This activation was planned to test out some of the new equipment purchased the previous weekend at Friedrichshafen. Specifically the new mechanical IF filter in the FT-817, the new Aerial-51 404 Ultra-light wire antenna and my new DX-Wire 10m Mini-mast. As this was to be a test run, I did not “need” to go to a SOTA summit, however when the opportunity is there … Rentschen is one of the last two summits within 1 hr drive of where I’m living that I had not activated. When I took a look at the site via the SOTA mapping project, I was amazed to find that the summit is right on a roadway so I could drive-up park and then find a location a suitable distance away from the car to activate. I was only able to put up an alert the night before as the car became available when my wife changed her plans. I also posted a note to the SOTA Australia list, just in case I might be early enough to catch the end of the early morning long path window to VK on 20m (unfortunately this wasn’t to be, the conditions simply weren’t there but thanks to Paul VK5PAS and John VK6NU for listening).
As I could not locate and correct the failure in my Ramsey QRP amplifier that had occurred on Pfaender, I would have to do this activation “barefoot” with just the 5w from the FT-817.
The antenna and mast were exactly as bought, so I needed to add some cord to the antenna attaching it to the insulators at the ends of the dipole and on the balun case so that it could be tied to the mast. I first tried tying it to the top and second to top sections while still at home, however even extending the mast a metre showed that this would not work. Rick DJ0IP advised me on this mast to tie the balun to the fourth section down and indeed this is the point that the mast is able to carry the weight of the antenna without bending over. The new Yaesu (Collins) mechanical filter had already been installed and enabled, so all was ready for the following day.
As it turned out the route to Rentschen is an extension to the route I had previously taken to Kernberg and Ammerleite, so I only needed to concentrate on the last 10km or so of the route to make sure I took the correct turns. During the drive, the rain started and when I arrived at Rentschen a constant drizzle was coming down. I decided to hope for the best and do what I could in the rain. As it turned out, the rain only got heavy after I had packed up and left. I took a walk around the area and unfortunately there are only limited possibilities to support a mast. One area of open ground was so waterlogged that when one stepped on it, water came up about 2cm! If the ground was drier, it might have been possible to get to the edge of the forest but I had to make do with the telegraph or power poles that cross the area. Thinking of electrical safety I went with a Telegraph pole however this limited the height I could extend the new mast to 6m. Any way this would have to do. I found some large logs that served as a table and set up my equipment.
I decided to start on 20m in the hope that I might just manage a contact into VK. It was not to be the case however instead, it seems that the skip into the UK was just about right as I worked a stream of very loud UK stations one after the other. The FT817 audio was definitely easier to hear and close by strong stations did not give me the problems I have been having previously so I can say the money spent on the Yaesu 2.3KHz SSB IF filter appears to have been a good action. Before starting up on 20m I checked the reflected power on the FT-817 meter – nothing reflected and full power indicated as going out. This with the Aerial-51 antenna only at 6m (10m or more is recommended). Once the flow of calls on 20m dried up I decided to test the other reason I bought the 404-UL from Aerial-51, switching bands without having to lower the antenna, adjust the links and put it back up. As I have to do with my linked dipole. On checking the SWR on 40m, there was a little reflected power but nothing to worry about. It’ll be interesting to see if this also goes away on my next activation if I can get the mast erected to its full height.
At this point the rain was getting somewhat heavier, so I kept the contacts on 40m to a minimum and worked just 4 more contacts before packing up. One of these contacts was with Rick DJ0IP, the designer of the Aerial-51 404-UL antenna.
Here are some photos from the activation –
Aerial-51 404-UL asymmetric dipole
DX-Wire 10m “mini-mast”.
My opinion on the Aerial-51 antenna? The quality of build is very good and the wire used for the dipole legs is light but strong and does not appear to tangle easily (more than what can be said for the co-ax but this is the same issue on all antennas using mini co-ax). From the few contacts I had the 404-UL does not appear to be significantly different on receive or transmit to the linked dipole but without having both antennas up at the same time and switching between them (which I didn’t want to do in the rain) I can’t say which is the better antenna at the moment. Both the SOTABeams and the Aerial-51 antennas are light weight. The SOTABeams linked dipole is lighter as it has no balun but the Aerial-51 antenna has the advantage of being able to put it up and left up and bands switched simply by changing them on the transceiver. From a price point of view, the 4 band SOTABeams (80 – 20m) linked dipole is €66 whereas the 5 band (40m – 6m) Aerial-51 is €99 (with the addition of an ATU the Aerial-51 can also cover 12 & 17m). So the Aerial-51 is more expensive, but there’s more in it – the main cost is the balun and the SOTABeams linked dipole doesn’t have one. At the moment, I think it’s a “take your choice” situation, depending upon what you specifically need. Prices are without shipping costs in both cases.
The €110 2.3KHz IF filter addition to the FT-817 was indeed a valuable addition.
The DX-Wire 10m mini-mast will need more activations to see if it was worth it’s €55 price.
Lessons learned –
Nothing particularly from this activation, everything went as planned.
73 ’til the next Summit!
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