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“The Best 15 contacts I’ve ever had, and the most fun I’ve ever had in a contest as a ham!” – Trippy Brown, AC8S.

Posted by gm4uls on November 20, 2015

Visually impaired ham Harry ‘Trippy’ Brown contributes the following guest article. He uses a ‘snake antenna’, not unlike the one I describe here.
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As I write this, it’s just after midnight, on Sunday November 8, 2015.

This week, I decided to participate in the ARRL Sweepstakes cw contest, but using my own station.

Now I live in an apartment with severe antenna restrictions. Even though there are 10 floors, my apartment is on the 2nd floor, 1 floor above the manager’s office, and my balcony faces the parking lot, so, everybody who comes in, unfortunately, can see my antenna, if it is hanging below the balcony floor.

So, what to do?

I decided to buy a piece of rg213 coax. This is not the thinner rg8X coax, this is the hard line coax, so it’s a bit wider in diameter, but you get more power through that kind of coax.

So, I ordered a 25 foot section from Ham Radio Outlet, the Delaware store. Ken, and Roy, are just fantastic to deal with, I recommend them, highly!

So, I ordered the coax, knowing full well that 25 feet would be too long, because it would hang down, even below the balcony floor, where it would be seen.

So, when it got here Friday, I got out the best tool that I have in my tool box, and that tool? A pair of wire cutters, which cuts wire, and coax, even through rg213!

So, at 3 am on Saturday morning, I measured from the connection where my coax plugs into the adapter cable for coax, and that adapter cable plugs into my Elecraft kx3 at the other end.

When nobody was around outside to see me, using the greatest tool I ever bought, and that is, a braille 3 foot yard stick, I measured from there, outside to the edge of my balcony, and then, measured from the top of the balcony, down to where the bottom of the balcony floor is. It came out to just about 18 feet 6 inches.

I hung the piece of coax over the balcony, and bent down, and found the spot that was right on the bottom of the balcony floor. I wrapped my fingers around that spot on the coax. Then, I came back into the apartment, got out the wire cutters, and cut the coax, right at that spot, no separating the shield from the braid, I just cut the coax!

Since I didn’t want anyone to see me putting up the antenna during the day, I hung it over the balcony, then I closed my screen door, and the storm door to where they touched the coax, and went to bed. I thought, “after all this work, I sure hope this antenna works tomorrow.

Yesterday afternoon, 2100 UTC arrived, and the big moment was here, the moment I was waiting for!!

I turned on the power supply, and turned on the rig!

Now the Elecraft kx3 is a 12 watt radio on high power. I use a box called the HAMPod, built by Rob Santello. This box tells me everything on the rig, even signal strength, and power! I’ve never had a rig that would tell me how much power I was running till now.

I remembered that there was a category called qrp, meaning low power, for those would be hams who don’t know what that means. People love to work everyone and get points, but they really like working qrp stations because from what I hear, you get more points if you work them.

I wondered, “I wonder if this thing will let me run QRP, and if I can get anyone on this 5 watt rig, running a nontraditional antenna?”

So, now that I had a talking box to tell me when I turned down the power, I did so, to 5 watts, and sure enough, the HAMPod told me when I pressed a key on the front of the unit “5.0 w”.

Now I haven’t worked qrp since 1978, when I used a borrowed heath kit hw8, running a 15 meter coaxial dipole, a traditional antenna, and that got out fantastically, but who knows if this nontraditional antenna would get out at all, with all the concrete, steel, and aluminum on my balcony.

I decided to start on 10, because I knew that band would fade out first, so, I wanted to work as many contacts on that band as I could, first.

I started at 28.001, and worked my way up. I heard my first station, w7rn, who was just blasting in, at an S9. How did I know that? The ham pod even reads signal reports!

I tuned up the rig, using the KXAT3 Wide-range internal automatic antenna tuner, and I’ve tried many tuners, manuals and auto tuners, and this one tunes up anything, even just a piece of coax!

I called him, and to my amazement, I heard my call come back to me! Now I’ve been a ham for over 38 years, and I still get excited when I hear my call sent back to me! He gave me his info, and I gave him mine, and my first contact was complete, and the ARRL section he was in? Nevada!

I worked some more on 10, then, switched over to 15 meters, and tuned up the rig, and heard a station, k5kg. I put my call out there, and again, I heard my call sign sent back to me. He gave me his info, and I gave him mine, and that contact was complete, and his ARRL section? South Texas, I needed that one, that was a new section for me!

I work 15 for a while, then, I went over to 20, and tuned up the rig, and looked for a station, and I found one, and what a contact this would turn into! It was n9rv. He heard me, and gave me his report, and I gave him my info, and the contact was complete, oh, and that ARRL section? a rare one, Montana!

Now I don’t have enough space for a piece of coax that would be long enough to work 40 and 80, but I’ll take what I can get!

So, how did I do? Here’s the totals:

contacts 15, sections 9, number of contacts:

11 on 10

3 on 15

1 on 20

Power used during the contest? Only 5 watts!

This truly, was the most fun I’ve ever had in a contest!

By the way, I’m a blind ham, and my antenna is called, the snake antenna, which was recommended to me by Paul, kg8ou, when I told him, about my antenna restrictions. It’s just a piece of coax, but no soldering necessary, it’s one antenna that a blind ham can build, I love them!! You can build them at whatever length you need, depending on how much room you have, and when you’re done, just pull the snake back inside you’re apartment, your home, your condo, wherever you have limited space, and you don’t want people to see it! It’s also great, because when you pull the snake antenna back inside the place you’re living in from outside, you have no problem with water or moisture ever getting in your coax!

And, oh, the concrete and steel on my balcony? It was no match for the snake, I got 15 contacts, and I’m on the east side of the building, and all the contacts? West and south west!

I sure look forward to using this snake, and if I ever get to live up on a higher floor, (I hope the 10th in this building), then, I’ll be up 80 feet, even higher than the 8 feet I’m up off the ground at the moment.

73 everyone, and I hope to work you on hf, in whatever contest! Just fire up that rig, and get on the air, and you can have this much fun as I’m having!

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