Weekend Warriors (with some WARC band wires)

Don’t ask me why but the term ‘weekend warrior’ has been on my mind lately. I think it was the name of a monthly column in some skateboarding magazine I read in the late eighties / early nineties. There you go, a little secret about yours truly. I guess I picked up many things reading American English subculture magazines as an early teenager. And then came underground metal music in my late teens. More exposure to Shakespeare’s language. Or at least the more obscure vocabulary thereof. I digress.

At first you’d think that a weekend warrior is someone who goes to war during the weekend. But when you scratch the surface (hey yet another idiom!) by consulting The Urban Dictionary, you find out that a weekend warrior is in fact “a person who has a boring rat race job, and compensates by being irresponsible during the weekend”. Do we consider contesting irresponsible? On the other hand it is exclusively a weekend activity. Another definition there is “a person who regularily parties on weekends”. My spelling checker suggests it’s ‘regularly’? Contests are as much fun as an enjoyable party. I keep on digressing.

Since the regular bands are my usual hideout during the contests, and since I make more than 20k contest contacts every year, I never hang out on these regular bands when there is no contest. I like the WARC bands for my casual shot of CW DX. I used to have a great antenna there, until it decided to blow (link). Great relative to its size and price. Then I made a triband WARC inverted V. Works fine but not great, and it needs to be on the tower. Which means I have to remove it before a contest and put it back up after a contest. Which is pretty often in my case. In my quest to make a permanent not tower-bound WARC antenna I reused the remaining half of the trapped dipole and installed it as a vertical. Any antenna beats no antenna but this one, although resonating and working into other continents, was close to no antenna. Too close to nothing when benchmarked against my previous WARC antennas. So I needed something better. During spring high band conditions took a plunge and I had given up on Cycle 24. Recent weeks have proven me wrong and in this case I love being wrong. However a few months ago the future didn’t look bright for 10/12m. In fact chances are that this is the last convulsion before the cycle going down for real. You know me as a glass half empty guy by now.

So around Easter I decided to trade the WARC vertical for something better. Preferably monoband 30m as this is my favourite band. It always brings DX regardless of the season and the point in the solar cycle. All this thinking was done while dreaming of a dynamic yagi covering 40 > 6m. This would solve all my problems. At least all my antenna problems. And such an antenna would also break the bank.

I always wanted to make a delta loop and see how it plays so why not for 30? I decided to order a stretch of RG-59 coax for the matching quarter wave transformer, as illustrated in many books and online items. I decided to stick to the medium power amp (500W) for casual DXing. This turns out to be enough power outside of the contests. Some online table showed me that this length of 75 ohm RG-59  could take almost a kW at 10MHz so it should work.

I hear you coming. The plan hatched around Easter you say? And only just now the simple delta loop is finished? More than half a year to join 30m copper wire, a dipole centre assembly and seven meters of small coax? Uhm, yeah – it was an on and off project *blush*.

But last week I had enough of all the non-ham radio stuff that seems to take over my life and I decided to make the best of the current propagation. Get in the chair, call CQ, work some DX. The Weekday Warrior that I am!

About the actual 30m delta loop antenna I can be short. In three words? Classic-textbook-design. One wavelength of copper wire. Fed one quarter wave from the apex for vertical polarization. Fed with one quarter wave 75 ohm coax to match to 50 ohms. Take into account velocity factor 0.66% for this length of transmission line. Trim this transformer to exact length with the antenna analyzer by means of the property of a quarter wave length or half wave length transmission line transformer. All those hours of playing with Smith charts at school really pay off!

Once it was on the tower and up in the air, I had to trim the circumference of the loop by half a meter to get resonance in the band. Although the transmission line was cut very precise, the analyzer did not show an impedance of 50 ohm. I forgot the actual values for impedance and reactance but SWR is below 1.5:1 over the whole band as seen in the shack by the amp. My first delta loop! I was eager to try it out after dusk. I launched a few CQ CQ CQ and watched the RBN values appear in the web browser. I was especially looking to the reports coming back to me from the USA. Those looked promising. It’s not a three element yagi twenty meters high but at least it has better RBN figures than the vertical. In a few nights and a few early mornings, I collected some nice DX: USA coast to coast, VK6, JA, YB, HL, CO, 5R, PJ7. When doing real time A/B RX comparisons between the delta loop and the trapped GP, the loop always wins. Both ‘by ear’ as well as measured by the S-meter.

The initial plan was to keep using the vertical for 12/17. But last weekend I had to admit it: this antenna sucks. No more kidding myself. Hardly any skimmer picks me up on 12m. Only three or four and almost never outside of EU. There were plenty of DX cluster spots on 24.9MHz. I heard many but never very loud. And I hardly got heard by the DX. So I decided to kill my darlings. The vertical is gone now. I took it down. Its set of resonating elevated radials, which in turn was my old triband inverted V, got stripped of the 30m wires and was put up as a sloping dipole for 12/17.

Signals on 12m now were louder and some even easier to work too. So this might be the new WARC setup for now. I guess I’ll have to live with the take down / deploy routine before and after a contest. No pain, no gain. *ping* Gain – there pops up the vision of the expensive all band yagi again. Gain on WARC!

Saturday all was cool with this antenna. On Sunday the wind picked up speed and the amp tripped more often than not. I didn’t even need to look outside. I suspected both wires for either band were touching each other when the wind blew. Thus completely ruining resonance in the band. Anecdotical evidence: a few years ago, in my pre-blogging years, I even vulcanized two PVC isolated wires on a homebrew dual band antenna while trying to tune the ACOM amp. Each time I got closer to a match, I got further away from a match. Flabbergasted I quit and took down the experimental antenna to find the two parallel wires glued together where the insulation had molten. They got twisted in the wind during the time I went from outside into the shack. The wires got tangled into each other. Hence no more resonance and no more match. Lesson learned.

Back to the future. I lowered the rope on the pulley and used electrical tape to put some isolating spacers on the wires. This way, constant separation was ensured. Although the wind was pretty strong, the amplifier remained happy after this fix. The WX was sunny and dry and not too chilly. But the forecast predicted a dramatic change. More wind and rain. Towards the end of Sunday some lighting strikes were detected to the west. So before going to bed, I decided to once again unplug the coaxes and lower the 12/17m antenna. Good thing I did because after two hours of sleep, I got awakened by some thunderclaps and saw lightning over the QTH. This sudden thunderstorm even took a nearby town completely off the grid for a quarter of an hour.

Anyone in for a Fritzel trapped vertical for the WARC bands?

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