|The Squalo Experience|
For years I wanted to try Two Meter Single
Sideband. I'd hear stories of these stations that were working other states
and even DX with this mode. I knew of some local hams who bought multimode
VHF rigs but they just mainly checked
into a few local area nets. I never met anyone who was working distances
250 miles on a regular basis.
I decided to get rid of some stuff on E-bay, then take the money and get an older multimode rig. A Kenwood TS-700A was located that looked almost new for a great price. The amateur that sold the radio said he got it to start out on. He also stated he was moving up to a newer rig with more features and was glad to pass it along.
Next an antenna was needed suitable for two meter SSB. I poured over info on the internet and looked through some of my old ARRL material. Those big arrays that the big guns were using were a bit much for my taste and budget. Something simple was needed just to get my feet wet. I stumbled onto Phil Brazzel's (KU4AB) website. He makes "Square Loops" or Squalos as they are called. He is located about thirty miles from my QTH and I just happened to be making a trip to his vicinity. A quick visit netted a set of stacked loops along with the phasing harness. So for about sixty bucks I had my simple gain antenna.
I already had a J-Pole up, but it was vertically polarized. Some contacts were made out to about twenty five miles. Not bad considering height, distance, and power. I also had a three element yagi. The performance of the yagi was nothing to brag about but it was somewhat directional. Sources reported that the yagi had more gain and was better than the stacked squalos. I was hoping this was not true. Both the above mentioned antennas were on 20 ft push up poles with the Kenwood running about 10 watts output. It didn't take long to get results. It was now possible to work out to eighty miles now with the squalos. With good band conditions, QSOs with stations over 120 miles were happening ! Of course the other stations were not running squalos. They were using 50 to 100 ft towers, stacked gain antennas, and even kilowatt amplifiers in some cases.
Later an Icom 706 MK II G was acquired and replaced the Kenwood. The Icom has about fifty watts output. Also the receiver is a little more selective with digital filtering. It has phase noise but is tolerable. Sensitivity is not much better than the old Kenwood. There have been times that stations over 250 miles away have been copied even though I could not work them. Mobiles have been heard running two meter single side band out to 200 miles when conditions were good. This is incredible at only twenty feet. So it goes to show what can be done with a minimal antenna, low power, and good band conditions.
Next project was a forty foot tower. Some nice used Rohn 20g was found cheap. It was installed unguyed as I really did not want to load the tower up with a bunch directional antennas. Big gain antennas are cool, but they require rotators along with heavier tower and guying. That spells more maintenance and added expense. It was much lighter then Rohn 25g, so this made it possible to put the tower up as a one man job.
Next I wanted to try the squalos higher up on the tower. It's kind of a given that most antennas do better with an increase in height. This is especially true at VHF/UHF frequencies. The question is how much ?