Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It did work!

On Monday's trip to Georges Island I brought two antennas: the Force-12   Sigma-5 and my little Buddipole system. The little Buddipole system has the 8 foot mast (instead of the 16 foot mast) and fits in a smaller bag. The Sigma-5 covers 10-20m; the Buddipole covers 2-40m.
One of the goals for the trip, as described the other day, was to do more antenna evaluation, including some comparisons where appropriate between these two antennas. I did do some of this, but the biggest lesson was learned today, delivered in an email. Allow me to explain.
The Buddipole can be configured as a horizontal dipole, vertical dipole, vee, inverted-vee, or any number of other shapes by using the rotating arm kit. On Monday, though, I just configured the antenna to be a 40m dipole in the horizontal configuration. This effectively makes the antenna an NVIS, or near vertical incident skywave antenna which is typically good for a range of a couple hundred miles. There is lots of good stuff written on NVIS systems but the general idea is this: set up an antenna parallel and close the ground (under an 1/8th wavelength and maybe even lower) and the antenna will send much of its radiation straight up, bouncing high above your head, and then nearly straight down again. Great for short distance communication, not so good for DX.
I only spent a few minutes on 40m with the Buddipole as time was running out and I wanted to make my primary goal of putting QSOs in the log. I talked with Dave (KZ1O) on 40m and then had him spot me on the packet spotting network to see if anybody else could hear me. After working WR3KI in Maryland and then not hearing anybody else immediately, I shifted back up to the high bands. To be honest, I wasn't sure the Buddipole was really performing that well on 40m in this configuration and I didn't want to waste my valuable time on the island trying to push a mediocre antenna setup.
Fears that nobody could hear me with this antenna configuration were unfounded as I learned today in a mail message from Bill (K9RR). Here's a snippet:

Hello Scott:
I was excited to hear that you were going to Georges Island yesterday, since that is a IOTA I have never worked. Unfortunately you were nil on 17m here in the midwest.
When you went to 40m you were strong but I tried to call you after you talked to that one station but your friend called you and then you switched back to 17m. ...

Wow. Not only could he hear me but I was strong in Illinois (approximately 1000 miles / 1600 Km away). Again, the performance of the Buddipole surprises me. If I had been the least bit patient, I probably could have worked a bunch on 40m, too. Truth be told, I had so little confidence this would work well that I didn't really give it a chance. I had broken some of the most basic rules I have for myself: don't assume, listen, and be positive. (It wouldn't be wrong to have listen twice in that list!) Luckily, Bill wrote me to correct my misconception. I can't wait until next year to try that configuration again!
Things aren't always going to do what I expect. In fact, one of the reasons for doing all these brief portable operations is to get more experience and figure out what works and what doesn't work. Intuition is good; experience and facts are better! I had made some assumptions about how well and how far the Buddipole would work in that configuration and, quite simply, those assumptions were wrong. I've made a vow here to be a little more open minded when I'm running experiments like this in the future.
Finally, relating back to a previous post, I received an eQSL today from John (K9QVB/9). John is from Wilmette, Illinois but signs /9 when operating from Stone Lake, Wisconsin. Like I said the other day, this is a great way to keep your logs organized when operations from different locations.


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