Pins, Needles

Well, maybe not that bad. I am sitting at 146 countries confirmed. At 150 confirmed, I can get an endorsement sticker for my Mixed DXCC award. Whee! :-)

So why pins and needles? Well, to be listed in next year's DXCC Yearbook, you have to make your DXCC application before the end of the current year. If you look at the calendar, you can see that I have about 15 days to do that.

Last year, I waited until the last minute and did a "hybrid" application. That's where you do the application online, submit Logbook of the World credits, then print some stuff and take it, with the cards you have, to your local DXCC Card Checker (dorky name - used to be "DXCC Field Representative"). It's actually easier than the paper application and lets you wait all the way to the last minute (paper-only applications have to be in Newington by 12/31, AFAIK).

Anyway, this year, I'm four cards short. The question is, do I wait until after the new year so I can get to 150 or do I wait to see if I get the 150 before the 31st (practically speaking, the 29th or 30th) so that I can get into the Yearbook?

You might say, "well, do one now, then do another later!" Here's the thing. Your first DXCC application in a calendar year is $12 but the second one is $22. So it would be an extra $10 to get in the Yearbook and not have to wait until next year for my sticker.

Decisions, decisions.

Right now, I'm just waiting. I sent a donation to the ZL8X folks by PayPal, so I expect that credit to show up any day, and I expect a bunch more via the BURO, which a little birdy told me will do another mailing to my sorter this week.

One thing is certain - I won't get to 100 on either RTTY or 20m. I'm in the 90s on both but won't make it to 100 by the end of the year.



Staycation, Part II

Back to the 9913. Once it was down, I put the multimeter to it and found that it was shorted. That's a problem obviously. I put I cut off the connector in preparation for putting on a new one, thinking that was the issue. I used my DXEngineering prep tool and discovered that the center conductor was an odd shade of black. OK, so this *is* a water incursion problem. I wonder? I cut off 6" and blew into the end. Lo and behold, a drop of water.

That makes this section of feedline toast, but what about the section connected to the D-56?

I put the multimeter and analyzer on that section - no short, but some resistance and SWR to dummy load was 3:1 instead of 1:1. Looks like I need *two* new sections of coax.

Fortunately for me, I had acquired a spool of LMR400 from a previous employer (yes, I did get permission!) so I cut new lengths for both antennas. While I was at it, I cut a slightly longer piece for the 10-m dipole.

Once up on the roof, I found out that the piece attached to the D-56 had good reason to have high SWR - in several places, the cable was chafed down into the dielectric! The way the cable runs, it comes down straight to the roof ... where the asphalt shingles abrade it as it moves with the wind. I have yet to solve this issue. The 40/80 could also potentially suffer from the same issue, but we solved it by moving the antenna closer to the NE end which allowed the cable to hang away from the roof.

With new cable in place on both antennas, SWR was now where it was supposed to be!

Wires were now down so it was on to the mast. The new anchors had set so it was time to prep the antennas. Got the cables secured and made sure that the wouldn't bind when rotated 360 degrees. Pushed the first section up and attached the 6-m loop. Got the whole thing up in the
air and attached the new guys.

Sounds simple, but took place over a couple of days. Temps were in the 90s and being on the asphalt roof did not help!

Even got the 6-m loop connected to the switch so that all four ports are now in use. This came in handy the following week during a 6 meter opening where I was able to switch between the loop and the 40-80 dipole, which is, oddly, resonant on 6 as well.

Staycation, Part I

I took a week-and-a-bit off from work and traveled to ... home. Loved the accommodations and the meal package! I also made a pretty big dent in the to-do list, mostly on the antenna section.

The antenna to-do list was a little longer than before due to the recent "wind storm". In addition to a number trees (most already dead), the wobble-stack took a bit of a hit. This was due, undoubtedly, to the crappy guying job that was in place prior to May 10. In addition to resurrecting the VHF antennas and making the wobble-stack decidedly less wobbly, the wire antennas were worked on as well.

In the case of the wire antennas, one of the dead trees that came down ended up leaning against a live tree that supported the Spi-Ro D-52 40-80 dipole, so we started there. The tree that fell, or tried to fall, was where the support rope for the dipole terminated. The tree it fell into is the one whose crown supports the rope that supports both the 40-80 and WARC-band dipoles.

We thought it best to lower the antenna (from the other end) lest too much tension snap something especially during the tree removal process. Since the 40-80 crosses the 80-10, we lowered that, too. The 10-m dipole has been supported at one end by the wobble-stack, so that was already down. At this point, the WARC-band dipole was still up.

We borrowed the neighbor's tractor (and the neighbor) and got the dead tree moved to a safer horizontal axis. That done, we got the 40-80 and the 80-10 back in the air. I still saw SWR issues on the 40-80, though, which I thought I'd blogged about but haven't. So a little diversion.

I started having trouble with the Spi-Ro D-56 (5-band trap dipole) back in 2008. See here and here. Basically, one of the traps that makes it resonant on the 10-meter band is dead so I needed a new antenna. Having had good service from it and the Spi-Ro D-314 WARC dipole, I thought I'd get another Spi-Ro. Unfortunately, they neither answered the phone nor email. They did have an eBay site (through a third party, as far as I can tell) so it appeared that they still sold antennas. Looking at their site, they had a D-52 trap dipole that promised coverage from 80 through 10 with only two traps and 20 or so more feet of copper. So I ordered one.

Well, it seems they were WAY optimistic on covering 20-15-10 meters. I eventually put up a home-brew dipole for 10 and continued to use the D-56 for 15 and 20.

With that many antennas, switching bands was becoming a hassle, so I acquired an Ameritron RCS4 switch. Within a few months, I had trouble, namely weird SWR issues that I initially blamed on the switch. It wasn't the switch.

Anyway, back to the story. SWR was wonky on the 40/80. Worse, it was really bad on the 80-10. OK, but I had other things to do.

With the 40-80 and 80-10 back up, I got the 10-m dipole off the ground (it had been supported at one end by the aforementioned wobble-stack) and supported by the Davis weather station's tripod on the roof. This meant that 1) the antenna was now higher leading to better signal reports on the weekly 10-m net and 2) it needed more that the 25' of feedline that it had so that it wasn't pulled horizontally. I left the latter for another day.

While we were tying the ribbons on having the 3 wires back in the air ... the WARC-band dipole fell down! Upon inspection of the support rope, we found fraying. This was undoubtedly due to the movement of the Sycamore tree used as one of the supports. Look back and you'll see that this was not totally unanticipated. Something else to leave to another day.

In thinking about the SWR issue on the 40-80 antenna, it occurred to me (finally!) that maybe it wasn't the switch and that maybe it was the coax. Since this was partially-air-dielectric Belden 9913, that was a distinct possibility. It's well known in the amateur radio community that 9913 has to be really well sealed at the connector ends lest water accumulate in that dielectric space. Even if you're careful, you may still get condensation.

To test, I substituted 68' of LMR-400 for the 40 or so feet of 9913. Initial tests were good so I left it for a few days.

On a subsequent day, though not sure which, I mounted the 2-m loop, the 2-m beam, and the rotator on the top of the mast. I had already prepared a new set of guys, ones that I hope will prevent a repeat of the wind-driven collapse of the VHF mast. Not only are the guys themselves better, but so are the anchors.

We also got the WARC-band dipole out of the tree. We debated whether or not to move the anchor from the Sycamore, but decided to leave that until another time. There are other candidate trees near the Sycamore that don't sway as much.

Next, the saga of 9913 and the VHF stuff ...


Ameritron RCS4 review

This review was posted to eHam.net back in February. I recently discovered that the problem was with the coax, so I posted an updated review. When eHam published the new one, the killed the old one. So here it is:

Bought the unit from HRO in November of 2009 and got it on the mast in time for SS. Initial configuration was Spi-Ro D-52 80/40 trap dipole on Port 4 (default port), Spi-Ro D-314 WARC trap dipole on Port 3, homebrew 10-m dipole on Port 2 and a cap (an actual Amphenol cap with a rubber seal and everything!) on Port 1.

Installed per directions and initial results were wonderful! Sometime in January, the antennas on Ports 2 and 4 went deaf and became non-resonant. I borrowed an MFJ analyzer and connected directly to the antennas in question, bypassing the switch. NTF. OK, so a switch issue? Swapped the two antennas and got the same results. Damn.

Called Ameritron, explained the situation, and they said to send it in.

A few weeks later it comes back. I grab the invoice out of the waybill pack and lo, and behold, tech says "NTF".



Put it back up and get EXACTLY THE SAME RESULTS AS BEFORE. OK, so this time, I mix the antennas differently. And guess what? If I put the 40/80 on Port 3 and the WARC on Port 4 **it all works**.

I find that quite odd.

But it works.

Just watch out. :-)

If winter ever ends, I plan to try to use the remaining port for my KB6KQ 6-m loop. Hard to tell if the RCS-4 will work at 50 MHz, but plan to try. (RCS-4L docs include 6m, RCS-4 docs do not)