This is a state-of-the-shack update. I’ve finally got a few temporary antennas up and am beginning to make contacts from the home station including a tiny bit of contesting.
The first antenna I tried from home was the Buddipole. Before taking it into the field for SOTA operations, I practiced with it one afternoon on the roof. It happened to be the weekend of the Ukranian DX contest, so I did a quick spin through 20m and worked about five stations one after the other with my FT817. I was happy to make any contacts, particularly on a crowded band. No doubt some of the credit goes to the Ukranian operators and their ability to pick out weak signals.
This activation followed hot on the heels of 5B/CY-046 (Pipis). It is also a relatively low mountain, but near the capital city of Nicosia. Unfortunately, this site is not as picturesque as Pipis, since the top of the mountain is a commercial radio antenna site.
This peak is worth only one point in the SOTA scheme, but it is half an hour drive from Nicosia and there is a road right to the summit. The summit and the area around it are perfect for a picnic outing as well. The dirt road up is a bit rough in places, but did not require four wheel drive. Cars with moderate clearance should do okay as long as the weather is good.
So, I should explain why a crucifix appears to be hovering about thirty feet above my house.
When I got back to the US, I had a hard time figuring out how to put up an antenna at the house that I’m renting in Maryland, just north of Washington, DC. The house is surrounded on three sides by power lines and there’s only one tall tree. After much consideration and with the help of a neighbor’s tree, I finally managed to put a dipole in place just before Christmas.
Well, that went pretty well — about two weeks of after-work operation on 17m FT8 with a low-hanging end-fed dipole and 25W, and I pushed my DXCC count on 17m over 100. Thanks to 9G5AR from Ghana for putting it over the top.
The move back to the US will happen at the end of July, but I will need to pack up most of the equipment in the next few weeks. So, with time remaining, I’ve been thinking about I can get done with less and less equipment — I think the answer is 17 meters.
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.
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.
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.
This storm is already intense and predicted to hit the north-east side of the island tomorrow morning with hurricane force. For the last three years, we have been lucky with storms tracking to one side or the other of the QTH, but the track for this one cuts straight down the center of the island and should pass near the capital city, Antananarivo. The prediction has been consistent and is now close enough to be sure that we will experience some rough weather in the next few days.
To that end, for the first time, I have lowered the hex beam antenna. I collapsed down the telescoping sections of the heavy duty 10m spiderbeam mast and threw some additional guy lines over the central plate to which the arms attach. The wooden support beam goes two meters into the ground and is surrounded by buried concrete, so I am not worried about the base, but I do expect the fiberglass arms to be battered about. I considered dismounting the whole antenna, but that would have required more manpower than I have readily available, so it will have to ride out the storm.