5R8SV Satellite Ops

After I took the hexbeam down, sanded it, painted it and packed it away, I still had a G450 rotor on my hands, so I thought I would try my hand at satellite operation. Over last weekend, I literally lashed together a satellite station — the rotor platform is held to the roof with taut line hitches.

Our house isn’t ideally situated for satellite operation — particularly to the south where some tall pine trees blot out the sky, but in the other directions, the antenna can see down to about ten or fifteen degrees above the horizon.

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Thanks, Eliakim

Morning antenna maintenance involved an N95 particulate mask, gloves, and goggles today.

I arrived back in Madagascar late in the evening last week after a brief vacation in Réunion. The next morning, I fired up the rig to see what was going on in the CQ WW WPX SSB contest and rotated the hexbeam towards Japan. The rotor control showed movement through about the first ten degrees, and then it froze. I backed off, tried jiggering it back and forth a bit, thinking that perhaps it was just sticking, but gave up after a few seconds because I didn’t want to strain the motor. I walked out back…

… And it was clear why the antenna wasn’t rotating, about a meter and half below the base of the hex beam, the mast had a kink of about 20 degrees, and the hexbeam was lopsided, brushing against a nearby tree. After surviving four cyclone seasons, it appears that the last one of this season, Eliakim, took its toll.

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Repairing the 40/20/10 EFHW antenna

The repaired antenna; details below.

My LNR precision trail-friendly end-fed halfwave antenna has been my go to antenna for SOTA and other field operations for several years. It is compact, easy to deploy in a tree or on a telescoping mast, and it gets good signal reports. Unfortunately, after many years of use and substantial abuse, the antenna broke on my last trip. When I got back, I put it back together, almost good as new.

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SOTA: El Sereno (W6/NC-191)

A race with the sun to activate the fifth peak.

I had pushed for five peaks in one day, trying to break my previous record of three that I had managed last year in France. While I got into position on El Sereno and made a contact, I did not manage to get four, so this peak does not count as a SOTA activation.

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SOTA: Table Mountain (W6/NC-265)

Nope, not the way to go. I backed out and continued up the main road to the winery.

The fourth mountain on my tour of easily accessible peaks just south of San Francisco took me to a vineyard parking lot in Saratoga. The trail towards the peak departs from the topmost parking lot at 37.259823,-122.066786. This activation was a little rushed because the winery gate closes at 5 pm and not 7 pm, as had been previously reported. Perhaps during summer they remain open later. I followed directions from Google to the parking lot and had to turn around at one point where the directions took me up a private driveway.

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SOTA: Ben Lommond (W6/NC-178)

Gate to the side of the road. I operated on a tree stump directly ahead.

This was the third peak of the day for me.  It lies along a road that runs atop a ridge. I found a cutout along the side of the road and walked past a gate to a clearing next to a commercial antenna installation and pitched my end-fed 40/20/10m antenna into a tree.

I did not have any significant interference from the antennas or solar charging station, and worked some stations on 20m and 40m. The site is not far from a firefighter training area and juvenile detention center, but none of the neighbors came by to visit.\

Next stop: Table Mountain, W6/NC-265.

SOTA: China Grade Benchmark (W6/NC-221)

Continuing my road trip around the southern part of the San Francisco Bay area, I headed along CA route 236 to 37.196014, -122.194314, where China Grade Road cuts across on both sides. As mentioned in another post, you don’t want to follow the green “China Grade Road” sign that points downhill, but rather take road in the other direction, upwards. When I was there, there as a sign for a scout camp on that side.

The activation zone is broad because the road runs along a ridge. There are plenty of places to pull over and set up. No need for a pole here, because there are plenty of tall trees. I set up with both the end-fed dipole and a loop antenna. The end-fed worked head and shoulders above the loop in terms of hearing and being heard, but the loop did give me a chance to work a handful of stations on other bands, including the first contacts from this peak on 15m.

Having bagged my contacts within a half hour of pulling over, I was soon back in the car and headed for Ben Lommond (W6/NC-178).

SOTA: Sierra Morena (W6/NC-209)

As in previous years, after attending a medical conference that runs Thursday to Saturday, I had Sunday mostly free for SOTA. In previous years, I have focused on working sites within the range of public transportation (Mount Davidson, Richardson East Benchmark, Chabot 2 Benchmark, and, taking ferries into account, Angel Island). This year, I thought it would be fun to rent a car and try to activate multiple peaks: W6/NC-209, W6/NC-221, W6/NC-178, W6/NC-265, and W6/NC-191. I figured this route would involve about 5-6 hours of driving and arranged it so that the longest drive would be on the way back to San Francisco, anticipating that this would be in the dark since it’s winter. The car rental office opened at 08:00 and sunset was around 17:30, so that gave me what I thought was a reasonable window to accomplish these activation. First stop: Sierra Morena.

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SOTA: Montana de Taco (EA8/TF-017)

I didn’t make it up this mountain, but I’m posting about it to let people know why it has never been activated.

In laying out the itinerary for this vacation, I considered that I’d have one day for SOTA. Consequently, I looked at what I thought would be peaks that could be rapidly activated: one cluster in the northeast (TF-008, TF-011, and TF-013) and the other towards northwest (TF-007 and TF-017). I did not consider some of the larger peaks due to time and, in the case of El Teide, the need for reservations long in advance of travel.

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SOTA: Cruz de Gala (EA8/TF-007)

The operating site at the end of the road.

Over the Christmas and New Year holidays, my family rented an airbnb house in Icod de los Viños, a rural town along the northern coast of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. During that week, I reacquainted myself with driving a manual transmission car on steep, narrow roads that wind around the island’s volcanic peaks.

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