Outer Banks 2018

My family and I went on our annual vacation in Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Ham radio-wise, it started off as a challenging week.

We arrived at the house we rented for the week after a long but fairly non-eventful drive. As we were unloading at the house, a storm rolled in. This delayed getting an antenna set up.

We were also visited by a security officer for the development we were in. Apparently, my daughter’s small cargo trailer was in violation of the Development’s rules. I won’t go further into that but, because of that drama, I decided to keep my antenna as low-profile as possible.

On Sunday afternoon, I finally got an antenna set up. I sloped a 29.5-foot wire down from a 3rd story deck to a wooden fence behind the house. It tuned up OK and I appeared to be getting out. Unfortunately, the local noise level was horrendous. Despite the high noise levels, I managed three quick contacts in the SKCC WES contest.

My Alexloop set up out on the deck.
My Alexloop set up out on the deck.

On my second full day there, I used my Alexloop outside on the deck. It helped to make the noise situation more manageable on most bands. The 20M band was still a bit noisier than I would have liked, though. Even though we were only 2 blocks from the ocean, our rental house overlooked a scenic little lake. The struggle with the noise levels was at least partially offset by the great view I had.

My view from the 3rd story deck
My view from the 3rd story deck

On the third day, I removed the sloper and installed a 53-foot inverted L antenna. I mounted a 9:1 UNUN near ground level and ran the wire up the deck support. I ran the horizontal portion of the wire along the top rail of the deck. I estimate that the vertical portion was about 20 feet with the remaining 33 feet running horizontally. Surprisingly, the inverted L had significantly lower noise levels and seemed to be getting out pretty well.  There was a picnic table conveniently-located near the antenna’s feed point, which provided a shady spot in the morning hours.

Operating from the picnic table. Above my arm, in the background, you can see the feedpoint for the inverted L antenna. My 9:1 UNUN is wrapped up for weather protection.
Operating from the picnic table. Above my arm, in the background, you can see the feedpoint for the inverted L antenna. My 9:1 UNUN is wrapped up for weather protection.

For the remainder of the week, I fell into a pattern of getting on the air each morning for a few QSOs. Most of my contacts were casual rag chews. It was nice to chat with a few familiar stations I haven’t worked in a while. The shade out there was usually gone by 1PM, so I limited my operating to the morning hours. The rest of the time was spent with the family and doing the usual things you would expect for a beach vacation.

It was a great vacation.  This week was a perfect example of why I always like to bring several options for antennas.  These rental houses are all different and sometimes you never know what you’re going to run into when you get here.

72, Craig WB3GCK

The “Up and Outer” Antenna

[This is an updated version of a post that appears on my old website. – WB3GCK]

Something about the “Up and Outer” antenna has fascinated me since I first came across it in the 1974 edition of the ARRL Antenna Book. This antenna, which was once popular many years ago, is about as simple as it gets. Simply put, the Up and Outer is a dipole or doublet where one leg is vertical while the other leg is horizontal. Although it seems to be overlooked by Amateurs these days, this antenna offers some significant benefits:

  • It’s a good limited space antenna since one leg of the doublet is vertical. It only requires half of the space that a horizontal doublet would take up.
  • When fed with balanced line and used with a suitable transmatch, it’s a good multi-band antenna.
  • It combines characteristics of both verticals and horizontal wire antennas. That is, it is good for both local and DX work.
  • It’s very easy to build and erect.
The "Up & Outer" is essentially a doublet with one vertical leg and one horizontal leg.
The “Up & Outer” is essentially a doublet with one vertical leg and one horizontal leg.

First, a little background on this antenna. According to some handwritten notes from QRP Hall of Famer, C. F. Rockey W9SCH (SK), this antenna goes back to the 20s and 30s. Lew McCoy W1ICP (SK) wrote about it in the October 1960 edition of QST [1]. He didn’t use the name, “Up and Outer;” he merely referred to it as a “limited space antenna.” McCoy recommended horizontal and vertical elements of 30-feet each for operation on 80-10 meters. He also recommended using an open-wire feedline to minimize losses. Information from McCoy’s article has appeared for years in the ARRL Antenna Book. (I first saw it in my 1974 edition [2] and it was still shown in the 1997 edition [3].)

W9SCH wrote a couple of articles about this antenna for SPRAT  and appears to have coined the term, “Up and Outer.” In the first SPRAT article [4], Rock suggested using 1/4 wave elements for the lowest band and feeding it with either coax (for single band operation) or balanced line (for multi-band operation). In a follow-up article [5], Rock suggests pruning the horizontal element to equalize the current in the balanced feeder. He noted the imbalance when operating with the horizontal element close to ground. He started with 16-foot elements to cover 30-10 meters.

Another Hall of Famer, L. B. Cebik W4RNL (SK), wrote about a coax-fed version of this antenna for 10 meters [6]. Cebik built his antenna using aluminum tubing and referred to it as the “L Antenna.”

I also exchanged some correspondence years ago with Fred Bonavita K5QLF (SK), another QRP Hall of Famer and fan of the Up and Outer. He told me that W9SCH once mentioned using the copper ball from an old toilet float to top-load the vertical element of the antenna. I have never tried it but it does sound intriguing!

The "Up and Outer" antenna mounted on a 3rd-story deck in Corolla, North Carolina.
The “Up and Outer” antenna mounted on a 3rd-story deck in Corolla, North Carolina.

For me, the Up and Outer has turned out to be an ideal portable antenna to use while on vacation in a rented house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For several years I’ve used a 56-foot doublet with one wire supported by a 28-foot fiberglass telescopic mast and one 28-foot leg run horizontally. The vertical radiator is typically situated on a 3rd or 4th story wooden deck with the horizontal wire secured to a nearby tree or other support. For feedline, I use 25-feet of TV twinlead (the cheap brown stuff). Using either a homebrew Z-match tuner or an autotuner with a short run of coax to an external 4:1 balun, I’ve been able to use this antenna on 40-10 meters. Your mileage may vary. Depending on the transmatch you use, you might need to adjust the length of the feedline to get a good match on 40 meters.

"Up and Outer" feedpoint
“Up and Outer” feedpoint

I did some quick modeling of a typical Outer Banks installation using MMANA-GL and you can clearly see the results of the combined horizontal and vertical elements. The horizontal polarity (shown in blue) shows lobes perpendicular to the axis of the horizontal wire, similar to a dipole. The vertical polarity (shown in red) shows a fairly low take-off angle and exhibits some slight directivity on 40 meters in the direction of the horizontal wire. This effect is due to the proximity to ground of the horizontal element and diminishes as you go higher in frequency. So, try to mount the Up and Outer as high above ground as you can.

"Up and Outer" 40M pattern
“Up and Outer” 40M pattern
"Up and Outer" 30M pattern
“Up and Outer” 30M pattern
"Up and Outer" 20M pattern
“Up and Outer” 20M pattern

The modeling bears out my empirical results with the antenna. My version of the Up and Outer has worked very well for both stateside contacts and DX. In particular, it has been very effective for DX contacts on 30 meters. As an added bonus, the 56-foot doublet can also be pressed into service as a normal horizontal antenna in locations where the Up and Outer configuration isn’t possible. So, it’s like getting two antennas in one. Can’t beat that.

If you are looking for a limited-space antenna, give this obscure classic a try!

73, Craig WB3GCK

 

References:
1. McCoy, Lewis G. “A Limited-Space Antenna.” QST October 1960: pp 23-25. (Available in the ARRL online archives)
2. “The ARRL Antenna Book.” 13th Edition, 1974. Newington, CT. pp 187-188.
3. “The ARRL Antenna Book.” 18th Edition, 1997. Newington, CT. pp 7-15, 7-16.
4. Rockey, C. F. “Up and Outer.” SPRAT Issue #67: p 18.
5. Rockey, C. F. “A Four Band Up and Outer Antenna.” SPRAT Issue #69: p 16.
6. Cebik, L. B. “Whips, Tubes and Wires: Building a 10-Meter L Antenna.” QST December 1999: pp 52-54. (Available in the ARRL online archives)

© 2009-2017 Craig A. LaBarge

Outer Banks 2017

For our annual vacation this year, our extended family rented a house in the town of Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Of course, ham radio was a part of my week’s activities.

I’ve operated my QRP equipment from numerous beach houses over the past 20 years but this year highlighted the need to be flexible and adapt. Before I left for vacation, I looked at some pictures of the house online and did some aerial reconnaissance (Google Earth) to see where I might set up my radio and antenna.

I initially set up a 30-foot vertical on a 3rd-floor balcony on the front of the house. I ran my coax down to an unused bedroom on the 1st floor. That was a great place to operate but the noise levels were horrendous. My vertical was a bit too close to some electronics (TVs, WiFi equipment, etc.). I made one contact before taking down the antenna and moving on to Plan B.

After studying the back of the house (furthest away from all of the electronic gadgets), I decided to go with a 53-foot wire in an inverted L configuration. I ran the wire vertically along a wooden deck up to the 3rd floor. From there, I ran the wire out horizontally to a Jackite pole strapped to a volley ball net. The last 6 feet or so of wire ran back down the Jackite pole. So, I guess it was technically an “inverted J.” Whatever you want to call it, it served me well. I still had some intermittent noise issues but it was more manageable than before.

This is a view of the rear of the house showing how I supported my inverted L. The wire ran up the side of the deck and out to the Jackite pole strapped to the volley ball net. The last 6 feet or so ran down the Jackite pole. So, technically, it was more of an inverted "J" than an "L."
This is a view of the rear of the house showing how I supported my inverted L. The wire ran up the side of the deck and out to the Jackite pole strapped to the volley ball net. The last 6 feet or so ran down the Jackite pole. So, technically, it was more of an inverted “J” than an “L.”

I fed the antenna through a 9:1 unun with an 18-foot run of coax going in through a nearby window. My KX3 was wedged into the corner of a ground floor bedroom.

This is a homebrew 9:1 unun at the feedpoint of my antenna. The wire went up vertically about 23-feet before extending out horizontally to the Jackite pole.
This is a homebrew 9:1 unun at the feedpoint of my antenna. The wire went up vertically about 23-feet before extending out horizontally to the Jackite pole.

On the air, this impromptu antenna worked surprisingly well. It was especially effective on 40 and 30 meters. If I ever get bored enough someday, I might model it to see what it looks like on paper.

My “cozy” operating position next to a foosball table. If you look carefully, you can see the 9:1 unun through the window.
My “cozy” operating position next to a foosball table. If you look carefully, you can see the 9:1 unun through the window.

The bands were pretty flakey this week but I managed to make contacts every day. I fell into the pattern of getting on 40 meter CW early in the morning then doing some PSK-31 on 40 meters in the evening. I had some nice CW rag chews and worked some Carribean and South American DX on 40M PSK-31.

One notable highlight was working Joe N2CX who was doing Parks on the Air (POTA) activations in Canada. Despite the lousy band conditions, I worked him at three different parks. I worked two of the parks on two bands and one of them on three bands.

We had some thunderstorms and heavy rain on our last day there, so I took the antenna down and packed up the radio stuff a little earlier than I wanted to.

It was a fun week in North Carolina and we’re already looking at houses for next year. You can bet that I’ll be ready with several antenna options. You just never know what to expect.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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