Yep, it’s that time of year again. Time for our annual family vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
We arrived on Saturday, after a long drive from southeastern Pennsylvania. After unloading and getting organized in the house we rented in Corolla for the week, I went outside and set up an antenna.
For the past two years at this house, I used a 29-foot vertical fed through a 9:1 unun. During both trips, I struggled with noise issues. I had a couple of antenna options I wanted to try this year.
This time around, I went with a Rybakov-type antenna. I strapped a 28-foot Jackite pole to the railing of the 3rd floor deck. I used a 26-foot vertical wire fed through my recently built weather-resistant 4:1 unun. My 26-foot counterpoise wire ran out to the side of the antenna and down the side of the deck stairs. It was a weird configuration, for sure. I ran 25 feet of RG-8X coax down to the second floor, where I could operate in the shade—in the morning, at least.
I didn’t test the antenna until early Sunday morning, and my KX3’s tuner matched it on every band from 40M through 10M. The noise levels on 40M and 20M were down around S2, a dramatic improvement over previous years and completely workable. The higher bands were dead quiet.
My first contact was an interesting one. Fellow Boschveldt members, Glen NK1N and Rob KE3TI, were on an overnight backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. I sent Glen NK1N a text message to let him know I was on the air, and we connected on 40M. We chatted for a bit and exchanged SKCC numbers. Conditions were rough in the beginning but, towards the end of our contact, our signals improved.
Before quitting, I logged 10 SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contacts. There were bonus points for using a homebrew key, so I used a straight key I cobbled together a few years ago. I also worked Greg WA3GM, who was doing a POTA activation at a park near to my home in Pennsylvania. So, my jury-rigged Rybakov seemed to get out OK.
Monday morning, I got set up on the deck to make a few contacts. I noticed the antenna was acting up a bit on the 40M band. The KX3’s tuner showed it found a 1:1 match, but the SWR went up when I transmitted. I had no issues with the other bands, just 40M. It seemed like I was getting some RF on the coax shield, so I added a common mode choke at the transceiver and changed to a shorter length of coax. That cleared up the issue. I’m guessing there was some interaction between the antenna’s counterpoise and the coax on 40M. Even before I resolved the antenna issue, I logged a half-dozen contacts.
With six adults, four grand-kids, and two grand-dogs, there was always something going on in the house. However, I managed to get on the air for about an hour each morning after breakfast to make a few contacts.
Thursday evening was busy. I kept track of Winlink check-ins for an ARES-RACES net back home. Using DMR, I checked into another ARES-RACES net in Pennsylvania. When I’m down here, I always like to check into the Outer Banks Area Wide Net. Then, it was out to the dock to join my grand-kids for some crabbing.
As I was finishing up breakfast on Friday, I got a text message from my friend, Frank N3FLL, asking if I was on the air. I quickly moved my radio out to the deck and had a nice QSO with him. I also worked a few POTA activators including Greg WA3GM. I worked Greg on the first day, so it was only fitting that I work him on the last day, too. After that, it was time to take down the antenna and pack up the radios.
I didn’t spend as much time on the air as in previous years, but I worked some fellow SKCC members, chased a few POTA activators, and had a couple of nice ragchews. All in all, it was a great vacation with excellent weather. I’m already looking forward to next year.
73, Craig WB3GCK