Sunday, 6 July 2008

So much for my attention to detail - a cautionary Radio Ham tale...

Well, they say we learn by our mistakes, don't they?

Here's a silly an easily avoidable fubar you can all relate to (if you're a radio amateur, that is)...

So, here I am, at my partner's place for some desperately needed depressurisation time, and also having taken along my FT-817 (a very portable lightweight two-way radio, which is able to operate over many different radio frequency bands), with my partners' permision, began to set up a test station for an evenings low-power (or QRP as its' known) operating.

So, with my 'Miracle Ducker' antenna (an expensive but promising portable all-HF band antenna system consisting a quite good matching box and a long "random wire" cable) in hand, I looped the plug end of the cable on the spike of the upstairs bedroom window opener to secure it, and dropped the coiled cable out the window. No problems thus far, and all secure.

Realising that the cable was too short to reach the other end of the garden, I also brought some paracord (the green string that the army uses with wild abandon, and that you can get in your local Milletts shop); one end of this cord I tied to the free (non-plug) end of the antenna cable. I then proceeded to attach the other end of the paracord to a tree, and haul the combined and heavy (there was the first hint) cable to a horizontal and slightly less than drooping position.

There was a twich, and a faing pinging sound from the window at this point, which was the second hint that should have alerted me to the impending disaster that was coming, but since the only cables I'd used before for wire format antennas had been military issue stuff that's very tough (for those in the know: Clansman dipole wires), thought nothing more about it.


The cable unhooked from the window spike; I was looking the wrong way, and there was a little wind which was causing the odd twitch in the line, so didn't notice any tell-tale sags or twitches in the line. At this point, the 'BNC' plug on the end of the cable hung up on the window spike. Not good.


The plug broke free from the cable, and the entire cable fell to the ground. This, I noticed, of course.

It was at this point I realised that I had a problem, but did not think I had much of one - attachment ideas often release when you don't want them to, after all. I just thought it was the embuggerance of having to reattach the cable to the window spike.

Wrong, of course.

When I walked back to the other end of the cable, what I saw caused the air to turn a wee bit blue (ok, a LOT blue). The centre pin of the plug, still soldered to the cable, was looking me square in the face. No sign, of course, of the rest of the plug. Wouldn't matter anyhow, as I had a busted plug on my hands, and no spares or even tool kit - the point of operating portable is that you shouldn't NEED a tool kit. So much for that idea, folks (and that's on the list now, too: Portable tool kit).

There was no bloody way I was going to be able to use the antenna cable this time over; it was well and truly buggered, busted, and fubared. Call it what you like: It was broken.

And I'd broken the damn thing.

Oh..... pooh.

NEXT time, folks, I'll use a slightly more robust antenna/cable set, that I'll construct beforehand. It'll be a random wire setup still, but with decently attached connectors and attachment hooks at each end. The only drawback? It won't be truly quick to set up. Ho hum.

Here's the moral: Trailing antenna cables are strong: Antenna connector plugs are most emphatically NOT. Next time, use either a proper fixing kit, or a dedicated outdoors antenna kit!

Here endeth the unfortunately rather annoying lesson!


TDI UK Driving School said...


A well learnt lesson!

Roger said...

Sorry OM, but one of the principles I hold on this blog is that it'll be reasonably anonymous, so sorry, no call sign today :) I *will* tell you that I passed the old-style RAE in Dec 84 (Paper #1 = Pass, Paper #2 = Distinction), and was licenced in Jan 1985, and that it's G1***; Also, having looked over the call book, I note that M0DMZ is assigned to an amateur by the name of M J Hughes, in the Doncaster area, and that your blog ID does not, in any way, match that (a few clicks, nothing specialised in getting this information) the name that comes up along with "TDI UK Driving School" is "Shola Ogunlokun"). Indeed, you note your location as Mill Hill in north London.

Care to explain?

Driving Instructor UK Driving School said...

Roger, that was a typo, the correct call is M0DMG, missed the last dit!

Roger said...

OK, fair enough (and I note that it's "details are withheld" in the callbook, lol), never the less, I'm not about to give my own call sign, as I previously mentioned, this is *supposed* to be a fairly anonymous blog; maybe once I've left the company that'll change, but in the mean time, sorry, no qrz. I hope you understand.