Testing the new fibermast from a remote location / 2017-10-20

2017-10-20 Testing the new fibermast from a remote location 4 weeks ago
I had time this week to test the fibermast I ordered and I wanted to do this at a location away from houses. Someone suggested the location 'Trintelhaven' which is a small harbour in the dike between Enkhuizen and Lelystad. This is a harbour of refuge in which ships on the Ijsselmeer can find a safe location to spend the night or wait out a storm.

Usually I do my outdoor radio activities at cycling distance, but this was an interesting location, I had the day available and I felt like going a bit further.

The Trintelhaven is originally an island created for the construction of the dike between Enkhuizen and Lelystad, which was going to form the 'Markerwaard'. But that plan was cancelled and now it is the 'Markermeer' (lake) with a new project to bring more life into it.

In the end I learned things about the new fiber mast, played radio, enjoyed the outdoors and had fun.

The Trintelhaven has radio history as the transmitter for Big L radio was located there. The lattice mast is still there and a nice detail I saw was that there are barriers in the water in the form of a circle around the mast to make sure ships never come within the zone where field strength of the radio signal would be at unhealthy levels.
Former Big L transmitter site - KvdHout on FlickrFormer Big L transmitter site

There is a parking spot there and a restaurant: Road House Checkpoint Charlie. The restaurant has to bring everything by car because there is no drinking water, no electricity and no gas available on the island. This is also the reason the restaurant had already closed for the winter.

Behind the restaurant is a road with a fence which is officially rijkswaterstaat terrain. The fence was open and had a sign 'no camping allowed'. Rijkswaterstaat is the department which is responsible for the main roads and waterways in this country. On terrain where trespassing isn't dangerous they usually allow visitors.

I have read about other radio amateurs operating from this island, but without details of their exact location. Google streetview decided not to visit this island so I had no idea beforehand what the options were going to be.

I first looked around the terrain, took some pictures of the Big L mast and just enjoyed the outdoors. I was wondering what the ideal place for playing radio would be. The part near the water looked very windy and open. The rijkswaterstaat terrain looked promising with some grass fields surrounded by trees. After someone else entered that terrain for a run I decided to try it myself. The worse that could happen was someone ordering me to pack my stuff and leave.

I found a nice field with a spot to park the car which would not obstruct anyone. I started unpacking and noticed the guy wires for the fibermast were all messed up, so I had to unravel them first. Setting up the fiber mast complete with the rubber profiles to make sure the mast would not collapse took a while. I learned several things about setting up the mast on my own:
  • I can set it up on my own without anything vertical to attach the mast to.
  • I can lower and raise the mast when it is completely extended. So laying it flat to adjust something and bringing it back to vertical is doable.
  • It takes a bit of guesswork where the guy wires would have to be for the right height, so that took two tries.
  • I started with trying to raise the linked dipole near the top (I tiewrapped a small pulley near the top and used a rope). The weight of the linked dipole and the antenna cable made the fiber mast bend over at the top.
  • Putting the pulley 3 segments lower made the antenna end up higher.
  • The long ends of the tie-wraps in the rubber profiles stood out and were good at catching the rope or other wires.
  • The guying ring settles on the bit of mast below it and can't be turned.
  • When mounting the rubber profile on the level of the guying ring it has to leave enough room for the ring.
After the antenna was up I connected the radio and started checking the 40 meter band. As on previous outdoor activities the biggest activity was around flora/fauna activations. So I made a number of contacts as PE4KH/P getting ok reports for signal/readability and having a nice chat with a Scottish radio amateur who was also outside enjoying some portable radio. Then I tried a German station that said I sounded absolutely terrible.

While I was sitting in the grass playing radio a car from rijkswaterstaat drove by and the driver looked at me. He did not stop. So I guess nothing I did seemed wrong to him.

At 12:49 UTC (14:49 local time) there would be an ISS school contact. I listened to that on the handheld radio. I did bring the arrow antenna but forgot the BNC adaptor for the handheld radio so I was limited to the stock antenna of the radio, but reception was fine, I could hear the astronaut loud and clear.

I decided to pack up the fibermast antenna and the radio before the ISS contact started because I did not want to spent a lot of time in traffic. Leaving at 15:00 was still late enough to end up in the afternoon traffic so it took a while to get back home.

I was happy I brought a small camping chair to sit on, otherwise I would have had to sit in the (wet) grass or in the car. The car would have the problem that the length of rg-58 coax is limited. I used the lid of the plastic crate in which I brought the radio gear as a flat dry spot to set the radio and the battery.

I planned to take a lot of pictures of the setup but during the setup I did not pause enough to do that and at the end the battery of my phone was dead and charging it in the car took too long.
Fiber mast with rope and pulley near the top - KvdHout on FlickrFiber mast with rope and pulley near the top
Fibermast set up with inverted V linked dipole antenna - KvdHout on FlickrFibermast set up with inverted V linked dipole antenna

Things to remember:
  • To make sure the guy wires for the mast aren't tangled.
  • Bring hiking shoes, the grass was wet.
  • Bring the DSLR camera for better pictures.
  • How to set up the mast easily.
And good things I did and will do again next time:
  • Bring something to sit on.
  • Bring tent pegs for the guy wires and the ends of the linked dipole.
Next time I may try the endfed antenna and hanging the entire antenna in the mast during setup so I don't need to raise it with a rope and pulley. I did not want to do this because I expected it to get tangled. I had enough trouble keeping the rope, guy wires and antenna wires from getting tangled up.

For others gathering locators: Most of the Drintelhaven is in JO22QP but the tip of the harbour is in JO22RP.

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