K6VVA 2009 Stew Perry TBDC Contest-Pedition


HOPE FOR CC&R CHALLENGED 160m CONTESTERS

If you are a CC&R Challenged 160m Contester, I sincerely hope this info will encourage you to do something similar in your area. Be BOLD - start looking for a "dark" (off-the-air) commercial AM radio station antenna farm where you live, and plan to go on your own Contest- Pedition in the next 160m contest !!!
(Photo above: The four self-supporting 165 foot high KMFO "flagpole" towers)


The K6VVA station in suite room #421 at the Seacliff Inn: TS-480SAT, Samlex Power Supply, LDG Z-100 Tuner, Tascam DR-07 .mp3 recorder, Saratoga Power Panel, WKUSB Keying Unit, Asus Eee PC (the Locust Peak Home QTH remote control Confuzer), Goldtouch Mini-Ergonomic Keyboard, Belkin Mouse (hardly used). KD9SV DX-Pedition II 160m/80m Pre-Amp/QSK Relay/RX Antenna Switch, Ameritron RCS-4 Remote Antenna Switch and Heil ProSet.

CONNECTING THE DOTS


A heavy duty poly rope was used to get across the back Seacliff Inn driveway from the fence to the room balcony. To minimize weight, RG8X coax was used for both the TX and RCS-4 box beverage lines which were pre-taped to the poly rope. It would be been more desirable have a SINGLE 350 foot run of LMR-400 ("Do Ya Think?") from the rig to the TX antenna for lower RF loss, but the Rube-Goldberg TX line run consisted of 100 feet of RG8X, and 250 feet in 3 separate pieces of used coax kindly loaned from Bob/K6XX (including some classic Tandy RG8/U :^) Thank God for "barrel" connectors and black electrical tape.

DREAMS CAN BECOME REALITIES !!!

Low power contesting from the West Coast often sucks. Low power 160m contesting from Northern California with a pee poor antenna really sucks. Several years ago, I started dreaming about firing up one of four flagpole antenna with a killer radial system at the former KMFO station antenna farm over on the coast during one of the 160 meter contests. During one of my trips to Ketchikan, Alaska, Bob, KL7NC (who is owner & Manager of an FM station there), told me years before when he worked at an AM station that went off the air from Midnight to 5AM, that he often fired it up on 160 Meters. I found this very encouraging. When I got back, several phone calls were made about doing this at KMFO, but nothing came together and subsequently the Locust Peak Remote SO2R project took over ("CONSUMED") my life.

Then a couple of months ago, my friend "J.V." (K6HJU) who knew of my fantasy called to say he had spoken with the co-owner of the now dark (off-the-air) AM station whom he had done some commercial broadcast work for many years ago, and that things were looking to be a possibility. Let me tell you the adrenalin started flowing real QRQ here !!!

J.V. arranged a lunch meeting with Grant (who I discovered was K6BDP) at Severinos, and then we walked over to see one of the saddest things I've ever seen. Copper bandits had broken into the concrete transmitter building in spite of the thick steel door, and trashed a fairly new 10KW Harris Solid State AM transmitter. All the copper coils and matching devices in the building and in the small sheds at the base of each antenna were stolen. Even the hardline from the XMTR building to each of the antennas had been pulled out of the underground PVC conduits and the sheathing stripped and left in a pile. There was graffiti all over the place, and transients still frequented the property (sleeping bags and pillows were on the XMTR building floor). I felt bad for Grant and his brother what criminals had done to their property. My recommendation for copper bandits and vandals is: CASTRATION !!!





Hardline sheathing pile. The photo of the trashed 10KW Harris XMTR is just to sad to include here. As I said before, my recommendation for copper bandits and vandals is: CASTRATION !!!

THE 160M CONTEST SEASON CLOCK WAS TICKING

The ARRL 160m contest was rapidly approaching, but I was still wrapped up with Locust Peak road repairs and so the decision was made to make the 2009 Stew Perry TBDC the new objective. There was a LOT of "stuff" to be coordinated. Consideration was given to operating from the old KMFO XMTR building or a trailer/RV and running off generator (main electrical service was QRT), but several things concerned me. Primarily, the possibilities of undesirable "Physical QRM" from transients or returning banditos, freezing my buns off if the temperature was cold, and not wanting to have to refuel a generator in the middle of the night if it was pouring rain. THANK GOD a better option existed, because during the Stew Perry, there was a horrific rainstorm Saturday Night {MAJOR SIGH}.

After much telephone tag, I gratefully secured permission from the General Manager at the Best Western Seacliff Inn on the adjacent property for me to run a coax line over the driveway to an upstairs room balcony on the end of the building closest to the KMFO property and flagpole selected to use. That room happened to be a more costly (but extremely nice) "Suite". I would not only have indoor plumbing and heat if necessary, but no generator to mess with. Oh yeah, "Room Service" for The Locust :^)

Coincidentally, back in the 1980's when I was a Sales Manager for another commercial AM/FM combo radio station in the area, my "home-away-from-home" 3 nights a week for a year and a half was the Seacliff Inn. This was during my 30 year QRT from HF DX'ing & Contesting, and of course, KMFO was on the air at the time. In the 1990's when I was immersed in real estate back home, during the Summer months I frequently de-compressed by coming over to play golf on the little Par 3 course which then surrounded the KMFO antennas, and then head for the beach. Who wudda thunk many years later that I'd be operating a contest with one of the flagpole antennas as my radiator - with my "station" setup in a room at the Seacliff Inn. Life can be VERY interesting !!!

GETTING DOWN TO SERIOUS BUSINESS

This would not have all come together without a "Checklist" which was frequently updated. The "Final Version" which still had "To Do" items for the day of the Stew Perry (I opt'd to not to try and make the Saturday A.M. start of the event) may be of use to others, and the .pdf file is HERE .

A lot of preparation was required. Blackberry or some other kind of very prickly vines had overtaken the entire area surrounding the selected flagpole base area which had to be cut back. Herb, KV4FZ, had recommended a solution for matching the antenna on 160m, but we couldn't scrounge up the necessary capacitors in time. J.V. dusted off an old Dentron tuner which would have to do the job (or as close as possible). I had several phone discussions with County Sheriff personnel who now frequently patrol the property to make sure they knew that we would be on the property working, etc., etc., etc. I bought a new heavy duty chain and bolt cutter UN-friendly whiz bang MasterLock for the main access gate. Lots of stuff was in motion.


The KMFO antenna farm and Seacliff Inn are located just a short distance from the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps that's why ZL3IX was about 20db over S9 on Saturday Night ??? {MAJOR GRIN HERE}. Too bad we don't have the same number of Pacific Ocean stations QRV as the East Coast folks have Europeans. That would have been awesome.

As a beverage "Newbie", thanks to fellow FOC & NCCC member Rob, K6RB, his article in a recent NCCC "JUG" newsletter about the new KD9SV Reversible Beverage system he recently installed proved not only very educational, but "timely" !!! Little did I know that within weeks I would be scrambling to obtain a similar setup for use at the KMFO antenna site (ultimate destination: Locust Peak). Rob, Craig/K1QX (at RadioWare - http://www.radiobooks.com ) and Gary/KD9SV deserve medals for their patience in reading and responding to the numerous emails from this non-technical beverage Noob. Tnx, Guys. I ended up buying the KD9SV Reversible Beverage system WD-1 units for the Military wire which I also got from Craig. Many of the other needed PL-259/BNC/"F" adaptors were obtained from another "Craig" at the K1CRA Radio Store ( http://www.k1cra.com ). STELLAR service from all these nice folks !!!


The initial diagram for placement of the two reversible beverages. I QLF'd and left the diagram at home, so the NE/SW beverage ended up being run in a slightly different azimuth on the other side of the SE flagpole. I was short on time and never got to rig up a system to terminate the unused leg of each selected beverage with the recommended 75 Ohm resistor, and had to run the 75 Ohm RG6 lines from each transformer to an Ameritron RCS-4 and then a 100 foot length of RG8X to the station in the motel. I had purchased four 100 foot runs of RG6, but decided along with the TXRX line coax, this might be a bit much to "string over the driveway". The output from the RCS-4 went to the Antenna 1 position on the DX-Pedition II, so beverage selection was done via the RCS-4. Unfortunately, the NW beverage developed an intermittment and then crapped completely shortly into the contest ;-( Suspicions are it was a problem with the adapator at the remote RCS-4 relay box, or a flaky RG6 cable from the transformer.



Rafael holding one end of the 50 foot "measuring rope" for installation of beverage supports. We had a "system" going (he walked, I drove :^)



The "Head End" of the reversible beverages and RCS-4 remote relay box (photo after removal of over-the-driveway coax lines) during final take down.

I originally thought about notching out 6 or 8 foot sections of PVC for the beverage supports, but decided there had to be something easier to install - even though I might end up lower to the ground. A lot of online searches yieled some nifty 4 foot plastic fencepost widgets from ACE Hardware that had steel spikes on the end and a footpress widget for ASAP installation and easy removal. These were spaced 50 feet apart, and the military wire also taped at each post so tension could be maintained during the installation process. The end posts were anchored at each end and amazingly things held up. Radio Shack to the rescue with 4 short ground rods (although it almost took an Act of Congress to remove one of them - a reason why "Shovel" was on the checklist). For re-installation on Locust Peak, I plan to duct tape some sections of small diameter PVC to get the beverage wire height up to maybe 6 or 7 feet AGL.

Except during the period of horric rainfall when the S-Meter read S9 + 40db on the flagpole antenna and S7 to S9 on the working beverages, these little puppies proved to be lifesavers. The only MAJOR problem was numerous "Birdies" - many of which were non-existent on the flagpole antenna, but overwhelmingly loud on the beverages. Probably no surprise, and most likely resulting from big screen TV's, routers, "Green" lightbulbs, touchlamps, dimmer switches, etc., since there were residential homes adjacent to the antenna site as well as WiFi, etc. at the motel. Oh...hmmm...the large shopping center across the street from the Seacliff Inn probably had umpteen QRN generators hard at work too.

When I finally got on the air a bit after 4PM local, the benefit of the beverages immediately became apparent. K6RB is located only 3 miles or so away, and wherever he transmitted on the band, my TS-480 went ballistic. N5KO was probably up at W6NL's place and thumped the RX just as much with the flagpole antenna on RX. Switching to any of the beverages solved the problem. I don't have any loud local stations over here, but have read enough on the NCCC reflector to realize the advantages of RX's with roofing filters, etc. Now I know one reason why they are so popular!!!

Initial consideration was given to hauling an Ameritron ALS-600S along for a bit more horsepower, but I opt'd to go the more challenging low power route and spare myself the hassle of even more cargo than would already be necessary. I also figured I would maybe pose less of a QRM problem to K6RB by running low power. If I ran 500 watts, I would still be one S-unit weaker than the other High Power stations in the HP category which was not appealing. I'm still pondering one aspect of this whole thing, as I think about how "directional" mobile antennas can be. Like, with a screwdriver on the back of my Tahoe, signals go UP in the direction I am heading (more ground plane from the SUV in front of the HS-1800). All the four flagpole tower radial systems at KMFO are tied together, with the three other radial systems being on the Pacific Ocean side of the property. Is it possible I actually had more RF going in that direction? Hmmmmmmm.

Speaking of radials, each flagpole antenna has 120 radials with short 30 foot radials interleaved between them {SIGH}. There wasn't enough time to try and figure out how to maybe use two of the flagpoles in some kind of phase arrangement. Maybe "next time" :^)




Ed (KI6DAS) and Rafael cutting away enough thorny vines to enter the "tuner shack" and have access to make the antenna connection behind.



Check out the size of this big bad boy insulator at the base of each flagpole !!!



Actually, there are three of these big bad boys at the base of each flagpole !!!



Part of the massive base mounting support structure for each flagpole !!!



J.V. making the flagpole antenna connection. We assumed the feedthrough insulator into the "tuner shack" would most likely handle 100 watts :^)



The "widget" K6XX loaned us that never got used (Tnx anyway, Bob)



J.V., K6XX (in reverse) and "The Donald" (AE6RF) on Tuesday 12/22/09. Donald actually put an FT-1000 on the hood of his pickup and hooked up to the coax to give an "RF" test (that explains his callsign suffix!!!), but the rig kept kicking off. Later the first official Murphy Strike was discovered --- a bad PL-259 at the end of the 1st piece of Bob's Tandy (cough, cough) coax.

SELF-INFLICTED MURPHY STRIKE

J.V. and son Shawn came back over on Saturday afternoon to help get the coax runs over the driveway and re-install the tuner which I had taken home with me from the previous trip to avoid possible theft. Fortunately K6XX's coax sections we had rolled out to just near the fence on Tuesday were also intact. I had not touched any tuner settings from the previous 2.5:1 SWR (the best we could get) readings at the base of the antenna, so it was quickly hooked up and focus was on the other connectivity matters before the predicted rainfall started. We were rushing pretty fast, and wanted to get my TS-480 finally connected to the big flagpole. Although I packed two outboard antenna tuners, I fully expected the internal tuner to work fine (the SWR at the end of the 250 feet of K6XX's coax was actually about 2:1 when we left on Tuesday). We anticipated the SWR to drop even further with another 100 feet of coax put into the food chain.

The long awaited moment came. HORRORS!!! The SWR meter was pinned full throttle on the TS-480 and I got the infamous "SWR" in CW from the rig which indicated the SWR was too high for the tuner. At that moment, I envisioned spending the rest of my 2 days booked stay "Contest-less", and all our hard work having been for naught. We thought maybe the new RG8X was possibly bad. And of all things, even though I had my MFJ-259B on the monster checklist, I *assumed* since J.V. was able to make it over after getting back from an out of town family trip for Christmas, that he would bring his analyzer so left mine at home. "Oooops".

J.V. is a real trooper. He drove all the way back home to get his MFJ-269C while I remained in a semi-daze. About 20 minutes after J.V. left, The Donald, AE6RF, called on his way down to N6IJ to see how things were going (he had just passed my freeway turnoff). When I told him about the situation, he kindly offered to turn around and bring his analyzer by to use. I suggested he call J.V. on his cell, but apparently J.V. was almost home by then. When J.V. returned about 20 minutes later, it had just started to rain lightly. FORTUNATELY, we had both brought our umbrellas :^) So it was back to the KMFO property where I held an umbrella over J.V. while he disconnected the final 100 feet of TX coax line at the barrel connector and checked the SWR to the antenna again. OUCH!!! Unlike the 2:1 experienced on Tuesday, it was whacked out.

So back to the little shed at the base of the flagpole antenna. "SURPRISE-SURPRISE!!!" In our earlier haste, once the center conductor and ground wires were connected to the tuner, due to a distraction, we forgot to connect the coax line for the rig to the tuner. MAJOR "DUH!!!" (Note: If you ever have SWR problems, maybe this confession will come in handy :^)



J.V. still double-checked the SWR directly at the tuner, and the SWR had jumped to about 4.5:1 so our "Self-Inflicted Murphy Strike" was fortuitous in that things got re-tweaked for the previous best 2.5:1 reading. We went back to the coax junction near the fence and found the familiar 2:1 reading at the end of the 250 feet, so re-connected the 100 feet of RG8X going across the driveway and headed back to the motel room.

The analyzer showed we were a bit below 2:1 at the motel room end of the RG8X - LIFE IS GOOD AGAIN !!! During J.V.'s trip home, I decided to hook up my external Z-100 tuner "just in case", but still no joy in getting to work on 160m (no surprise now). Strangely, however, I had managed to get it to tune on 80m & 40m (actually heard a fairly loud signal). Now back connected to the flagpole antenna, I pushed the TUNE button on the Z-100 and BINGO - I was officially ready to Rock 'n Roll in the Stew Perry TBDC :^)

TBDC HIGHLIGHTS & LOWLIGHTS

The TBDC was really a grind for me, because I don't like staying up all night anymore ;-( Although I had brought a chair cushion, I missed my swivel chair and my butt got tired pretty quick. I had to frequently stand up to stretch, and also lost 5 to 7 minutes per hour going out on the balcony to have a smoke (all the more reason to quit, AND, it was a "Non-Smoking" room). Fortunately there was enough of an overhang on the balcony to keep from getting soaked during the torrential downpour and non-stop rain. Several times as I looked out toward the flagpole antenna, I counted my blessings that I was NOT setup in that field in a tent, trailer or R.V. having to re-fuel a generator !!!

J.V. had kindly made a pot of coffee for us, and I ordered some chow via room service. Some initial Q's were made with one hand while I chowed down a cheeseburger and fries with the other. J.V. stayed to watch for a few hours, made sure the coffee supply was QRV, and headed home in the pouring rain. I relied on munchies, Diet Coke and Nicorette Gum for the in-between times to keep going. During one hour it was slim pickings because the rain static was 40db over S9 on the flagpole antenna, and S7 to S9 on the beverages. Compared to my usual 38WPM during TNC (Thursday Night Contesting), at 26WPM it was shear agony for the first several hours. Then I got used to the speed, even dropping to 23WPM on occasion. Once or twice I tried 29WPM which then sound very fast. Strange.

I called and called and called many DX stations who simply could not hear me. Amazingly, it didn't take long to connect with CE1/K7CA, FO8RZ, ZL3IX, UA0CA and some of the JA folks which was kinda cool. There were some loud W/K stations would could not hear me. I suspect maybe they were listening "off the back of their beams" (other direction beverages). The last hour was total AGONY. No, make that A-G-O-N-Y ;-( UN-answered CQ's are one of the most boring experiences in life. The CQ-Meter in TR4W indicated I had called CQ 1,766 times but only got 120 "Run" Q's. I often found myself yearning to be back in the old TNC saddle... or at VP2VVA ... or anywhere other than were I was.

When 14:59:59 Zulu FINALLY arrived, I turned everything off, ordered a big breakfast from room service (which coincidentally opened at 1500 UTC), chowed down, and crawled into the nearby beautiful big EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE bed and pressed the ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz button :^)


I got up after only 4 hours of sleep and walked around in a bit of a daze before heading a short distance to sit on the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and ponder the proverbial meaning of life. Later, I enjoyed an awesome Salmon Caesar Salad and a glass of Cabernet at Severino's and decided to leisurely dismantled the station and pack everything up. I was already booked to stay an extra night and rendezvous with J.V. on Monday after check-out to remove all the beverages, roll up the K6XX loaned coax and retrieve J.V.'s tuner he also kindly loaned me for this incredible TBDC Contest-Pedition project.


Contest-Pedition cargo packed to return home. I find using stackable waterproof Sterilite containers to be very useful, and similar size wine boxes with hand-hold cut-outs (plus a folding hand-cart) to make the transport chores easier.


The very nice living room in the Room #421 "Suite". There was also a wet bar and two bathrooms (one with a jacuzzi tub big enough for a party of four :^)


Even the rear of property grounds at the Seacliff Inn are very well maintained.


My favorite spot at the Seacliff Inn is the waterfall and Koi pond adjacent to the patio outside Severino's Restaurant and the bar. I highly recommend the Seacliff Inn to anyone visiting the Aptos greater Santa Cruz area. I've also enjoyed many delicious meals at Severino's over the years. Visit them both now online at http://www.seacliffinn.com . ATTN: SF Bay Area folks - "come on down" !!!


This place only a block away came in handy when we needed some "stuff".

Seeing is believing. The Sheriff's "Service Center" next door to a Massage Parlor near Safeway in the shopping center only a block away from the Seacliff Inn :^) I wonder if vibrating devices can cause QRN birdies on 160 Meters ???

SPECIAL THANKS !!!

A very SPECIAL THANKS to the following nice folks who helped make the K6VVA 2009 Stew Perry TBDC Contest-Pedition Dream a Reality:

J.V. (K6HJU)
Grant (K6BDP & Co-Owner of the KMFO Antenna Farm)
Bob (K6XX - a/k/a "Mr. X-RAY X-RAY" & "DOS EQUIS")
Donald (AE6RF - a/k/a "The Donald")
Shawn (KA6RFZ - J.V.'s son)
Ed (KI6DAS)
Rob (K6RB)
Marsha (KE6BEQ)
Herb (KV4FZ)
Bob (KL7NC)
Gary (KD9SV)
Craig (K1QX)
Craig (K1CRA)
Rafael Ceja (one of my Locust Peak work assistants)
Debbie Parsons (General Manager, Best Western Seacliff Inn)
Gustavo & the entire Seacliff Inn/Severino's staff who were Awesome !!!
Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office Personnel
Boring Amateur Radio Club

Also TNX to all who participated in the TBDC, and TNX for all the Q's & Grids. Once again in my life I realized the fulfillment of two promises from the Bible: "Ask and ye shall receive", and "With God all things are possible!!!"

73...

Rick, K6VVA * The Locust
NCCC Co-Founding Member
FOC #1845 (EX #845)