Monday, June 13, 2011

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

This week has begun wet and windy--the sort of weather Big Islanders normally see in January and Februray.  The rain is welcome, since most places in the 50th state are experiencing periods of prolonged drought.  Even in rainy Hilo (135 inches per year), total rainfall is only 50% of normal.  Even with that in mind, antenna work has been a damp and breezy affair now that the trade winds have returned.  It was a good thing I erected the inverted "v" before the current showers began.  There have been a few thundershowers sprinkled throughout the day, so antenna work will be put aside until the weather clears.  Storms in the past few weeks have left a nice snowpack atop Mauna Kea, but most of that is gone to damp and drizzly weather on the summit of the 13,000-foot mountain.  The weather hasn't affected telescope operations much and exploration of the heavens continues unabatted.  A trip to the mid-level facility to take in a night of stargazing is quite a treat.  Just be sure to bring a good jacket and gloves.  The air is fairly thin at the 9,000-foot elevation, even more so at the summit.  The view of the heavens from either site is quite stunning.

Once I wrap up the news cycle for the day, it's back to the QTH for a few hours of cw on the lower 25khz of 40-meters.  The improvised inverted "v" works well, considering the haste with which I put up the mast.  As mentioned before, the original vertical in the backyard took a lightning strike and thoroughly scarred the wits out of me (not that I had much brain matter left after a few decades on this planet).  I suffered no damage from this storm, other than my over inflated ego and the old MFJ fiberglass mast.  This time around the yard, I rely on a "close of day" shut down procedure that will maximize safety for both the QTH and the rigs at the operating station.  As a matter of course, I disconnect all feed lines, lower the mast to ground level, and unplug everything in the house when storm warnings are up.  Over the last twenty years, all I've lost is that recycled fiberglass mast, a few feet of wire, and some 450-ohm window line.  Perhaps the Good Lord protects fools and ham operators (I've been both at various times).

What are you doing for Field Day on 25-26 June?  The ARRL has a list of Field Day locations that may be within your driving range.  This year, my participation will be minimal because of pre-commitments from the radio station (the news room never stops).  I'll probably interview a few local hams  and air some public service announcements to help Big Island amateur radio clubs get points for publicity.  The ARRL has some professionally produced public service announcements that you can submit to your local radio or cable station.  The Big Island Amateur Radio Club will set up operations at Hilo's Wailoa Visitors Center, which is close to the major highways serving Hilo and the University of Hawaii at Hilo community.  The Center is located on an open field with a convenient salt water pond nearby.  In past years, those areas have given club members an excellent place to erect antennas from phased verticals to monoband beams on portable towers.  If I can get away from the Hilo Drag Strip after sunset, I'll head for the Center and help out with some of the logging chores.  After a full day doing news and calling the auto races, I won't feel like talking on a rig.  Besides, it's more fun getting the newly licensed operators on the air.  Some of the younger operators are pretty good, once they get over their "mic fright".  I always enjoy Field Day--it gives me a chance to see old friends, swap tall tales (or half-truths), eat some great food (no joke, our club has some great cooks), and fight off the swarms of mosquitos.

If you can't get to a Field Day site, try running an emergency station from your QTH or vehicle.  I've done both.  Who knows?  You may get an award for your efforts, howerver meager.  The experience could prove useful in a real emergency.  Just ask those hams still working in the Southeast and Midwest after the severe floods and tornados.  For them, Field Day is no drill.

'Tis time to close up the news room until early Tuesday morning.  Until next time, Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.