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Simple antennas for the Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

Have you ever thought of installing a small, portable HF rig and collapsable antenna in your vehicle for impromptu or emergency operations?  During the past week, wet weather and sometimes marginal road conditions got me thinking about what HF radio system I would use should a traffic emergency arise where I couldn't get home or where cell phone coverage would be unusable.  Along the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island, cell phone coverage is spotty and there are many areas inadequately served by this handy communications device.  Geography plays a big role in limiting cell phone coverage, with mountain peaks and ridges often degrade the signal available. So, last week I decided to make a small upgrade in my mobile capability with the creation of a small, easily portable HF system to complement my bare-bones 2-meter capability (HT with mag-mount antenna on the rood of my van).  I selected my old, trustworthy Yaesu FT-7 (10 watts output), a large marine, deep cycle battery in the garag

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

I haven't been able to do much antenna maintenance because of a full-time class schedule at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  My xyl and I have been substitute teachers for several months now and we manage to keep busy with students from kindergarten through 12th grade.  Most of my free times is on the weekends, so I try to squeeze in a little operating and station maintenance on Saturday and Sunday.  All of this makes for a full week.  I don't mind--the routine keeps me busy and frees me to do some creative work with students, especially those in special education. Over this past weekend, I was tidying up the shack and monitoring 20-meters when I found two old antenna books that may prove of some use for you, especially if you are on a tight budget.  The first book is one of my modern "classics"--"Lew McCoy On Antennas.  Pull up a Chair and Learn from the Master."  This compact volume is still in print from CQ Communications, Inc.  The late Lew McC

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

The Fourth of July is fast upon us--a time of backyard barbeques, a little too much beer, good fellowship, and the celebration of our nation's independence.  The radio station staff is engaged fully in the weekend activities.  There are several parades, rodeos, community block parties, and county celebrations to keep all of us broadcast types busy.   The weather looks promising with only a few morning and evening showers to dampen the enthusiasm.  The holiday will give the news staff (only yours truly) a chance to get out of the normal "doom and gloom" news cycle and have some fun with the local community.  The weekend will provide a necessary boost to my spirits.  There is only so much negative news I can take.  So, I'll take in the antique car show, cover a few parades, and eat too many hot dogs....it's tradition.  On Tuesday, I'll increase the pace of my physical fitness program to burn off those calories accumulated over the past few days.  I'm sure my

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

I had an interesting experience on Saturday (04 June 2011) that proves that I'm not as smart as I thought.  Following a long day at the radio station news room, I looked forward to some relaxation at the amateur radio station.  Afterall , there is just so much "doom and gloom" one can stand in the news business.  Anyway, before I left, I picked up a flash flood watch and thunderstorm warning for Hawaii Island, something that occurs frequently from April to June around here.  Since the weather radar showed my Laupahoehoe QTH out of the danger zone, I figured I would squeeze in a few hours of relaxed cw until the storms were due to hit around 1900W.  Wrong...when I arrived home, I figured there was sufficient time to work the rig and still attend a small graduation party for one of neighbor's daughters at the Laupahoehoe Gym.  So, in my haste, I disconnected all cables, feedlines, and rigs just in case the QTH lost power due to wind and rain (that happens frequently her

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

The weekend is fast upon us.  Hopefully, that means a reduced newsroom schedule and an early voyage home to the amateur radio station.  After this week of economic doom and gloom, I need a break to recharge the ole batteries.  There's so much negativity one can take, especially with those supposedly in charge totally clueless as to what to do.  Anyway, if my amateur radio station falls short, I have no one to blame but myself.  I'm looking forward to a few hours of conversation, DX, and antenna work over the weekend. The ARRL Field Day is coming the weekend of 25/26 June and thousands of ham operators will take to the "field" in one of the largest emergency communications events conducted in North America.  The event combines contest, emergency communications, and survival aspects into one frantic weekend.  Nothing goes totally according to plan, and that's part of the allure of Field Day.  Because of work requirements, my participation with the Big Island Amate

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Now that the Memorial Day festivities are over, it's time return to the "real" world and all of its troubles.  For a newsperson, strife and uncertainty are the basis of continuing employment.  Sad to say, good news really doesn't amount to much in world focused on immediate gratification, irresponsibility, and power.  I suppose this trend is not new--human foibles have been used for centuries to advance all kinds of political, social, and religious agendas.  Once in a while, I will include a humorous "kicker" in some of my newscasts to break the doom and gloom that seems to dominate the current news scene.  After shifting through 10 to 12 hours worth of generally negative stories, it's a real pleasure to run into an uplifting tale.  I ran across such a story when I read an ariticle by Jim Key (NT2 F) entitled "Q signals for Baby Boomers".  The story can be found in the 02 June 2011 edition of eham.net.  I enjoyed the article, although some of

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Today is Memorial Day--a time to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our nation.  Despite a full weekend of drag races and other holiday events that kept our radio station staff busy, I welcomed a return to the news room this morning. This time gave me a chance to grace my newscasts with some heartfelt thanks to veterans and their families for their service to this still great country.  Like many vets, I don't care to share war stories...some memories are best forgotten.  I was fortunate to return alive with most of my faculties intact.  Others were not so lucky.  The tie between my service and amateur radio goes back some 40 years or more when many of us stationed in remote, deservedly forgotten areas of the world kept in touch with our families through MARS stations.  Those were the days before e-mail, skype, iPhones, or any other high tech communications marvels.  I owe a debt of gratitude to those MARS operators who kept us sane in a world gone crazy.  Perhaps the be

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

There remain only a few hours until the busy Memorial Day weekend breaks on Hawaii Island shores.  For those of us at KKBG-FM and KHLO-AM, the next few days will busy and filled with remote broadcasts, outrigger canoe races, the Honokaa Western Days Rodeo, and the traditional drag races at the Hilo Drag Strip.  By the time our staff reaches Monday, all of us should be tired, talked out, and ready for a vocal cord transplant.  My weekend will be spent in the track tower announcing the pro-gas and ET bracket races and sending live updates back to the station.  Although the next few days will be intense, the time away from the newsroom will give me a break of sorts from the usual panic of world events.  For the briefest of moments all of us at the track will be only concerned with elapsed times and getting closest to our indices (pro-gas).  Radio plays a huge role in coordinating and facilitating the complicated series of events that make a smooth running race.  All key personal (tower, s

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

In between a few jobs around the QTH over the weekend, I ran across an article in the eham.net website concerning the "Maxcomm Automatic Antenna Tuner".  The reviews of this product ranged from "0" to "5" depending on the experience of the amateur radio operator using the device.  I'm still amazed that anyone would use this product, which is just a 50-ohm resistor network and a torroid.  Back in the 1980s, the ARRL rejected the claims of the manufacturer because the tuner was just a dummy load.  Of course, the device protected the transmitter, since it presented a 50-ohm load to the transmitter.  I'm not saying the maxcomm won't give you a few contacts...even a dummy load with a wire attached can do that.  A few weeks ago I tried an experiment after I took down my Drake MN-4 ATU for some long-overdue cleaning.  I connected one end of a UHF "T" connector to my dummy load (Heath Cantenna) and the other end to my RG-6 coax going to 4:1 b

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Another week has passed and the world is still here.  I must admit to a morbid fascination with the current crop of "end time" proponents.  I usually get a few calls to the news room everytime someone believes he/she has the exact time our planet will disappear and the faithful will be repatriated to paradise.  This week produced a bumper crop of the merely curious and the deeply concerned.  I treat these stories like any other event that crosses the news desk.  Most of the predictions are based on faith and little else.  You either believe or you don't.  The world is facing some real problems, any one of which could ruin your day.  Take your pick--the Middle East, natural disasters of various kinds, errant asteroids, and even the hotly debated climate change theories.  From what I've seen, humanity, with its propensity for both genius and stupidity, is quite capable of doing itself in without the help of the divine.  These radio and television preachers are free to e

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

With most of news assignments done for the day, I'll take a break and mentally organize my amateur radio projects for the remainder of the week.  For once, the news cycle has calmed a bit after the flurry of excitement over the involuntary demise of Osama bin Laden, the aftermath of the ongoing nuclear crisis in Northern Japan, and the massive flooding of our own midwest.  Never a dull moment in this business, and you take a break where you can.  Like many of us who call broadcasting our home away from home, a brief respite is welcome anytime.  Most of my shifts run 0400 to 1600 local time with additional time on Saturday and Sunday to pick up "loose ends" ( special programs, interviews, maintenance, and other unexpected events such as hard drive failures, computer repairs, and T1 problems).  Operations on a seismic-active island can often be challenging...nothing like a little shake, rattle, and roll to keep the juices flowing.  I should have some spare hours this week

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Hopefully, blogger.com is back among the living.  I couldn't post anything over the past few hours during the maintainance procedure that apparently went crazy.  Such is life.  Nothing is certain but death and taxes--my rather poor paraphrase of Ben Franklin's sage advice. The past few weeks have been a real media circus in the radio station news room, with all of the natural disasters on the U.S. mainland, the reported death of Al-Qaeda co-founder Osama bin Laden, and the beginnings of the 2012 General Elections.  On Hawaii Island, the weather was the hot topic of the day, with Kailua-Kona, Oahu, and Kauai getting super soaked over the past few days.  All of the rain was helpful, but it won't make much of a dent in the ongoing drought which has gripped the islands for two years.  Even with all of the tropical showers, Hilo is still only gettting about 60 percent of its normal precipitation.  The Kohala, Ka'u, and Kailua-Kona areas are hurting for lack of water.  Catt

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

This has been a week of ups and downs in the radio station news room.  I was saddened by the loss of James McLaughlin, WA2EWE/T6AF, who was killed by an Afghan pilot on Wednesday, 27 April 2011, at the Kabul, Afghanistan Airport.  The "ARRL Letter" dated 28 April 2011 has the details.  Although I didn't know James, I was familiar with his DX and MARS activities.  Many dusty years ago in another liftetime, I grew to appreciate the service MARS operators rendered to the families of service personnel in far-flung areas of the world.  My experience in the Air Force actually encouraged me to get my amateur radio license back in 1977, a move I never regreted.  I was involved in communications work before that (both in the service and in commercial broadcasting), but my duty tours made me appreciate the efforts of MARS operators in the days before the internet and cell phones.  James will be missed.  'Kinda makes you wonder why this country wastes its human and material reso

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

This has been a very busy week at the radio station news room with not much time to pursue amateur radio matters.  With the arrival of the Easter Holiday this past weekend, I was kept busy at the Hilo Drag Strip, where the Big Island Auto Club and the Big Island VW Car Club held a combined points meet and trophied car show.  The turnout was excellent with many exciting events.  The weather was superb and the action was non-stop from gate opening at 0700 to closing at 1830 on Saturday and Sunday.  I am the tower announcer and and work with a dedicated crew of IT folks, spotters, and safety personnel.  Our system is computer intensive, and, even if the arrangement is not exactly ham radio related, the amount of communications equipment and computers used is impressive.  Most of our track communications rely on Family Radio Service frequencies in the 400 mhz range.  The range of the small Handi Talkies is a little over a mile, which is adequate for most track communications.  Our crew als

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

This week's news cycle is coming to a close.  Two short weekend shifts will wrap up a good, productive week in the newsroom.  Unlike previous weeks, most of the crises have retreated a little more into the background.  That means I can at last spend some time at the amatuer radio station and destress from the week's activities.  I found several useful antenna articles on the 15 April 2011 edition of http://www.eham.net/ .  These articles can give you some good "skywire" ideas and several ways to operate successfully from restricted home locations.  K2ZS's article entitled "An indoor HF stealth antenna" is a nice read.  The antenna is a loop fed by ladder line attached to a SGC-230 matching device.  I've used similar antennas in the past.  They do work, considering the space limitations.  Apparently K2ZS has accumulated over 1500 QSOs using this arrangement.  You might want to try his indoor loop if you find there is no space to erect a decent outdoor

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Hawaii is observing Tsunami Awareness Week with a variety of educational and public service campaigns sponsored by local and state organizations.  In light of the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, this week has special significance for those of us living on Hawaii Island, which is attached firmly to the "ring of fire."  Back in 1946, an April Fool's Day tsunami took out much of the Hilo bayfront with a huge loss of life.  And in 1960, a tsunami struck the city again with large losses of property and life.  So, all of the curent uncertain- ty surrounding the Japanese tsunami, earthquake, and nuclear power plant problems resonates strongly here.  Hawaii escaped with only property damage from the 11 March incident.  Even that was serious enough to prompt a disaster declaration from Gover- nor Neil Abercrombie.  One can't afford to be com- placent these days. Eversince the last tsunami, local residents have regained a sense of urgency and

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Hawaii Island is still recovering from the effects of the 11 March 2011 tsunami.  As of today, the Big Island sustained around $14.2 million in damage, with most of the loss to commercial business $11.1 million).  The state is now compiling a full damage assess- ment with the hope of getting some federal disaster relief funds. Local amateur radio operators were active at Hawaii County Civil Defense and provided communication backup where necessary.  Despite some intermod problems on VHF (2 meters), most of the traffic passed got through on time.  Pacific Section Manager Bob Sneider has a complete assessment in his recent section manager report.  I was a bit surprised that our 2-meter interisland links had problems.  Murphy's Law is alive and well. Meanwhile, Japanese amateur radio operators are still helping with recovery efforts north of Tokyo.  The 24 March 2011 "ARRL Letter" has a good run down of those activities.  Like amateurs in this country, Japane

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

Another exciting week is almost in the can--and none too soon.  What a mess--The federal government is nearly broke, our state is hoping a bond sale will under- write an ambitious capital improvements program, and the cauldron known as the Middle East is driving fuel prices higher.  Who could ask for more?  For news people, all this confusion, mass ignorance, and sheer incompetence displayed by world-wide governments is a virtual gold mine of stories, op-ed pieces, and blog entries.  Too bad, the end result of this will further cripple our already weakened economy.  So, once this news shift is done at KKBG-FM/KHLO-AM, I'll be glad to leave this madness and return to the relative calm of the amateur radio bands.  Today's activity may be a bit restricted since the weather service is calling for thunderstorms later today.  Everything is disconnected-- so that worry is reduced.  All I have to do is swivel the 40-meter vertical to ground level.  All feedlines have b

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Friday at last.  This has been an exciting seven days in the KKBG-FM/KHLO-AM news room.  With the turmoil in the middle east, the nasty mainland U.S. weather, and the continuous rise in the daily cost of living, there are sufficient stories to keep several news people busy.  Never a dull moment this month. I'll paraphrase an old Chinese saying--"may you be blessed (or is it cursed) by living in exciting times." The news from the amateur radio front is just as confusing and strange as the happenings in the so- called "real world." During a recent break from the daily schedule of newscasts, I purused the 24 February 2012 edition of "The ARRL letter".  Usually, I just glance through the e-mail edition and file the few stories I consider worthy of later inspection.  But today, there were several stories that show both the highs and lows of our hobby, and by tenuous extension,  the current state of our nation and people.  In the good ne