Hex Beam Repaired

Ever have a project you expected to take a short period of time, but in the end you spend much longer than anticipated? While my “STD List” is long…that’s my “shit to do” list (thanks to Greg for the acronym), I thought I would take a few minutes to fix some minor issues on my hex beam antenna yesterday. I assumed it would be quick job before moving on to trimming bushes, mowing the lawn and taking care of things I do weekly. Well 90 minutes late the antenna was torn apart and I was rebuilding it in the backyard.

It was something that needed to be done, but I dread trying to get the antenna down from the mast, which is 34′ in the air mounted to the upstairs portion of the house. I thought I could do the repairs on the roof, but all I got was frustrated, along with sunburned, so I made the decision to lower it to the ground, knowing I would have difficultly remounting it.

The work took about 4 hours yesterday, as I untied all the elements and remeasured all the pieces back to their original factory recommendation. I also cleaned up the antenna, which was all for not since the spider colonies will be back within days I am sure. Hopefully I was able to correct an aesthetic problem with the fiberglass spreaders that are bent upwards. Think of an upside down umbrella (or see some images here).

I spent 2 hours this morning preparing the mast and rotator in order to return the hex beam to it’s perch, just above the peak of the house. I had hoped to add a hole for a cotter pin in the mast that would allow me to raise the antenna 50′, but quickly ditched that idea.

I had to make two attempts to get the antenna, which is 22′ in circumference, from the garage roof to the second story roof. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but was able to accomplish it on the second try with no major issues. I figured I would encounter more problems than I did, but that was not the case. Thankfully the antenna is fairly light weight and even with the wind blowing, does not really waver.

While this project was not a “must do” item on my list, I am thankfully it is done and out of the way. There are a few summer contests on the horizon that I will be hoping to work in. The first is ARRL Kids Day, hopefully I can get Zachary to make a few contacts this year, as we had no luck last year. Hank, W6SX has talked me into working ARRL Field Day and trying to run FD stations to improve my Morse code receiving, as practice for CQP, which takes place in October. Finally in July it’s the IARU World Championship, if time permits (as well as the XYL) I will put in a full, 24 hour effort.

ARRL Kids Day: Review

I knew it was a premature going into the ARRL Kids Day event expecting much participation from kids, especially mine. At 5 years old, I knew it was probably a year or two soon to really get him into radio and have an opportunity to talk to other kids on the air. I am glad I did not take a full day off from work to participate. Maybe conditions and participation were higher at the start of the event as opposed to the last 90 minutes or so of the event. Regardless of that fact, I still went to the shack and tuned to 14.270-14.300 looking for other kids.

With Zachary at my side we could a young girl in a QSO on 14.267 from Wyoming (I believe) the operator with her said she had worked 23 different states, but after she finished up that QSO, we never heard from her again, as we kept spinning the dial up and down. I even went to 10M and 15M but conditions were worse on those bands. So in an attempt to scrounge up a QSO, I told him what to say, which he already knows and I keyed the microphone and he called “CQ Kids Day W6ONV.” It did not bring any response. I gave him a few tips, like speak up a bit louder and don’t say W6ONV so fast. We attempted it again, it was better…we waited and did not get any response.

That was the extent of Kids Day for us. Very little activity we could hear on 20M during the 60 minutes we spun the dial back and forth. With no contacts he decided to go in the house and play with his trains. I can’t blame him, this is usually what I do when the bands are in poor conditions and the noise level is holding signals captive. We will give it a shot in 2012 when he turns 6 years old. Hopefully conditions improve and his desire to get on the the air remains high.

ARRL Kids Day

While I probably should have taken the day and spent more time with my son, I have a feel at age 5, he is still a year or two away from what amateur radio has to offer. With that said, I am hoping we get about 2 hours to participate in ARRL Kids Day. It would be great to see us (him) make a few contacts, even with only a few hours of sitting in the shack.

I have a ‘cheat sheet’ made up for him so he knows what to say. I assume we will try to call “CQ Kids Day” using W6ONV a few times and if that goes unanswered, then we will S&P for a few other kids who are participating. No idea what sort of participation there is in this “contest” but at the least it’s a chance to get him introduced to one aspect of what amateur radio has to offer.

With any luck we will make a few QSOs and hopefully I can record some video of my son getting on the air and actually talking to another kid. The exchange is simply name, age, location and color.