Working the world from my attic


Jan Mitchell, WH7Y





My first HF contact from Hawaii was to Canada at the end of August 2000. I’m sure the fellow thought I was a nut to get so excited at contacting his station! After all, Hawaii to Canada is no big deal, now. But at the time… well, if you could see my Amateur Radio station, you'd understand my amazement! More about that in a moment.


I live in an "Amateur Radio challenged'' environment, Picture the top apartment of a 1950s two-story wooden building, 20'x24’, wall-to-wall neighbors, above-ground power lines all around, random long bursts of S-7 line noise, and a very uncooperative resident

manager to top it off! Well, it occurred to me that some of you may be in a similar situation and could use a little encouragement to pursue this great hobby. I got it when I needed it and what comes around, goes around -- so here’s my contribution to all of you out there.


Mid-1999, when the Y2K scare was in full force for some. A friend gave me a Gordon West Tech No Code test book to study, for my Ham license. "Just in case." I’ve been known to procrastinate and this was no exception. By the time I started studying; it was the first week of November! Inside the book was the address of a local VEC (KH6BZF).


I gave Lee a call and got the rundown on licensing, and testing. After purchasing several radios -- an ICOM 706MK2 and a couple of HT's we set the earliest possible date in December for testing. I had a fixed deadline, so no more procrastinating, I hunkered down and passed the written exams up to General Class. I didn't have time to learn CW, so around 18 December my new call for a Tech No-Code license, KH7YZ, showed up on the FCC database.


Well, Y2K has come and gone (I'm still using supplies purchased "just in case,") but I had my ticket and a new fun mode of communication. Since the 706MK2 was way too much radio for me at the time, I started with an HT on the 2-meter nets, learning the lingo of Amateur Radio. Meanwhile, with Lee's encouragement, I began studying the code and the Advanced test questions, although I saw no need for it at the time, However, after meeting Clem, KH7HO, from Hawaii State Civil Defense, I became interested in emergency communications,


In April 2000, I moved to a new QTH and met my Elmer, Dean (NH6KX) soon after. After determining my interest in the hobby, he proceeded to fill my head with hours upon hours of technical talk and, with the patience of Job, repeating when I responded with "huh?" Antenna design, radiation patterns, launch angles, formulas for calculating everything under the sun -- you name it, he covered it, I was only a 2-meter "PTT" kind of Ham! Lots of it went in one ear and out the other. I must admit, the talks about local HF emergency communications intrigued me,


With getting on HF in mind, I joined the Ko’olau Amateur Radio Club and received my first antenna, a Butternut vertical, from one of the members. Lee fixed it up and brought it over, but it just sat idle because I didn't know what to do with it! The Icom 706MK2 was still a "little black box" to me So, in spite of my passing my 13-wpm code test for a General Class license and then the new Extra Class test in April (receiving the call WH7Y), I realized I didn't know how to get on HF.


To provide a little push in the right direction and to give me some hands on experience, Dean began designing an antenna for my QTH. Luckily for me, he likes challenges. He also likes designing and using loops for more reasons than this article has space. (Just suffice it to say that loops are cheap, easy to build, they have a good signal-to-noise ratio, they're easy to install tune and match,  and they provide 1.6dB gain over a dipole to name a few.)


Since an outside antenna was out of the question, drastic measures were needed. The attic was the only viable choice for one. We have an established 40 meter net for emergency communications, so the first antenna Dean designed was a 40-meter, coil-shortened loop to fit the limited space available. He tested it at his QTH and it worked fine. He came over to my QTH in August to install it in my tiny attic. I live in Hawaii -- August -- attic – Hawaii. That should be setting off an alarm in your mind right now. Three alarms, to be exact! The attic was hotter than you-know-where, small and hard to reach -- plus there was no plywood on the ceiling only thin pressboard-like stuff. Dean was able to install it with no mishaps, but nearly got heat stroke doing it!


After all that, the antenna didn't work! There were just too many "things" up there interacting with it (Dean calls  my QTH "The Capacitor"). I was very discouraged, but Dean didn’t give up: He ripped out his earlier handiwork & installed a 40M dipole in its place (on a cool. rainy day this time!) It was horizontal, shaped like an "M" and looked like a squashed Granddaddy Longlegs spider; thus it was dubbed the "Dead Daddy Longlegs" dipole -- and it Worked! With the Icom 706 MK2's 100 watts, running on "Y2K” batteries (2-6v golf cart batteries in series) I was able to get on HF and out of Hawaii! After a few contacts, including my first to Canada, I stumbled upon WAS nets and worked almost all 50 states on 40M. I tried working other bands, but was not very successful. Clearly a different design was needed that would encompass more bands. Last November, Dean came up with a new one -- a 20M loop and a reconfigured 40M dipole on the same feed point. WOW! What a difference that made! I can now tune 80M 10M with a little MFJ 949D manual tuner. Still, the line noise crops up when I least expect it -- like the time when someone alerted 6Y8A to my presence in the pile-up. He stopped and called me!


I had a chance at Jamaica for the first time! I took my finger off the PTT after giving my call, only to hear the "S-7” in reply! Needless to say, I didn't make it in the log. And I still haven't worked Jamaica, dang it!


Jamaica isn't in my logbook yet, but Iv’e worked over 125 "DXCC” entities (including Bouvat, Comoros & Spratly Island and Conway & Kingman Reef) and have WAS. Propagation permitting, I keep a daily sked on 20M with C91CU, Hans in Mozambique, Bryan; ZS6SD, in South Africa, with whom I've had many enjoyable QSOs, always comments about the "lovely signal from your washing line in the attic." Were halfway around the world from each other, and it simply amazes me each time we have a QSO! With new contacts, I try to be the last to give out working conditions" just to hear the comments. They usually range from astonishment and disbelief to wonder and amazement. The term “peanut whistle" crops up now and again, but most often it draws a chuckle from the operators whether near or far away!


My ears are pretty good, So if the DX station is at least Q4-5 and S1-3, I'll try for them. Working the big pile-ups is rather comical! My little voice and 100 watts sounds like whispering compared to the folks with state-of-the-art audio and 1.5 gallons trying for the same “new one." Several times, other stations (thanks, W7FTT and others!) have heard me trying to reach a DX station and have alerted the operator. I've had a few of the more sympathetic ops stop the din to give me a chance "in the clear." But most everyone else I've worked doesn't know that there's a "YL in Hawaii" trying to call them! How many times have I heard "Dan" when they repeat my name, even though I give the phonetics "Japan America Norway?" One fellow who called me was way off frequency, When I mentioned it, he said that he just tuned until he thought my voice was right. Wrong! But, that's beside the point. A simple loop of wire, persistence and lots of patience is my "recipe for success,"


With a start date on HF of 27 August 2000 I filled in the last space of my first 1,250 space logbook on 26 March 2001. I'd worked my first 100 DXCC entities by 23 March. I'm sure I've broken no records, but I'm proud of my little station. I'm very grateful to Lee and others who encouraged me to become a Ham, to learn the code and continue upgrading. And I'm most thankful for my Elmer who said, "Don't give up!" so many times and who went out of his way to help me work the world under near impossible conditions. Thank you, Deano! My success is your success!


This article is reprinted from Worldradio, May 2002 issue.





One on one with Mother Nature


Howard Coleman, N6VDV









After pulling into my favorite camp site and setting up the trailer, my next task was to get my G5RV antenna into the pine trees. For some idiotic reason, I did not use the same trees as last year and should have, as the trees  I chose to use this time were too close, allowing the bare wire of the antenna to make contact with the tree,


Returning from town one afternoon and having not much else to do, I decided to move the one end of the antenna to the same tree I had used last year.  Thinking ahead, I did not pull the antenna down until I had a line over the tree I should have used to begin with.


In theory, my plan was a good one. To get the line up, I use a slingshot with a reel attached to it with tie wraps. The slingshot is homebrew that cost less than ten bucks. The first shot put the line exactly where I wanted it so I pulled the antenna down from the tree it was in, tied a nylon rope to the fishing line and started slowly pulling the rope up through tile tree. No go, the fishing line was eight-pound test and it snapped, Well. I thought no big deal figuring that the first shot went where I wanted the next would also.


This is when Mother Nature stepped into the picture. A very strong wind came in making it difficult to get the line where I needed it to be. Persistence did prevail as after many repeated attempts, the line was over the branch I had selected and this time I used the eight-pound line to pull through a twenty-pound line. When the twenty-pound line snapped as the nylon rope caught on a branch, I almost cried.


By now, I do have to admit, my patience was getting thin. Picking up the slingshot again, with the wind still blowing, I tried again to put the line over the tree. Winds kept blowing hard and this Southern California born and raised Ham was getting very cold. After a quick trip into the trailer to grab a jacket and a cup of coffee, which fortified me, I was again ready to get the dipole back up where it belonged.


Outside, I found the snow was failing hard enough that I could not see twenty feet in front of me. Now, as the antenna needed to be up about 40' and I could no longer see the top of the tree, the task before me was now far more complicated. Not wanting to be without communication in the snowstorm, I took a few blind shots near where I thought the spot was that I needed.


Surprisingly, after a number of attempts with shots at the tree, it appeared that I had managed to get the line up in the tree, but it was out of sight. The next, totally unforeseen problem encountered is that modern fishing line is translucent. What I would have given for the black line my dad had always used. I could see the translucent line going up for a few feet but was unable to locate it after moving to the other side of the tree. Once again, frustration crept in as the snow kept falling. I spent a good ten to twenty  minutes looking for the line but to no avail.


After brushing off all of the snow that fell on me from the tree caused by my end-of-patience hard yank of the line, I found the line slack and gently, every so gently, started pulling once again. My eyes filled with joyous tears to see the wondrous vision of the yellow nylon rope was mere inches from my hands. Grasping it as if it were the Holy Grail, my eyes moist with tears with my numb and bleeding hands slipping on the rope, the antenna rose as if into heaven, ascending beyond my vision into the falling snow.


Tying off the rope, I raced back inside to the radio and turned it on. Using all the knobs and buttons needed to check the VSWR; my efforts were rewarded with an antenna with an SWR of less than 1.8:1, from 80 through 10 Meters. It had only taken three hours in the freezing snow, bloody fingers caused by the fishing line cutting through the skin and the long, long patient process was consummated with a final to hell with it, jerk on the line, by the jerk on the line. Nirvana!


This Ham was back on the air.


Reprinted from WORLDRADIO December 2002 issue.




 The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:33 PM.

All present introduced themselves.



Finances continue to be in good shape.



Gordon, KB2UB

The new Hamtronics Repeater has been installed at the Bethpage site. We are not completely satisfied with the performance of the installation. There was water in the feed cable. It will be replaced with a new cable and we have asked Bill, N2NFI to make up a hard line for a permanent installation.






Bob, W2ILP

Bob reported there were 4 VE’s present and 2 applicants. Both applicants passed the Technician exam and became new hams.



Bob, W2FPF

Bob reported that he had received 2 QSL cards from Hank, W2ZZE.



Pat reported that he had purchased 3 tubes to replace the driven element of our beam antenna. The N/G Facilities people have installed a mount for the antenna on the Plant 14 roof.


Bill, N2SFT reported that the security system at the UL building has been changed. From now on persons who are not employees will not be able to enter the inner doors in the lobby until an employee with a badge comes to open the door and escort them.



Marty, NN2C presided over the election of officers. He nominated the following persons:

President - Pat Masterson, KE2LJ

Vice President: - Gordon Sammis, KB2UB

Secretary – Pete Rapelje, N2PYV

Treasurer – Tom Lovelock, KC2HNN

2 Yr Board Member – Zack Zilavy, WB2PUE

2 Yr Board Member – Dave Ledo, AB2EF

2Yr Board Member – Hank Neimczyk, W2ZZE

Present 2Yr Board Members Jack Cotterell, WA2PYK and Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP will now become 1Yr Board Members.

Ray Scubnel, W2DKM will remain as Trustee

Pat announced that the next meeting on December 18 at the UL building would be the Holiday Party. The charge will be $5.00 per person. Dues ($20.00) for 2003 will be collected.







Bob, W2ILP gave another in his series of talks on digital modes of communication for the amateur. This presentation was about PSK-31 and included a demonstration.








By Pete, N2PYV