Thursday, 2 February 2017

More indignity, MM0CUG mast and what to do in February

I like to illustrate this blog with suitable photographs.

The image I just took perfectly reflects the latest developments here. Sadly I am not going to show it as it may trigger the "skin tone" decency filters in some systems. Yes, I know you have your filters set so that you should not accidentally see an image with too much flesh.

The photo in question shows a hairy FVM leg with a nasty gash in it. You should just imagine how gruesome that would look, even without the injury.

Yesterday I managed, again, to fall off the steps during an antenna swapping exercise. Not far to fall, only a three step height, but enough to cut, bruise and strain all sorts of things. I ended up in the flower bed and unable to move. I eventually had to use my mobile phone to ring Mrs FVM to come and pull me vertical again. At least this time she was here, last time I got stuck she was in London.

This was a silly fall, and was basically due to the damp conditions. Grrr.

I'll spare you the photo. It reminded me of my first proper job, working in a photo-finishing laboratory for £7.00 per week. I was in charge of the interneg machine, a device which copied transparencies. We did work for the pathology laboratory and the coroner, and I spent many happy hours re-photographing photographs of dead and mangled bodies. Wonderful grounding in the art of photography.
After the previous unwelcome intervention of gravity I decided to convert my second mast to tilt-over so that I could work from the ground. As a result I should not need to climb very far, but of course I still need to get the co-ax fed through into the house.

The MM0CUG mast has not been without its issues. To some extent I blame myself for not specifying a steel mast. I went for aluminium which tends to flex rather a lot in the wind. He gives the option of either steel or aluminium, but aluminium is cheaper.

Gary set it up as he usually does, with a lot of slack to allow the mast to be tilted sideways when lowered - apparently that is important for some users. The snag is that here is it so windy that the mast had a habit of tilting whilst being lowered. Then the cable got stuck on the pulley. At that point everything ground to a halt with the mast at a crazy angle and nothing for it but for me to climb up and apply heavy blows with a hammer whilst supporting the mast with my other hand.

After a lot of tinkering that problem is under control but I need to do more tightening and adjusting to get it entirely right.

Then the other pulley, which feeds the wire which raises the inner section of the mast, broke. Fortunately that happened with the mast fully lowered. Gary called in at some stage either late last night or early this morning and left a replacement pulley at our front door.
Broken pulley, left, replacement pulley, right
Gary has explained that he thinks he received a faulty set of pulleys. He tells me that the new ones are now welded in four places rather than two, and now painted to resist corrosion. Apparently after seeing my pulley, which at the time had been here for 2 months waiting for the installation, he had already decided to improve the weatherproofing. Certainly the new one looks better able to resist the conditions here which include both high winds and salty air from the nearby North Sea.

It only took me half an hour to install the new pulley. I was then able to extend the mast for the first time. The 6 metre band antenna is at about 6 metres above ground when the mast is lowered. I raised it a few metres, and in theory it should go up to about 11 metres when fully extended. Rest assured, a photo of that event will be featured here when it happens.
Ah February. Statistically the coldest month of the year here. As I write it is 8 degrees C, and scheduled to be 11C tomorrow. So it is unseasonably warm this year. There is still plenty of time for snow and gales this Winter.

It has been said that February is the worst month of the year for the VHF enthusiast too. Certainly, seasonal Es is a long way off, and Meteor Scatter is at its weakest. Meteor Scatter QSOs are possible all year, but they are harder and take longer at this time. We might get some tropospheric lifts or auroras, but that is unpredictable.

I read a book which suggested that February should be the month for getting your antennas ready for the season which is about to start. I have been shuffling the antenna pack, or at least when I can keep my feet on the ground I have.

Amongst other things I moved my 2 metre band vertical, leaving my Ecoflex co-ax hanging. I could bind it up and weatherproof it until I was ready to make more use of it, or just give in and put the 2m yagi back. So I put the 2m yagi back up. Take the line of least resistance.

The thing is, the arrival of the Kenwood TS-590 shows I am moving nearer getting the 2 metre band sorted out. That rig has not only fulfilled my HF and 6 metre needs, it is standing ready for the 2m transverter which would complete the process. But the treasury is empty and I cannot afford to take another step yet. At least the 2m antenna is up and ready.

I am getting there. Using February to get the antennas sorted out is a good plan.

Whether you are considering using a long wire or combating radio frequency interference, or just trying to feed in some co-ax while standing on some steps - please stay grounded.



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