Similar to January last year, Karen and I are going to rove in North Carolina again. In preparation for this rove, we have been busy doing some antenna work. Thanks to some time spent in some of the local Home Depot stores, we have found several sizes of metallic tubing that will telescope inside each other. So, the "Up Periscope" refers to being able to raise the antennas at each stop via home brew push-up masts.
Last January we had our first experience with roving with the current antennas where everyone is some distance away. One of the lessons we took away from that rove is that antenna gain really counts for those long haul contacts. So, at the urging of my driver (my wife Karen), plans were made to improve the antennas to be able to squirt more RF into the ether. Unfortunately, the Subaru doesn't have a lot of real estate for longer or bigger antennas. So, the only way to go is to go up - Up Periscope!
As I mentioned above, after spending some time at Home Depot, we found three sizes of tubing that telescope within each other rather well. Making life interesting was the fact that these three sizes of tubing come from different departments in the store. Without further ado, here are the sizes:
These three sizes of tubing nest together very nicely. There is a little bit of slop, but it is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it makes the pieces slide more smoothly than if they had a snug fit. All sizes come in 10' lengths (~3 meters) and the top rail has a swage on one end allowing several pieces to be placed end-to-end with no coupling needed. (We had been looking unsuccessfully for several years for EMT that would nest but only when we discovered that top rail tubing would be perfect for the in-between size, did we find the missing key.
At the end of the exercise, we raised the stowed height of the antenna farm to about 11 1/2' over the pavement (about 16" higher than before). In the extended position, the 6 meter halo will be about 23' (~7 meters) high and the 1296 looper will be about 15' high (~4.5 meters). Some inital tests showed that raising the 6m loop gains about 1 S-unit and raising the other antennas does make a noticible difference.
With this new arrangement, the mode of operation will be to drive to an operating site, stop and raise the antennas, operate for a while, then lower the antennas and head for the next site. In an interesting way, this brings us full circle back to when we first got started in roving. Back then, it was a little more involved - when we got to a site, we had to physically assemble the antennas, raise them and then operate. When finished operting, we lowered them, took 'em apart and headed off (see our previous description of the Gray, Tennessee hamfest in 1999). However, a slight departure from those times - the antennas are now assembled already and only have to be raised and lowered via the push-up mast. In additon, since they will still be on the vehicle, we can operate while in motion.
Last year, we completely underestimated the driving distances between our planned stops. This year, we hope to be a little bit more realistic. On Thursday, we will drive down to our place on Oak Island, NC and spend Friday stocking up on supplies and attending to the last minute details.
We will leave the Oak Island QTH early in the morning and drive up to the Cedar Island Ferry, FM15ua and start the contest there. The ferry site (actually the boat ramp right next to the ferry) has a pretty good shot to the northeast and we hope to hear some of our friends there.
Leaving the ferry, we will cross the grid line and operate from the backyard of a friend in FM14ux. This site also has a good shot to the northeast, and being only about a mile from the ferry, we expect to work many of the same people we worked previously at the ferry. Leaving the waterfront, we will head southwest towards another ferry terminal, this time at Fort Fisher, FM13ax. Shortly after leaving the boat ramp, we will drive along a marsh road which will have visibility towards the west. If the conditions are dry and there are stations to work, we will be able to pull off the road onto the marsh and operate.
The operating site at Fort Fisher is surrounded by water on several sides and has an excellent shot to the south. However, it does play to the west and north also. Last year, we were able to complete contacts on all 5 of our bands with K4QI in FM06ja, a distance of ~185 miles (~300 km).
By the time we expect to be done at Fort Fisher, the ferry to Southport will have finished its schedule for the day. Thus, to get back to Oak Island, we will have to drive back north, loop through Wilmington and go south to Oak Island via FM14 and FM04 ending up in FM03ww for the night.
Getting up bright and early (!) on Sunday morning, we will go down to the Town Beach on Oak Island and start the contest from FM03vv. Interestingly enough, the waterfront (Atlantic Ocean) on Oak Island runs east/west, so the good shot is almost due south from there. Southwest is not too bad either! Leaving the waterfront, we know of a little spot still on Oak Island that has a shot to the northeast, so we might stop there for a little while and see how that site plays.
After making noise in FM03 we will head north to the grid corner of FM04/05/14/15. On a scouting trip in December we scoped out some sites in that general area, one in each grid. That area is mostly farm country, so we tried to pick spots with some sort of take-off to the northwest figuring to pick up some activity in the Rahleigh/Durham and maybe Charlotte areas.
After we are finished at the grid corner, we don't have any firm plans. If anyone has any good ideas, please send them to us. Otherwise, we will return to Oak Island.
We will try to stay around 144.200 or 144.232 for the trip. From there, we will QSY as needed. Please see Equipment Lineup below for our band coverages and capabilities.
Information on most locations can be found on the N2MH Rovesite Locator Page. Most sites for this rove are new for us, so we don't know how well they will play.