The story so far

So after several years, I got off my butt and upgraded to general last summer so I could do the HF stuff I wanted to do all along. Plus there were some new digital modes to try there, particularly psk31, that I was interested in.

But I had a problem. I know from SWL experience that this neighborhood is noisy. For a permanent antenna, I would have to do some comparison… and get some help. I am not in a restricted neighborhood, but I do have restricted space. The best place to put an antenna around here is on the roof, which likely means vertical. But verticals can be noisy.

My first experiment was with an “End Fed Half wave” wire and an extendable/collapsable poll. The main reason for this was price and a chance to see how vertical would do. I raised the wire up the pole, spiraling up the length to hold it tight to the mast.

It was noisy, but with a tuner, tuned up on everything 40m and up without complaint. But also almost completely without QSO. I believe I managed one psk31 contact with this antenna. Otherwise I was in the mud and could only hear the strongest of stations.

So, while I knew this couldn’t be my permanent setup either, I got hold of the Sotabeams “Bandhopper” 40m/20m linked dipole. I highly recommend this thing, by the way. But understand it is meant for portable and temporary set up. I extended the pole, put this up on 20 meters, and had amazing results.

After a weekend of 20 meter fun, I raised it again the next weekend, linked up for 40 meters, and had a good weekend as well. So, I decided to leave it up all week so I could play after work.

The collapsable pole collapsed. It had been up in the wind too long. I raised it again and it collapsed after a couple of days, this time just before the lawnmower guys came through and ran over one side of of the dipole, removing a large segment of one of the elements of the Sotabeams. But it was pretty clear to me now that, in this location, resonant dipoles are king.

Then the snow hit. I tried a repair of the Sotabeams but the weather really kept me from playing outside. And it seemed very clear that I cannot count on the collapsable pole to be raised for more than the one day outings it was meant for.

So while it was freezing, I tried playing with the sotabeam inside the house. No go. In the meantime, my buddy W8AAR, who is confined to indoor or stealth antennas (thanks to his condo association), got hold of an Alpha Loop antenna and started playing with FT8. He was having so much fun, that I got an MFJ-936B loop tuner to play with for the winter. I hooked it up and made a loop appropriate for 20 meters. I got it to match up quite nicely. Unfortunately it was basically deaf. Except, it turned out, on FT8!

This was pretty cool. I was seeing stations from all around the country, and quite a few from Europe!

Not a single one of them could hear me.

I was fighting with this on the weekend after all the snow melted, got exasperated, and went outside and raised the collapsable pole again, with the end-fed-half-wave running up it.

Lo and behold, I made tons of FT8 contacts. pskreporter.info was showing me being heard all around the world, on 20, 30, & 40 meters. But no other modes seemed to get me out at all.

So I decided to work out a solution for putting up a dipole permanently.

In the meantime, I bought the desktop radio I’d wanted for a while. The simple workhorse IC-718. I had been using a Xiegu X108G. Besides being able to use more wattage when needed on the Icom, it turns out the receive on it is nicer in this neighborhood, and apparently the transmitted audio has more punch, because for the first time, people can hear me on SSB through the end-fed half-wave. Previously I only had SSB success with the dipole. And on a bizarre side-note, the collapsable pole has been up without collapsing for almost 2 weeks.

Moral: It’s always the Antenna. But sometimes, it’s the radio.

In this blog I will likely be documenting some antenna stuff though. The end-fed hasn’t fallen yet, but its days are numbered, and I believe I have worked out just how I plan to layout a more permanent dipole set-up. I’ll save that for a post in the next couple weeks.

And I have radio hacks planned I’ll be posting. Maybe.

It’s all maybe. This is a blog.