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Antenna party

I have said this before, but it bears repeating. When I started with this club, there were almost weekly antenna parties. Mostly, they were excuses to get together, but we got work done too. Well, I was thrilled to participate in another raising event recently at Hap Holly’s (KC9RP). As most of you know, Hap is legally blind, so there is almost no way he could have built his incredible antenna array without the help of many people over the years. So a group of us headed out on Sunday to work on several projects.

As you know from your own shacks, stuff happens. Well, his beam was 90 degrees out of sync; he wanted to add a newly purchased CB antenna to his farm and move several other antennas around. Mark WA9IVH, Kate KC9IQF, Al K9EAA, Dave N3BXY, Troy K9TOW and Gary WD9HDM all took part. We broke up into swat teams and really did a lot of work in the four hours we had as a window, before Hap had to leave. And like almost every project, one turn leads to another. Bolts that were rusted frozen needed to be replaced; cables that worked before we moved things don’t now, so we need to do some additional follow up work.

One of our best mistakes was a tricky problem. I found out that when you are on top of a tower looking up at a Yagi, it is very difficult to tell which end is the reflector. Hap has a TA-36. It is a beautiful beam and whoever did the initial installation work did a fine job. However, after some time, something is slipping. I asked the folks on the ground which end needed to point north and I followed their directions. However, after reviewing the literature, it looks like the beam is now 180 degrees off! So, back to work we go. At least now I know what to fix. It does raise an issue worth considering - how do you keep a beam from slipping in the rotor? The manufacturer specifically states that you should not use through-bolts, which would seem to make the most sense to me. On the other hand, better to let it slip than to shear it off the pin and have no control. Anyway, the point is, we need to go back. The one thing I totally dislike is folks who start a project like this and not get it done, or do not finish it properly.

One of the issues we discovered is that others didn’t always label their cables. When you have a shack where others need to work, labeling may be the most important factor guiding success. To Hap’s credit, and to our amazement, Hap can tell you what connectors are on the ends of all his antennas, when they were installed and by whom! Pretty good for a guy who can’t see! It is always a delight to work on Hap’s station, not only because it keeps him on the air, but he gives back so much more to us all. He supports our weekly nets, both as a net control station and as a contributor through his well produced RAIN Reports. It is also great to see so many volunteers to help. We did what would have taken any one person a week to do, and we did it in four hours! So, thank you to the folks who helped, but I really want to encourage others of you to spend some time helping at one of our upcoming projects or helping a neighbor. The investment pays double!

Meanwhile, I recently brought our gear back from Boy Scout Camp, where we had set up a HF station for the boys to use to teach the Radio Merit badge. As I understand it, 53 scouts earned their Radio Merit Badge this summer. Remarkable. Now it is up to us to follow up with the scouts and build on this success for next year. The main station was an Icom 7200 that was donated to the National BSA for use at summer camps. Next year, we won’t have that radio, but we are seriously considering purchasing a radio for use at camp and for other training opportunities. We need to do much more to help get young people into this hobby. I think you will all agree.