Tennessee QSO Party 2017

Spent a few hours playing in the Tennessee QSO Party over the weekend.

As expected, all the TN stations I was able to hear were on 40 m. Made a few more contacts than I did last time, but I think more counties this time. Wasn’t able to find the bonus station though.

 Band     QSOs     Pts  Mul  Pt/Q
     7      27      81   21   3.0
 Total      27      81   21   3.0
Score: 1,801
1 Mult = 1.3 Q's

Wasn’t hearing a whole lot of activity across the bands in general, but the 40m shortwave broadcast stations that usually show up in the upper portion of 40m late afternoon/early evening seemed extra loud when they appeared.

It’s nice having the shack back up and running, even if setting up and taking down the antenna means it takes a little more time to get set up.

NA and Eclipse QSO parties

Got the antenna up this weekend to participate in a couple of events. It’s the first significant amount of radio activity I’ve done at the house since moving from the old house.

On Saturday I spent a few hours tuning around the bands working the NAQP SSB contest. Managed a couple dozen contacts casually spinning the dial around on 20 m and 40 m.

On eclipse day, I managed to get a few contacts in the Solar Eclipse QSO Party in the morning. Didn’t hear too many stations on 20m, but there were a few. I heard a couple of stations out in Washington State, but couldn’t get through the pileup they had going. Made contacts with three other stations participating in the eclipse QSO party and made periodic checks on the WWV broadcasts (heard 10 MHz faintly at times, but 15 MHz was coming in loud and clear).

Sadly I had to shut everything down due to a thunderstorm moving in just before the eclipse started so I wasn’t able to make any more contacts or monitor the bands as the eclipse happened.

Good weekend on the air.

2m antenna monopod attachment

A while back, I made a monopod to use with my camera. Handy thing to  use when I don’t feel like lugging around a tripod. Also serves as a nice walking stick.

On one of my last visits to Radio Shack, I picked up two telescoping antennas thinking that I could use them as dipole elements.

Add one section of aluminum angle stock, a bulkhead BNC jack, a couple 1/2″ 4-40 screws and nuts and now I’ve got a telescoping 2m dipole antenna attachment for the monopod.

Monopod antenna attachment
Monopod antenna attachment

It took me a while to figure out how I was going to insulate one of the telescoping elements from the angle stock. While I was studying the problem, a solution struck me: plastic wall anchor. Worked perfectly.

Tuning the antenna was a simple matter of adjusting the length of each telescoping antenna to get close to 1:1 across the 2m band.

Tuning the monopod antenna attachment
Tuning the monopod antenna attachment

Looks pretty good. I’ll check it again outside over the weekend and try it out with the HT.

Monopod antenna attachment
Monopod antenna attachment

If I hold it up in the air by the base of the pole, I can get the antenna about 2.5 m up in the air. I’m hoping I’ll be able to reach the two repeaters that are about 8 miles away a little better than I can with the HT antennas I already have.

Up over the roof

Extending the mast all the way gave me enough height to swing one wire of the dipole over the roof.

Antenna over the roof
Antenna over the roof

The more open arrangement along with both wires of the dipole being more exposed seemed to make the antenna work better. The radio’s internal tuner will match on 40 m now (below that is still a no go), so it’s nice to be able to get that band back.

Noise floor on 40 m is still pretty high (around S7) so I probably won’t be able to hear much except for stronger signals.

First contact with the antenna and new mast was with W9ISF, Indiana State Fair special event station, on 20 m. Got a nice 57 signal report from him and he got a 55 from me.

Raising and lowering the mast isn’t too difficult, and hooking the antenna to the top of the mast makes it easy to attach and remove. Gravity helps with lowering the mast, and I think most of the work will be spent coiling the antenna back up for storage.

Now to acquire another 20 or 25 m of coax that I can use as additional feed line for experimenting with other antennas.

Antenna works!

The antenna works. There wasn’t a whole lot to hear on the bands, so I’m not sure if the antenna’s performance is crap in its current configuration, or if it’s just the bands are crap today. I’ll spend some more time on the antenna and playing on the radio tomorrow.

The radio’s internal tuner will match the antenna from 20 m  up to 6 m, but not on any of the bands below that. Better than I expected, although not having 40 m is a bit of a downer. The noise level on all the bands below 20 m was pretty high too (S7-9).

Now the dilemma is what to do with the antenna when the radio isn’t being used. The antenna and mast are pretty conspicuous when deployed, and we would no doubt get some naughtygrams from the HOA police.

Antenna view from the side of the house
Antenna view from the side of the house

With the mast down, there’s not much to see from the road or even the side of the house.

Retracted antenna mast from the front
Retracted antenna mast from the front

The antenna becomes pretty messy though and obviously makes mowing more difficult if I just leave it lying on the ground. The antenna would also exposed to full sun, which would probably shorten its life.

Messy tangled antenna
Messy tangled antenna

I think what will most likely end up happening is that the antenna will come off the mast and get coiled back up when it’s not being used. I can use an S hook to attach the antenna center to the top of the mast which will make for one less rope to deal with.

That means playing radio will end up being a little bit more work and a more planned activity. Won’t have to worry about the inevitability of the antenna or coax getting chewed up by the lawn mower though.