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

Getting the #RV ready for winter

As you should be able to tell by the #RV hashtag in the title this posting will be more about RV’s than radios…


Well after much delaying it….  We finally did it….  The first (and most important) steps were taking to prepare Erika’s trailer for the winter.

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Yes I did say Erika’s trailer…. 

Liz and I decided that we needed a slightly larger (newer) trailer for the start of our retirement and so rather than trade in the old one we gave it to Erika.

She is planning to reno it more for “Glamping”than Camping so lets see how far this one gets.  One has to remember that her Sonic will not pull it….So stay tuned for what we/she has planned for it.

But on the weekend we did get the Fresh water tank drained,  The Gray and Black Tanks dumped.  All non perishable food items were removed along with some of the electronics.  The trailer is being winter stored in its usual spot so we can easily get to it in the next few weeks to remove the bedding and kitchen items as well as take the steps to keep rodents away.

Now that the tanks are drained I still have to add the RV antifreeze to the system and that also will be done in the near future.

Back to the plans for the new mobile abode…. We are not really sure about the details other than we want one.  I would guess something under 28 feet that can legally be towed by our current pick up truck.

We both want more room but are trying to find the find line between something we can travel with without feeling cramped and something we can live in for the summer but can’t tow it.  I’m not really ready for a permanent campsite yet so I would prefer to travel a bit but stay for a while once we get there…

Lets see what we end up with….

Safe travels

Bob

Saturday AM #hamradio musings

This was created on Saturday morning  but I got distracted and it got posted a bit later the same day….


Its a Saturday morning and as I’m still on holidays I get to spend some quality time in the shack…..

I heard a few guys chatting on HF and they were talking about call sign designations( such as VA3QV/m) and how they should be used…. It was a great debate and I could not comment as they were starting to fade so….. Here is the  way I see it

At home I would sign as VA3QV  by at home I mean the address that Industry Canada has on file for me,

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In the mobile I would sign as VA3QV/m.  Rather common sense.  If I was travelling across Canada (I don’t travel in the states due to no private healthcare) I would be VA3QV/m VE2, VE4 etc depending on what Province I would be driving thru at the time.

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Operating from a place other than my residence or my vehicle I would be VA3QV/p, but if the location was outside my home province then I would be VA3QV/p VE4 or whatever province I was in at the time.

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Why you ask????

In my humble opinion as Canada is not normally rare DX…. calling CQ de VA3QV will not cause much excitement.

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But if I happened to be up north at the time VA3QV/VY0 or /VE8 or /VY1 could make it more interesting for the chasers.

I look at it as more of a courtesy….  I chased a KH6 station for about an hour and when I finally got him confirmed in Logbook of the World …. I found out that he was visiting friends in California so I got another west coast station (/W6)in the log rather than the Hawaii contact I was hoping for.  The same thing happened with a Alaskan resident calling CQ from his parents house in the lower 48 who neglected to add the /p to his call….

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And thats the view from the cheap seats this morning

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

 

 

 

Putting the pieces together for a HF Morning

With all the C4FM (Wires X, VHF and UHF) stuff I have been doing recently I realized that I needed head out to a park and stretch out some wire and play radio.  I had taken my HF gear down at home as I was getting tired of everyone telling me I should put up a better antenna and me telling them that the only way my antenna could improve was if the tree the wire was hiding in would grow.

Although I have been saying for years I would rather be on the air with a bad antenna than not being on the air…..

I just got tired of telling everyone (not to get stuffed) and decided the tree might grow faster if the weight of the wire was not holding it down….

So this morning I took my FT 450…..

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and my SGC 237 auto tuner….

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along with 2 100 foot rolls of the finest (cheapest) Princess Auto wire….

and my Trailer Hitch Mast mount and 3 of my fiberglass military surplus 4 foot long sections of mast….

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I headed over to Lake Ontario Park to see what a 100w radio with one of the best tuners in the world and surplus masting and lots of wire would accomplish…

For the purpose of this test…..  I used 3 of my masting sections… 1 on the hitch, 1 to hold the SGC and 1 in the middle… So the center of my antenna was approx 14 feet above ground taking the height of the hitch into consideration

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You can see the white breadboard holding the SGC and the breadboard is clamped onto  the top of the surplus masting…

I used the SGC as the center point in my (sort of) dipole antenna with 100 feet of wire running North West and the other 100 feet of wire running South East and the ends were suspended at approx 10 feet above the ground using the existing trees in the park.

I WAS powering my radio gear using a 450 watt inverter in my truck which was powering my 25 amp power supply to breathe life into the FT450 and Tuner.

“WAS” being the best description as shortly after tuning up the radio and making a checkin with Paul VA3PC in North Bay (on the North Bay Net 3.768) my noise level suddenly jumped and then the inverter stopped working.  It did not let any magic smoke out but after I reset it and tried again I could not get rid of the new high noise level…

I then quickly found the spare parts to by pass the inverter and power supply and connect everything directly to the battery in my truck.  Problem solved and the noise dropped down to a very pleasing low of S1 to S3.   Now to some of you out in the country that might seem loud but to a city boy who thinks that anything below a S7 is low….  Today was just fantastic….

At 10am I switched over to the Ottawa Valley Mobile Radio Clubs weekly 80m Net on 3.760 and suprised most of the participants by having a signal that everyone could hear.  Equally I was extremely pleased with being able to hear everyone out there.  Its amazing what one can do when the noise floor is low…

At the end of the net I spun the dial a bit and although I did not try and make any contacts the antenna system (wire and the SGC 237) was easily able to load up on 10m to 160m with a 2:1 swr on 160 which was brought down to 1:1 using the internal tuner on the 450.  That was the only band that the tuner has a slight problem with and compared to other instllations a 2:1 match is not that bad when operating portable…

In additon to HF operation I could also easily change over to VHF/UHF operations by putting my Discone antenna at the top of the mast if I was in need of reaching a repeater not easily accessable while camping or on a Public Service event

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And I could go up much higher as I do have a total of 11 sections of masting for a total height of 44 feet…

However the HF side of things is what is really interesting me right now so I do have enough wire to try several other setups.  A delta loop comes to mind along with an inverted L antenna.  Although I’m not sure how long the weather will allow me access to the best portable operating areas close to Kingston but what ever I can learn this fall will really improve my enjoyment of the hobby in the spring….

A bit of an update with the VA3QV Node here in Kingston.  I still have some issues with the internet.  If (when) my home internet hiccups while the node software is trying to access the server it just causes a crash and nothing happens till I do a reset.  However when the internet is stable the node is working fine all is good.

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Liz and I are still planning the season ending trip with the camper and it will (has to) happen as at the end of the trip we have to drain the tanks and winterize before the camper goes into storage for the winter.

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Thats all for now…  Thanks for visiting

73bob

Updated Node coverage area

Thanks to Allan VE3AJB from Manitoulin Island who talked to me from Kingston to almost to Joyceville and also to Steve VE3AVP in Ottawa who talked to me from Kingston almost to Odessa I can now say that the nodes coverage is :

But to be honest it was a bit rough in the valleys but on the high ground it was fantastic…  The coverage between the HWY 15 exit and the Gardiners Road exit was excellent (armchair copy)

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Just to remind you that the VA3QV Node is running 70cm C4FM (Yaesu Wires X ) on 443.1625 and is located in Kingston Ontario at the Corner of John A MacDonald and John Counter.  Its output is 25w going into a 1/4w dual band Arrow Groundplane at approx 20 feet above local ground.  The node is connected to the VE3ORF Network of linked digital repeaters ( 40505 in Wires X).

This node proves proof of concept but it is not in its final configuration.  I would hope to move it to a location with more dependable internet connections  that allows a higher antenna and that should come when we move to our new QTH .  When that happens is up to Liz with an extimated move date of the summer of 2020.

More to follow

73bob