We did it! We finally did it!! After the beam not functioning – at all – for over a year and all the restrictions during the Coronavirus pandemic we finally got together to fix it – once and for all!
The fix was probably not going to be that hard or too time-consuming: a loose connector, a loose bolt at the balun, maybe (maybe) a fault in the balun itself. It couldn’t be more than that. We also had a bit of tightening to do at the rotator end; because for the past month or two the antenna was spinning in the wind a bit. And: after all this time we’d be able to install that 40 meter add-on that Jason ordered in pre-pandemic days. Woohoo!
So Jason KS5TX came down to Uvalde on Friday April 23 and rented a scissor lift. Not the 8-legged monster lift we got two years ago; but this one worked just as well, if not better.
Jason had some other work to do before we got started on the tower. He’d ordered a whole new set of batteries for our battery powered backup system and installed those first:
Saturday afternoon the whole crew came together: Jason KS5TX, Erik K5WW and Jack Skye. Overwatchers were Arnold and Joe. President Jimi AB5JK came and had a look as well.
Things don’t work like that, generally speaking. That obviously came apart, after many years of heavy use. So, the coax was brought down, into the shack, stripped a few feet shorter until it looked good; and then a brand new PL-259 was soldered to it. Hoisted back up, connected to the balun: perfectly good SWR. Great, problem fixed!
Next we tackled the bolts on the rotator. That was an easy fix; they’re just bolts after all. But the antenna needed to be pointed north again; and the coax needed to have a good loop in it so it wouldn’t snag the tower.
All of that took a while, with several full antenna rotations. And all of a sudden the SWR was sky-high again!
So the second “possible reason for failure” came to mind: broken center conductor inside the coax. We brought it down again, hooked up the analyzer and shook it around as hard as possible (after doing that on top of the tower!). The results of all that shaking weren’t conclusive; we might as well have stirred it too. So we decided to replace the whole coax run. Brand new cable. Connectors. All of it.
We ran that back up to the tower and it worked fine. For a while. Because once again, after starting to rotate the big gun, the SWR went nuts. Ugh…
Third possible fault: the balun itself. The thing is rated for 1 kW; but that doesn’t mean it can handle 600 W PEP from an FT8 signal. Hours and hours of it. Which your rusty old Secretary is quite guilty of. So we replaced the balun, which luckily we had a brand new spare of, courtesy of Jason’s always planning ahead.
But: that didn’t fix the issue either. In fact, the 7 year old balun looked quite new on the inside:
It’s at this time that K5WW started to doubt his soldering skills. All antenna wires were properly connected, we had a brand new coax run and balun in place… what else could have been wrong?
Yep, the new PL-259 on the new coax run! There was a short in it somewhere, as we discovered during another wiggling session. I guess that’s what can happen under pressure, in a bit of a rush to get things done before time runs out. Mea (K5WW’s) culpa.
One new PL-259 later and another run up into the tower we had a perfectly good SWR, after several rotations and even more coax rattling sessions. Success, finally!!!
And with that Murphy had been chased out of the building. For the time being.
We finished up fastening the coaxes to the building a bit after dark. The 40 meter dipole add-on would have to wait until next time. But at least our fabulous contest station was back on the air!
Until 3 days later, on Wednesday, a heck of an ice storm rolled through the area, from the Mexican border all the way into and beyond San Antonio. Much of the area got hit by 4 or 5 rounds of large hail, strong winds and even a tornado in a matter of 7 hours.
When I (K5WW) finally managed to get on the road to clean up the club shack (it was a mess when we left it on Sunday) I wasn’t expecting any damage outside. Our friend James WW5XX right around the corner hadn’t reported any hail.
But… they’d had pretty strong winds. And that’s an understatement. What I found, after pulling into the parking lot, is not pretty:
They did have strong winds out there. And it looks like they just pulled apart one of the spreaders and laid it on top of the rest of the antenna.
Back to square one. Or minus 1, maybe…
(any guns for hire out there: we have a hefty reward for whoever takes out Murphy – permanently).