Aug 222010

Well… it seems my tinkering has paid off. This weekend was the weekend of the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend… and also a federal election.

On Tuesday, I bought a trailer for the bicycle … this is primarily so that I can transport groceries, etc… to home since I’ve got the place to myself for a few weeks and need to be independent. Being so low to the ground, the trailer is hard to see, so I made the decision to move the CB whip over to the trailer, not only does it now radiate a signal, but it also alerts drivers to the trailer’s presence.

I was up to 3AM figuring out how to mount this antenna on the trailer… but eventually I cobbled together a mounting, moved the homebrew autotransformer over, and hey presto… I had nailed the propagation and visibility problems all at once. SWR is still horrid with the CB whip on the trailer, but the autotransformer brings it down to a manageable <15:1 SWR, which the AT-897 can deal with easily.

On the way to the event, I had the station on 14.200MHz… I heard a Chinese station… a BT call, and also later, a New Zealand station. Didn’t make any contacts until I got to the Bulwer Island lighthouse (AU0003) where I made contact with VK5SR, Cape Jaffer Lighthouse (AU0007), registering a weak 53 signal.

On the way home this evening, I first started hunting for a 40m tap on the autotransformer… found one that gave me a 10:1 SWR on 7.080MHz… Okay, not great, but better than the >25 I’d get otherwise.

Around Bardon, I was hearing some VK7 stations, tried to make contact, but I was in amongst their noise floor. As I got to Ashgrove, I tuned around and heard VK3ARK, Cape Liptrap Lighthouse (AU0037). Managed to make contact, and initially registered a 56 signal, but quickly dropped off as I rolled down the hill towards St. John’s Wood… by the time I hit Royal Parade I had dropped off completely. They got that I was mobile, not sure about the bicycle bit… but never mind. 🙂

I travel to the end of the road, trying to put out a few calls, then when I join the bike path I pause, and have a tune around… a very loud signal on 7.145MHz just about blew me away. I listened for a bit as I cycled… it was Gary ZL3SV, in the South Island of New Zealand.

He was in contact with a US station in New Jersey at the time. I could just make out the US station, however Gary just about blew me off the bike… so I waited for a break and called in. 2 others also jumped in… VK4FMVC and VK3BOT. I was barely able to hear VK3BOT, couldn’t hear VK4FMVC (40m can be like that). Gary could hear me though… he was getting me a strong 58 signal. When I checked the S meter briefly, he was registering 59+. This was around 7:00PM (UTC+10).

I was doing 100W at the time… running off a 9Ah SLA battery. I suspect I’d be lucky if even half of that was being radiated by the CB whip… Gary mentioned he was using 200W into a 1500′ centre-fed sloper… undoubtedly an excellent system. I’ll have to see about sending a QSL card over to NZ. As I continued home, there was also a VK6 station that joined us on the frequency, however I didn’t get to make a contact there… and I was nearly home.

I don’t think I’ll make HF a regular habit on the bike, but I’ll consider doing it again sometime. I’ll also see if I can document the setup a bit more… as it’s showing a good deal of promise. This was one contact I really didn’t think I’d be able to make.