Friday, May 27, 2011

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

There remain only a few hours until the busy Memorial Day weekend breaks on Hawaii Island shores.  For those of us at KKBG-FM and KHLO-AM, the next few days will busy and filled with remote broadcasts, outrigger canoe races, the Honokaa Western Days Rodeo, and the traditional drag races at the Hilo Drag Strip.  By the time our staff reaches Monday, all of us should be tired, talked out, and ready for a vocal cord transplant.  My weekend will be spent in the track tower announcing the pro-gas and ET bracket races and sending live updates back to the station.  Although the next few days will be intense, the time away from the newsroom will give me a break of sorts from the usual panic of world events.  For the briefest of moments all of us at the track will be only concerned with elapsed times and getting closest to our indices (pro-gas).  Radio plays a huge role in coordinating and facilitating the complicated series of events that make a smooth running race.  All key personal (tower, starting line, security, rescue, and pit area staff) are equipped with HTs and cellphones.  The HTs are commercial, 23-channel UHF Kenwood copies that occupy business band frequencies near the 440 Mhz amateur radio band.  The HTs are from American Electronics and they work quite well.  Coverage from the tower is excellent.  Cell phones are used as backup.  The HTs, plus a few spares, are charged in the tower.  The auto club also operates a part-15 (low power) AM station on 1610 Khz to provide continuous coverage over the track and pit area.  The range of this station is about 1.5 miles.  So, while my communications arrangement isn't amateur radio, the equipment is close enough to what I use in both my news gathering duties and my amateur VHF pursuits  to fulfill my "radio habit."  This should be an exciting weekend with many off-island racing teams expected to put their skills against the best drivers from the Big Island.

While all of the above is going on, I won't be able to explore the amateur radio spectrum until Monday at the earliest.  None the less, I did manage to erect a new inverted "v" antenna in the back yard.  The new skyhook will be a temporary replacement for my 40-meter vertical which is being lowered for maintenance and the installation of a better ground system.  The few on-ground radials aren't giving me the signal I want, so until I put in a decent set of radials, it's back to the inverted "v" and the under-the-house 40-meter loop.  Initial tests with the 40-meter "v" have been good.  All I did was run up some 450-ohm twin lead to the top of the 32-foot Jackite fiberglass mast, attach two 33-foot wire elements,  and connect the arrangement to my DX Engineering 4:1 balun.  A short run of RG-8X runs from the garage to the operating position in the living room.  The antenna is oriented NW-SE which gives me a bit more signal to the mainland U.S.  I suspect that most of the radiation is omni-directional, since I'm getting decent reports from all directions.  At least I don't have to worry about radials or counterpoise systems at this point.  The antenna work well from 40 to 10 meters.  Eighty and 75-meters are an uncomfortable stretch.  I really need more space and more wire to cover those bands.  But for now, I have a useful antenna that works for both local and DX contacts.  My small lot and the proximity to utility lines impose certain restrictions on the type of antenna I can use, but  I'm satisfied for now.  You can find several inverted "v" and NVIS antennas in the antenna books now available from the ARRL or from the antenna sites on the internet.  Your cost should be minimal if you have some spare wire and cable around the shack.  If you're really pressed to get on the air, you can design a single-band inverted "v" with only coax as your feed line.  If your antenna is designed for 40-meters, you can probably use it for 15-meters as well with a suitable matching device (tuner).  If you're really cheap like me, use 450 or 300-ohm feedline to a 4:1 balun and get multiple band coverage.  Don't expect a blockbuster signal, but you will get on the air and make contacts.  The important thing is to get on the air with the resources you have available.  In this time of economic uncertainty, it may be wise to work with what you have.

It's just about time to wrap up the news cycle for another day--the drag races beckon tomorrow and Sunday.  Have a good, safe weekend. Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.