Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Handiham World for 04 November 2009

Welcome to Handiham World!

Handiham Office Move - New HQ Entrance

Handiham Office Move - New HQ Entrance

Image: A view of the entrance to the new Handiham headquarters. The large double doors are right at ground level for easy wheelchair access. The windows let in plenty of natural light, and the woodland setting is not only sylvan and restful, but it's also RF-quiet!

The round building is quite a surprising change from our old office space in a traditional building at Courage Center. The Camp Courage Reception Center is a two-level round structure, with the main camp offices and a great room on the top floor. That level also has a computer lab and a staff lounge. The lower level, where our new Handiham Headquarters office and station are located, is accessible from ground level without any stairs or ramps because the building is what is commonly called a "walk-out" design, built on a hill, so that both the levels have access directly from ground. You go in the main door and you end up in the camp office level. You go around the building to the side, and you enter the Handiham office, which is down on the lower level.

As I write this, we have a functioning HF station in place, a Kenwood TS-570SAT with a matching Kenwood supply. The antenna is a GAP vertical, which is mounted within 20 feet of the rig, just outside the building, and visible in the photo if you look just to the left of the building. Although we do have a code key and microphone, the station is pretty bare-bones right now. There is additional equipment in a cabinet that is identical to the one at Courage North.

Although I have installed a Kenwood TM-V71 dual band VHF/UHF rig next to the TS-570, there is no antenna system for 2 meters and 70 cm. This deficiency must be remedied before Radio Camp next May, but I am confident that we can get a new antenna up, probably mounted on the old TV antenna mast on the roof, which is also visible in the photo. I have been able to hear the N0BVE repeater system while in my car driving within a mile of Camp Courage, so I am confident that we will be able to access not only that repeater but several others, especially if we can get up a beam antenna, at least for the two meter band. Nearby St. Cloud has an excellent repeater, the W0SV system.

We do have work to do on the headquarters antenna system, that's for sure. Although we do have a very nice triband HF beam in place on a 50 foot tower, the coax does not terminate where we need it in the new location. I plan to ask our volunteers to help me look the situation over and figure out how to complete that installation. Because of the distance to the tower, I would expect that we need to consider buried hard line to keep losses to a minimum.

Another consideration is how we will get on the 160, 75, and 40 meter bands. Although the GAP vertical does tune 75 through 10, it is not adequate for regional net operation, where higher angle radiation is required. To remedy that problem, I would like to look at a wire antenna, something like a center-fed Zepp, around 250 feet long, to really grab those 160 meter signals! Ideally, we will be able to install a second remote base station for our members at this location, and it will add the "top band" of 160 meters to the frequencies our members can operate.

The move to Camp Courage is going to be far better for our station operations; there's just no doubt about it. Several years ago, when the HVAC system was updated at Courage Center, banks of SCR fan motor controllers were installed to make the heating and air conditioning systems more energy-efficient. If the load was light, the AC frequency was varied downward by these controllers. If the load increased, the AC frequency increased. There is an energy savings, but the RFI generated by the system produced noise at S9+10 dB levels on the HF bands. It was intolerable, and we had to resort to porting the receiver signal in from remote receivers at Courage North or the K0LR station, both of which are located hundreds of miles north of the Twin Cities in quiet RF areas. Although this worked for some types of operation, it is hardly desirable or practical for working DX or quickly grabbing a CQ that you would hear, simply because it was a lot of fiddling around to tune both the remote receiver and the transmitter that was sitting in front of us at Courage Center. The new location is very quiet, with no significant RFI. It will be a huge relief to operate without having to deal with overbearing interference.

But the move has not been without some glitches. My phone still isn't working, so calls to my office number go straight to voice mail. The good news is that I have the system set up to immediately email me whenever a voice mail is left at my number, so I can immediately call the person back.

Another issue is how we will handle equipment donations. While we still have a small amount of equipment storage space at Courage Center, it is looking like this space will be needed by another program that rehabilitates wheelchairs for distribution to people with disabilities who cannot afford new chairs.

Thus, I am considering a change for the equipment program to Camp Courage, and that will mean that gifts of equipment will be accepted at the Camp Courage address instead of the Courage Center address. The equipment loan program has already moved to Camp Courage. As you know, Avery Finn, K0HLA, has retired. Since he ran the equipment program, we are trying to figure out how to operate it in the upcoming year. Our current plan is to distribute equipment to our members at the next Radio Camp session in May.

Speaking of Radio Camp, I'll give you an update on our new location for that event in a later edition of your weekly e-letter. For now, I'll just say that we will be on the "Woodland" side of Camp Courage, where we will enjoy brand-new cabin facilities that have some wonderful meeting spaces and living areas, including spacious screened porches for each cabin, as well as gas log fireplaces in the large common areas.

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice,
Handiham Manager