Tuesday, July 08, 2008

N4JTE; On the Road Again
Where there is a will; there is a way!

Thoughts on getting an antenna up and working in challenging situations.

I am in the construction industry and with the economy in major upheaval I had to leave behind a very nice antenna farm in my backyard in upstate NY and get on the road to pay the bills.

Yep, there is an antenna or two in there, trust me!

First stop was Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for a couple of months R&R and a lame attempt at a job search while enjoying the view and the ocean. I missed ham radio and decided to attempt to lasso a nice 70 foot palm tree next to my triplex on the beach and enjoy the best of all worlds, ham radio and the ocean, alas it was not to be as my attempt to get a line over the tree ended up circumnavigating 2 hotels further down the street and sending about 200 yards of fishing line over their roofs, landlady was not too pleased, never liked her anyway.

Next stop, Panama City Beach, Fl. and due to the largesse of my new client I was stuck in a Sleep Inn on the second floor with no way of sticking any antenna out the window so it was time to get a little more adventurous, which is, finally, the point of this article . My goal was to get a decent 40 meter wire up to run from my parked truck and reacquaint myself with many friends from the OMISS net, I say wire because I have never been a real mobile operator and appreciate the operators who do it well on a consistent basis. First attempt was a wire vertical on a fiberglass pushup mast right on the Gulf with 4 radials, tie wrapped to a stop sign at the boat launch ramp, expected big reports and solid qso’s, actually on first CQ I was told my signal though strong, was totally distorted. Major disappointment but I have never been too good with verticals and then I figured out my battery connection and wire was pretty amateurish with obvious problems. So I took a drive around and spotted what looked like a demolished building site about one mile from my hotel with a For Sale sign, abandoned parking lot and a few trees that looked promising.
Add a little wire, couple of trees or light posts, instant antenna.

A quick trip to home depot for a 500 ft roll of #12 insulated wire and good old radio shack for some RG 58 feedline and off to my new backyard for some antenna hoisting. Keeping a wary eye out for the antenna police I strung up a basic 40 meter dipole between two trees about 50ft high with my trusty fishing rod and masonry string and made a couple of contacts, audio was fine and signal strength was reported as 5/9 in Colorado at 3pm CST, now we’re cooking!

On a happy roll I figured why not try a reflector behind the dipole and threw one up using the same trees with around 20 ft. of spacing and voila when it got dark it worked so well I was told my signal at 100 watts fixed mobile rivaled my home installation in NY with a 2 element 40 meter quad and the AL 1500. Yeah I know, it’s all about propagation and the salt water but it was sure nice to be heard again with a decent signal.

Very rewarding to be able to run a WAS net again on 40 meters during a major contest but of course as any antenna nut knows there is always the challenge to make it better so in my case I wanted to get back on 75 meters with a decent signal, so after surveying the present available trees I figured any

wires I might add would interfere with the 40 meter wire beam. On the road again to the next available site, which happened to be a parking lot near the hotel for a college, Gulf Coast Community College, low and behold it’s usually empty at night and it had 2 appropriately spaced light posts about 40 ft high and 130 ft apart.

If you are afraid of the dark don’t try this, it’s not like sitting at home with the air conditioning on and the amp cranking along. All Battery All the time.

I put together a dipole in the hotel room and drove over to my second new backyard, unlike the 40 meter location, this one has got to be temporary and easy to put up and take down in the dark. With a 2 ounce lead sinker attached to masonry string it was no problem to get over both light posts on the first try, pulled up the 75 meter wire and had a blast on 75 for the first time in months. So what happens now is whenever and wherever I might be driving, I am on the lookout for potential temporary antenna sites. Probably not a bad idea if you are into emergency communications and want to practice your means and methods for getting a signal out during the real thing. Since submitting this article 3 or 4 weeks ago I have added another element, a director, to the 40 meter wire configuration and I am having very consistent results all over the states. Yes it has blown down a couple of times in the very gusty winds of the Gulf of Mexico but for a total investment of less than $75 for a 40 meter beam and a few minutes re stringing it up occasionally I’m not complaining.
I am now situated in the concrete jungle of West Ft. Lauderdale and ensconced in another hotel, so I am taking my own advice and looking around for possible new temporary wire antenna sites.
Right in the unused part of parking lot of my hotel, could be good north south dipole on 40 meters.

Whoa! This one across the street at Broward Mall looks good, think I’ll ask the Mall manager for permission to try it out at night when mall is closed, will keep you posted if I make bail.

If you are stuck in a restricted apartment, hotel or other RF limited environment, take heart and take a drive, you never know what might be available for a temporary wire antenna experiment, just remember; It’s always easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Tnx for reading,


Post a Comment

<< Home