After weeks of planning and antenna design, I finally made it to the HF bands on Canada Day. At the cottage on the shore of Lake Erie, we have a steel seawall to create a beach and prevent erosion. Nearly 60 feet long, 20 feet deep, and extending right into the lake, I figured it would make an enviable ground. The antenna base is a galvanized plate bolted to the steel. A plastic pipe fitting provides insulation, and a 2 foot galvanized pipe is attached. Then there’s 9 feet of 3/4 inch copper pipe, 2 feet of 1/2 inch copper pipe, and a top hat. The coax feeds the bottom of the pole directly. While setting it up, a wave washed right over my shoes, completely soaking them. They were larger than they look in the photo!
There’s nothing magical about the dimensions. The pipes were cut to fit in the car. I had expected to spend the afternoon fiddling with loading coils and cutting pipe. However, I heard activity on 10m, and discovered the match to be perfect at 28MHz and was acceptable over the entire band. At 20m, the antenna was perfectly resonant everywhere in the band. On 17m it performed at 2.5:1. With the tuner, I could get a match on everything except 160m.
The radio is a Yaesu FT757GX, powered from a 12 volt gel battery. This power kit can keep me running for over 24 hours, and includes 400 watts of AC if I need it to run the laptop. A 15 watt solar panel will be added to this kit soon, which should keep me running day and night. Even though the radio will do 100 watts, I only ran about 30 watts PEP because the location at the beach was very windy, with waves crashing louder and louder and I didn’t want that being broadcast. Nevertheless, my theory about the seawall being a good ground must have been correct, since I got some good reports. (Of course, everyone is 59, right?)
I spent the first hour or two just listening. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard anything on 10m. I scanned down to 40m, and heard quite a bit of good DX, from Morocco, Ireland, England, Germany, Spain, Costa Rica, Cuba, and more, plus some Canadian stations and lots of our friends in the States. By the time I was ready to transmit, 10m had gone silent, so I went to trusty 20m.
I spent quite a bit of time just listening and tuning around. When I called CQ, I didn’t get any replies. Each time I heard a good DX station, there was a pileup before I could get in. Fortunately, Canada Day contests were still going, and my call was answered with good signal reports. So my first HF contact was in Canada. The “in and out” of contests are good for determining if things are working.
My first HF contact was VE9DX – George in New Brunswick. He was contesting for Canada Day so we just traded signal reports, and he won’t find out he was my first contact until he gets my card. Next, I was picked up by VY1CQ – Dean in Yukon. Again, just time to trade reports but I was thrilled my 30 watts made it way up north. Then way out to the beginning of Canada, VO1UL – Carl in Newfoundland picked up my call in reply to his CQ. At 23:57 UTC, Canada Day Contest contacts were over, so I started scanning. I made one more contact with KF4ZZY – Max in Atlanta Georgia who is my first international HF contact. I’m quite proud that my first HF contacts on Canada Day were Canadian! Next time I’ll try for some of those European stations as I expand my radio horizon.
By the time it got dark, the waves were washing up well past the antenna and the base was getting wet. I had to balance myself on the steel wall to remove the pole, which had a considerable wind load by then. The coax was washed under the sand, so I had to dry it and remove sand and seaweed before winding it in. Then I carefully packed away all my copper for another day at the beach.