Saturday, July 15, 2006


It is a beautiful day here in Acton. I'm hanging around the condo waiting for the Verizon repair person to fix the phone. The thunderstorms that went through earlier this week did something horrible to our line and now all I hear when I pick up the receiver is screeching static. Of course, the window for when they might do this repair is something like 8 AM to 4 PM. Ugh.
Today is the CQ WW VHF contest (you can find the rules here). I did pretty well in last year's contest and had a great time. The follow-up article even quoted me

Meanwhile, NE1RD extolled the virtues of the QRP Hilltopper category, “working from atop Mt. Wachusett in FN42 with a cool breeze, cool drinks, and a great view.”

Up on Mount Wachusett the view really is great but the flat parking lot at the top doesn't provide too many ways to pop up antennas. Last year I used a painter's pole to hold up my Arrow 2m antenna. There wasn't a good way to guy it so I used bungie cords to lash it to the back of my ugly Honda Element. This really wasn't a good arrangement.
On 6m I used my Buddipole which had its own tripod and 16-foot mast. Instead of guying the thing, I hung a heavy weight from the bottom of the tripod with a bungie and it was pretty solid.
This year I purchased an MFJ 6m beam that I had hoped to take up there. Of course, figuring out a way to hold it up on that concrete and gravel parking lot will be a challenge. In many ways, operating from the top of Wachusett is like operating in a typical island DX location: I've got a great view of the horizon in all directions, and I am the tallest thing I can see for miles!
So, with no tall trees or other structures from which to hang wires, we're stuck with bringing our own mast material and hoisting up radiators from there. With VHF-sized antennas, this isn't too much of a problem. Even the 6m beam is pretty small compared to any HF antenna. Bringing enough mast material that is strong enough to hold up a big HF yagi would be much harder. We did just that up in Maine for the K1P special event station. For that we used the Vertical Antenna Kit from The Mast Company. Five sections of the aluminum mast were put into the base bringing the Force-12 Tribander up to about 20 feet.
Sounds good, right? Check the weight, though: each mast section is 4-feet long and weights 2.2 pounds. Five sections weighed about 11 pounds. Now add the base (another couple of pounds) and some other stuff and you're nearly up to 15 pounds just for the mast. If you're going to bring one antenna, this mast, and "make do" with everything else, perhaps you can still hit your 100 pound weight budget--but it would be difficult (not impossible, just difficult).
These are great exercises to learn about your equipment, think through alternatives, and see what works (and doesn't work). I know I've mentioned this before, but it really is true: operating away from home, packing stuff and taking the radio on the road, is a great way of facing all these kinds of challenges and allows you to work out solutions and viable alternatives while you are close to home. It can help make your next DXpedition to some far away place more likely to succeed.
I don't know if I'll get to go to Wachusett today. At this point it depends on when Verizon shows up [sigh]. But, I've done lots of prep that I know will help me later.
Hope to see you on the air. I'll be FN42 if I can get on. 73!


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