Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Handiham World for 5 May 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

A new antenna goes up at Handiham headquarters

Dave gets ready to launch the tennis ball attached to a fishing line, which will be used to pull the antenna wire into the trees
Dave, W0OXB, and John, KC0UHY, compare notes as the project progresses

By Patrick Tice

As most of our regular readers and listeners know, the Handiham headquarters has moved from its long-time Golden Valley offices to a new location at Camp Courage near Maple Lake, Minnesota. We already had a vertical antenna at the new location, but we really felt that we needed a more versatile wire antenna that would be able to tune a variety of different frequencies. We settled on a 300 foot dipole fed with 450 ohm ladder line and a current balun. Coaxial cable from the balun takes the signal to the antenna tuner and to the TS-570 transceiver currently in place at our operating location.

As you can imagine, getting an antenna of that length up into the air can be quite a challenge. We had the advantage of some pretty tall trees from which we could support the antenna, and with some careful planning we were able to run the legs of the antenna out into some fairly clear spaces while still using these tall trees as supports.

Volunteers Dave Glas, W0OXB, and John Harvard, KC0UHY, had put up these "OXB Special" antennas before, so all I really had to do was follow directions and do as I was told. Dave directed the operation, as he is the real wire antenna expert. Not only had he ordered the materials and did some assembly ahead of time, he also procured the materials by getting the support of the Handiham affiliated Stillwater Amateur Radio Association, which paid for everything we needed. Dave also drove and brought the necessary tools. You could certainly tell that he had done this kind of antenna work many times before!

The weatherman cooperated on Tuesday, May 4. The sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid-70s. Although we had some wind, it wasn't really more than a modest breeze and we were able to use the wind to our advantage in launching a tennis ball loaded with a couple of heavy lead sinkers as a lead for our fishing line. The tennis ball is launched using a slingshot like device that was donated to the Handiham program by volunteer and donor Bill Rouch, N6HBO. In order to get the tennis ball over some really tall trees, Dave cut a small slit in it and slipped in a couple of lead fishing weights. This gave the tennis ball enough mass to easily fly over the tallest branches. When all was said and done, the average height of this 300 foot antenna was probably close to 45 feet. That is really pretty good for an antenna of this length held up by trees.

We did some preliminary tests and then had to head back home to avoid getting stuck in rush-hour traffic. We will do some of the final work on the station later on when we receive the expected donation of an automatic antenna tuner from Eliot, KE0N. Do you see how volunteers, donors, and staff all work together to make a project like this possible? We are so grateful for everyone's assistance. We couldn't do it without you!

Eventually, we plan to use this new antenna on a second Internet remote base station. This will increase the operating capability by adding not only the second station but the ability to operate on the 160 m band and on the 6 m band. If this new antenna system works as well as expected, we may even consider upgrading the antenna system at the Courage North location, also adding 160 m and 6 m there.

Remote base operation will be an important part of our services in the years to come. Thank you for your support.

Patrick Tice, Handiham Manager