if you have a convenient tree or pole in the backyard, you may want to experiment with this antenna.  Of course, those of us without such supports will have to be more creative.  For …

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 6

Here are a few more unusual and somewhat offbeat antennas I've used with varying degrees of success.  All of these "creations" work to the extent that you will get some contacts.  I've lived in a few challenging places where amateur radio antennas were never part of the landlord's world view.  Although my current qth is quite nice, it is still restricted to a small lot shared by 3 other modest rental homes and is approximately 20' away from utility poles.  With all of the salt air and moisture found on Hawaii Island, you can imagine the corona discharge problems I face several times a year.  To be fair, the Hawaii Electric Light Company does its best to keep the transmissions lines inspected and cleaned.  On an island with about 4,000 square miles, line maintenance is a major headache for the telephone, cable, and power companies.

In my antenna book for 2002, I found a stop-gap antenna that served me well while the backyard was being torn up for a new septic …