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Simple Antennas for Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

I trust that Santa Claus was kind to you this holiday season.  I didn't get the new Elecraft K3 I promised myself, but I did enjoy a wonderful break from the classroom and my former responsibilities as a newsman at Pacific Radio Group.  This has been the first time in many years that I didn't have to rise and shine at 0230W and drive through the darkness to Hilo.  Although my former role as a broadcast journalist (and I use that term very loosely) was a thoroughly enjoyable job, I now relish time at home with my better half, working for my local community as a school teacher, and, finally, getting to spend some more time with amateur radio. Presently, I'm preparing to dive into the ARRL's "SKN" (straight key night) on New Year's Eve.  This should be a fun event with little of the contest pressure that dominates other events.  About the only thing old I'm bringing to the effort is myself, my trusty J-38 key, and the old Kenwood TS-520 and the venerabl

Beginning a new life outside commercial broadcasting

Exchanging the old life for a new one Eversince I retired from Pacific Radio Group on 30 September 2011, I've been attending classes to get a substitute teaching certificate from the state of Hawaii Department of Education.  I should complete the academic work and the required exam by 21 October 2011.  Once I get interviewed by my wife's school (she is a substitute teacher at Laupahoehoe High School and once served as its school librarian), I should find some temporary work until I get my life fully in order.  After 40 years of broadcasting (both in the military and in civilian life), I welcome the chance to try something new.  I suspect I will enjoy teaching, so this retreaded announcer could find himself before the toughest audience of all--students. Amateur radio will occupy more of my spare time I have a list of antenna projects to complete, numerous household chores that are due, and some slack time to enjoy the remaining years of my life.  No regrets, but I do look

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

New Beginings On 30 September 2011, I left my post as News Director of Pacific Radio Group (Hawaii Island) to enter a new phase of my life--that of retired  senior citizen.  After almost 40 years of delivering the news, questioning politicians, and answering thousands of phone calls from the thoroughly sane to those bordering on the truly outrageous, I've turned off the Shure S-7 broadcast micorphone and opted for a more quiet life along the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island.  Presently, I attending recertification classes to qualify for a substitute teachers certificate  so I can teach at the same school my xyl does.  So much for idle time. The Old Antenna Farm gets a face lift. With retirement and some teaching time, I'll be able to devote more attention to squeezing every last watt out of my modest range of antennas--the inverted 40-meter "vee", the 40-meter vertical, and the 40-meter loop under the house.  In the past, my amateur radio time has been spotty beca

Amateur Radio rides out the storm

WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE OF INSTABILITY The weekly news cycle is coming to an end.  After a week of generally disturbing economic, political, and international news,  I'll be glad to flee the radio station news room for some peaceful hours at the amateur radio station nestled in the back bedroom of my home.  One thing is for sure in the news business--it is never dull, no matter what you hear and read.  There is always something building that will break out in a banner headline in the days to come.  Keeping up with all of the twists and turns of the current day surely makes for a busy day.  After doing 30 or so newscasts on our four program streams, I am ready to vacate the media circus for the relative calm of my modest neighborhood along the Hamakua Coast.  Sometimes I wonder how things got so out of hand in my country.  Even after 33 years in the news gathering business, I am still amazed how normally decent, intelligent people can be so taken in by the hucksters passing themsel

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur, part 8

Homebrew antennas are an endless source of experiment, creativity, and occasional frustration.  Armed with a few good antenna books from the ARRL,CQ Publications, and the RSGB, I've built a variety of  verticals, dipoles, and loops which work most of the time.  Since I'm not an electronics wizard, there have been a few ideas that just didn't pan out, including a homebrew 1/2 end-fed hertz that developed a bad case of corona discharge at the end of the antenna.  That 40-meter project was a disaster, but it taught a few valuable lessons about matching devices, baluns, and swr.  I think the next time I want to use an end-fed hertz, I'll violate my long-standing rule of "rolling my own" in favor of a commercial product by Par Electronics, Radiowavz, or Comet.  I'm alright when it comes to simple verticals, dipoles, and loops.  Anything beyond that calls for more study and careful attention to detail.  I'm still in the learning process--something that will

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio operator, part 7

This week has proven busy for those who call a broadcast news studio "their home away from home."  With all of the debt-ceiling talk and arguments on just how insolvent we are, there is sufficient news to keep this announcer occupied.  There hasn't been much time to relax before the ole Swan 100-MX and enjoy a casual qso.  This weekend will be fully engaged as well with a full schedule of drag races at the Hilo Drag Strip.  I work as the tower announcer, a role that keeps me out of trouble for the entire weekend.  Despite a jammed week, I've managed to pursue a number of antenna articles and related projects.  The August issue of "QST" contains an interesting description of an elevated 40-meter monopole with two-tuned counterpoise wires.  The skyhook seems to work alright, so, if you have a convenient tree or pole in the backyard, you may want to experiment with this antenna.  Of course, those of us without such supports will have to be more creative.  For n

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 6

Here are a few more unusual and somewhat offbeat antennas I've used with varying degrees of success.  All of these "creations" work to the extent that you will get some contacts.  I've lived in a few challenging places where amateur radio antennas were never part of the landlord's world view.  Although my current qth is quite nice, it is still restricted to a small lot shared by 3 other modest rental homes and is approximately 20' away from utility poles.  With all of the salt air and moisture found on Hawaii Island, you can imagine the corona discharge problems I face several times a year.  To be fair, the Hawaii Electric Light Company does its best to keep the transmissions lines inspected and cleaned.  On an island with about 4,000 square miles, line maintenance is a major headache for the telephone, cable, and power companies. In my antenna book for 2002, I found a stop-gap antenna that served me well while the backyard was being torn up for a new septic

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 5

One of the things I've enjoyed most about being an amateur or ham operator in Hawaii is the fairly consistent good weather for building and erecting home-brew antennas.  Other than our rainy season (November to March, generally), antenna experiments can be done in an unhurried fashion.  Since I'm not the most mechanically inclined operator, I need all the time I can get to make something that works.  In the 37 years since I was a novice class ham, I've built a large number of skyhooks that were just plain awful and a few others that were gems--largely because they worked despite my "cut and trim" approach to the art of antennas.  Over the past 3 decades, a combination of study and gradually increasing technical skills have enabled me to erect a number of antennas that not only look presentable, but also do a decent job of launching rf into the "ether".  While most of my antenna projects have been modest because of space restrictions, I've managed to

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio operator, part 3

The inverted 40-meter "vee" described in my previous post is performing well considering the severe space restrictions at my qth.  I would prefer some nearby trees to support a 40-meter dipole at a decent height (around 40 to 50 feet), but those living antenna supports are a few hundred yards away, so I will work with what I have.  As I examined some of my earlier antenna notebooks, I discovered a few antenna designs that may prove useful in your situation.  When I first became a novice in 1977, I used a random length wire approximately 50' long tacked to the ceiling of the teacher's cottage my xyl and I called home.  I stretched out the wire as straight as I could and ran the antenna in and out of two bedrooms and the living room, which served as the operator's position.  The wire was attached to a homebrew tuner and a 50' counterpoise was attached to the tuner's ground screw.  The counterpoise wire snaked along the house's baseboard.  A low-pass fi

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Ham, part 2

'Just a few more thoughts on simple antennas before I shut down the newsroom for the day and head to the qth.  In the previous post, I described an unsophisticated, basic antenna that could get you on the air quickly with a minimum of effort.  You can erect a simple 40-meter dipole with coax feedline in a variety of configurations, ranging from a straight dipole and inverted "vee" to a sloper and a vertical dipole (if you have a tall mast).  This basic antenna will work well on 40-meters and give acceptable service on 15-meters (using the 3rd harmonic of the 40-meter band).  I'm using one these simple inverted "vees" in my backyard and it does well for casual rag chews and interisland service.  My pvc mast is 33' high at the apex and the 33' dipoles go off at an angle, meeting two 5' stakes at either end.  I get reasonable interisland coverage as well as decent DX to the west coast of the U.S. mainland.  I believe there is a degree of  high angle

Amateur Radio on Hawaii Island

What a busy weekend!  Thanks to some excellent weather, Hawaii Island residents were able to select a range of community events to spend with their families. Our radio station covered a bunch of events, ranging from the Hawaii Island outrigger canoe paddling championships to the July Points meet at the Hilo Drag Strip.  The weather has improved considerably since late June, when most of us on "the rock" thought the seasons had been reversed.  Usually, our rainy season runs from November to April with generally clear, warm weather balancing out the remainder of the year.  However, this year, rainy conditions extended into June.  The rain was welcome, since most of the island has been griped in an extended drought that began almost two years ago.  There has been rain, but not enough to keep pastures green and crops growing.  Even Hilo, which normally gets around 120-130 inches of rain per year, has received only about 40 inches so far, about 20 incles below normal.  Since many

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Hawaii Island survived the 11 March 2011 tsunami with considerable damage incurred to businesses along Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona.  According to Governor Neil Abercrombie, who did a damage assessment tour on 15 March 2011, the damage could run into the tens of millions of dollars.  Thankfully, no one in the state was killed.  According to state Civil Defense, 20 homes were damaged (2 being draged into Kealakekua Bay) and 31 businessess suffered some degree of damage.  The county's Public Works Department and volunteers have cleaned up most of Alii Drive--the main thoroughfare seriving Kailua-Kona.  Our hearts go out to Japan which has been hit pretty hard--both in the loss of human life and the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.  One of former announcers, who now runs a morning show in Yokohama, gave the news department a gritty picture of what went down--not a pretty picture. As relief efforts continue, the Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) is asking a

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

This has been a very busy week in the radio station news room.  The problems in Egypt have gained an importance in Hawaii that we islanders usually don't have.  Several Hawaii residents are trying to get out of Cairo amidst the confusion, violence, and disorder. I hope they make it.  Once this day is done, I'll be glad to put the cares of the Middle East and Hawaii's deficit economy behind me until Saturday morning. Although our economic woes pale beside those of Illinois, California, and New Jersey, the Aloha State is just beginning to cope with a stubborn $844 million shortfall.  Everything is going up now--taxes, fuel, and electricity.  I know, what else is new?  Anyway, it's off to the Swan 100 MX, the ole J-38 key, and the new inverted vee in the backyard.  My yard is quite small, so I had just enough room to squeeze in a 40-meter vee. Fortunately, I had some extra 450-ohm ladder line, so I can use the skyhook from 40 to 10 meters.  The ladder lin