Monday, 27 September 2010

Failure

Things didn't go as planned today - after I thought I'd got the FT-817's power cable sorted (it was working last night when I tried it in the car), it stopped working again on the summit of Tal Y Fan (GW/NW-040). I'd carried the Watson W50, poles and 9 element 70cm yagi up there, and now that the FT-817 wasn't working, they were useless. If only I'd not left the SO-239 to SMA connector in the car...
Well I managed to do the activation with my 2m/70cm and 4m handhelds. The 4m handheld is definitely better with its new Garex flexi whip. Probably not as efficient as a 2m handheld though.
When I got back to the car I tried the 817 with a different power cable and it still didn't work, the plug wouldn't even stay in. Time to change the FT-817's power socket I think.
Next stop was the Great Orme where I set up about 5pm. Not having a working FT-817, I tried running the FT8900 from the car on my 11.1v 4Ah LiPo battery. The mobile rig worked with no problems, I kept the power at 10 watts but even with 35 watts on 70cm nothing bad happened. I might start using a 50 watt mobile rig out portable with 2 of these batteries (one for standby). As long as you don't spend lots of time calling CQ with no reply, you only need about 5 minutes of transmit time to make the minimum 4 QSOs for a SOTA activation. You might not need the full 50 watts for each contact either, only a couple of difficult ones. It's a light way to get 10dB more transmit gain as something like an FT1500 doesn't weigh much more than a handheld and will fit in a large pocket.
I set up the 9 element 70cm yagi and W50 at the Great Orme summit (western end of the car park). This was the first time I'd tried the yagi. I called CQ a bit and put a spot on Sotawatch for myself. There were no replies. Monday teatime isn't a good time. I plugged in the W50 and had a tune around. GB3MP at S1? Something wrong there. No I hadn't plugged the 70cm antenna back in by mistake. I took the coax plug out so the braid was disconnected, MP was now up to S5. The coax had been damaged inside, when I moved it about the signal was changing and actually went up to S9 for a second before going back to S1.
... so even had the FT-817 worked or I'd brought the SMA adaptor up Tal Y Fan, I would still have carried the antennas up there for nothing as they wouldn't have worked.
The 70cm yagi was working properly at Great Orme because it was on its own 2m long N - N cable (both antenna and rig have N connectors). With the FT-817 I'd have used the 5m long RG58 cable I used with the W50.
As it was only a 20 second walk back to the car, I went back and got a 2m long PL259 - BNC cable which could go from the W50 to a BNC-N adaptor on the FT8900. This cable and adaptor is part of my mobile antenna system, so I wouldn't normally have carried it up a hill.
The cable was a bit short but I just taped the FT8900 to the fence to get it above the ground. I had the remote head on a cable so it didn't matter where the main bit was.
I couldn't tell any difference between the yagi and the W50 on 70cm, even in the proper direction. Maybe the extra height (it would have about 80cm more average height above ground than the yagi) made up for the difference in gain. I'll have to check the SWR of the yagi when I get home. Both antennas were on similar lengths of RG58 coax and the yagi had only N connectors in the signal path.
On 145 MHz I managed to get the 4 QSOs I needed before I'd had enough and went to get some tea.

Tomorrow I plan to activate NW-076. What could possibly go wrong?

I'll get some pictures from today on another time, but here are a few from yesterday:

Sandpiper 23cm yagi on summit of Foel Fennli


Moel Famau from Foel Fennli


Moel Y Parc TV mast, taken from Halkyn Mountain.


Beef curry, boiled rice, chicken & sweetcorn soup. From somewhere in Mold. For 20% less than Barrow prices. It's like £5.60 in Barrow for an average meal and £4.40 round there. I went to this place in Ellesmere Port and it was also in the £4.40 region.

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