Raincheck for WW SSB

I’ll have to take a rain check for CQ WW SSB this year. Or rather a wind check. Not even that because ‘rain check’ implies “we’ll do this later” but in this case it’s not a matter of postponing. It’s plain cancelling. Saturday’s weather is supposed to be good and certainly within acceptable limits but the wind speed on Sunday is too much to my liking. And towards the end of Sunday there is a storm front predicted to move from the Atlantic through the Channel with wind speeds of 80km/h to 100 km/h inland. That is too much for my peace of mind and possibly at the limits of what my fully cranked up loaded free standing tower can take. So I took the hard decision of not participating under the motto ‘better safe than sorry’ and comfort myself by saying “It’s only SSB”. Truth is I was actually looking forward to it. Oh well.

I ask myself: what if predictions prove to be wrong? What if it all turns out fine in the end? Wouldn’t be the first time. But that’s with highly unpredictable stuff like thunderstorms. Predicted wind speeds seem to be pretty accurate a few days beforehand. Last Sunday there was a prediction of possible tornadoes over France. Here in western EU, when we hear ‘tornado’ we think of footage on the TV news showing the debris of villages in central USA wiped off the map. Or Storm Chasers on Discovery. But last Sunday there were six tornadoes over northern France and the front moved over Belgium to land in Holland where people took pictures of ‘super cells’ and the typical tornado funnel. All this on one day. And more or less predicted. I’m afraid the global climate change long term predictions are becoming a reality.

Earlier this week I was having fun on the bands with conditions being pretty good. The tower was up 2/3rd which means the antennas are at fifteen to sixteen meters above the ground. But the forecast predicted heavy thunderstorms with very strong wind gusts for the following evening and night. Since all my meteo sources were in synch about this, I decided to lower the tower and unplug all cables. After evening dinner I retracted the tower and removed the WARC wires. I went into the garage to unplug everything and as soon as I got out on the terrace again, large fat drops of water fell down. Dark clouds moved in from the south-west (which is where all the nasty dirty WX comes from). I got inside and told the XYL “Glad I took everything down because I think the show is about to start”. My words were still echoing when the living room got lit by a nearby lightning strike. That’s what you get when the temperature tops 20°C in late October! It seemed like summer. But enough about the weather. This is a ham radio blog after all.

Last weekend I went to buy some wooden poles to put in the new extended garden. Nothing big, it’s just to keep the elevated radials high enough so that a tall person can walk under them without touching the wires. There seems to be a difference between the number of poles I had in mind (5) and the number the XYL finds acceptable (2) to desecrate the new garden. We settled on the diplomatic number of two.

Although the wood is treated I paint them with two layers of the contemporary biological and environment-friendly version of carbolineum. I always do that with wooden poles. It colours the poles dark brown in stead of the pale shade which is more visible out here in the open. The part of the pole that goes into concrete gets painted with a product called ‘liquid rubber’ (it says so on the can!) which is actually… liquid rubber. The problem with wooden poles is not the part under the ground nor the part exposed to the elements. Under the ground there is no light and no oxygen. Above ground the pole can dry. Poles tend to rot where it touches the soil. It’s the part of the wood that never dries yet is exposed to the air. When we bought the house, the wooden poles of the old fence were almost all rotten and broken just at ground level. So with the liquid rubber (mind you, it settles when exposed to the air) extending to about ten centimetres above the ground, the moisture can’t do any harm because the wood is not exposed. The pole vendor offers a commercial solution called ‘post saver’ but I find it pretty darn expensive, especially when you need to put dozens of poles in ground like for a long fence.

While I was at it, I gave the more sturdy pole that supports the 80/160 feed point another treatment. It’s been out there since summer 2009 and the part of the pole facing the south-west got a bit pale again. South-west is the dirty side, remember? The opposite side of the pole was still dark brown. I must admit that side is covered by a tree.

But with CQ WW approaching and these poles not yet in the ground, I needed to find a temporary way to get the elevated radials back up again. I managed to do so with one temporary pole in a metal support with concrete blocks to keep it in place. The result is definitely not the way I want it but it was good enough for one contest. I was still assuming the wind would be acceptable. On Monday there was no storm to be seen yet on the weather charts.

So I continued to enjoy the warm sunny weather on Tuesday. I still needed to hook up the 160 part of the 80/160 GP. I take that one down for contests without 160 and WAECW was the last contest. In 2009 I made a quick ‘n dirty feed point assembly to see if my plan to share a common feed point would work. Turns out it works just fine. It has a bolt with a wing nut and both wires have a fork shaped cable shoe. The problem is that each time I need to add or remove the 160 part, I need to take out the big ladder to reach the wing nut on the higher pole. I can just reach it with my smaller ladder but I can’t really see what I’m doing then and the fork shaped cable shoe of the 80m antenna gets away from the bolt. That’s what you get when ‘proof of concept’ prototypes actually become operational production units. So I replaced the 80m wire terminal with an eyelet terminal and replaced the wing nut with a nut and counter nut combination. This one has never to be touched again. I drilled a second hole in the aluminium bracket to fit a second bolt with a wing nut for 160. Clean the surface with steel wool for maximum conductivity and apply some Penetrox. This modification should make my low band life much easier since I don’t have to mind the second wire terminal anymore. I should take a picture but by now it’s raining again…

I also made a new Plexiglas spreader to keep the two vertical wires separated about half a meter. Four years ago I had made a spreader out of a piece of electrical conduit in which I cut slots to slide the wires through. But after all these years the plastic wore out and eventually broke. I got through EUHFC MacGyver style with duct tape but this new plexi part should last a lifetime and is unbreakable. BTW when machining this material with a thin high speed cutting disk, the material melts and makes blobs along the cut. I had to debur it. But it sure beats a hand saw!

The plan this morning was to take down the radials and remove the temporary pole again. I wanted to put my two radial poles in the ground but the WX offers rain and wind again. Since Saturday should still be OK and dry, I might as well do it tomorrow. I’d like to spent the time doing ham radio projects. Most important will be to keep busy and have the feeling I will harvest the fruit of my labour in the next contest. I have been lucky and have not been missing out on contests because of the WX lately. But I just knew there would come a day where I needed to bail out because of the wind baing too strong (let alone a real storm). Let’s just hope it’s a one off situation and the rest of the season will be OK.

One reply on “Raincheck for WW SSB”

Hi Franki, you really missed something. It was even a little weird that OQ5M wasn’t on the bands. In any case I hope to work you soon, a sign that the interest in the hobby is completely back. 73 ON3DI

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