Low band antenna maintenance

I spent some time yesterday clearing branches away from my 80/160m ladder line vertical. The tree is seemingly conductive, especially when wet, which is most of the time here on Guam. I’ve had trouble with arcing when branches have contacted the vertical section, making repairs difficult because I have to pull the antenna down through the center of the tree to get to the damaged section.

When pulling down branches, I head a loud BUZZZ in my ear. Fearing the worst, I dropped everything and ran away as fast as I could. I tentatively walked back slowly, looking for wasp nests. They can be very difficult to find!

There is a wasp nest in this photo!

It took me a while, and then I finally saw it – the wasps were huge – about 2-3cm in length. I’ve seen these nests in the jungle, and usually they are not aggressive like the smaller Boonie wasps that tear me up along my South American Beverage.

Apparently, I hit the nest accidentally with one of the branches I was pulling down. I’m never far from a can of Raid when doing antenna work for this very reason, and I was able to complete my work as soon as the wasps were taken care of.

Antenna feed point showing vacuum relay and hairpin coil for matching on 160m.
After clearing branches, I have a clear shot up through the tree, for a couple weeks anyway.
This is the top of the vertical, showing the single wire 160m top loading wires, and the 160/80m section of ladder line.
This diagram shows the layout of this antenna. The TEE top on 160 prevents horizontal radiation I would otherwise have if left in an inverted L configuration for Top Band.

Last night, I worked VK9HR on Lord Howe Island for a new DXCC country on 160m both CW and SSB. I wishing ST0R comes just as easily!