Hatteras Ham Shack

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Ham visits the Beach

Fueled by some success with the asymmetrical hatted vertical dipole at Hatteras Lighthouse, I finally freed up some morning time to try this on the beach near our motel. The motel, by the way, is very nice and is called…

If you have a small family, I suggest the two bedroom apartment which includes a small kitchen in the master bedroom. It sounds odd, but worked quite well. Just be prepared to wave a towel past the smoke detector when you cook.

Anyway, back to amateur radio. One of the chief reasons I went to all the trouble to research and prototype a portable vertical antenna is to experience saltwater propagation.

So down the path, past the pool, over the dune and onto the beach I went. It was close to high tide.

Hatteras Hamshack Pictures

North Atlantic Hatteras Ham Shack
North Atlantic Hatteras Ham Shack
View from ocean
View from ocean
Hatteras 'Shack' with the Portable Beach HF Antenna
Hatteras Shack with the Portable Beach HF Antenna

Note in the picture above how the tripod legs are shoved into the sand. This worked surprisingly well to hold the assembly in place. I brought some stakes and guy ropes, but did not need them despite the ever present stiff wind.

Also note the cylindrical black and red tool satchel hanging from the tripod height adjustment knob. This was the smallest bag I found at Home Depot. It contains a subset of tools and only those necessary to make adjustments to the antenna. The set includes four nut drivers:

  • One 1/4 inch nut driver for the small aluminum clamps,
  • One 5/16 inch nut driver for the large aluminum clamps and the two stud clamps,
  • One 3/8 inch nut driver for the #10 nuts on the feedline attachment points,
  • One 7/16 inch nut driver for the 1/4-20 nuts.

Also thrown in is a $2 measuring tape which I didn’t really need since I pre-marked the antenna’s band points with a black Sharpie.

This bag of tools works remarkably well. They are right there for you right when you need them while making adjustments. The ends of the drivers always point up helping you grab the correct one.

To avoid hauling a general tool kit, this satchel, four nut drivers and the measuring tape were purchased specifically to travel with the antenna. You could do just as well with a flat blade screwdriver and an adjustable wrench, but, man, life’s too short to not enjoy nut drivers.

In the next photo, we see one of hundreds of crabs that keep watch on Hatteras beach…

Clyde the Crab
Clyde the Crab

These crabs always work and move sideways. When they notice you they never stop looking at you. I think the crabs are cool and was mindful where I planted the antenna tripod and chair so as not to disturb their tunnel homes. I don’t know how successful I was, but I did try.

Next is a picture of the “shack”…

The "Radio Room"
The “Radio Room”…

I didn’t really appreciate the ease of deploying a QRP station until this beach trip. A radio, a mic, a battery and the antenna. No key this time, but that’s not much more. The only additional items are a small log book, a pen and a GPS (for UTC and Maidenhead Grid Locator).

My son was kind enough to loan me his Dr. Dre headphones. They work very well with the KX3.

I focused very hard on ensuring no connector took a dive into sand. The last thing I wanted to hear was a crunch crunch sound during connection.

With all that it was time to take a seat and operate…

...with a view
…with a view

QSOs

After the experience at the lighthouse, I once again I settled on 20m figuring that was my best hope for Europe. I heard an incredible number of European hams many of whom were contacting a South Carolina ham activating his IOTA QTH.

Elsewhere on the band I heard S573DX, from Slovenia. Also, a YL from Vienna came in as OE3LZA. Try as I might, I just couldn’t seal the deal with my QRP signal despite all my hopes of assistance from ocean-side propagation.

Finally at 7:27 AM EDT Walter, VP9KD, from Bermuda came back giving me a 55. He was 59 to Hatteras. We had a nice chat sharing my memories of my visit to Bermuda as a kid.

At 7:36 AM EDT I spoke with Norm, VE3MTV/M, of Ontario Canada. Once again I received an unsolicited complement on the quality of my audio; Thanks again Elecraft!

I tried to close the deal with many others I heard, but to no avail. I was, regardless, satisfied with this 3rd outing with this new antenna and KX3. I packed up and spent some time on the beach… all well before the rest of the family awoke.

Conclusion

Despite the modest results, I’m reasonably happy with this first beach outing. I needed more operating time, but this was the last opportunity this time around.

The equipment seems to function. I’m very happy with the portability of the whole package and with the short time it takes to set up and break down.

Time to plan another beach trip.

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