Monday, July 16, 2012

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post 167

A MINI-EXPEDITION

I've always wanted to go on one of those heavily funded DX-peditions to some exotic place and be on the receiving end of a DX pileup. I'm sure I could enjoy myself, even after days of stress, QRM, and unforeseen operating problems in some isolated locale.  For now, those fantasies will be explored in the pages of QST or CQ until I become sufficiently rich to afford such a trip.

Meanwhile, many amateur radio operators (including yours truly) will try to live life as it comes and operate whenever circumstances permit.  Such was the case over the past weekend, when I did my regular assignment of being the tower announcer at the monthly drag races held by the Big Island Auto Club.  Unlike past weekend stints at the Hilo Drag Strip, I brought along my HF "Go Kit" and decided to operate at the track before and after the regular races were run.  Since I arrive very early on Saturday and Sunday morning (0500 local time), there was plenty of time to set up the race track computers and hook up the track public announce system.  The auto club also has a part 15 AM station at 1620 kHz to provide continuous coverage in the pit area and the visitor viewing stands.  Under ideal conditions, the little 100 mw station can reach a mile or so before disappearing into the noise.  The track is located about 4 miles east of Hilo in the Panaewa Rain Forest and far away from the interference of power lines and industrial equipment.  So, the area is quiet before race time--ideal conditions for a small qrp operation from my van or the tower itself.

I attached the B & W apartment antenna (MFJ has a model 1622 antenna similar to this) to the tower roof and strung out 4, 33-foot radials.  Once the ladder line was attached to a 4:1 balun and the Drake MN-4 antenna tuner, I was in business.  The venerable Yaesu FT-7 performed will on 10 watts, both on cw and on SSB.  Of course, a more modern rig such as an Icom-703 or one of the Elecraft rigs would allow more flexibility, but I made do with what I had.  I had a lot of fun until I took the arrangement down at 0700 local time.  That's when the drivers and crews began to filter into the race track.  And by 0800 local time, the pit area was full of cars, motorcycles, and trucks ready for two days of pro-gas and E T Bracket Racing. 

With favorable weather, the day passed quickly as a steady stream of vehicles qualified and ran their respective races.  The tower was quite busy keeping track of racers and their times.  By the end of the day (around 1800 local time), I was ready to secure the tower and equipment until Sunday morning.  I did a bit of operating from 1900 to 2100 hours local time before the track manager and I closed the facility for the night.

A similar pattern was repeated on Sunday.  All told, I got in about 8 hours of amateur radio operations from my portable system.  Not a lot of contacts, but I did make some interesting qsos with the mainland USA and Japan.  If I do this again, I may just have to print out some special QSL cards.  This was indeed a case of mixing business with pleasure. 

You may want to try a small, mini-expedition this weekend.  Just take one of your transceivers, a portable antenna, a deep cycle marine battery, and a small antenna tuner to the beach or nearest public park.  Set up your equipment, start operating, and have some fun.  Besides, all of this is good practice for times when portable operation is needed for emergencies.

Until next time,
Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15