Taking amateur radio to the next level

This weekend was pretty awesome. Saturday was jam-packed with ham radio activities, from morning until midnight (and beyond). That’s right, an entire day of ham radio! I started off by installing the 17-foot antenna I bought awhile back on top of our house. That took a good four to five hours, many of them spent on top of a burning-hot roof forty feet in the air. But it was worth it! Here’s a close-up look at the antenna.

Don’t be fooled by the upwards-looking perspective; this antenna is a full 17′ tall. The mount also adds about two feet to the overall height. Altogether, the antenna is about 30′ in the air. That’s not bad considering we didn’t have to put up a tower or anything. The three spokes sticking out of the bottom of the antenna are the radials, which create the ground plane for the radio signals. And I should point out that this antenna is a marked improvement over my previous antenna, which was a 44-incher at ground level.

The two flanges of the mount are located off-center on the pressure-treated wood blocks. This was not intentional, but rather, a consequence of bad measurement and trying to get the darn thing straight up in the air. But don’t let its looks fool you: the mount itself is rock-solid. You could throw a grappling hook through the mount and ascend to the roof from the ground. Each wooden block is secured with four 4.5″ bolts to blocks of wood on the interior of the house that are screwed directly into the house’s frame.

This picture shows an overall look at the antenna from the street, so you can get an idea of its scale. I apologize for the washed-out photograph; the Sun was not located in a good part of the sky to be taking pictures from the street. The radials are all washed out in this image, but I assure you, they are there.

After we finished setting up the antenna, I couldn’t wait to get on the air. So I ran the coaxial cable through the basement window, plugged it into my Yaesu FT-7800R, and called CQ on 146.520 MHz (the 2-meter hailing frequency). Literally within half a second of ending my transmission I got a full-quieting response from someone located thirty miles away. That kind of performance just blew me away. I’ve called CQ many times on my mobile antenna and only gotten a response twice, but here I was getting a response immediately.

I then tuned to all of my favorite repeaters and couldn’t hear any noise on any of them. Needless to say, this antenna performs as advertised. I can now hit every repeater in my local vicinity with ease, and I’m also able to reach much further-out repeaters (like many in West Virginia) that I was never able to hit before. My experience with this antenna definitely validates the 50/50 rule, which states that one should spend an equal amount of money/time on ones antenna setup as on ones radio.

Heck, it leads credence to the 80/20 rule (with the 80% going to the antenna). I’ve experienced a large improvement upgrading to a better antenna, an improvement so large that even spending several thousand dollars on a really expensive transceiver wouldn’t match it. The next time I’m looking to upgrade my setup, I’ll probably get a 2m Yagi on a rotor and put it on a mast that’s even higher than this antenna. That’ll be a much wiser expenditure of my money than getting a more expensive radio.

Stay tuned for part 2, when I detail what I did with the second half of the day: Field Day!

2 Responses to “Taking amateur radio to the next level”

  1. Field Day 2008, wherein even a near-miss with a collapsing antenna can’t spoil the fun | Cyde Weys Musings Says:

    […] « Taking amateur radio to the next level […]

  2. whoggesee Says:

    maarzq doudoune moncler pas cher drxnppad abercrombie paris cwvoqio qkhmykn waisz Taking amateur radio to the next level | Cyde Weys Musings grycliy