Rain Gutter Antenna.

By Jack Ciaccia, WM0G

This appeared in the March 1999 edition of "B.A.R.C. 's BARK", the newsletter of the Boulder ARC, Mary Ciaccia, Editor. It then appeared in the July 1997 "ARNS Bulletin", Steve Auyer-N2TKX editor.

I decided I would give the ARRL International CW DX Contest held February, 19-21 1999 a try from my new, super stealthy HF radio setup… let me explain.

My HF rig is an Icom 745 and a Dentron transmatch running 100W but my antenna system is a little unusual though. After I moved to my new QTH in Lafayette, CO, I tried to put up my trusty old Butternut HF6VX Vertical. I am located in a covenant-controlled neighborhood and thought the vertical would suffice as it is ground mounted mid is not taller than my house. But, the local neighborhood HOA "watchdog" showed up at my front door about one week after I put it up and reminded me about the HOA rules of NO OUTSIDE ANTENNAS! It turns out she lives in the house directly in back of me and can see the antenna from her dining room window --my typical luck! Well, not to put the nice radial system I had recently "planted" to waste, I started to think about some alternative, stealthy antenna designs.

I noticed the rain gutters and downspouts of my house. They were aluminum and brand new so they probably made contact continuously. The downspout section is about 25 feet high and it connects to a horizontal gutter run which is 35 feet long. Hmmmmmm ... 60 feet of conductive material in an inverted 'L' Marconi type design and ready-made! I'd heard of Hams loading up their rain gutters before but never thought that I would be relegated !o this option myself. I ran a 100-foot piece of RG-SX out front the "shack" to the bottom of the rainspout. I drilled a hole in the drainpipe and attached a sheet metal screw. To this screw I attached the center conductor of the RG-SX coax. The shield side of the coax was then soldered to the ground radial leads. The ground radial system consists of ten random lengths of 4 conductor antenna rotor cable buried in the lawn and the ends of three of these radials are also screwed into my basement's metal window wells too.

I tested the stealth antenna with my MFJ antenna analyzer to see if there were any inherent resonant points on this system. There were a few spots where the "Rain Gutter Antenna" was under 2:1 SWR. Coincidentally, these occurred at the top of the 75M band and again in the middle of the 15M band... "Life is good!" Time to attach it to the transmatch and HF rig and "fire it up". It loaded up nicely on 75M so I thought I would try to check into one of my favorite WAS nets, the GERATOL Net on 3.768 MHz. Net control was in Indiana and had no problem hearing me. As the net went on, Yardley Beers, W0JF, a local, also checked in and now I had a reference station for reported signal strengths. The reports Yardley was getting from the same stations we worked were very similar to mine, although once in a while he would be an S unit above me. Not too bad considering he was using a well-designed trap vertical for 75 meters.

So now I had some confidence in my antenna system and decided to try the DX contest. This would be a difficult test due to the pile-ups on the DX stations. Fortunately though, the contest DX stations. Fortunately though, the contest DX stations have some excellent antennas and operators.

I worked all bands 80M through 10M. I worked 41 different countries in 5 hours of operating time on all bands. I was selective in who I called too. I worked 77 total "band countries" and made 97 contacts. Most of these stations answered on my first call I also made sure to "zero beat" right on top of their frequency before I called.

I spent about half of my 5 hours on 40M and worked 27 different countries there in the evening. In one hour on 20M I worked 20 more countries; one hour on 15M yielded 14, 15 minutes on 10M another 9 countries; and about 15 minutes on 75M with 7 more. Of course, I had duplicated some of the same countries on these different bands, but the total different countries worked was 41, 12 of these countries were in Central America and the Caribbean, 6 in South America, 14 in Central and Eastern Europe, 3 in the South Pacific, 2 in Asia, 1 in Africa, 1 in Antarctica, plus Alaska and Hawaii.

No doubt, the "wile and guile" I've learned over my many years of DXing played a small part on my getting through, but the "Rain Gutter Antenna", I thought, played pretty well too. If I had known this antenna was going to perform so well, I would have planned to work the entire contest and attempt to achieve a DXCC country count!

I've written this article in hopes of inspiring other hams living under similar conditions to look around at the possibilities of not-so-typical antenna designs and give HF and DXing a try. The satisfaction of making a QSO under not-so-ideal conditions is a lot more gratifying than working DX with a kW and a multi-element array at 150+ feet. Ask anyone who works QRP! Plus, working under adverse conditions hones up your operating skills and then, when you do have the great station, you will be a great operator as well.

Power Supplies and Batteries By Gerry Crenshaw, WD4BIS

Why have Battery backup? How much Power Supply or Battery for the Station? What connectors?

One of the items found in most ham shacks is a battery or a DC power supply. The reason for this is simple enough: most of our equipment is meant to be used in a mobile environment and that means a DC power supply in the 12.5 v to 13.5 v range. Even a lot of our base equipment has the provision to be run from a DC. Supply.

How big a power supply to get has been the subject of some heated discussions on the air, so how do you pick a supply for the home? My past experience is that I tend to outgrow an existing supply. If you stay in this hobby long you keep on adding equipment that runs off DC and soon you are popping fuses.

Start by looking at the equipment in the shack and adding up the currents in amps. Lets say that the Radio, Linear Amp and TNC add up to about 7 amps. The general rule of thumb is to double that number, in this case 14 amps, and then look for a supply in that range. In this case a 15-amp supply should serve you well and leave you room to change equipment around at a later date. Don't buy the biggest supply you can afford. If you have too little load on a supply, they don't regulate well. Picking a supply for mid range seems to be the best compromise.

Supplies on the surplus market have their hazards. Computer Power Supplies often use switching type regulators. These can generate harmonic interference on your radio.

Supplies meant for the audio industry can break regulation when they get in a RF Field. The Radio Shack DC. Supply was notorious for this, as soon as you started transmitting the supply broke regulation and the voltage climbed to 16 plus volts. (This usually meant a trip to repair shop also.)

Since a lot of us want Battery Backup we tend to sooner or later get a battery that will run the station. For those of us who work the "Thons" (Walkathon, Bikeathon, or Runathon) or other Public Service Events the ideas of a battery for these events become very attractive. Batteries tend to become a ten-ton liability after a few of these events. We tend to buy something like a Boat or RV battery to run a handi-talkie for 4 to 5 hours. You are never stationed near the Car and lugging this battery all over White Rock Lake gets old after an event or two.

How do you pick a battery that is the best comprise between weight and length of service? Batteries are rated in "AMP HOURS" meaning that 25 Amp Hour Battery can deliver 25 amps to a load continuously for 1 hour. Most radios only draw maximum current when transmitting so the specifications on the radio are broken up into Transmit and Receive current draw. A mobile radio (for example: 35 W output) draws about 10 amps when transmitting and 0.7 amps when receiving. A 25 Amp hour battery would last 2.5 hours continuous transmit (25/10=2.5) or 35.7 hours receive only (25/0.7=35.714285) for most of these events. Unless you are the Net Control Station (NCS), this battery is much too large. When trying to size a battery for these events, figure on a 30% transmit and 70 % receive cycle. A small battery such as a 1.2 Amp hour will power a 5 Watt handi-talkie for about 4.7 hours in receive and 18 minutes in transmit (These numbers assume a transmit current of 1.3 amps and a receive current of .250 amps.): more than ample for a public service event.

Connectors for power sources vary widely from automotive lighter plugs to Banana Plugs and Jones Connectors and everything in between. The ARRL Field Service recommends the 2 pin Molex connector that happens to be the Garland/Dallas RACES Standard. Regardless of the Battery or Power Supply you choose please have in addition to your connector, an adapter with standard RACES Connectors on your DC source.

This lesson was recently learned the hard way this spring during the Lancaster Tornado. Operators who were not in Emergency Service Organization such as RACES or ARES brought their equipment in to help.

Some of this equipment could not be used without extensive modifications and there just wasn't time to tinker with it at the time.

Batteries and power supplies have become as much a part of the shack as Radio and antennas. Having the ability to help in a pinch is a great asset. Even if it's not a major emergency, being able to bring up the auto patch when the lights go out in your neighborhood is a great comfort to you and your family.

Copyright 1996 Gerald Crenshaw WD4BIS. All rights are reserved.

Why I'm not dead yet!

By George C. Cook, AA3JU

The following article was reprinted from the June 1999 issue of Worldradio.

I sat down in the command chair tonight, rig and computer all aglow in the pale darkness of the late night. Listening to the chatter of a hundred stations calling out to some obscure speck in the sea, determined to write a new, witty article for Worldradio.

As I rolled back in the chair I ran over a Coke can and stopped for a moment. I surveyed the shack and found the following: Five empty 44oz soda cups from some obscure convienience store, several deflated bags of Cheetohs, a stack of ransacked cookie packages, many flattened donut boxes in the recycling bin, some miscellaneous candy bar wrappers and a leaning tower of Coke cans in the corner.

I took a mighty hit of my Yoo-Hoo and thought about my dietary habits and what sort of thought process (or lack thereof) leads me to eat everything my mother told me was bad for me while parked in front of my shrine to the Holy Electron. Grasping firmly a Twinkie in one hand and a Suzee Q in the other I sat down to the grim task.

For starters each of the basic foods that I consume have a direct if somewhat obscure correlation to Amateur Radio. Hence I will try to describe the various assets of the various morsels of death that I consume.

First of all, I know that most of you reading this would love to one day be in the old 20 wpm Morse code club. You know get your EXTRA! Well if you really wanna send code at 20, heck, 50 wpm right now tonight, eat a half dozen or so Old Dutch Mill sugar glazed donuts and wash it down with two or three cans of Coke. (original recipe only!) Now hit that key! See how fast you send? And it's perfectly legal, or at least I see nothing mentioned forbidding this in part 97.

Let's move on to the Big Gun stuff.

Ever wonder how you will ever copy anything through the QRM on 80 and 160? Those static crashes will drive you crazy! Well, here is an AA3JU training tip: While ragchewing on the local repeater munch on some Extra Crunchy Fried Cheetohs. That grinding and popping while listening to fairly clear channel communications is just the thing to train your "brain filter" to ignore the background noise and hear what is being transmitted. And here you thought you'd have to buy a $350 DSP filter.

Also, I have found that the fine orange patina that forms on your fingers while eating Cheetohs can be a life saver. Yup, it has amazing insulating properties. I found this out one night while working on my old Drake. I pulled off the plate cap of the finals without ever shutting off the B+. My only sensation was a mild tingle. I am sure that had I not been practicing my QRM technique heavily that night, I would have been killed or seriously injured.

Now what about all those chocolate bars? We all know that chocolate is an instant energy food, and you need that while trying to bust through the pile ups while working DX. I mean once the big guns have gotten the DX, you that extra edge with the rest of the 100 watt crowd. And, my friend, Clark Bars is that edge!

Just a note on Eskimo Pies. This is not, contrary to popular belief, a desert. In fact it fits all the criteria for a main course since the main ingredient Ice Cream, is made from milk. And since milk is nature's "perfect" food, Eskimo Pies are the Amateur Radio operators perfect dinner.

We mentioned dinner but there is a certain rule of breakfasts that I follow. This generally is a meal only eaten before a Hamfest. Now, if I am backseat passenger, and have to buy for you, the driver, I always make sure to have plenty of Hostess powdered donuts on hand. If, however, I am the driver and you feel compelled to buy me breakfast, I know of nothing better to start the day than 3 eggs, 2 sausage, 4 strips of bacon, scrapple, home fries, short stack and toast. All washed down by an extra large Pepsi. Unless course you are over 70, have a really good rig, and a heart condition. Then I will be happy to buy you a Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich, on a buttered roll, regardless of who drove.

Now you might be thinking, "Hey, George has flipped his wig." But really; I see more skinny Hams with a faint coating of powdered sugar on their lips living on to age 100 than any doctor or nutritionist. Let's face it. Do you know ANYONE older than the average denizen of a 40-meter side band net? And what do you suppose they eat? Ho-Hos and Malomars, I would bet if the truth be told.

So there you have it. If you want to live to be really old and reasonably happy, forget all that bunk you hear from your Mom or your Cardiologist. Listen to me and hit the snack aisle at the 7-11 and buy a Cherry Slurpee to go on the way out. Tell the clerk I'll be in later. Go home and Ham it up! You'll surely live almost forever and love every minute of it.



In a university commencement address several years ago, Brian Dyson, then CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises, spoke of the relation of work to one's other commitments:

"Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - work, family, health, friends and spirit and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls - family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life. How?

Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special. Don't set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you. Don't take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would your life for without them, life is meaningless.

Don't let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live ALL the days of your life. Don't give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying. Don't be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us to each other.

Don't be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave. Don't shut love out of your life by saying it's impossible to find. The quickest way to receive love is to give; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly; and the best way to keep love is to give it wings. Don't run through life so fast that you forget not only where you've been, but also where you are going.

Don't forget that a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated. Don't be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily. Don't use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved. Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.

Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is a Mystery and Today is a gift. That's why we call it - The Present."



The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:15 PM.

All present introduced themselves.


Ted was absent so Pete read the financial report as presented by Ted at the 6/9/99 executive meeting. The finances continue to be in the black.


Pat, KE2LJ

The repeaters seem to be working well.


Bob, W2ILP

There were seven VE's present but no applicants.

Bob reported that reports from the FCC indicate that the change in license categories is growing nearer. The changes will be similar to the ARRL proposals. There will be four or possibly three license categories. Probably no Novice and no Tech Plus. The maximum code speed will be 12 WPM. The tests will not change until July 2000. A discussion of the future of Amateur Radio followed.



Zak reported that the Sunday Morning Net was doing well with 13 -14 check-ins and good propagation. The Thursday Night 2-Meter net was struggling with the same usual check-ins. The Wednesday Noon Net had about 5 check-ins.

Pat reported that the Company was cleaning up and painting Plant 5 in anticipation of returning it back to the Navy. Nassau County will be taking over the building. They may sell it to a developer or another company. A map of the Bethpage property was released that showed that almost all of the property has been sold.


Marty, NN2C, stated that there will be a New York/Long Island (NLI) picnic on July 18 at Bethpage State Park. This is for members of all the Amateur Radio clubs on Long Island. He urged everyone to attend.

Zak, WB2PUE suggested that we should set up a Special Event Station to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first landing on the moon, which took place in a Grumman Lunar Module. We will be looking for volunteers to man the station on July 20, 1999.

Mike went over the plans for Field Day. Friday we will start setting up at the Grange at 5:00 PM. Saturday morning we will continue setting up. We will go on the air from 2:00 PM Saturday until 2:00 PM Sunday, then we will pack up. We plan to enter as a class 5A station.

JULY 1999