Antenna modification (with a little help from the wind)

I may have mentioned more than once that we live in a rather small apartment.  It’s the upstairs of a cape-cod-style home, which is shoe-horned onto a tiny corner lot.  The only trees are 4 old silver maples (often called swamp maples) scattered around the

Silver Maple (from Cornell)

Silver Maple (from Cornell)

front and side yards.  The maple directly opposite the window where my equipment resides is not very healthy.  This has both benefits and hindrances.  On the negative side, we have to watch the cars, because it rains tree limbs in windstorms.  On the plus side however, it makes it easy to shoot wires into the sturdier parts of the tree, and once a year, I get the most amazing crop of maitake mushrooms growing around the base (easily 12-15 pounds of them).  I’ve mentioned to the landlord that the whole thing will come down in the next superstorm we get, but he seems content to have it stand there for now, threatening the house and any cars parked in the vicinity.  For now, I decided to take advantage of the accessibly to the higher branches.

I threw a length of 16 ga wire up into the tree about a month or so ago, and connected the other end to my MFJ 941-D tuner.  I estimate the wire to be around 38 feet.  With this setup I have been able to tune up well on 20M and OK on 40M and 10M.  My holiday present from KD2CHE this year was an old Atlas 210X, in excellent operating condition.  This setup got me contacts in Florida, Michigan, Maine, Manitoba, Missouri, and Puerto Rico.  The morning after the crazy windstorm this past week, I was amazed to see that the random wire was still up.  That day however, the winds continued, and when I got home I discovered that Mother Nature seems to think that the best type of antenna for me is an inverted-L.  One of the smaller limbs that I had managed to throw the chunk of wood I tied the far end of the wire to, had snapped in the storm, but the wire simply dropped through the tangle of remaining branches, and now dangled about 8 feet off of the ground.

I had planned on fixing, and improving on this over this past weekend, but before I did, my son and I fired up the Atlas on Saturday morning.  The wind mod seemed to actually improve my performance on 10M, and had no effect on 20M.  I made contacts with Belgium, and Serbia on 20M, and started getting lots of 10M contacts from the Southwest, and one from Washington State.  Since it was the 10-10 Winter SSB contest weekend, I got my required 10 contacts easily, and joined 10-10 (76641).

I don’t want to put up anything more elaborate at this place.  With the resources available, and an antenna-phobic landlord, this is about as far as I can go.  Also, if all goes well, we won’t be there much longer.  The next place will have to be antenna-friendly.  I spent some time Sunday re-stringing the wire (now about 60 feet) through the old maple, and now over to a second maple at the end of our driveway.  A quick test showed it was still working, and got 2 more contacts in the Southwest.

Ham Radio on a Shoestring, While Living in a Shoebox.  Does that sound like a good book-title?

73 – W2NDG

Neil Goldstein, W2NDG, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New York, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “Antenna modification (with a little help from the wind)”

  • Richard KWØU:

    Good job. I worked over 200 DXCC, 20 phone, in a similar situation with a $3 dipole and 100W. Got as far as KC4AAA, VK6 and VU. (Now I’ve graduated to an attic dipole. Same wire, but I’m on top of a hill in MN–worked a 3B9 with it too.) Of course a couple of good cycles helped, but it’s amazing what you can do with very little. Just keep listening for the good stuff, and have fun Neil.

  • I would already have an antenna in the attic, but there is no access to it. It’s just a tiny crawl space I would guess at the peak of the cape-cod roof, but no access panels. If my downstairs neighbors weren’t such creeps, I could do something along the back fence, but no. That won’t go over so well.

    What’s funny is I can think back on the last several places I lived, and they all had good spots for a nice wire antenna. With the exception of the place in Jersey City, but the landlady there was a friend, and would have let me put up something on the roof I bet. Luck would have it that I finally got my license while living in this place.

  • Larry KG4ZAR:

    Neil your story should remind us all of the foundation of our hobby. Before the days of surface mounted micro size components and store bought multi-band,multi-element monster antennas, much of what our predecessors learned was by “happy accidents” like yours. Sometimes the simplicity of the natural world is our best elmer,if only we stop and listen.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good morning Neil, I too have some of what I call “condo cops” they like to run around and enforce any and every condo rule. They should get a hobby!!! Anyway I am lucky in that my attic is accessible and I was able to get a dipole up there and have done well with it both QRP and QRPp. It’s great to read how just a long wire up in a tree can yield good results. Keep us updated as to the antenna VS Maple tree goes.
    Mike

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