Monday, January 16, 2017

Painter pole adapters for antennas (with WFD update)

Painter Pole Adapters

for Antenna Projects

I wanted a way when deploying an inverted V dipole to get the ends of the dipole higher off the ground without taking a lot of space. I kicked around the idea of a support that the end of the dipole could tie to and then use a short set of guys. I have seen folks use painter poles for antenna projects so I requested a telescoping painter pole from Santa. The painter pole I have is from Home Depot and is 6 feet in length when collapsed and 12 feet extended. It also has stops about every foot between 6 to 12 feet. 

I purchased these painter pole adapters that are made for a camera mount so that would be a 1/4" x 20.
Amazon had them the cheapest.

Next I decided that I wanted 4 attachment points. 3 for guys and 1 for an end of a dipole. I could get by with 3 but you never know how these may get used. The hardware below was purchased to provide a bushing and attachment points. The bushing is so the bolt's threads don't get buggered up in case I need to remove or replace the bolt. 

I removed the bolt that came in the adapter as it was too short. I replaced it with a 1 1/4" stainless cap screw that has blue LockTite on it. The attachment hooks are heavy duty picture hangers that you can buy at Home Depot in a bulk pack. I drilled out one of the holes out to 3/8" so it would fit over the bushing.

Now it was time to stack the hangers alternating with 3/8" stainless washers. Then a 1/4" washer goes on top of the stack. I used a stainless 1/4" x 20 locking nut to finish it. The 1/4" nut and washer jam into the top of the bushing and still allows the hangers to freely swivel. 

I plan to test these out during Winter Field Day. 

Update from Winter Field Day

I tested these adapters during Winter Field Day using 2 painters poles with one on each end of a OCF dipole. I used all 4 rings since I was setting this up by myself. I laid out the dipole on the ground to know where the ends would land and added about 25 ft beyond the ends. I then set up the painter pole guyed at 3 points and used the 4th ring for the end of the antenna. This way if we decided to change the antenna the painters poles would stay in place as we lowered and raised the antenna. Yellow rope in the picture below is tied to the end of the antenna. There was a stake driven in the ground at the base of the painter pole to tie off the rope. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Favorite phone app part # 4

Favorite Phone App for watching the cluster

My favorite Android phone app for watching spots on the cluster is called DX Cluster Lite. You can see the screen icon below and what the actual screen format looks like. You have to select the band you want to see which at first I thought was crazy but when I use this I am usually operating portable. When portable sometime band changes means getting out and changing antennas or retuning so staying on one band works fine. This app updates automatically and is easy to read even without glasses. One caution is that this only views the cluster.You can't post with this app. Give it a try!

Monday, January 2, 2017

First day of POTA 2017

New Years Day activations

Horseshoe Lake State Recreation Area
Granite City IL

Plans were made to operate from Horseshoe Lake in New Years day since the truck was already set up from the final NPOTA activation. I live only about 15 minutes from this park and I have operated from it multiple times for US Islands and RaDAR. 

I got started around 10AM with my first contact being a park to park with AB4WL. Ken was a work horse for NPOTA and started early in the morning for WWFF. He was operating from KFF-1887. 

I had a good mix or 20 and 40 meter contacts. People must have been sleeping in that morning as it was pretty slow going til about noon (1800z). I worked exactly 40 stations including another park to park with W8MSC Mike at KFF-0346. Below is a picture of the truck and part of the lake. 

Jones Confluence Point
West Alton MO

I made to this location about 30 minutes behind schedule and began operation around 1930z. This location was new to me and is around 5 miles off the hard road. I scouted the area and decided on the least muddy parking area I could find. 

I had my 3rd park to park contact with KM6G Jan operating from KFF-1170. We had to work on the exchange as I was having trouble hearing her through the noise. 

59 contacts were made and I could have made more as 40 meters was getting better but I promised I would get some high up Christmas ornaments off the tree outside before it got dark. She puts up with a lot of ham stuff so I needed to get that task done. 

It was a great way to start off the new year!

Below are some pictures my son Simon took of the activation and the confluence of the mighty Mississippi and the big muddy Missouri Rivers.

The picture below is looking south with the Mississippi on the left and the Missouri on the right.
Hard to believe that during the historic flood of 1993 that the river crest was around 20 feet above this walkway. 

Wrapping up NPOTA

It is time to stick a bow on NPOTA. When I learned of this event back in October 2015 I knew this event was going to bring me much joy during 2016. I loved the chasing and loved the activating.

I was chasing on Jan.1st and activating on Jan 2nd. The hook was set and it was constant chasing whenever I could find time. I would chase during much of my free time when I should have been doing things around the house. Chasing happened during lunch from the work truck using a  IC-706 seating on the seat with a hamstick on the roof.

Kudos to my family who understood that I was having fun and politely smiled every time I told them, "I got a new park"! I am sure it got old to them as I complained about band conditions or "I just can't hear any new parks". Thanks family!

People along the way

I met and worked with many local hams during the various activations including N0KTK, WX5CW, N0SSC, KE0HXL, K0KEV, KE0TT, and KT4FQ.  

Special recognition for Kyle N0KTK. I had never met him or talked to him until sometime in the spring after I was approached by the folks at the Gateway Arch about doing an activation. After meeting with the Arch folks I knew I could not do it alone so I put out some feelers about getting some help. Some folks were interested if they had nothing going on but I needed a firm commitment! I had run across one of Kyle's YouTube videos showing his ILQP portable outing. I could see from his blog posts that he enjoyed portable operations. I sent him an email asking if he was interested in helping with the Arch and we quickly set up a meeting. The Arch activation took place on April 23rd. 

Since then we have worked on different activations through the year. I could learn a lot from Kyle on logging, PC networking, video editing and organizational skills. This guy is organized!

Also a special thanks to all the parks folks I interacted with through the year. Tim Good and Julie Northrip were always helpful at the Grant House. I approached Tim in earlier Nov 2015 about the NPOTA program. At that time the word had not come down from the top of NPS organization about what the NPOTA program. I went armed with all the ARRL NPOTA documents and put together an information packet. Tim quickly embraced the NPOTA idea and we started working through the permitting process. 

The bow

My final numbers for NPOTA:

351 NPS units contacted as a chaser.
10 activations from 6 different locations.

Thanks ARRL for a wonderful event!

Final NPOTA Activation NS73 December 31

NS73 Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Back in October as the excitement really seemed to be building for the NPOTA program I decided to apply for a special use permit for the Grant House in St. Louis MO for the final day. My first activation for NPOTA was from Grant House on 1/2/16 so I decided to close the year there also. The permit was granted so the activation was on! 

I invited  Bill-WA0JCO to come by and operate from my truck so he could credit as an activator. He is no stranger to pileup as he has been part of the group that has won MOQP and ILQP in the expedition class. Bill also has been part of the St. Louis station for Route 66 on the Air. He quickly put 120 contacts in the log for 40 meters. 

The call I used was ND9E/0 and I operated 40 meter phone before and after Bill racking up another 130 contacts. We know there were many we could not work as we had a S7 noise level which was the highest noise level I witnessed out of the 4 activations I had at Grant House. We wound up with exactly 250 contacts. I regret that we never made it to 20 meters. 

Vern AE0TT and Kyle N0KTK stopped by for a visit during the activation. It was great talking with Vern, Bill, and Kyle throughout the activation. The weather cooperated with temps around 45F and no rain!

WA0JCO Bill in the pileup!

Picture of the setup

Yep, it is tall!