Maybe its NOT the antenna

I was looking at my log for the RAC Canada Winter Contest and decided to look at the contacts a little closer… 

With the 100w of my Yaesu FT 450 and the magic of the SGC 237 auto tuner along with $20.00 of the finest Princess Auto wire here is where my signal from Eastern VE3Land made it to during the contest.

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VO1 (Newfoundland) 20m and 80m contacts

VE1 (Nova Scotia) 40m and 80m contacts

VY2 (Prince Edward Island) 80m contacts

VE9 (New Brunswick) 20m, 40m and 80m contacts

VE2 (Quebec) 40m and 80m contacts

VE3 (Ontario) 20m, 40m, 80m and 160m contacts

VE4 (Manitoba) 20m and 40m contacts

VE5 (Saskatchewan) 20m contacts

VE6 (Alberta) 20m, 40m and 80m contacts

VE7 (British Columbia) 20m contacts

My antenna for HF is an approximately 45 foot long wire that snakes its way around a Fir Tree in my backyard. 

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This along with radials on the inside perimeter of my fence is my “Stealthy” HF antenna and using the SGC Tuner will load up on all bands between 6m and 160m.

I was (as always) blaming my normal lack of results on my very poor compromise antenna and the lack of band conditions.  I was not really complaining, but more whining about it.  Its been a while since I was able to spend so much time in the shack at a time when others were around at the same time that I am thinking….  If I lived in a location that was antenna restrictive then I might actually make more contacts but…. as I would rather be on the air with a compromise antenna system than not being on the air….  This seems to be much better than nothing… 

I still long for the day I can operate without antenna restrictions but till then…. what I got ain’t that bad…

Hope that your antennas survived the recent Ice Storm…. 

Here in Kingston my fir tree is bending a bit but still keeping the wire up in the air.  Praying for a melt to save the tree branches and keep what I have for an antenna functioning  and above ground.

73bob

 

 

 

 

Its over…. (RAC Canada Winter Contest)

Thats it …..  done till the RAC Canada Day Contest in the summer….

After looking at my logs it seems that its the best results I have seen in the 18 months that I have been living in Kingston….  I operated for about 14 hours of the 24 hours the contest operated for and in this “Solar Minimum” I managed to make a whopping 75 contacts.


Heres the “Coles Notes” version:

75 contacts/ 10 provinces/NO NORTHERN TERRITORIES HEARD/ 15 RAC Stations worked/ 51 Canadian Stations worked/ 9 non Canadian Stations worked/ Estimaed score of just over 18,800 points.


Contacts were made on all the contest bands with  2m, 6m, !0m and 15m were all groundwave contacts 

21- 20m contacts were made

17 -40m contacts were made

28- 80m contacts were made

4- 160m contacts were made

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Now considering that my station consisted of my Yaesu FT 450 feeding my SGC 237 auto tuner and the tuner was connected to 45 feet of wire wound around a tree in my back yard with a couple of radials around the perimeter of my back yard fence ….  I think the score is respectable for what I had to work with.

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Some highlights were:

Making a 40m contact with VA3RAC (Ottawa Amateur Radio Club operating) and after giving my call getting the reply “Hi Bob … how are things in Kingston??? ur 5/9 ON.    To which I replied …  “Hi Dave …. things are good… ur 5/9 in Kingston ON…. .   Later in the contest I made a 2nd contact with VA3RAC…  This on on 80m and got almost the same QSO but this time with Glenn VE3XRA at the mic….

Its really nice to make a QSO with a station that is manned by a group you have worked with many time in the past

Another high point was getting a couple of VY2 stations in the log.  Normally I have to hunt to find them as there is a small but active ham population on the Island.  This time I found my first one early and then next one was later but I got them in the log…. 

I can remember back in 2017 when I operated the RAC Canada Day contest as VA3QC/VY2 when we spent the month of July on the Island and am still amazed by the pile ups my QRP signal created back then.  Not to mention the best location I ever operated from.

The down side for me was that as I run a very poor antenna and the conditons were not the best I was unable to work coast to coast to coast.  I was unable to even hear any of the VE8/VY1/VY0 crew.  I worked from Atlantic to Pacific but was unable to work the Arctic.

Over the years I have come up with some defining points to decide if it was a good contest or not.

1- Have fun

2- Work all of Canada or at least the lower 10 provinces

3- When the results are posted find my score easier from the top down rather than from the bottom up.

So it was fun…. I did work the lower 10…. and when the results are published later….  I think my results should be around the middle of the list.

All in all I had a great time and am pleased with my time spent.  Hope to see you on the air for the RAC Canada Day Contest in 2020 and get you in my log

73bob

 

 

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2019 RAC Canada Winter Contest

Starting at 0000 hrs GMT Dec 28th and running for 24 hours is the RAC Canada Winter Contest.

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The Rules can be found at : https://www.rac.ca/rac-canada-winter-contest-rules-2019/

Its a fairly low key friendly contest and your best choice to try and get the Canadian Province you might need in your log

I will be on the air giving out the  Rare “Ontario” Multi  to all who need it and I will be active on 2m FM, 6m ssb, 10m ssb, 15m ssb, 20m ssb, 40m ssb, 80m ssb and 160m ssb.  Given my poor antenna setup here you better be listening for a weak signal from Kingston.

Hope to hear you on the air

73bob

A new arrival for the mobile

Even though the HF bands would have to improve about 99% to be considered bad…  I had a chance to pick up (locally) some gear that I had been looking at on line and at a cheaper price (as it was used) so for me it was a win-win situation.

Here is the most important part of my new mobile antenna:

Its a Wolf River Silver Bullet Mini.  Its a 10-40m coil that works quite nicely with a standard 102 inch stainless steel whip.  For way more info please visit the Wolf River Website and check out all their info.

Basically you slide the collar up and down the coil for maximum noise for the frequency you wish to operate on and (in my case) hit the auto tune button on the FT 450 and we will be good to go.  If you are a purist then slightly adjust the collar after that for the lowest SWR.  I have heard lots of good things from people who have used this line of equipment and if I get 1/2 the results of what I have heard then I will be a very happy person.  The timeline is to get the 10-40m version mounted on my pickup along with the FT450 installed and then try things out.  If it performs as I have heard it should I will buy the Silver Bullet 1000 (10-80) and keep the mini as a backup.

I really just want multi band coverage (and really don’t want to be swapping out hamsticks)  when travelling around the Country when Liz tells me its time to replace the trailer we recently sold.  I figure on 40m and 80m will be the two money bands but if we make the anticipated trip out to VE7Land then suddenly 15 and 20 become a lot more important.

I got all the pieces (mount, coil, whip and coax) now all I got to do is put them all together on the truck and then install the radio.

I’m looking foreward to the challenge.

73bob

 

 

Operating with a “Stealthy” #HF #hamradio Antenna

Antenna Restrictions-  The ability of a Condo Board, HOA agreement, Landlord or Property Owner to limit the ways we can enjoy our hobby.  Sometimes even local goverments will try and interfere as well…. Normally these restrictions tell us as the resident what we can do with the outside of our living space.  However normally there are ways to circumvent the restriction although we might have to think outside of the box.  In most cases these are just rules that you can’t attach anything to the outside of the residence or to any of the “common ground” areas of the property

Stealth Antenna– My defination of a Stealth Antenna is an antenna that is up 24/7 and is very disguised (hidden) in such a way that you can operate when you want to.  I will give you some examples later.

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Portable Antennas- Antennas that can be used as they are not attached to the property.  Buddipoles or any other antenna which could be tripod mounted are the best and easiest examples although they may not be the best they do get you on the air…  Put the tripod on your deck or in the back yard….  Erect the antenna….  Play radio…. then take down and put away till the next time you want to play radio…

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The examples are various but…. the intent is the same..

Some basic suggestions for Stealth Antennas – Hiding it in plain sight is usually the best.  If you are living in an older neighborhood you might get away with using RG59 which we know as cheap 75 ohm coax as a long wire.  Where I used to live the cablevision companys solution for fixing problems was to re run a new feed line to the house.  They would just string the line from the pole to the house whatever way they could so….  We got used to seeing lots of people in Orange vests and a white hardhat tossing wire into trees and along fence lines.  Get one of your ham friends to wear a vest and run wire from you home into a tree and see what happens.  Just short the ends of the coax and treat it as a long wire….  This will be non resonant longwire so a good tuner will be needed along with a few radials on the ground where they will not be seen.

If that will not work for you try loading up the rain gutters.  It does work…. yes you do need metal gutters or perhaps a wire running down the plastic eves and gutters but use your imagination and see what you can use.

remember that you don’t listen to any ham who says it won’t work.  You try it and show him it works…

Over the years I have had the best luck using a tree that was in my back yard….  Tossed a thin insulated wire over the higher branch I could and used a 4:1 balun along with radials inside my fence and I stayed on the air in Ottawa for 20 years with acceptable results (DXCC, WAS, Triple Play)  When doing this I suggest you use insulated wire the same colour as your surroundings…  Using a Fir tree use green wire…. Regular tree try a brown wire….   Non Insulated copper wire tends to stand out for a while till the shine comes off….

None of these suggestions are guaranteed winners….  Your results will vary depending on many factors….  Think outside the box and see what you can do to stay on the air….

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Game on….

73bob

Over the Air #OTA TV antenna

So seeing that I had some time on my hands today…. well not going camping…. I decided I needed a project to work on for a bit….  The antenna idea for Sunday worked like a charm and yesterdays antenna build was a bust so….

Today would be deciding project…  Would I be at 2-1 or 1-2 as far as successful projects went?  Read on and find out….

Recently we have been having some issues with our TV at home as our Android Box content providers (we subscribe to 3) have had issues due to that crackdown in Europe.  Two of the three content providers we use just vanished…. The last one is still active but we don’t get the same quality of programming we got with other two.

We “Cut the cord” about 2 years ago when we cancelled our Bell Fibe account and switched over to a combination of OTA TV and streaming services like Netflix and Crave with some YouTube thrown in for variety.

When we lived in Ottawa our OTA content consistted of CBC, CTV 1, CTV 2, City TV, Global, Omni 1, Omni 2 and TV Ontario along with about 5 French Language stations which as I found later was exceptional for Canadian Content.  As Ottawa was too far north of the Border I was unable to receive any of the American Networks….

Fast forward a year later and we had moved to Kingston.  Still streaming but now had the choices of the Android Box and all the stations one could imagine.  However with certain Condo Antenna restrictions (you have heard me mention them before) our OTA reception was limited to Global Kingston using an inside antenna…IMG_0438

Taking my camper to various locations including Lake Ontario Park ( 4 km south of here) on a day trip we managed 18 different OTA stations using the antenna on the trailers roof.  However 4 km north and on the wrong side of a hill all I could get was Global Kingston.

However on a later trip just west of Bath Ontario I managed to receive 9 different stations OTA

Fast forward to today and a bored Bob heads over to Princess Auto in Kingston to look for a project and finds…

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This little dream was $45.00 plus tax and came with a built in Rotor with wireless control, built in signal amplifier with power supply with all parts included….  I brought it home and had it built (assembled) in about an hour….

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And after some playing with it the following was noted and I share with you

The good points

1> It does work.  The instructions were fairly easy to follow.

2>The instructions also made sense to my knowledge of antennas.

3>In addition to Global Kingston (local station) I was able to watch quite clearly the CBS Station and the Fox Station both in Watertown New York.

The bad points

4> The rotor did not work

5> Although its design is excellent along with its performance, the antenna itself is very flimsy and I doubt it would stand up to a strong wind let along a Canadian Winter especially an ice storm.

6> No matter which way I swung the antenna (by hand) I could not receive the PBS Station or the ABC Station in the vicinity of Watertown

The set up

I attached a 4 foot length fibreglass mast to the stand for my patio umbrella.  I then attached a 5 foot length of small diameter aluminun tubing to the fibreglass mast which fit into the bottom of the rotor.  The beam was fed by some (supplied) lightweight coax (RG59???)to the amplifier and then to the TV set.  The amplifier was powered by a (supplied) 15v wall wart.

My opinion

If I was living in an apartment this would be my first choice for a balcony antenna.  A fairly small foot print and lightweight enough to be installed on a Camera Tripod.  The balcony would protect it from most of the elements and also provide the altitude needed to get the further out station especially if the built in rotor was working.  

I could also see it working great as an indoor antenna (aiming it out a window) and easily out performing a set of rabbit ears or other styles of indoor antennas in the $45.00 price range.

I also think this antenna would work great for RV Portable style uses especially if your expensive RV TV antenna got damaged when you forgot to lower it before you left the Campground.  (Been there…. done that)

Disclaimer

Receiving any signals over the airwaves is dependent in being in a good location (usually high ground) to receive them.  What let me watch 3 channels at a whopping 15 feet above ground might give me much better reception if the antenna was on top of our roof at 40 feet or so above ground.  The phrases “Height is might” and “Location, Location, Location” are both especially true when it comes to receiving antennas for any band.

What I thought worked well for me might not work at all for you…. 

Or it could work better than expected….

Your mileage may or will vary and if you choose to purchase one you do so at your own risk and expense.

However due to the non functioning Rotor and the flimsy materials used in the construction I will be returning the antenna tomorrow for a refund.  Don’t feel like running outside in the winter time to hand rotate the antenna or to pick up the pieces after freezing rain hits.  I have no issues with its cost or performance…. Just in its quality and quality control.

So at the end of the day I would call todays project a success.  I learned some stuff…. I got to watch some TV not normally accessable from home and I also proved a point (that it could be done) as well as realizing that even though it works today it might not survive the harsh elements.  Lets come back with a new plan for OTA

Safe Travels/73bob

Some things work first time then others….

…..Don’t

Right on the heels of my Sunday Portable HF operations I decided to try something I had read about years ago ….  It was a 40/80m NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) antenna that used the body of my truck as the ground….

The basic idea that if you attach a 66 foot long wire to the stud mount that holds your mobile vertical HF antenna (just above roof height of the vehicle) you in effect would have an 80m NVIS antenna.  By folding it back on itself and shorting the ends of the wire together you would now have a 33 foot long antenna giving you the 40m NVIS effect as well.

For a good description of NVIS go to: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_vertical_incidence_skywave

or click on this link: NVIS

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I had all the pieces necessary in my junk box and headed back to Lake Ontario Park to build and do the basic testing.  For me the basic testing meant stringing it out and then testing using my MFJ Antenna Analyzer and it it worked return later with the FT 450 and see if it likes RF.

As I do not have a 3/8 stud mount on the new pickup (yet) I improvised with a single magnetic mag mount that had a stud mount attached.

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I set up at the park and proceeded to check things out and to my shock it worked on the first try.  SWR was excellent and all appeared well.  I then packed everything up and headed to meet a couple of local hams for a coffee then head back to the park with the FT 450.

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On my return to the park I re strung the antenna up and hooked up the FT 450 and found that the antenna would not load up…  On 80 or on 40….  I seem to remember from many years ago when I mounted a Hustler 80m mobile antenna on the luggage rack of a mini van the same thing happening.  That problem was cured by running a ground strap from the frame of the vehicle to the mount on the luggage rack but today I did not have any way to ground a magnetic mount so…..

Looks like I will have to wait till I install the mobile 3/8 mount on the truck.

Now on to “Other Stuff”….

I re installed the HF gear back in the shack as I realized that it is much better to be on the air with a poor antenna than not be on the air.  Its also better to be listening to anything on HF while waiting for some one to to call on a Local Repeater or one of the Wires X or for that matter than just to sit waiting.

The VA3QV  Wires X Node is working fine.  Along with East-West coverage I have also found that I go as far south as Lake Ontario (about 4km from my site) and still hear and use the node and that takes me to the end of the boat ramp and I can’t go any further south without getting wet.

Due to the ongoing overheating issues I now keep the node at its 5w setting  when its operating.  I have a cooling fan I have to install and then the power level issue will be looked at again after the install.

Tuesday night (last night) I listened to the VE3ORF/3730 Digital Net which was held on Yaesu Wires X Room 40505.  It operated for just under 1 hour and had 21 check ins from VE1, VE2, VE3, VE6 and the States of Mass, Virginia, Rhode Island along with a VK station.

The Net runs every Tuesday night at 8pm Eastern and is found on most of the digital platforms (C4FM, DMR) and for more information go to the VE3ORF Website.

The trailer still has to be winterized although the final camping trip of the year might be cancelled as there was a frost alert for the area we were planning to go to and also a family member (was not Liz) had to spend the night in the hospital (she was released the next day) so all is well but….

Liz and I are thinking if we tried to get away Murphy’s Law might  see us having to break camp and rush back,  so why not stay close to home as its better to be safe than sorry….?

So as usual its much more RF than RV in the blog post.  I think that Erika has spent more time in the trailer than Liz and I have this year….  Don’t see that changing till next spring…

For now Safe Travels and…

73bob