Ham Radio during Coronavirus – Day 1

Yesterday, I learned that my kids are out of school until May 7th and possibly all the way thru to the fall.  I’ve been working from home vs spending hours of my life commuting to Boston.  In short, I’ve got a lot of time on hands that if I don’t fill, I might just go crazy.

Throughout my life, I go through periods of time when I am hyper active in ham radio.  It happened back from 1994-1998 then again from 2003-2005 (in 1994 I got my technician ticket).  Then I was back on for a stint from 2009-2014.  It was during this last period I experienced the equivalent of the radio good life operating from exotic locations around the world.  By my best guess, I made more than 400,000 contacts in four years (I think it’s a big deal – permit me to brag?)

In 2014, I got into the ham business selling radio cables and equipment on several websites, including one, Amateur Radio Supplies, that is still around and has never changed much.  When I went into the business, I got out of the hobby. I sold all my gear and stopped going to club meetings. I burned a lot of friendships, a lot of business deals went south as mixing a hobby with a business was, well, a really bad idea.

Anyway, yesterday – March 26 – I decided to get back into ham radio during this coronavirus lockdown.  I got myself an Alinco HF Transceiver, and a MFJ tuner.  For VHF/UHF, I got a Baofeng UV-5R left over from my operating days.  I was $800 deep.

I still had an old Samlex power supply and Bencher paddles.  My antenna farm, however, was totally trashed.  I had an 80-10m vertical with a 4-1 balun out in the woods.  And a G5RV hanging from the trees.  Both hadn’t been used in nearly 7 years.

Today was a set-up today.  I couldn’t get either antenna to work.  For a minute the old vertical was worked and then something happened – I think I blew the balun or something.  I double checked the coax.  Everything looked fine,  not wanting to go into the muddy woods to inspect the balun, I needed to look elsewhere.

The G5RV looked more promising.  I took it down (it was hanging limply in the branches) and had a look-see.  I first put this antenna up 12 years ago.  The wire and ladder line were ok, but the connections between the two had rusted away.  Having taken it down, I quickly realized I could never get it back up as the branches had substantially grown since I first put it up.

Uggh.  I needed to improvise again.  In my earlier sojourn in the woods, I came across an old mast of light weight fiberglass it looked to be about 25ft.  I’d use that to build an end fed 63 ft long wire for use from the old G5RV components. I’d feed it with coax and use the old ladder line as counterpoise.  It took about 45 minutes to right it all up.  But when I was done, I had my first quarantine antenna system, an end fed 63 ft long wire ranging from about 25′ high to about 12′.  Not ideal, but a start.



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