Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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 Swan 100-MX.  In order to create the atmosphere of my former novice days, I will run less than 75 watts, use a straight key, and erect my first novice antenna--a 40-meter inverted vee.  I wish the old Heathkit HW-101 was still in the shack, but I foolishly let it go many years ago for reasons I can't seem (or don't want to) remember.  This year, the accent will be on fun and laid back operating.  The ARRL is asking for logs and recommendations for the best "fist" heard on the air.  This event will mirror some of the old "novice roundup" days where any contact was cherrished.  Early in my novice days, I was fortunate to have the long-lost HW-101 as my prime rig--I really enjoyed this boatanchor.  Perhaps, I'll find another one someday.  The important thing is to enjoy the event with what you have on hand.

I still have the 130-foot "long wire" running through the backyard and into my neighbor's garden.  I'll probably use the wire for some contacts.  I'll have to take it down before he returns from a mainland trip.  The standby 40-meter loop under the house will be pressed into service for local state-wide contacts.  This NVIS antenna does a great job on state wide HF nets.

Have a good, safe, and sane New Year's Eve.  One of the reasons I want to enter the SKN is to keep myself off the roads on the festive evening.  When I was working full-time at the radio station, I had a few close encounters with drinking drivers--not a fun experience.  So, just take it easy this weekend.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM (Russ)
Laupahoehoe, Hawaii--along the beautiful Hamakua Coast.

P.S.  And yes, that fearsome picture peering from a previous post is yours truly...none the worst for wear after more than six decades on this planet.  My computer connect is quite slow in this rural area of Hawaii Island, so uploading pictures of anykind is a major project.  Happy Holidays!.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

bigislandnewsman's photostream

Russ Roberts

Russ Roberts, KH6JRM, editor of "KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog" and editor of prgnewshawaii.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

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, 0000 UTC to 2359 UTC.  This is the time to recall and take part in the fun associated with hand-sent CW...especially CW sent by "boatanchor" rigs such as the old Heathkits, Yaesus, Kenwoods, Swans, Drakes, Collins, and Hallicrafters.  The ARRL says this event is not really a contest, but rather a chance to operate vintage gear and make new friends worldwide.  Although my oldest rig is a Kenwood TS-520, I plan to use as much "old" gear as I can, including a J-38 key and some classic antennas.  Presently, I have a 20-meter dipole and 40-meter loop that could be pressed into service.  A random length wire around 130 feet will also be used as long as my neighbor doesn't mind the wire crossing his property.  If you have the time, get on the air with a homebrew dipole or vertical antenna.  Ah, those thrilling days of yesteryear, when novices like me, were thrilled to just get a contact on our crystal-controlled rigs running 75 watts or less.  I imagine all sorts of homebrew transmitters will be dusted off the shelf and used to create the proper "atmosphere" of that night.  You can submit your votes for "best fist" and "most interesting QSO" along with your log to straightkey@arrl.org or by regular mail to ARRL Straight Key Night, 225 Main St., Newington, CT, 06111.

Another popular event is the ARRL Kids Day, set for 07 January 2012, from 1800-2400 UTC.  The program is designed to encourage young people to have fun with Amateur Radio.  The event will give on-the-air experience to youngsters and foster interest in gettting an amateur radio license of their own.  The December 2011 "QST" has a nice article about Kids Day and shows how one of our Hawaii Island amateurs, Lloyd Cabral (KH6LC), provided hours of fun and education to aspiring hams last year.  For details on Kids Day, visit www.arrl.org/kids-day.

The final trio of early January operting events is the always popular ARRL RTTY Roundup, which will run between 1800 UTC Sunday, 07 January 2012 to 2359 UTC Sunday, 08 January 2012.  Digital stations worldwide will be doing their best to contact as many fellow amateurs as time allows.  Although I'm not equipped to run RTTY yet, I plan to dive into the RTTY as soon as I can.  All logs must be postmarked no later than 2359 UTC Tuesday, 07 February 2012.  You can e-mail Cabrillo-formated electronic logs to rttyru@arrl.org.  Good luck everyone.

QST TO OFFER DIGITAL FORMAT

The ARRL plans to issue "QST" in a digital format sometime by mid-year 2012.  Recent editions of the "ARRL Letter" have the details.  This follows an earlier announcment by CQ Publications that it will start digital subscriptions by the end of this year (2011).  Unlike the CQ project, the digital "QST" will not come at an additional price.  I see this as a desireable trend, since digital publishing will reduce costs in the area of paper and distribution.  When I worked in the commercial broadcast business, most of my professional journals were available in a digital format.  Once I set up various files, it was easy to read, store, retrieve, and print what I needed.  With distribution costs rising ever higher, digital publishing is the way to go.  It may take some time to adjust to the change, but with resources getting more costly, digital is an obvious alternative to previous publishing methods.  On a local level, the Big Island Amateur Radio Club has converted its monthly newsletter to digital, saving the club hundreds of dollars in postage and printing costs.

With SKN approaching, I'll spend some time this week repairing the homebrew antennas for the event.  Although I still use the J-38 key, my sending skills could use some improvement, so a little CW this week should get me up to speed.  Good luck in the SKN.

Have a safe and sober holiday season.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Thursday, December 15, 2011

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 the most professional people I have met and they gave me a lot of slack, but it was time to move on.  I still drop in at the studio every now and then to cut a few commercials and remain available to help with election coverage and disaster assistance.  My new role as a teacher has been rewarding so far.
Now that I'm free a few more hours a week, I can concentrate on helping my xyl with the usual domestic chores and in expanding my modest amateur radio station.

IMPROVING THE SHACK--A PROGRAM IN PROGRESS

As I've mentioned before, my radio shack is modest with a bunch of older rigs and homebrew antennas.  In the antenna category, I've been able to build a few verticals, loops, and dipoles that work very well, considering the postage-stamp size lot of my rental home.  I would prefer a decent 3-element beam on a 50-foot tower, but the proximity to power lines and neighbors rules that option out for now.  That project will have to wait until a new home is built on my xyl's property in the Puna District.  At this stage of the game, I'll make do with what I have.  So far, the 20-meter vertical dipole, the 40-meter under-the-house loop, and a 67-foot end-fed wire with counterpoise seem to generate enough contackts for now.  Most of antenna ideas are not original.  I've adapted a few very simple designs from ARRL and RSGB antenna books with some success.  I once had a 20-meter loop tacked to the shack's ceiling.  Nothing fancy, but it did get contacts at a low power level (less than 10 watts).  Presently, I'm working on the 67-foot long wire--mainly by improving the counterpoise system.  So far, the Drake MN-4 and the various baluns at my disposal seem to handle the impedance problems with the wire.   For more serious work, I find the homebrew 20-meter vertical dipole a useful and space-saving alternative to running radial wires all over the property.  My backyard is very small, so the radial field tends to be a bit haphazard.  When I used the 40-meter homebrew vertical, I found a tuned counterpoise helped a lot. Nothing too efficient here, but it did work.  For local Hawaii contacts, the 40-meter loop under the house (the house is on a post and pier system about 4 feet off the ground) seems to work very well.  Basically, the loop is a NVIS "cloud warmer" that covers the length of the entire state from Laupahoehoe on Hawaii Island (my qth) to Lihue, Kauai.  This might be a good antenna for those of us who run local or regional HF nets.  Most antenna books have a section on loops.  I haven't tried a magnetic loop, yet.  The November "QST" has an article on a small transmitting/receiving loop fabricated out of copper pipe and some hardy variable tuning capacitors.  Those of you more mechanically skilled than I may want to try one of these antennas if your space restrictions are severe.  I believe MFJ still sells a magnetic loop antenna that could help those of use with little space for antennas.  So, until school resumes in early January, I'll be fixing up the antenna damage done by our recent heavy rains.  This past Monday, Laupahoehoe received more than 8 inches of rain in a 12-hour period.  Although there was little moisture penetration noted in my various antennas, I will spend today checking all connections and rewrapping those that appear damp.  So far, there have been no coax leakages.  The 450-ohm twin lead remains in good shape and the 4:1 balun appears normal.  A few weeks ago I wrapped the balan and its connections in a large plastic bag to protect them from moisture.  I then put the bag into one of those plastic storage cabinets with a snap top to keep the weather out.  The entrance and exit holes for the antenna cables were sealed with a caulking compound.  Apparently, those precautions paid off.

KEEPING THE "OLDIES BUT GOODIES" RUNNING

With the exception of a Ten Tec Scout 555, all of my rigs are more than 20 years old.  For qrp work, I usually rely on the trusty Yaesu FT-7 which puts out a maximum of 20 watts.  I usually run the rig at 10 watts or less.  I keep the transceiver covered to keep dust out.  I've had no trouble with the circuit boards, which are easily cleaned.  The main HF rigs are an old Swan 100-MXA and an almost restored Kenwood TS-520 I received as a gift from the family of a Hawaii ham who passed away last year.  I also have a Drake TR-4 that needs a power supply.  I have the operator's manual for each rig, so I can do some rudimentary trouble shooting if I need to.  To date, the old rigs are steady and I treat them with care.  I try to keep them clean and covered when they are not in use.  I'm slowly putting away some of my funds to buy a rig that's more current.  I have my eye on an Elecraft K3.  For now, though, the rigs I have keep me busy.  I hope to do a little more operating during the holiday break.

Have a good holiday and take care if you're on the road.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM
Laupahoehoe, Hawaii--BK29jx

Thursday, December 8, 2011

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 many points you accumulate, then this article is for you. In the past, I've generally avoided contests because of discourteous operators, qrm, and a host of other problems.  Rick makes the contest scenario bearable by saying "it's also okay just to jump in and work as many contest stations as you'd like, without becoming a contesting convert; you don't have to submit a log or even stick around for the whole event...it's not necessary to go whole hog in order to have a terrific time.  Even modest stations can enter the fray."  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the excitement and frustration of a contest that I forget that even my small station can help someone get a multiplier or even get enough contacts to complete WAS or some other award.  Now that I have some free time in my semi-retired state, I will opt to enjoy the moment and cast aside any attempt to dominate a frequency.  With my small station that won't be too hard.  There's just so much 10 watts will do into a 20-meter homebrew vertical dipole or a low-lying loop.  Yes, I still have the dream of erecting a 50-foot tower with a 4-element beam for 20-meters, but for now, I'm happy just to get on the air.  Nothing like a small lot, non-existent budget, and older equipment to get the creative juices flowing.

SOME INTERESTING ANTENNA IDEAS

In the same issue of "QST", there are several intriguing antenna ideas for those who wish to improve their signal.  "How About an HF Beam Under Your Holiday Tree?" by Joel Hallas, W1ZR, offers some interesting beam antennas that could make your signal more competitive than the dipoles and vertical monopoles many of us are now using.  To his credit, Hallas warns that there are several issues to resolve before that quad or beam sends your signals to some point far away--namely, the cost of a tower, zoning permits, the services of a civil engineer, and perhaps the advice of an attorney.  Once you surmount those obtacles, Hallas gives several examples of simple beams and quads that could make your signal a real powerhouse.  For me, anyway, I'm restricted by space limitations and power lines, so the verticals and loops I now use will have to do until our house is built.  

GOING PORTABLE IN STYLE AND COMFORT

And finally, the December issue of "QST" contains a practical and doable project by Stan Levandowski, WB2LQF.  "A Laptop QRP Station" is well-written and gives a good approach to portable opertion, be it in your home or on the road.  Stan assembled a laptop operating board that was usable from either his lap or a standard height table.  The board was designed to be carried in one hand and accommodated his Elecraft KX1, a clock, a cw paddle, a power source switch, and a place to write.  According to Stan, his project cost less than $20 because he had most of the materials around his shack.  With this project, you could operate in the comfort of your home or at the nearest park bench.  

UPCOMING OPERATING EVENTS

Here are some of my favorite events in the coming months:  The 2012 ARRL DX Contest, CW--0000 UTC Saturday, 18 Februrary to 2359 UTC Sunday, 19 February and Phone--0000 UTC Saturday, 3 March to 2359 UTC Sunday, 4 March.  For VHF enthusiasts, check out The 2012 ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes, 1900 UTC Saturday, 21 January to 0400 UTC, Monday, 23 January.  I don't do much in this contest since I'm in the middle of the Central Pacific.  But who knows? Propagation may favor some contacts, especially if sporatic-E, tropospheric ducting, and aurora help out.  And don't forget Kids Day on 7 January 2012 from 1800 to 2400 UTC.  Several local Hawaii Island amateurs will be active on that date for neighborhood children who want to see what ham radio is all about.  Finally, the 2011 ARRL December Rookie Roundup is set for Sunday, 18 December, from 1800 UTC to 2359 UTC.  This should be good time for both newly licensed "rookies" (2009 to 2011) and us "old timers" who want to capture the feeling of the "Novice Roundups" of the 50's and 60's.

That's about all for now, as the December rains continue along the Hamakua Coast.
Aloha from Hawaii Island and BK29jx in Laupahoehoe.
73 de KH6JRM 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

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, a telescoping 5 1/2-foot whip, coax, a RF choke balun, counterpoise wire, and a safety rope.  The antenna resembles an earlier model marketed by Barker and Williamson (BW) back in the mid-1980's.  I still have one of these temporary antennas.  Late yesterday, I found the antenna in the corner of my radio shack and decided to see if it still worked.  It does!  I attached the antenna to the porch railing of my qth, stretched out the counterpoise, taped the coil in the proper place, and had some nice reports on 20-meters shortly after 1300 W.  The reports ranged from 556 to 558...not bad for a temporary lash up running about 20 watts.  So, if you are hard pressed to find a good temporary antenna and are willing to spend $99.95, you can have one sent to you by MFJ.  I've put the old BW apartment antenna in the van as an emergency antenna, now that I know it works.

On a somewhat related topic, you can use the loaded coil and whip idea in a variety of ways, ranging from the expensive "tar heel" mobile antenna to the old 18VS loaded vertical still being sold today.  I once used my homebrew 40-meter vertical on 80-meters by attaching an 80-meter coil to the base of the vertical.  The possibilities are many--just use your imagination.  While many have criticized MFJ for quality control issues, some of the company's antenna ideas, such as this model 1622 appear to do the job at a modest cost.  The MFJ 1622 might be worth a try.  Or, if you feel ambitious, you can wind your own coils and base load a homebrew vertical.  The ARRL and RSGB have several antenna books that contain many small, inexpensive, and effective verticals that may solve your space problems.

That wraps it up for today.  There is some serious eating to do today.  If you have some time, crank up the ole rig and bang out a few qsos.  You might even run across me on the lower end of 20-meters.

Have an excellent weekend.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM, Hawaii Island

Thursday, November 17, 2011

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.  He concludes by saying "small or magnetic loops turn out to be a viable choice for those hams living in restricted areas.  Depending onthe efficiency of the loop, they can come close to the performance of a full size dipole at a height of 1/2 wavelength...They radiate well at low angles for DX contacts as well as at high angles for short skip communications."  I believe MFJ makes a magnetic loop and tuner for around $400.  MFJ also sells loop tuners that you can attach to a homemade loop that can be placed either outside or tacked to the ceiling of your "shack".  This could be another way to get on the air if you find no other way to erect an antenna.

My experience with loops.

I must admit that the only loop antennas I have had were of the one-wavelength variety strung under the qth or erected temporarily in a delta configuration in the back yard using a single 32-foot fiberglass mast.  A few months back I erected a temporary 20-meter delta loop near the garage and it performed well.  As I remember, I used 69-feet of #14 gauge housewire, with each side of the triangle running 23-feet.  I fed this homebrew skyhook at the lower left-hand corner with 450-ohm twin lead.  I ran the twin lead into a 4:1 balun.  Twenty feet of RG-6 ran from the balun to the trusty Drake MN-4 and then into the Swan 100-MX.  The system worked well until a strong rainstorm took the structure down.  I made a mistake in not guying the mast properly.  I may try this delta loop again, only this time I will take care to build the antenna better.

Mobile antennas can be used in a pinch.

I know several amateurs who use mobile antennas ranging from Hustler systems to the latest Tarheel antennas.  With a decent radial field or elevated counterpoise, these mobile antennas will get you contacts at a reasonable cost.  I have used old Hustler masts, loading coils, and whips to launch my signals from compromised antenna locations.  I had a lot of fun despite the obvious limitations of mobile antennas.  Other systems, such as the Budipole and Outbacker antennas, may give you a more costly alternative to getting on the air.  As for me, I prefer to "roll my own."  There is a certain satisfaction in building your own antenna and actually having the contraption work!  To that end, I have accumulated several antenna books and a well-stocked "junk" box for my antenna projects.  In this area, the local hardware store can be a real treasure chest of parts, wire, and tools for your next antenna project.  Half the fun of being on the air is designing and erecting your own creation.  Besides, when I am working on antennas, the xyl always knows where I am, in case the "honey-do" jar gets filled up.  Now that I am semi-retired, there is enough time to keep the house in repair and to pursue amateur radio on a more regular basis.

That just about wraps up this monologue.  Have an excellent weekend with many contacts.  You may even want to build your own antenna....go for it...have fun!.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM
Laupahoehoe, Hawaii (The Big Island).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

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 trusty Yaesu FT-7).  I also found two interesting antenna articles in the November 2011 "QST".

Going on 80 and 160 meters from a space challenged location

The article entitled "A 160 or 80 Meter Downspout Vertical" on page 45 caught my eye since it appealed to my  "do it yourself" mindset.  Dave Holdemann, N9XU, describes how he built an effective 80 and 160 meter antenna out of two 10 foot sections of plastic downspout material, a toilet bowl capacitance hat, and some number 14 gauge wire he bought at a hardware store.  This quote really hit home:  "I'm always amazed at what can find at a hardware store that is adaptable to ham radio."  So true in many ways.  I've always enjoyed building my own wire antennas, partly because of cost concerns and partly because I get a thrill of having one of my "skyhooks" actually work!  I'm also cheap, an unfortunate result of being retired.  Once in a while, I get the opportunity to use a friend's station, complete with a modern rig and a decent beam.  That's quite an experience.  But in my current financial situation, modesty and low cost are the rules of the day.  I'm saving up for the Elecraft K3, but for the present, I'll work with what I have.

What do you do if your qth has no antenna room?

Also in the November 2011 "QST", is an interesting article entitled "The Never Ending Field Day" by Yigal Rchtman, K2EFG.  Yigal found that he could not operate from his four-story brownstone in Brooklyn, News York and decided to operate portable all the time (weather permitting).  So, equipped with a Yaesu FT-857D, a 15 foot photographer's tripod, and a Buddipole antenna system, he set out to have fun.  He succeeded in making contacts, got fully engaged in ARES work, and learned how to explain his presence to law enforcement officials who questioned his adventures in public parks.  If you wish to contact Yigal, visit k2efg@arrl.net.

Upcoming contests
19 November 2001--ARRL EME
19 November 2011--ARRL November Sweepstakes
19 November 2001--RSGB Second 1.8 Mhz contest
A complete list of the month's contests can be found on page 89 of the November 2001 "QST".

That just about wraps up the week from the Central Pacific.  On Monday, it's back to the classroom and my students at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  Teaching is a new profession for me and I have a lot to learn.  Thankfully, my xyl, who has been a school librarian and a teacher substitute for several years, is willing to "show me the ropes".  I've been helping her in her classes to get a sense of what's expected of me.  This is quite a rewarding challenge.  If things work out, I'd like to start a high school amateur radio club.  But that's in the future.

Have a good week, get on the air, have some fun!
Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Saturday, November 5, 2011

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 less rushed than before.  No more news deadlines or getting on the highway to Hilo by 0300 hrs local time to complete another 12-14 hour day.  The job was fulfilling but also very taxing on my resources.  With gasoline prices toping $4.27 a gallon for regular fuel and a 70 mile round trip each day, the expenses were getting a bit much.  Although Hawaii Island has a good bus system (which is free for senior citizens such as I), the schedule has no provision for very early morning runs.  So, the transportation issue quickly became a prime concern as fuel prices increased.  Granted, the costs of fuel in Hawaii are considerably lower than in other places in the world, but the gradually rising cost of fueling my vehicle was beginning to take a bigger chunk of my limited budget.  I chose to retire and seek employment closer to home.  Teaching was an obvious choice with the public school being only a mile or so from my home.  Now that I'm semi-retired, I can participate in a few more amateur radio activities, including Field Day (last weekend in June) which I've only attended a few times in the past 37 years.  Things are looking up, radiowise.

Antenna work intermittent

Eversince Halloween (31 October), Hawaii Island has been blessed with rainly and somewhat stormy weather as the winter cold fronts begin their progression westward across the islands.  The rain and thunderstorms have retricted my amateur radio activities a bit, since I don't believe in operating with lightning in the vicinity.  I've already lost a vertical to a lightning bolt and have no desire to repeat that process.  As reported in a past update, I leave all of my antennas disconnected and grounded and unplug any electrical appliance (transceivers included) when storms approach.  So far, I've been lucky in escaping further threats from mother nature.  Between all of the thunder boomers, I've kept busy cleaning equipment, maintaining the battery power sources, and repairing the usual damage from salt air, insects, and various rodents.  With my vertical and inverted "v" antennas lowered to ground level during non-use periods, I have easy access for repairs and hopefully a reduced risk from lightning reaching my equipment.  Once the weather clears, I'll do some more work on the temporary 20-meter vertical dipole, which has performed well at low power (10 watts or less).  The inverted "v" is healthy and the under the house 40-meter loop is available for local nets. 

Other antenna ideas

The rental house upslope from the qth is vacant for awhile, which gives me an opportunity to string a "long wire" antenna pointing northwest.  Two years ago, I erected 135 feet of number 14 gauge wire as a random length antenna with a few 33-foot radials in the backyard.  The skyhook did a good job from 40 to 10 meters.  The trusty Swan 100-MX seemed to handle the temporary antenna with no problem.  There are a few 30-40-foot trees nearby which can support the structure.  I'll get to this project in a few days.

QRP Club schedule

Amateur radio operators are invited to attend the next monthly meeting of the Hawaii Council of Radio Clubs on Saturday, 0800 local time at Volcano's Lava Rock Cafe on the Old Volcano Road in Volcano Village.  As mentioned earlier, the Hawaii QRP Club holds daily meeting at the Hilo Jack In the Box, from 0600 to 0800 local time.

Have an excellent weekend.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

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 trees were bent over in my neighborhood by the strong winds and debris covered miles of the Hamakua Coast Highway.  My xyl had prepared approximately 180 candy packets for the expected rush of the neighborhood children, but only 30 were given away because of the marginal weather conditions.  I see most of New England was blanketed by an early winter storm with some folks losing power until this weekend.  Not a good night for trick or treating.  According to the eham.net website, hams in New England have been busy keeping the communications lines open for law enforcement and emergency personnel.  Ole man winter appears to have arrived early...what a mess.  So far this year, Hawaii Island has escaped most of the heavy rains that usually fall from September through April.  The season is early and more rain is expected.  It will be welcomed, since much of the island is gripped by drought.  The Laupahoehoe qth has experienced only a half of the normal 75 inches.  The water shortage is especially acute in the Kailua-Kona area of Hawaii Island.  Many rural homes in Hawaii still use catchment systems.

Halloween scares in the radio realm

As mentioned earlier, Halloween was a very wet affair in my neighborhood.  After my xyl and I returned from our daily walk, I thought it best to lower the vertical dipole and inverted "v".  I'm glad I did.  The frontal passage brought about 5 hours of thunder and lightning.  A lightning strike took out a utility pole transformer several blocks from my qth.  I lost a vertical antenna a few years ago to a lightning strike...fortunately, all my equipment was unplugged and all antennas were disconnected from the house.  The fiberglass pole that supported the 40-meter vertical was blown to pieces and the coax running to the ground rod was thoroughly destroyed.  One of the things I do every night when I shut down the old Swan 100-MX is to disconnect and ground all antennas, unplug all appliances, and disconnect my PC from the mains.  Eventhough my amateur radio equipment runs off batteries, I disconnect everything.  The PC and other vital electronics (stereo, television, disc recorder/player) are connected to UPSs and surge protectors.  I disconnect them anyway when night approaches.  Hawaii Island gets a good number of "thunderboomers" throughout the year and I can't afford the chance of leaving equipment unprotected.  And even when the weather is fine (which is most of the time), the local utility faces power interruptions caused by earthquakes, landslides, traffic accidents, and the occaisonal lava flow.  The only sure source of power on this isolated chunck of basalt is a solar/battery system.  Many local businesses are installing solar systems to help offset the high cost of electricity in the islands.

I hope you enjoyed the holiday and didn't get "spooked" by the local children making their trick or treat rounds.  I guess the only people who look forward to this holiday are the children and the occaisonal dentist who will try to repair the damage done by a "jawbreaker" or too many snickers candy bars.  As for the CQ WW Sweepstakes--I got overwhelmed.  My 10-watt signal was no match for the 4-element monobanders, 100-foot towers, and the much admired Alpha amps.  I did have fun, though.  Everytime I dip into the contest pool I learn something.  Wait 'till next time.

Have a good day and get on the air......

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Friday, October 28, 2011

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 reading.  As time rolls along, I'll make changes to my station in the hopes of doing better against "kilowatt alley" and the super stations dominating the bands.  Propagation from Hawaii Island was good on 15-meters from 2200 UTC to 0300 UTC.  Twenty meters was alright but nothing spectacular.

Spectrum defense

The "ARRL Spectrum Defense Matters" newsletter, dated September 2011 contains some interesting material concerning the upcoming WARC-12 conference set for January 2012 in Geneva.  It appears momentum is gathering for a secondary allocation for the amateur service at 461-469- and 471-478 kHz.  It would be nice to have another amateur band, even at these low frequencies.  A quarter wave vertical at these frequencies would be immense--almost 1,000 feet!  Of course, such a stick would be almost impossible for most of us.  None the less, amateurs who have been running experimental stations in the neighborhood of 500k Hz have devised some ingenious, short antennas that most of us could build should that portion of the spectrum become available.  An interesting challenge lies ahead.  Also, the newsletter outlined current negotiations over HF Oceanograph Radar in the 5,250-5,450 kHz section of 60-meters.  Apparently, the United States is the only country pushing for this slice of spectrum--frequencies shared by government and by amateur radio operators on a secondary basis.  Apparently, some of those using CODAR signals have been willing to move down to 4.9 mHz for some of their operations.  The ARRL has made a pitch for funds in order to protect and extend current amateur radio frequencies at the WARC-12 conference.  While I don't support everything the ARRL does, spectrum defense has my support.  I will send a few dollars to ARRL HQ--hopefully this will help our delagation in negotiating an improved position for amateur radio.

A good weekend ahead

That's about all from this side of the central Pacific.  Enjoy the contest.  I'll do my best with what I have.  Have a good weekend.  Get on the air and have some fun.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

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 page 19, Arthur S. Gillespie, Jr. (K4TP) described a simple, yet effective antenna for 20-meter enthusiasts.  "A multi groundplane vertical antenna with tuned feeders" is straightforward and may provide a decent antenna for those facing severe space restrictions (like I do).  The antenna is just a 16'9" piece of wire or tubing supported on a pole with four 16' 9" radials running from the base of the antenna.  The arrangement is fed with what appears to be 450-ohm twin lead to an antenna tuner.  I built and tried this antenna over the past weekend and it works very well on 20, 15, and 10 meters.  Performance on 40 meters is marginal, but you can work in the 7 Mhz region if you have to.  The antenna cost me nothing since I had the materials on hand.

Keeping the vertical alive

Because of my smallish back yard, most of my antennas have been verticals or loops strung under the house.  My trusty 40-meter vertical had been taking a beating from the rains and salt air over the past few months, so I decided it was time to restring the wire on the fiberglass mast and examine the feedlines and coax to the shack.  I'm glad I did a routine maintenance check on Sunday.  The coax to the shack from the 4:1 balun had been chewed by some kind of rodent, most likely a roof rat which can eat almost anything.  Since I was out of RG-8x, I pressed some RG-6 cable into service.  Fortunately, I had some "F" to UHF male adapters on hand, so the hook up was painless.  I got the fairly rare connectors from B & A Products, Co., P.O. Box 1376, Muldrow, Oklahoma, 74948.  The adapters work very well.  The Drake MN-4 handles the slight mismatch between 50 and 75-ohms without any trouble.  The 40-meter vertical with its associated tuned counterpoise is once again doing its job.  Still on the drawing board is the 20-meter vertical dipole, which should be erected in the next week or so.  

None of these antennas are anything special, but they do work.  As with all my vertical antennas, I can lower them when I'm not operating--a great convenience when it comes to nosey neighbors or protecting the antennas from lightening.  As the old saying goes, "so many antennas, so little time."  I trust that your weekend will be filled with interesting contacts...you might even hear me from the isolated Hamakua Coast on the lower side of 40-meters.  I always QSL...something I picked up as a novice amateur radio operator.  Have a good weekend.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.                                         

Sunday, October 16, 2011

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 to dedicating more time to my xyl, travel, and, of course, to amateur radio.  The immediate antenna project is the erection of a vertical dipole for 20-meters.  My 40-meter vertical with tuned counterpoise works reasonably well on 40 through 20 meters, but laying out a decent radial field in my small backyard is a real challenge.  The under the house 40-meter loop will stay in place, since it works well for the local coverage I need.  This NVIS loop does extra duty as a shortwave and medium wave antenna for my vintage  Hallicrafters SX-62-A.  Most likely, I'll use my 33-foot pvc mast for the supporting structure with equal 16' 6" wires attaced to the pole and connected to approximately 50' of 450-ohm twin lead.  That wire will go to a 4:1 balun fed by 20' of RG-6.  The coax will be attached to the venerable Drake MN-4 ATU before it enters the Swan 100-MX.  I had a similar arrangement a few years back and the set up seemed to work well.

Other Amateur radio news of note
Bob Scheider, AH6J, the ARRL Pacific Section Manager, has reported the theft of solar cells and batteries from the Hualalai site of the Big Island Wide Area Repeater Network.  A similar theft occurred in early September at the FAA radio beacon site in Pahoa.  The BIWARN system is part of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service and supports many government and non-government emergency responders.  Bob reported the incident to the Hawaii Island Police Department, the landowner (Bishop Estate), and the FBI.  Bob belives the theft was well planned and carried out by a well-equipped gang.  The equipment will not be replaced until the perpertrators are caught and "put out of circulation".  Those with information on this case are encouraged to call the Hawaii County Police Department.  The theft puts everyone on the west side of Hawaii Island at a greater risk in time of emergency because this vital communications link has been disable.  As for the Pahoa incident, the beacon (POA) serves trans pacific flights and general aviation as a backup safety net.  One wonders why anyone would deliberately sabotage public safety by committing the above crimes.  I suppose some people have no sense of responsibility or decency.  Just look at the state of current events--no leadership, abdication of responsibility, incompetence through all levels of human affairrs, and the tolerance of stupidity.  I saw enough of this pattern in my 40 years in the commercial broadcast business to last a lifetime.  Please forgive the rant, but you'd think our nation would have learned something in the past 235 years.  Apparently, we have to commit the same mistakes repeatedly to gain any insight into our behavior.

Three cheers for amatuer radio

In light of the above events, I'm glad amateur radio provides a needed break from the insanity loosely described as current life.  At least you can turn the dial if someone offends you.  Thankfully, most hams I've run across are decent, considerate people.  I'll be back to my usual cheerful self after I complete my substitute teacher course and get busy putting up that 20-meter vertical.  Even though I'm retired, I can't let grass grow beneath my feet.  Enjoy the coming week. 

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

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 my commitments to the radio station.  With my retirement, I can participate a little more in local ham club activities such as field day, which I missed again this year because of work requirements.  Although I won't be working a regular shift at the radio station, I will be available to cover elections and natural disasters.  I'll be availabe as a contract worker for specific assignments.  This suits me fine.  I can still keep my hand in broadcasting while having more time to spend with my xyl and community.  The radio station gave my an excellent send off, complete with a proclamation from Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi.  I never expected that.  I guess my reputation wasn't as bad as I thought.  All told, my radio experience was excellent despite the long hours and time away from the xyl.  At least I'll be home most of the time.  We are also planning to build our final home, which would complete the cycle began when I arrived in Hawaii back in 1959.  How the time does fly!

New antenna idea

The September 2011 edition of "CQ" Magazine has an interesting article by Ted Luebbers, K1AYZ, who has set up his amateur radio station in a home trailer in Orland, Maine.  He has done a lot with very little space.  His suggestions may prove inspiring to those of us restricted by HOAs, CC&Rs, and lack of space.  The article is well-written and contains some valuable suggestions for those of us forced to operate with the barest minimum of equipment and antennas.  As time permits, I will be offering a few antenna ideas of my own--nothing too technical--just workable and usable with readily obtainable parts.  Part of the fun of amateur radio is the building, erecting, and using home brew antennas.  In this area, your local hardware or building supply store can offer many items to the antenna enthusiast.

Back to the books

It's time to end this brief update and head for the study hall, aka the living room table.  I have a lot of catching up to do before the state of Hawaii allows me to run a classroom.  One thing is for sure--life is as exciting and challenging as you make it.  One of these days, I hope to meet you on the air.  So, if you hear a cq from Laupahoehoe on the lower end of 40 or 20 meters, don't be afraid to respond.  There are so many people to meet and so little time to do so....Have a good week and get on the air.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Friday, September 23, 2011

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 themselves off as leaders of this once dynamic nation.  I suppose many of us just fail to see the larger picture and naively opt for putting trust in a "dream" with no foundation.  Add to this mix irresponsibility, incompetence, and lack of concern for our own citizens and you get a ship of state with no rudder, no purpose, and little concern for the consequences of past actions.  Facing reality is our basic problem.  In my newscasts and daily news blog, I try to raise the awareness level of my fellow citizens, but, as you may suspect, those efforts are ignored or criticized as the ramblings of a news junkie.  There is a good side, though.  My news blog gets about a 100 hits a day with comments--not bad for a small outpost in the Central Pacific.

Sorry for the rant, but I get tired of people ignoring the obvious and failing to take steps to correct some of the small problems around us.  Our island community elects the same people to public office, tolerates a growing drug culture, and generally refuses to prepare for the economic tsumani that will engulf us in the future.  Granted, many of us on this "rock" do care, especially in those areas where human services are concerned.  Many of our local civic groups, churches, and non-profit agencies do an excellent job of serving the less fortunate, who have been cut off from county assistance because of the state's budget woes.  None the less, I wonder just how well off we will all be here once the ocean going freighters can't afford to come here....freight charges, fuel surcharges, and a myriad of other factors have made daily life in the Aloha State a very costly affair....try $4.21 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Hilo.  And that is just for openers.  

SO, WHAT DOES ONE DO IN THIS SITUATION?

Like many of my fellow amateur radio operators and nearby neighbors, I have cut expenses to the bone.  The small family garden, the weekly farmers' market, and the geneosity of friends have helped trim the grocery bill to a manageable level.  My xyl and I practice energy conservation whenever possible.  If we are not using something electrical, we turn it off.  We have a timer on the water heater as well--all of that helps trim expenses.  I keep the van tuned and maintained so it runs at the best efficiency possible.  As for my amateur radio station, I use solar-charged batteries to stay off the grid.  The equipment and antennas are definitely "old school".  The old Swan 100-MX and Kenwood 520 are the main rigs and they do a good job for my irregular appearances on the amateur radio bands.  As mentioned in earlier posts, the antenna system is homebrew, using wire, coax, and twin lead I find at yard sales or from station studio rebuilds.  I have been fortunate to acquire some useful pieces of RG-6 from various station projects.  RG-6 has been converted into patch cords and even feed lines for my verticals, inverted "vees", and loops.  I have found RG-6, extendable aluminun "fruit pickers, and decently priced pvc pipe at local hardware stores.  The harware store can be a treasure trove for amateur radio operators confined to a limited budget.  I suppose my conservative New England roots are showing, but I prefer to "roll my own" when it comes to antennas.  The money freed from the process can be used for other purposes, such as food and fuel.  I have nothing against the many commercial antennas available, but food, shelter, and fuel come first.  The same principal applies to my rigs.  While the old Kenwood and Swan are by no means state of the art, they fulfill the purpose of my amateur radio operations.  I keep the rigs clean and don't push the finals to exhaustion.  Most of the time, I run power levels of less than 50 watts.  With my solar chareged batteries, I don't worry about bumping up the electric bill or suffering through a power outage.  I am still putting a few dollars away for an Elecraft K-3, but that rig will have to wait until I can pay for it up front.

LEADING A REDUCED AMATEUR RADIO LIFESTYLE

Despite these self-imposed restrictions, I still have a good time working the bands.  Admitedly, my "antenna farm" on the strip of land I call a backyard will not break a DX pileup.  But, I enjoy what can be done under the circumstances.  My modest arrangement provides many hours of fun at very little cost.

Some of my amateur radio friends think such steps are a bit extreme.  They may be right.  I just prefer to pay cash, incur no debt, and do things for myself.  I am not a technical whiz by any means.  I have the solder burns and few piles of damaged components to prove my marginal competence.  But life is a journey and there is much to learn along the way.  Giving up is not an option.  I have lived in restrictive radio enviroments before and still put rf into the atmosphere.  One must be creative and willing to push the knowledge envelope. Thankfully, there are many books and websites to help you enjoy this fascinating hobby.  So, take the bull by the tail and face the situation.  Do what you can to get on the air.  Improve your capabilities as your budget and time allow.

Thanks for letting me vent--it has been a stressful week.  Things could be worse--I could be organized.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Saturday, September 17, 2011

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 yard.  Like my inverted "vee", this antenna can be swiveled down to ground level when it is not in use.  The visual impact of both antennas is minimal.  Since I do most of my operating after sunset, the antenna farm is largely invisible to the neighbors.

OTHER LOW IMPACT ANTENNA IDEAS

If verticals and dipoles aren't part of your antenna plans, you may want to experiment with loops of various sizes.  For those facing CC & R and HOA restrictions, a small magnetic loop may get you on the air.   MFJ sells a magnetic loop and all of the associated hardware necessary to keep you active from an unfriendly environment.  Although it appears a bit expensive, many amateur radio operators seem to like this product.

I was able to place a full-wave 40-meter loop (141') under my house for a backup antenna.  My qth is supported by pillars and concrete pads approximately 5' above ground level, so there is some clearance for the antenna.  This loop provides good regional service and works the Hawaiian Island chain with ease.  The loop is, for all practical purposes, a NVIS antenna with coverage stretching out to about 300 miles.  I get no RFI in the qth, since power levels are usually 10 watts or less.

MORE IDEAS FOR THE ANTENNA CHALLENGED

If you live in an area where antennas are considered little more than an "eyesore" (thanks to CC &R and HOA restrictions), you may have to be a bit creative in getting your amateur station on the air.  An internet search for stealth or hidden antennas will reveal a wealth of information that can help you rejoin the ham radio community.  I have a well-worn edition of an ARRL publication on stealth antennas which has given me several good ideas.   Don't be afraid to experiment with low power, various digital modes, or unusual antennas.  The idea is to get on the air and enjoy the hobby with the resources available.  The local hardware store can supply you with most of the antenna items you need.  Even the local cable company may be willing to part with unused lengths of coax.  Fitted with suitable connectors, RG-6 can serve as a replacement for RG-58 and RG-8x.  A decent ATU can match this nominal 75-ohm cable to your rig. 

That's it for today......it's time to close the news room and head for the qth.  I hope to squeeze in a few hours at the J-38 key on the lower portion of 40-meters before I roll back the sheets for a good night's rest. 

Have a good weekend.  Do your  best to get on the air...use it or lose it.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

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" for the day.  Thanks to warm water, green tea, and a shot of Jack Daniel's and honey, the "pipes" recovered enough to go on the air the next day.  That was quite an experience. 

Nothing has been "normal" since that day.  Air travel is a real chore,  security has been "enhanced" everywhere, and the battle against what we in this nation label as "terrorists" continues unabatted a decade after 9/11.  For many in Hawaii, the war against the "shadow enemy" has become personal, with many island families losing friends and family members in that seemingly endless conflict.

Suffice to say, all of us in Hawaii will never be the same.  I'll leave it to the "experts" to determine how and why Americans got involved in this mess.  All I can do is offer solace to the victims, report the news as best I can, and help residents here understand the new reality of the age.  The truth is very grim--this nation and many others will be engaged in this battle for a long time.  Those of us in the media bear some responsibility for not keeping the public informed and aware of what is really happening.  In this remote part of the Central Pacific, the world seems far away, but it is not.  Even Hawaii Island has had its share of bomb threats and alerts related to possible terrorist activities.  A review of past articles in the "Hawaii Tribune-Herald" and in "West Hawaii Today" newspapers will show the Aloha State has not escaped the current reality.  Welcome to the new age of uncertainty, national bankruptcy, and economic stagnation. 

AMATEUR RADIO AND THE SUSPENSION OF REALITY

After a day filled with bad news, I can't wait to get out of the newsroom and head home for a few hours on the old Swan 100-MX.  My modest ham radio station and even simpler antennas (verticals, inverted "vees") give me hours of relaxation and stress release from a world I can't change.  About the only thing one can do these days is change the way you react to the events around you.  Amateur radio provides a needed respite from the cares of the world.  I am still amazed by what can be done with low power, modest antennas, and decent propagation.  I was never really into contests--too much stress and a reminder of the pressure I feel in the newsroom.  I prefer casual contacts in a relaxed atmosphere.  About the only time I jump into a contest is when Field Day rolls around or when I stumble into a contest where my KH6 callsign may help with a multiplier.  Of course, my laid back style isn't for everyone.  There are enough varieties of amateur radio to appeal to just about everyone.  Choose your favorite and go for it!

THE ANTENNA FARM RETHOUGHT

My inverted 40-meter inverted "vee" is working as intended--nothing spectacular, but it does provide the contacts I need.  Presently, I'm working on a 40-meter vertical with a tuned counterpoise in the open space between the qth and the neighbor's house.  The skyhook will be fed with 450-ohm twin lead hooked up to a 4:1 balun.  A short run of RG-8 to the Drake MN-4 will complete the system.  I used this arrangement last year and it proved workable from 40 to 10 meters.   The 40-meter full wave loop under the house will be retained for backup and as a medium wave antenna for the Hallicrafters SX-62A.   I haven't put in a 2-meter rig in the Odyssey van yet, but I'm working on it.  I have a 1/4 wave mag mount antenna in my "junk box" and some spare RG-8x coax that could be pressed into service.  Add this little project to the usual household chores and a long day at the newsroom and you get a busy week.  At least my life isn't dull.  Have a good day and get on the air with what you have.  You could be surprised.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

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 of easily made and deployable antennas that even I could make.  One of his antennas he called the "Up and Outer Antenna", which he correctly sourced to an article by Lew McCoy (W1ICP) (SK).  Basically, this antenna is a 1/4 wave vertical with a tuned counterpoise--a design that goes back to the 1920s.  I've used that design several times with excellent results, especially if it is fed with 450-ohm twinlead.  When I had one of these skyhooks, I was able to cover 40-10 meters easily (with the antenna used primarily for 40-meters--33' for the vertical section and 33' for the counterpoise).  This antenna fit into my cramped back yard and gave me many hours of fun.  Another antenna Craig used in his portable operations was something he called the "Pop Up Vertical".  Construction of this project should be straightforward, since Craig has added pictures and several diagrams.  These two antennas may help some of you affected by space restrictions or overly nosey neighbors.

BACK TO THE HOMESTEAD

My air shift is just about over for the day.  I can't wait to head home for a few hours of ragchewing on the lower 25 Khz of 40-meters.  I never thought I would enjoy cw, but I do.  After 12 hours of doing newscasts, I'm ready to fire up the old Swan 100-MX and execise my trusty J-38 key.  While my system is on the bottom rung of technology, I still have a lot of fun with the old Swan 100-MX and the ancient J-38 key.  After 12 hours of reading the news, I'm ready to abandon the studio console and the Shure microphones for something more simple and relaxing.  I never thought I would enjoy cw, but I do.  I'm not starved for modern technology--the radio station has enough toys to keep me busy all day.  For me, amateur radio is cheap therapy and a way to de-stress.  My neighbors don't seem to mind the "radio nut" that lives next door.  And my XYL appreciates the fact that I spend my free time at home where I'am available for various domestic duties.  She has even helped me to erect some of my less than illustrious antenna experiments.  I haven't convinced her yet to study for her ham license, but I'm working on that little task.  Besides, I'm handy when it comes to fixing "bugs" in her computer and in maintaining our consumer electronic gear.  Things could be worse--I could be organized.

Have a good day and get on the air.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Friday, September 2, 2011

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 repair are alway with Hawaii's ham operators.  The combination of tropical sun, salt air, vog, and frequent showers can degrade an antenna quickly.  Coax connectors are fully covered with tape and enclosed in plastic storage boxes.  Bare wires are coated with nail polish and wrapped with several layers of waterproof tape.  This rudimentary precaution keeps out most of the moisture.  Even so, water does sneak in after a few months.  Now that I've shifted to using 450-ohm balanced line to feed my antennas, the coax corrosion problem is reduced.  In most cases, a few feet of RG-8 or RG-6 (whatever I have on hand) is all I need to connect the 4:1 balun to the trusty Drake MN-4 ATU.  Over the past few years, the local rodent population (primarily roof rats) has developed a taste for coax, so I try to avoid long runs of this feedline.  Never a dull moment around the shack.

Over the past few days, I've been researching a few more homebrew antenna ideas for the "antenna farm" in my backyard.  If you're short of ideas, check out http://www.ac6v.com/.  This site developed by Rod Dinkins, AC6V (SK) and Jeff Dinkins, AC6V (possibly his son) is a continuous antenna textbook with 133 pages to fire up the imagination.  If you prefer a more folksy approach, try out http://www.g4ilo.com/. maintained by Julian Moss of the United Kingdom.  He has a nice, friendly web site and amateur radio blog that explores a variety of antenna and qrp issues.  The only suggestion I haven't tried from his site is the magnetic loop, which shows promise for those with severe space restrictions.  I believe MFJ makes a magnetic loop antenna suitable for 40 through 15-meter use.  You may want to check out the latest MFJ catalog to make sure the antenna is still being made.

Have a good Labor Day Weekend.  Drive safely and allow plenty of time for travel.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

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 "Fernanda" gave us a good chance to assess our emergency preparedness under real conditions.  Like many Hawaii hams, I did a quick inventory of my supplies, made sure all rigs were operational, charged all batteries, and had a few easy to erect antennas ready for the event.  Most of the available antenna books have a section on building emergency verticals, dipoles, and loops.  You might want to build a few easily storable antennas just in case the need arises.

BUILDING THE ULTIMATE ANTENNA FARM...ONE CAN DREAM

While I was reading through the 24 August 2011 edition of eham.net, I came across an interesting antenna website by Tom, W8JI.  This amateur has a genuine, contest antenna farm in Georgia that makes my mouth water.  Apparently, Tom enjoys the challenge of 160-meters and takes steps to realize his goal of being a "top band" big gun.  His 160-meter four-square vertical array is impressive, as are the separate towers supporting a variety of beams, loops, and inverted "vees".  I doubt that I could ever erect such an aluminum forest, but one can dream and perhaps glean a few tidbits of wisdom from this contester.  As I read through his website, I came to the conclusion that my modest inverted "vee" and low-lying loop were useable but not very efficienct.  He backed up his observations with a wealth of EZNEC data and Smith Charts.  I too believe in the "higher the better" philosophy, but, considering the amount of land available for my experiments and the proximity of neighbors and high voltage power lines, such dreams must be postponed until I secure a place far removed from the present qth. 

LIMITATIONS--SO WHAT DO YOU DO?

Rather than be discouraged by the unattainable, I choose to do the best with what I have--limitations nothwithstanding.  One thing I took away from W8JI's website was the importance of cutting feed line losses and establishing a decent radial field for any verticals I choose to erect.  The last time I put up a homebrew 40-meter vertical, I laid out a haphzard radial field consisting of 16 radials of various lengths ranging from 20 to 33 feet.  My yard has definite limitations, so the wire was strung all over the place.  The antenna did a reasonable job and I did get quite a few contacts.  I found the use of 450-ohm feed line, a decent 4:1 balun, and a short length of RG-8 to the old Drake MN-4 seemed to work alright.  The Swan 100-MX remained cool and the SWR stayed below 1.7 to 1.  Nothing to write home about, but the arrangement did work.  My current all-bander (40 to 10 meters) is an inverted "vee" using two 33-foot elements attached to the tip of a 32-foot jackite fiberglass mast.  The 450-ohm feed line runs into a 4:1 balun with some RG-8 connecting the system to the Drake MN-4.  Like my old vertical, the "vee" does a good job considering the limitations imposed by my backyard.  None of my homebrew antenna projects will bust a DX pileup like Tom's Georgia antenna farm, but it  they do allow me hours of endless fun at a reasonble cost.

WHAT'S THE POINT OF ALL THIS?

While I'm impressed by the super stations I see, it all comes down to what you can do within the boundaries of your budget and the constraints imposed by your qth.  Do the best you can with what you have.  The idea is to get on the air and not run your household into the poor house.  If you can afford the build a contest station, do so.  Yes, I want to erect a rhombic and have a set of monobanders at 100 feet.  However, with the economy being what it is, there are more pressing demands, such as paying the rent/mortgage, keeping ahead of the bills, and feeding the family.  Despite all of the challenges of the present day, you can still do a lot to enjoy amateur radio, if you are willing to build some of your own equipment, improve and maintain the rig you currently use, and experiment with antennas designed and built by you.  The key is to study, experiment, build, and use what you have made.  I enjoy the challenge.  There is a certain thrill in seeing where your signal goes once it enters the "ether".  You can experience that sensation whether you are behind an antique like my venerable Swan 100-MX or before the newest Elecraft K3.

So, don't give up.  Get on the air, become the best operator you can, and build your own antennas.  Half the fun is getting there and meeting someone new from the comfort of your home or club station.

Don't forget the Hawaii QSO party this weekend.  Hawaii Island amateurs in the Hilo area will be operating from Coconut Island (Moku Ola) under the callsign AL0HA.  Have an excellent weekend.  Aloha es 73 de from KH6JRM.



Friday, August 19, 2011

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 personnel, the work of local residents, and even amateur radio operators who lent equipment and expertise to get police and fire repeaters back on the air.  None of us who call Hawaii our home wish to see that type of storm again.

So, you can understand why many of us get a bit concerned when the National Weather Service puts out a hurricane or tropical storm message.  Hawaii residents are familiar with the drill--have emergency supplies at all times, keep the gas tank full, and be prepared to survive on your own for a few days.

Staff at the radio station where I work reherse this type of scenario frequently, so we make sure our generators are fueled, equipment and backup supplies are ready, and island communications are working.  Of course, not everything works according to plan when the "button" is pushed, but, for most emergencies, we seem to have enough depth to keep our transmitters on the air.  During the 11 March 2011 tsunami alert, most cell phone communications became marginal as use of cell sites increased.  Text messaging remained active throughout the emergency, as well as our backup analog telephone land lines.  The news room also has access to a satellite telephone, so we could communicate that way if we had too.  So, while the current activity surrounding the passage of "Fernanda" wasn't exactly an emergency, the storm provided station staff will an excellent training opportunity.  As with any storm, one must not become complacent--that attitude could produce deadly results when you least expect it.

In my time away from the station, I checked the qth to make certain emegency supplies were handy, that my van was fueled, and that backup emergency power was available should the storm cause power interruptions.  Most of my household electronics, includiing my modest station, relies on solar charged, deep cycle marine batteries for power.  I have several easily deployed portable antennas that can be used in an emergency.  So far, I haven't had to rely on these reserve antennas.  The under-the-house 40-meter loop provides the local and state coverage I need and seems impervious to the ravages of rain and wind.  In a pinch, I can also erect a low-level dipole to provide local HF coverage.  My only weak link is the lack of 2-meter coverage.  Several mountain ridges block Hilo from the Laupahoehoe qth, thus cutting a direct line-of-sight path to the nearest repeater at Pepeekeo.  I do get decent 2-meter signals from the Island of Maui with my 5/8 whip mounted on my van's roof or on the metal garage roof.  The proximity of several utility poles and power lines prevents me from erected a higher 2-meter antenna.  In Hilo town, there is no problem  accessing the state-wide repeater systems and several local repeaters.

So, Hawaii amateur radio operators escaped this time.  Who knows what nature holds for us in the future.  Remember the old saying: "Things could be worse; we could be organized."

Have a good weekend!  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Thursday, August 11, 2011

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 continue for awhile.  The longer I live on this blue orb, the more I'm convinced that I know less and less about more and more.  I'm an analogue freak in a digital world.  Thankfully, my news assignment in a fully digitalized and modern broadcast station (AM and FM) gives me the opportunity to stay current and hopefully out of trouble.  The mere fact that I have all the coordination of a loose bicycle chain gives me pause when I attempt to embark on another antenna project.

If you don't prefer my cut and trim approach to antenna desing, you may want to try a few of the commercially marketed end fed verticals offered by Par, Radiowavz, and Comet.  I was intrigued  by some reviews on the eham.net site concerning the Comet CHA 250B, a broadband vertical covering 80-10 meters.  Like all compromise antennas, there are limitations that must be considered.  But, from what I gather from the reviews this antenna may be ideal for those with severe space limitations and restrictive CC&Rs.  The antenna seems to do well if it is mounted 36 to 40 feet off the ground. There was one amateur that used a DX Engineering swivel mount to keep the antenna hidden and protected when it was not in use.  This arrangement could get you on the air when all else fails.  Other than the price ($469). the CHA 250B seems to be a useful alternative to not operating at all.  In the past, I've use an old Hustler mast, mobile mount, and 40-meter loading coil/whip to get on the air.  Clip on a few 33-foot radials and you're in business.  Some of my fellow amateurs have also adapted the Tarheel mobile antenna for home use.  Whatever works.  Use your creativity and get on the air.  Your mileage may differ.  I've loads of fun with the simple verticals, loops, and dipoles I call my antenna "farm".   One never knows what will happen when rf leaves your skyhook and heads to the F layer...Southern Sudan, San Marino, or even Hawaii perhaps?

Have a good weekend.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Thursday, August 4, 2011

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 now, my hastily built 40-meter inverted "vee" fed by 450-ohm balanced line seems to fulfill my casual operating needs.

I received a nice note from G. Brandon Hoyt on 28 July regarding his possible purchase of a Swan 100-MX transceiver.  I've had my Swan 100-MX since 1981.  It has served me well in both a mobile and at-home environment.  As a general purpose rig for casual qsos, the 30 + year-old solid state rig does a good job.  The rig is a straightforward, simple rig that has few "bells and whistles" and no WARC band capability.  Mr. Hoyt asked what I do about maintenance, considering the age of the rig.  I open up the rig every three months, gently blow out whatever dust has accumulated, clean all pots and switches with contact cleaner, and carefully clean all the contacts on the printed circuit boards.  These boards can be pulled out and re-seated without much difficulty.  A few caveats--before you buy the old swan, be sure it works.  I know that sounds weird, but I've been burned a few times on used equipment.  Inspect the power cord, check out the power supply (if it comes with the rig), and look inside for obvious signs of trouble.  Be sure to get a user's manual for the rig.  You can get one by sending an e-mail to WA5BDR@gbis.com.  You can order a manual from Jim's snail mail address--Jim Singleton Publications, PMB 975, Livingston, TX, 77399.  It may be a good idea to join Swan Radio Communications at this e-mail address--www.angelfirecom/ny2/hamradio.  Yahoo also has several groups that promote, preserve, and restore older Swan equipment.  Good luck.

Have a good weekend.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Thursday, July 28, 2011

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 tank and water lines.  In place of a normal radial field for the trusty 40-meter vertical, I attached one line of the 450-ohm twin lead to the antenna and the other to my qth's metal roof.  The roof was bonded together.  After I scraped off a bare spot and attached the other lead, I fired up the old Swan 100-MX (20 watts or so).  With the help of my trusty Drake MN-4 ATU, I was able to get a decent match on all bands between 40 and 10 meters.  Nothing spectacular, but the substitute ground plane seemed to work.  I was able to make my infrequent appearance on the daily 40-meter interisland net with reports ranging from 56 to 58 on ssb.  Once the backyard work was done, I restored a normal ground system and painted over the roof area used for the antenna connection.  I'm not sure how efficient this antenna system was, but it did allow me to get on the air.

Recently, I've tried out a system used by many recreational vehicle owners.  I had an old mag mount with a 20-meter "Ham Stick" in the garage.  While the Odyssey van was parked on the lawn for a car wash I never did complete, I placed the mag-mounted "Ham Stick" on the van's roof, attached four, 16.5 ' radials to the antenna mount, and ran some RG-8 into the qth, and began a fun afternoon.  This primitive system worked well and I made several decent (57) ssb contacts to the U.S. mainland.  SWR was fairly low across the band (1.7 to 1).  With the ATU in line, I was able to improve the swr a bit.  Again, nothing fancy, but the lashup did work.  Once I figure out how to mount a permanent antenna on the van, I can use that system as a backup to the rig in the house.

The weekend lies ahead and that means some operating time.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.