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  • Bruce H. McIntosh
    Visit my work homepage
    Last revised Jan 04, 2021

    Invisible airwaves crackle with life
    Bright antennas bristle with the energy

    Amateur Radio

    Memorial Day, 2003 Portable Operation

    My first test of the portable quad (and a dry run for Field Day, to figure out what I need to add to my "grab and go" kit) was an evening of 6 meter dx-chasing from the sunny shores of the Gulf of Mexico at Indian Rocks Beach,Florida. My father in law helped me erect the quad on its 12' PVC tower (16' was the original design height, but it failed rather spectacularly during a dry run at the inlaws' house),and I settled in for a lovely afternoon of sun,sand,static and occasional band openings.

    The saga begins (well, and ends too, as I got pretty sunburned and the kids spent all day on Sue's sister's boat and were tired so we didn't get back to the beach on Monday...) the Sunday before Memorial Day,in my inlaws' driveway. After I cut a couple hundred feet of braided nylon rope into 20+' lengths to use as guys,it was time to try erecting the thing.

    Note: thanks to my lovely wife Susan for snapping the beach pictures!
    We got the 16' PVC tower up by itself,tied off the guys at the appropriate lengths so we'd just have to hook the ends over the tent stakes at the beach,then knocked it down and mounted the quad. That's when I realized that using 1-1/4" pipe instead of the 1-1/2" that the article had recommended was a bad thing.

    Unfortunately there wasn't a third warm body there to photograph the debacle as Ray (my father in law) and I scrambled to support the quad before it dashed itself to pieces as the insufficiently-rigid mast bent into a lovely U shape,just before one of the screw-together pipe joints stripped its threads and let go with a sharp bang,smacking me in the chest and raising a nice welt in the process. A strategic retreat to the 12' height you see demonstrated above turned out to be just the ticket. For Field Day,I'll most likely switch from a PVC mast to a steel one. Lowes sells 5' chunks of ChannelMaster mast for a reasonable price; I'll pick up 5 of them and cut them down to 4' (again, so they fit in the trunk of Sue's Honda). I've alredy got some slip-collar guy-wire mounts that'll fit the mast,and some rope-climbing clips for the ends of the guys that will snap onto the holes in the mounts.

    After hooking everything up and verifying that it all worked (with the quad pointed south I could hear some stuff going on down in Miami on 6),I broke it all down and packed for the drive over to the beach. The radios (an MFJ-9406 for 6 meters and the Yaesu FT-2500M out of the car for 2 meter FM),two 7AH 12V sealed batteries scavenged from a UPS,and enough cables and jumpers to hook everything up (or so I thought at the time) went into a duffel bag. The antenna and mast wound up in a bundle no bigger than a good-sized two man tent. I need to find a canvas bag big enough to hold it.

    A couple of folding chairs made for a compact QTH. The MFJ was powered by a car-lighter adapter alligator-clipped to the terminals of one of the UPS batteries. I was powered by the tasty subs that Sue stopped at Publix and purchased on her way out to the beach. Unfortunately,about halfway through hacking some coax and 300-ohm twinlead into a quick-and-dirty J-pole for the Yaesu,I discovered that I had only brought one set of alligator clips. Therefore,I could only run one radio at a time,and since I didn't want to miss any potential opening on 6,the 2 meter rig sat silent on the lawn chair. (Note to self: bring more power hookups next time, and finish the J-pole before the next outing!). As you can see,the quad looked out over a lovely section of Indian Rocks Beach,with happy beachgoers on all sides. A fair number of said beachgoers just had to wander over,point up at the quad,and say,"Just what the heck is that thing anyway?" Upon which I would launch into a short spiel on the fun and virtue of amateur radio!

    After some fruitless stretch of time,with openings snapping up and falling down faster than I could key the mic,I finally got through a pileup and worked a fine chap or two in Chicago,which accounts for the self-satisfied smirk that accompanies the rather itchy sunburn in the first photo. Alas,though,all good things must come to an end,and so as the sun went down,so did the beachfront QTH. Everything bundled back up and into the trunk of the Honda (Ray's this time, because Sue had to take her grandmother home),a tired but happy ham headed back for the inlaws' for some dessert.