Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Welcome to FN24br

Getting back online after the move was no easy feat. Since I decided to go entirely wireless at the new QTH I was solely reliant on my cell phone. Unfortunately it is old and does not support the newer service bands, and I was roaming on another network. You don't realize how dependent we are on modern communication services until they are missing or unreliable. Amateur radio is not a substitute for ordinary personal and commercial use.

The upshot is that getting internet service arranged and installed took a week longer than expected. Being disconnected had the advantage of keeping me focussed on completing the move and starting on the new station.

One odd problem that occurred with the move had to do with my license and station location. Industry Canada (who regulate amateur radio) found it difficult to update my record in their database. It turns out that when I moved from VE4 to VE3 in 1979 a new record was created rather than updating the one that existed. This persisted when their IT systems evolved and upgrade, and made the problem more interesting. After verifying that I was who I said I was the database was corrected and they issued me a new certificate.

I started simply at the new QTH. With no barriers in the way of getting back on the air, other than the lack of a tower, I unpacked my multi-band inverted vee and hoisted it up a temporary mast. The mast is the same one I used at the top of my bracketed tower. It already has the pulley attached.

A couple of long u-bolts secure the mast to the decayed cedar railing of the loft balcony. The balcony will be replaced next year so I have no concerns about damaging it further. The inverted vee apex is only 9 meters high and the ends, tied to two of the numerous trees around the yard, are about half that height. It isn't much but it works, surely better than how I returned to the hobby in 2013.

A 15 meter length of RG213 connected the FT950 temporarily located in the loft bedroom. No holes were drilled. The rotting weatherstripping and sill of the balcony door allowed just enough room for this thick cable to squeeze through (the door is also slated for replacement).

DX contacts soon followed. The only ones of note were S9YY on 30 and 40 meters and TL0A on 17. That getting through wasn't easy is good since it allows me to hone my pile-up skills.

Towers are being sited and construction has begun. I'll get into the details in a future article. For now I'll present a Google satellite view of the area of my 50 acre property that is most germane to radio use. That circle you see is an attractive stone wall lined with birch trees inside half its circumference. The fields beyond are tilled for hay by a local farmer, who I have yet to meet. Towers will reduce the tillable acreage a small amount.

A self-supporting Trylon is going up a short distance to the northeast of the house, behind the location of the future garage. I need to plant the tower before the garage excavation is begun so the concrete truck can roll up to the tower base. Trust me, you do not want to move 6 yd³ of concrete in wheelbarrows (~50 heavily-laden trips). Concrete pumps are an expensive alternative.

The LR20 150' (43 meter) tower will be placed directly east of the house and yard. I still do not know if I'll have time to get that tower planted before ground and air conditions are too cold to proceed. There are 4 excavations and reinforced concrete work for the tower, and potentially long wheelbarrow trips to place ~5 yd³ of concrete.

I did get a commercial quote to put up the tower (all labour, equipment and materials) and even with an "amateur" discount it is a quite expensive $20,000+. For some amateurs this is acceptable. Others do some of the work themselves and bring in professionals for the rest. That can be far more economical if you have the time, skills and body strength. I plan to do as much as possible myself, not excluding 100% of the project. For me the planning and execution of tower project of this size is a very interesting opportunity to learn and put all of my experience to the test. However I have been getting advice from professionals, both local and distant.

I close for now with a picture of some of the denizens of this large 50 acre property. There are apple trees, towering maples (and evidence of a century old sugar bush camp), animals and plenty of open space. It is very peaceful if a little isolated. There is lots of space to store antennas, towers and related material.

For amateur radio it has many attractions. The house though it needs extensive renovation is getting high marks from the many visitors that have passed through. Mixing house construction with tower work is difficult enough without the financial and legal glitches that have plagued both ends of the real estate transaction. All is clear now bar the hard work.

My next blog posts will get into siting the antenna farm and planting towers. There is a lot of excavation work ahead before the ground freezes. Regrettably I will not have a station for this weekend's CQ WW SSB contest, so I will not be competing for SOAB QRP #1 for a third year running.

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