Part 1: QRP Activator Chat with N9MM and The Old Timer

Hey its so great to run into you guys. I feel honored to be in the presence of such Wisdom.

Old Timer: Relax, its nothing. We are you, but have just been around a lot longer. Age matters you know. Before long your kids will be grown up and gone. And you and XYL will be sitting in your quiet, empty house wondering what to do with yourselves. Your shack wall will be full of certificates, including a DXCC Honor Roll plaque. Then you’ll just reinvent your ham life just as Norm has. Simple as that.

Geez I hope so. The quiet part sounds really good right now with the kids off from school. It would be nice to do some Activations, but that isn’t going to happen with the family obligations.

Norm, I’ve been watching you do your activations. I struggle to get 10 QSOs, and I read where you sometimes get 44 within 30 minutes. That’s crazy.

Old Timer: You know, the key to working lots of stations is to make sure stations can hear you. Simple as that.

N9MM: I do everything I can to get the best signal on the air as possible. First I run 100 watts, and wish I could run more. Maybe someday. Next, I use the Best Antenna I know for portable operations. To me the Best Antenna is the one that puts out a good signal at a relatively low angle of radiation, even if it is more work to set up and change bands. This forces me into fewer band changes, which isn’t all bad. Easier for Hunters to find me. Plus, high ground matters. Sometimes I find a location with huge drop offs to the east and northeast to Europe. Those always work out well.

Lots of people are using end feed wires. Do you have any experience with them?

N9MM: No not really. I’ve modeled them, and I don’t like what the models say. The end is very high impedance in the range of 2000-3000 ohms and that’s hard to match. And then I got to see a side-by-side comparison with W5MIG’s. He doesn’t use his anymore if that says anything. But they are convenient if that is what you are looking for.

That was some trip with you and Jerry. How did that happen?

N9MM: No kidding. I love hanging out with Good Guys, and Jerry is certainly one of those. Randy, N6MMA too. He and I had a great time too. In both cases, they were the result of just chatting over the air, and figuring out how to hook up.

You were out on the solar eclipse day with Randy weren’t you?

N9MM: Yeah, that day was something with all the activity on the band. Randy made over 300 QSOs in five or six hours. That was fun to watch. He hasn’t been the same since I don’t think. Probably when he became a Vertzilla groupie.

N9MM: Randy and I did a little antenna testing too. I had a 20m dipole in the attic back home and had made comparisons with the vertical antenna. Interestingly, the vertical almost always beat it which I kind of expected because the radiation angle of a 20’ high dipole isn’t very good. Then during the trip back east last spring a friend give me seven of those five-foot poles to use with the RV. So Randy and I erected the 35’ of mast, which had a small side arm and pully, and raised an inverted vee. To our surprise the dipole was so noisy from local power line noise that is wasn’t usable. The few signals we did hear didn’t enough real evidence, but the vertical did seem to be better. Later I realized that Randy and I hadn’t been careful with the vee’s orientation, and it may have had its ends pointing east/west instead of north/south. Maybe that was the reason the vertical was better.

I thought vertical antennas were more noisy than horizontal ones.

N9MM: Certainly wasn’t the case there. Maybe it was because there was more capture area that for the vertical. I don’t know. But the vee was too noisy to use, and we made several hundred contacts on Vertzilla.

Wow, not what I would have expected.

N9MM: Me either.

Have you repeated the test?

N9MM: Yes, Jerry and I set the mast and vee up again. This time, the noise level was still higher on the vee, but it was usable. Plus we had the orientation NW/SE so we were sure it was broadside NE. After a bunch of receiving comparisons is was a mixed bag, each having stronger signals at times. They were connected to the two antenna inputs on the K3 which made for easy switching.

Did you see any difference on transmit?

N9MM: Again yes. I did a number of on air A/B comparisons, and they were mixed, but in the end, I used Vertizalla because it heard better with less noise. And I think that more saw advantage in favor of the vertical.

I always thought that a dipole was supposed to beat verticals because of ground reflection gain. Are you going to do any more testing?

N9MM: Maybe, but it would have to be in a better controlled environment where we weren’t wasting on-air time in a park. Maybe at K5IU’s house in Prosper [ed. TX]. But twice I have set up both, and twice I ended up operating on the vertical. That says something in itself.

So it seems like you are going to stay with Vertizalla?

N9MM: Until I find something better. I like Jerry’s version better where he uses a push up mask to support quarter wave wires. That configuration would allow me to run more power if that day ever comes. Plus it is more efficient, especially on 40m.

…to be continued

Written by Norman Myers, N9MM. Used With Permission.