CQ 160m Results

Bruce Horn bhorn at netcom.com
Sun Jan 28 10:38:32 EST 1996

                       CQWW 160-Meter Contest, CW

Call:  WA7BNM
Class: Single Op, Low Power
Location: S.Calif

   Q     C      S
 153     4     42    =   16,468

First time ever in this contest. Also first time ever that I've had an
antenna that was designed to be resonant on 160-meters. In the past I've used
my 40-meter antenna and just pushed the "Tune" button on the transceiver
autotuner until it matches whatever its seeing (coax, 40m antenna, switchbox,
etc). Usually takes about 10 seconds to find a match, and if I move more than
2 kHz, I have to do it all over again. This method worked well enough to produce
a couple of mults in a contest.

Inspired by AB6FO's posting about using a balloon suspended 160m antenna
during NAQP CW, I spent Thursday evening looking through the literature and
calculating wire lengths for a vertical and radials. Contest proceeded as

2200Z  1400PST   Contest starts. I'm at work debating whether I can actually
                 get a balloon antenna up for the contest.

2300Z  1500PST   Decide to "run an errand" to local electronics parts store
                 to find some small gauge (light) antenna wire. Helpful
                 salesman has none but tries to get me to buy computer cable
                 that I can "pull one of the conductors out and use."

2330Z  1530PST   On way back to office from electronics parts store, I
                 drive by Home Depot. Hey, maybe they have antenna wire. Quick
                 check of electrical department, and I find 500 ft of
                 18 gauge bare stranded copper wire. This is the first
                 omen that I'm meant to put an antenna up.

2345Z  1545PST   Continue to party balloon outlet near office and buy ten
                 36 inch diameter latex balloons (the largest they have)
                 and rent a cylinder of helium. During morning's phone
                 coversations with balloon suppliers, I had learned that
                 1 cubic foot of helium will lift 1 ounce. Zowie, that's
                 not much.

0100Z  1700PST   Explain to my office colleagues why I need to use a balloon
                 to suspend an antenna when I already have what they perceive
                 as a huge tower and antennas.

0115Z  1715PST   Finally leave the office when I realize that I have no
                 extra coax and need to buy 100 feet at the local HRO. While
                 daydreaming about big signals from balloon antennas, I miss
                 exit on freeway for quickest way to HRO (brain was on auto
                 pilot for home). Unfortunately, I don't realize I've missed
                 the exit until I've passed two more exits. Backtrack and
                 get to HRO one minute before closing (glad our watches were
                 synchronized). Buy 100 feet of coax with connectors.

0145Z  1745PST   Arrive home and start measuring out radials in driveway,
                 using 500 feet of 14 gauge stranded, insulated electrical
                 wire previously purchased. Makes three radials and one "short"
                 radial. Cut 18 ga bare stranded copper to resonate at
                 1850 kHz. Load plastic bucket with dirt as an anchor for
                 balloon. Place bucket in front yard of my 50 ft by 130 ft
                 residential lot and start stringing radials.

0230Z  1830PST   My wife arrives home and inquires what I'm doing. I reminder
                 her of our discussion about the importance of balloon
                 antennas and that her primary question had been what color
                 would the balloon be. She says she didn't realize I had
                 planned on using the front yard as the launching area.

0330Z  1930PST   Manage to keep two radials completely on my property by
                 bending them around house and running along edges of lot.
                 I run the third long radial across front lawn (for you
                 guys with big lots, my front lawn is roughly 15 feet by
                 30 feet) to street curb. Run remaining wire along curb past
                 two neighbors' houses. Short radial goes along curb past
                 neighbor on the other side.

0400Z  2000PST   Go out to dinner to a restaurant with my wife.

0500Z  2100PST   Start inflating balloons in the garage. Earlier "calcu-
                 lations" indicated that it would require two 36 inch balloons
                 to lift antenna wire, insulator, etc. Decide I don't want
                 to push my luck beyond about a 32 inch diameter. Second
                 balloon explodes in the garage.

0530Z  2130PST   Launch two-balloon antenna. Supports everything just fine.
                 While connecting radials to coax connector, one balloon
                 explodes. Antenna returns to earth.

0545Z  2145PST   Decide to use three balloons in order to have a margin of
                 safety. If I lose one balloon, I'll still have enough to
                 keep the antenna up. Start wondering if I'll only end up
                 with 15 minutes of operating time while the antenna stays

0555Z  2155PST   Launch three balloon antenna and finish connecting radials.
                 Learn that no wind on the ground does not necessarily mean
                 there is no wind at 125 feet. Watch antenna wire drift toward
                 70-foot trees between sidewalk and street.

0559Z  2159PST   Run to shack to see how antenna works before there are more
                 problems. Antenna appears to have 1:1 SWR at 1800 kHZ, rising
                 to 3:1 above 1915 kHz or so.  Geez, I can actually work people.
                 Work S&P and find I can work most stations I can hear, while
                 running low power, including PJ9 and VP9. Before calling it
                 quits for the evening, decide to try CQing. Spend the next
                 1.5 hours working U.S. and Canada at modest rates.

0945Z  0145PST   Try to lower antenna, but find it hung up in trees. Remove
                 radials from neighbors' curbs and go to bed.

1415Z  0615PST   Get out of bed and manage to extracate antenna wire from trees.
                 Lower antenna and store balloons in garage before neighbors are

After moving the antenna launch point further back from trees on Saturday after-
noon, I managed to get on from 0200Z until 0316Z, when rain and wind grounded
balloons. Not sure I'm going to work much DX with a balloon antenna, while
running low power and having no special 160m receiving antennas, but had a good

73 de Bruce, WA7BNM   (bhorn at netcom.com)

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