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Check those connections

It all started with Don Whiteman. He declared he was off to his annual summer vacation and was going to be monitoring 40 meters. In the past, this has been a fun way to connect with Don and make sure my station was working. Well, that is where things went sideways.

I called Don on his frequency and he reported my signal was very, very weak. Plus, I was blasting RF throughout my basement shack. RF into the stereo sound system. It was even making a work light at my edit console flash on and off! This had never happened to me before…and obviously signaled that something was very wrong.

As a rule, hams are a hardy, independent lot. We like to solve our own problems. And so I set out on a journey to track down the issues. Of course, I never seem to have the time to just sit down in one setting and do it – other duties call: wife, family, work, club assignments – which is to say that it has taken much longer than I had expected.

I started at the rig. My grandson likes to pretend he is on the radio and often pushes buttons or dials he shouldn’t but that seemed fine. I changed jumper cables, tried different bands (this only happened on the 40/80 dipole). I check connections, the Internet and mentioned it to a few of you. Eventually, I braced for what seemed like the most obvious choice…check out the antenna. Well, that is not so easy. You see, I have one leg of my dipole strung up on a parkway tree, but the easiest access is to walk through my neighbor’s backyard to release the support rope. Last year, the older lady who owned that house and never minded, moved and sold the house to a young couple. I have tried to explain my antenna farm to him in the past, but I could clearly see that it made no sense whatsoever. Lots of questions, some leading, some naïve, all with a twinge of attitude that suggested: “Do I really have to put up with this junk next door!” So, the point is, I try not to ruffle feathers, but I did need to explain that I had to bring the antenna down and see if it was ok, which meant I would like to walk through his backyard. He shrugged approval and moved on to the kids and their pool. My wife was never keen on this stealth operation so I had to do my work when both were gone. Now, dipoles are best done with two people…but hey, you see the time constraint I was under and I was certain this would be a very quick fix. I found my opportunity last Sunday when the neighbors went to Church. I had an hour. It was intensely hot outside, so I knew my wife would not be outside either…so I start operation “Drop Down!”

I jump through the bushes and released the support rope and ran back to my yard to check out the antenna. But, the rope was stuck. A knot in the rope was snagged on a branch. I tugged and pulled, but I could not get it free. I put all of my weight into it and all that happened was some branch near the top would sway. Now I was getting concerned. I went inside the house and made a cup of coffee to think of other ways to release the rope. When I returned, I pulled the rope aggressively and suddenly it was free! So I pulled the dipole down and discover a major slice just below the connector. So, I fixed the cut and went to pull the antenna back up.

God and physics work in mysterious ways. So, I am back in my neighbor’s yard, and I am pulling the support rope back up…only to hit that snag again. Got binoculars out and found that I had placed that rope in the perfect yoke of a branch. Right through the “Y” and the knot could not climb over the valley. I brought the rope down and added some electrical tape, thinking it would help ease the way. Nothing. I tugged, I pulled, I swung on the rope with all my weight. I wrapped the rope around a pipe and used that as a lever. Nothing. Checked my watch and church was to be over in about 10 minutes. The neighbors would be back soon. I took a bio break and sat to think what to do? I could reshoot? I could re-tie the knot? I decided I would give it one more try. This is where God and Physics come together. I went back to the support rope and gave it a big pull and suddenly found there was no resistance! The knot was free. Somehow, the wind, moving the branch, and the gentle pressure on the line did the work! Who needed all of that brut strength! I was thrilled and started to effortlessly pull and pull and pull…and wait…this seemed like I was pulling too much! Sure enough, the knot holding the rope on the other side came loose and was free. I was pulling the antenna down! This is where a buddy would have helped but you know how that goes. I did get the antenna up before the neighbors were home.

Is there a moral to this tale? Many, I am sure but I am using this as a plug for you to attend Dave Hewitt’s talk at our August 12 meeting about setting up your HF station, and advising you to make sure you check ALL your connections – with your spouse, your neighbors and your antenna!

73 Rob K9RST