On the dime with the ARRL

A Buddistick and a blue sky.

Friday was a stunning summer day here in the South, with temperatures in the low 80s, low humidity and clear blue skies. Since I had Friday off and Field Day is a week away, I figured there was no better time than to set up the Buddistick and get some more practice tuning it.

I decided to try 20 meters again, but this time I deployed the 8-foot shock-cord mast and the guying kit. Set-up for the rest of the system was the same as my excursion up to Little Mountain a few weeks ago. I rigged up the antenna in the front yard and ran 50 feet of RG8X back to the garage so I could work in shade.

Once set up, I fooled around with various counterpoise lengths until I had an SWR that was nearly flat on my SWR meter. Just like my experience at Little Mountain, I was plagued by what sounds like power line noise on certain portions of the 20 meter band. I’m not ruling out electrical noise, as I was setup in the garage not far from the electrical mains.

I tuned around a bit looking for a station to work, and came across a booming signal. The call was W1AW. I was pretty sure that was the ARRL callsign, but I pulled up QRZ on my phone just to be sure. The operator was Mike, N1MX, operating from the ARRL HQ in Connecticut, and he had just started calling CQ. A pile-up began in short order, during which I learned Mike is an avid motorcyclist, and that he had the station’s beam aimed towards northern California.

One gentleman told Mike he’d been a ham for more than 50 years and never worked W1AW. He also mentioned he was running “about 800 watts” if I recall. Getting a QSO with W1AW was going to be a challenge.

He was coming in at 59+, but knowing his beam was aimed west, I reckoned my signal would be glancing broadside to his path. I made several calls with negative success. There was a lull in the pile-up and I tossed my call out, “KK4DSD / QRP.”

The response: “The QRP station? Where are you located?”

“South Carolina, South Carolina, South Carolina. Kilo Kilo 4 Delta Sierra Delta.”

Silence for a bit, while he swung his beam towards me.

“South Carolina station, Delta Sierra Delta, you’re about 44-45. QSL?”

I was ecstatic by now and came back with my full call several times and his signal report, 59+. He told me I was weak, but still copyable.

“I’m running 5 watts into a Buddistick setup in my front yard, just enjoying the weather today.”

“Five watts into a Buddistick? That’s pretty slim, but you’re copyable!”

We exchanged 73, bringing a very memorable QSO to an end. It was a good first contact for the Buddistick, but in this case I must thank the great operating skills of N1MX and the equipment at W1AW for pulling my tiny signal out of the mud.

Just a few notes on the shock-cord mast: It’s not very rigid after it’s deployed. It wobbles and bends a bit. Nevertheless, it works just fine when guyed. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how the Buddipole guy kit is actually supposed to work with the mast or Buddistick.

Presumably, you’re expected to connect the guy lines to the Velcro collar that apparently is supposed to wrap around the mast. The problem is, the collar slips down the mast. Some folks on the Buddipole Yahoo group have suggested various ways to address the problem. I wasn’t in the mood to run to a hardware store today, so I attached the guying collar above the antenna mounting plate, which in turn screws into the top of the shock-cord mast. This is a terrible solution, since the antenna is offset on the plate from where the plate attaches to the mast, resulting in increased stress on the mast connector when tension is applied via the guy lines.  I need to find a solution before Field Day.

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