Tuesday 9 June 2015

Portable Pains

I have just returned from our traditional June caravanning holiday in the Lake District, last year I was buoyed with enthusiasm to have a go at some more portable operation after operating for the first time from the camp site during the 2m UKAC Contest with some encouraging results.

Indeed during the last twelve months I have done some more portable operating, but while VHF/UHF have been rewarding HF portable has been a mixed bag with at best satisfactory results, but then the same can be said of operating HF from home.

This year I planned to again operate in the 2m UKAC Contest but rather than working from the comfort of the caravan I was going to work from some higher ground near the camp site. Unfortunately the weather was awful with very strong winds gusting upward of 50mph and driving rain, even working from the caravan was a no go.

So rather than enjoying this view with a microphone in hand...

... this was the how I spent the evening and as you can see Eddie was equally impressed.


When the wind and rain subsided toward the end of the week we did have some nice weather so I decided to try some HF. I had taken just the M0CVO Magitenna end-fed wire and using a 9m fibreglass pole I tried operating with it as a vertical and as a sloper both with and without counterpoises and despite receiving some very big S9+ signals on a number of bands seemed to be incapable of making myself heard, I did make a number of contacts but many reported weak signals and stood little chance of working many of the special event station pile-ups.

It wasn't helped that on the first day the radiating element connector broke, which necessitated cutting it off and stripping back the wire. I suppose in retrospect I should have been expected it as there is no strain relief on this wire, unlike the loops on the other antennas in the M0CVO range, I rectified this with a few cable ties.

I was running the Yaesu FT857-D from a leisure battery and around 30W as I didn't wish to interfere with the TV reception as I knew most caravans would be using wide-band antenna amplifiers because of the poor coverage. Indeed the one time I did wind the power up to 100W one caravan mains breaker tripped out, it may have been coincidence but I didn't wish to put it to the test.

Despite the lack of performance it was great just sitting under the majestic Skiddaw and surrounding hills while I spent a few enjoyable hours operating. I even discovered one of my neighbours was also licensed, nice to meet you Joe (G4LIA)

It was frustrating from a contact point of view and I willingly accept I could be a bad workman so don't wish to blame my tools but I think some serious rethinking on a portable HF antenna is needed. I am away to Scotland next month for a week on the Isle of Skye and a week on Islay, this time in rented cottages and am hoping to make a QSO with the South Kesteven ARS on the club night.

Anyway that all has to wait as the launch of Eggsplorer-1 HAB and the GB2EGG Special Event Station are rapidly approaching.


jmac said...


My stuff takes a thrashing since I'm portable a lot of the time. There's no question, you have to have quality gear and take care of it. I've learned that lesson the hard way on so many occasions. Finding bad coax with corrosion, bad plugs, and, in my case, what I call piss-poor preparation. I kick myself along the beach every time it happens and it's fairly regularly. My problem is I don't take the time to check everything through before I go - well, that and I keep forgetting stuff too - lol.

Chin up! Get out and enjoy your /p whatever!

Anonymous said...

Hi Andrew,

I also caravan, operate portable a lot and am an Iain Banks fan (gutted he has passed).

I also over prepare on the annual trips taking far too much stuff due to never seeming to have the time to get everything done in a good time.
I typically cut a dipole for 80m, 40m, 20m and 15m - I use maplin hook up wire, and chocolate block connectors feeding the coax or balanced line. Then, when I arrive on site I work out what I want to do. Single dipole to work UK in the day, easy to put up and down. Fan dipoles a little more tricky to organise but I can keep it up and tune out the snarky comments.

If there is space I put up a full wavelength loop - 2 fishing poles, 1 pole and a tree, several trees I don't really care - just get it up as high as possible and feed it for vertical or horizontal polarlisation depending on my mood.

You notice a theme....everything is resonant and the essential tool I use is the analyser.

I am playing with verticals at the moment (centre loaded) in my garden, same fishing pole, same length of wire just more or less turns on the PVC loading coil and using matching networks at the bottom for the bands I am interested in.

I also carry a tuner or two with me...and a couple of UNUN/BALUNs with me as well just in case.

This has worked well in England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, France, Spain and apart from the fishing pole which is too long for cabin baggage I use a cut down version of the kit when I travel for work, main difference is that with work I tend not to take K2 but the 817....with the 817 it really does help to have resonant antennas.

Finally I carry 1 or 2 100m spools of the Maplin hookup wire....in case of breaks (almost always), but mainly in the vain hope I might be able to have the space for a topband loop or at least a long random wire as high as I can

Best of luck - 73 - David M0tfy