A Communicator Reprise
I want to share my experience with those of you who have recently passed their test and are looking for that perfect HF antenna that will suit their “New Shack” at their home location. My thoughts were focused on an antenna that would cover as many of the Ham bands as possible, that could be hidden on my apartment patio deck. I did, as most of you will, a lot of reading on the subject and eventually chose a Current Loop Antenna that was the rave in the UK and it set me back about $350 with shipping and tax. I set it up on my patio and I started to tune through the Ham bands and hardly heard a thing, I mean that, apart from static and a couple of stations, one in Alaska talking to a fellow in California, I heard nothing. I was beginning to think that there was something wrong with my radio, a brand new Icom 7100 and John Brodie very kindly invited me to his home and we attached my radio to his antenna. The radio immediately jumped to life with more stations than I could count. I tried several CQ calls and was rewarded with a reply from South Carolina some 2600 miles away, on 70 watts. What a thrill that was. Now knowing that my radio was in perfect shape, I again started to search for the perfect antenna.
Having proved that my radio was fine, I took the current loop antenna apart and put it where the proverbial squirrel stores his winter supplies and started looking for another antenna. I found an antenna called “The Tarheel Antenna” this is a motorized multi band antenna with excellent ratings, it is a mobile Antenna that I could mount to my patio railing and also mount it on my vehicle for away from home outings. Well, although I could hear more stations compared to the Current loop, they were so far below the noise level that they were not useful at all. Having spent another $700 plus on the Tarheel I still did not have a working antenna. All of the successful Hams will tell you that your success is based on Antenna, Antenna, Antenna.
I have reached the conclusion that my location is in a null zone created by the apartment blocks in which I live. The HF Spectrum is a fickle thing sent to try us. Imagine, if you will, a letter L reversed, the bottom leg runs North South and the vertical leg runs East West, the vertical leg being south of the bottom leg. I live on the East side of the bottom leg on the second floor, rite in the corner created by the bottom leg and the vertical leg. My location is protected by both of the apartment blocks.
My mistake was trying to buy the antenna that would cover the most HAM bands as possible, right up front, before checking to see if there were any signals at all. My advise to you and the whole reason for this small article, is to choose an antenna that covers one band, lets say the 20 meter band. Try to buy the cheapest antenna you can find, within reason, try to stay away from the Chinese antennas, they are usually of very poor quality.
Put up the antenna at night if you are like me and live in an apartment, if you live in a house you will have a lot more room to play with than apartment dwellers. If you can hear contacts that are well above the noise level, have fun and start to build your log book. If like me, you hear little or nothing, you have just saved yourself a ton of money. Buying antennas can be very expensive as I have found to my sorrow.
I have not, however given up. There are lots of opportunities as a mobile station with my Tarheel antenna and setting up, as in the Field Day event, in a park with a long wire antenna. In my opinion, the whole idea of being a HAM is to have as much fun as possible with what you have and I certainly intend to do so.
~ Robert VA7FMR
Since this article was published, Robert has solved his apartment antenna issues. Check out the November-December 2019 issue of 'The Communicator for his solution. It will be posted here November 1st. - Ed.