Last week, I walked my North American Beverage RX antenna with my son, taking him hiking in the jungle for the first time. He is always fearful of wasps, so I was gentle with him and only went where I knew we would find none, and also showed him some of the World War 2 stuff I’ve found over previous months. I did take a peek at the other antennas, and all looked fine.
A few days later, 7Q7GM came on the band, but I only was able to hear them for one CQ cycle right at my sunrise – something didn’t seem right – so I went back into the jungle to check. I happened to find two problems that ended up taking three of my four Beverages out of commission.
My four Beverages cross in three places – the EU wire crosses my NA and AF wires, and my AF wire crosses over the SA wire. At all junctions, I ensure the wires are separated by at least one foot, and cross at as close a 90 degree angle as possible to eliminate interaction. One problem was apparently immediately – my South American antenna broke, and the bare copper clad wire had laid across my African antenna, making contact. This was disheartening since my SA antenna passes through very dense foliage and I’ve had lots of bad wasp experiences there. In fact, since I installed the antenna last year, I’d not been through the area once, not really caring if it got overgrown. Now, I would have no choice!
First, I walked my European antenna, and quickly found that a large branch had fallen out of the jungle canopy, pinning the wire to the ground. This was an easy repair. All my Beverages “float” and are not pinned at the insulators. The copper clad steel is very strong also. The branch removed, the antenna bounced back into its original position, unbroken.
With my European antenna fixed, it was time to do the inevitable – clear my South American wire and repair the break, wherever it was. Armed with my machete and wasp spray, I was off.
I found the break, which of course was very close to the termination. It looks like I allowed the wire to get kinked during installation, causing a weak point. Fortunately – no wasps! All antennas now are working – for now – and will hopefully stay up through the CQWW DX CW contest weekend. It turns out that I was never able to copy 7Q7GM, nor could he hear me – this would have been a new zone for me on 160m. I suspect the higher SFI is causing a lot of absorption on Top Band, especially along the equator. I’ve been able to work Scandinavia most mornings, so I suspect this absorption is worse on the southern paths. This may make my remaining zones on 160m more difficult to work.