The Amateur Amateur: The "Calm" After the Storm
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
installment, we learn how the proverbial calm after the storm isn't
always so calm, especially when it comes to restoring your antenna
systems after they've been damaged.
July 19, 2001
A hailstorm left
me antenna-less and off the air. My main multiband antenna (a
six-band vertical) had a number of bent elements, whacks, dents, and
loose parts. Elements were missing from my police scanner antennas.
The whirly-gig gizmo from my wife's weather station was missing a
whirly. Even the TV antenna was bent and bashed. During the week
after the storm my wife periodically brought me amputated antenna
parts that she had found in the yard. It was a sad situation.
After I got
through Phase One (damage assessment) and Phase Two (crying) I coaxed
my wife, Nancy, up onto the roof, and together we wrestled down the
main antenna mast. The hailstorm had damaged a lot more than just
antennas. Roofers would be coming in a week or two, and I wanted to
get the main mast down before they arrived. The salesman from the
roofing company assured me that the secondary masts, mounted on the
eaves of the house, would not be in the way.
arrived much earlier than expected. I was gratified by their speed
and happy to have a new roof put up before anticipated rains
arrived--but they were not very gentle with my equipment. They pretty
much ripped my tripod mount off of the roof and pitched it onto the
ground. They kicked the electronic rain gauge over the side, where it
dangled by its cord. And they, along with the rain gutter repairmen
who followed, managed to stomp all over my partially dismantled
vertical and bust it up even more.
I wasn't too
upset by the rough treatment of the tripod. It was very rusty and had
to be replaced anyway. I had bought it from a popular electronics
store. I was amazed to find that a product intended for outdoor use
was built entirely of parts that could not tolerate exposure to the
elements. My Elmer--who is also my brother--gave me the names of a
few vendors and I was able to find a good replacement tripod (a
Once the dust had
settled from repairs to the house itself, Nancy and I climbed onto
our new roof and installed the new tripod. Drilling holes in a brand
new roof was nerve-wracking. I used copious amounts of roofing tar.
(If that new roof leaks, it won't be my
fault.) We then
carefully lowered one of the eave-mounted masts. It contained my
police scanner antennas and Nancy's weather gizmo. I had just enough
spare parts to repair the scanner antennas. The weather gizmo (an
anemometer, I think) was beyond repair, but I had bought a new one.
Off with the old, on with the new. That part was simple.
Routing the cable
for the new anemometer was not
simple. It involved scrunching
my body up into the attic crawl space, feeding the cable down an
already overcrowded conduit, trying desperately not to put my foot
through the ceiling, and lots and lots of sweating. After I consumed
several gallons of water and cooled off for an hour we remounted the
eave mast. Fantastic! At least we had something
I'm no longer
young and agile, so I waited a week before doing any more antenna
work. At least the remaining stuff didn't involve climbing back into
(shudder!) the attic.
Your columnist, Gary, KB0H, tries to make sense of it all while it's
still on the ground.
was a mess. I was fairly sure that I could repair all of the hail and
manmade damage, but I wasn't looking forward to it. I never had much
luck making contacts with that antenna. It was my very first HF
antenna and I had bought it because (1) it was cheap, and (2) it was
much smaller than any other HF antenna I'd seen. Even so, Nancy and I
had a lot of difficulties getting it up in the first place. I hated
going through all that again.
I had one other
HF antenna--a Bilal Isotron--an odd contraption that looked like a
cross between a birdhouse and a cylindrical box of a well-known
breakfast cereal. My brother claimed that it could not possibly work,
but even he had to admit that he heard me much clearer when I used
it. The strange antenna worked only on the 40-meter band.
I wondered if I
might be better off putting up a mass of similar antennas rather than
re-erecting the multiband vertical. I drew a sketch of my original
setup and another sketch of my new idea. The second sketch looked
very odd, indeed. I showed the sketches to my wife. She immediately
noticed that the second version was ten feet shorter than the first,
and hence a lot less unwieldy. "Do that one," she said.
I ordered several
of the oddball antennas, one each for 80, 20, 15, and 10 meters. My
original 40-meter version had survived a direct hit from a hail stone
with nothing more than a slight dent. I assembled the unlikely array,
and Nancy and I erected the mast with no trouble at all. I saved the
tuning step for later.
pulled up the rain gauge, which was still dangling over the side of
the roof. Hmmm. Busted. I really didn't want to buy a new one, as
that would require routing yet more cable through the attic. So I
painstakingly disassembled the whole thing on the roof, lying on my
belly while I poked, prodded, fiddled, and somehow got the thing to
work. Two small holes in the roof and several more pounds of roofing
tar, and the job was done.
Tuning the new
antennas proved that I really didn't know what I was doing--a truly
amateur operation. I grasped the idea of SWR, but
apparently there were also many other factors involved. I had a very
long conversation with my brother, hoping for enlightenment. What he
told me was that my antennas were clustered too close together and
that I really shouldn't try to run so many of them from a single
piece of coaxial cable. That meant more feed line, and hence more
trips into the attic. Oh noooooooooooo!!!
Well, as it
turned out, I didn't climb into the attic again. I didn't run any
more feed line. The adventure had gone on long enough, and I was
tired. Oh, eventually, I'll separate the antennas. I'll straighten up
the coaxial cables. I'll get everything tuned properly. Eventually.
Perhaps after the next hailstorm.
note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's
name--"The Amateur Amateur"--suggests the explorations of a
rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related Web page. Readers may contact
the author via e-mail, [email protected].
© 2001 American Radio Relay League