Category Archives: WI-001L

Island Building, a new Shack and Workshop, Equipment, Tower and Antenna Decisions

More significant construction is happening on my Washington Island (Wisconsin – Island #WI-001L) building.

Garage Build - Framing

Garage Build – Framing

Presently my physical operating position is in the basement of the house, though with the shack technology I’m using I can operate really anywhere on the property or where there is good internet.

This 1200+ square foot building is of course multipurpose – Garage, Workshop, Storage and Shack space.  Initially my focus is on the first three in the list, as this had QTH lacked garaging, a place to work inside on a car or boat, and was lite on storage.

Provisions were designed in to use the building as a Ham Shack when my “on-Island time” increases enough to warrant heating the new building over the winters.

Initially I’m anticipating keeping all the gear in the present shack location, while setting up a dedicated operating position in this new building.  With the FlexRadio System Flex-6700 Radio, their PowerGenius XL Amp, and then 4o3a’s “Flex-Aware” AntennaGenius, RotorGenius and control modules, remoting basically involves bringing fiber out to this new building to connect the operating position gear.

Initial operating position gear concept is a Maestro, a Desktop Win10 PC, and an iMac.  When time allows I’m aiming to do a custom switch-control with slave control heads in both the new building operating position and in the main physical shack.  That’s down the road, as antenna building is the next red hot priority.

First permanent antenna going in is a custom Extra-Heavy-Duty Five-Zero multiband vertical.  Hoping to get the base in when the new building’s approach is poured to save concrete mobilization costs.

I am deciding what follows next, as I may be reserving the 70 Foot Skyneedle and may put up a much simpler “intermediate tower” on the island.

My intent is to operate from the Island with a Hexbeam.   Both noting that Hexbeams perform best somewhat lower than Yagi’s and LPDA’s, and that Hexbeams are questionable in stacked-antenna situations, it seems a waste to put up the 70 foot Skyneedle while only needing to get the Hexbeam up 40 feet.

Presently I have three different Hexbeams – the DX Engineering Multiband I bought while waiting for the others to arrive, the Custom RadioWavz Barrett Sentinel which adds more bands, but is quite large, and an SP7IDX Expedition Grade Hexbeam that was delayed in transit seemly forever while in customs clearance.

Lots to decide.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Adding a DX Engineering HEXXbeam Mk II

Had an opportunity to buy a DX Engineering HEXXbeam MkII from K0PJ, adding to my Hexbeam collection.

My thoughts were to carefully collapse the antenna and transport it collapsed to my Washington Island QTH.  Later I’ll run a bit of a shoot out between the SP7IDX and Radiowavz antennas.

I’ve included some of the wildlife at the QTH and a picture of the trenching (one is a future ham radio wire conduit):

One of the Gray Foxes

The HEXXbeam on a barrel.

Yard camera caught one of the five bucks that have been visiting.

A Sanhill Crane checks out one of the yard cameras

 

Trenching. Hitting bedrock eliminated my temporary antenna pole.

Notice the animals digging up the yard – raccoons are doing the most damage, the foxes dig for burrowing critters, and the Sandhills make tent-stake like holes everywhere.

The deer are opportunists grazing on wild apples and other deer treats.

In putting in the undergrounds the plumber hit bedrock only a few inches down.   One pipe is a sanitary drain for the sump pump and rainwater that really should have always have been there, and the second is a conduit for feedlines, control cables and the like for part of my ham station.

I think the near the house yard will drain much better as there was a bedrock ridge that restricted sub surface drainage that he excavated through.

The bedrock is why he couldn’t put in the 6×6 treated post at the end of the conduit run.  I had intended to mount a rotor and a short mast as an interim location for this HEXXbeam.

Looks like I will either end up with a concrete filled barrel as a base, or have a heavy steel tripod type base made up.

Even on the barrel, rotated by hand the HEXXbeam is doing really well.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Dodging the Bullet at the K9ZW Island QTH

Water on the Floor Basement at the K9ZW Island HomeFlooded Yard at K9ZW Island HomeAt our Island home several massive storms dropped over 3 inches of rain in a short period first flooding our yard, and then overwhelming our sump pump.

Photos:

  • First the yard 10 hours after the rain stopped (it is usually bone dry, and is 8-10 inches of soil over the rock) with over an inch of standing water.

Flooded Yard at K9ZW Island Home

  • Second is the basement with 2-1/2 inches of water on the floor.

 

Water on the Floor Basement at the K9ZW Island Home

What tipped us off was one of the Home Monitor systems we have – the simple one that calls on POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) with alerts – started calling with a Water Alarm.

The device is a “Control Products FreezeAlarm Homesitter Temperature, Water, Power Alarm HS-700” – link https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002MUAIP8/

This $90 device saved the day by calling us repeatedly with alerts.  Estimates are that water could rise to about 18-24 inches in the basement before enough systems would get knocked out to set off our other monitors.  (We also have Canary devices for security and backup, but they cannot sense the water issue directly.)

With this much water that was a possibility of intervention didn’t happen right away – which is why the alarm worked so well!

The shack is on a rolling radio bench with power supplies and some gear 7 inches off the floor, so the important stuff would begin to be damaged, as would the boiler and everything on the lowest storage shelves.

Plumber and Painter we are working with have the water issue resolved (both short term and also a long term solution figured out) and only my boxes of Hardline/Coax which you see got wet because we caught it this early.

I’ve just ordered another of the “Control Products FreezeAlarm Homesitter Temperature, Water, Power Alarm HS-700” to install at our main house.

Well worth it!

73

Steve
K9ZW

SteppIR CrankIR Antenna mast adapter

While waiting for concrete work for the K9ZW-Island QTH antennas, I’ve been using a SteppIR CrankIR antenna.

Typically have used the loudspeaker stand I acquired from SteppIR when I bought the antenna, enhanced with weights to keep the antenna up in wind.

Conditions change so rapidly on the Island that usual the CrankIR is tipped over a couple times during a weekend. I’ve also watched a deer snag the radial pulling it over.

In the middle of stormy weather or during the night when deer are moving isn’t the most fun time to play with antennas. Something had to give.

The property’s previous owner had satellite internet gear on a short mast set in concrete

Cleared the old gear and hmmm…how to fit the CrankIR onto the oversized mast?

the 2 inch OD is too large for the CrankIR and suggestions of hose-clamping a smaller mast to the side or using PVC pipe to make an adapter sounded like temporary makeshift half-solutions.

The mast hade been filled with concrete so that wouldn’t work..

Washington Island Mann’s Mercantile is a fabulous hardware store as well.  So knowing that no excuse to go to a hardware store should be passed up, it was to the plumbing isles for a solution.

Mast adapter for my SteppIR CrankIR antenna

Working excellent and will come inside with the antenna when we leave. Too heavy for portable use though.

Some people have asked how we travel the six miles of water, and here is a picture going around of one of the ferries. I think Lauren Gordon took it and Susan Ulm cleaned it up.

Washington Island Ferry complete with Rainbow.

73

Steve

K9ZW

K9ZW Washington Island Operating Gear

The Island setup is evolving and when not in the radio room will be based on a Maestro with a Touch Screen ToughBook.

Here is a quick shot of what I am working on for the Washington Island – Wisconsin QTH’s portable operating position.

This is what I will be able to operate from (adding a headset & PTT in many cases) from anywhere I connect with my wireless system there.

Paired with the Maestro is a Touchscreen Toughbook laptop to do logging and other site-mobility chores. They will be wireless to the new Flex-6700.

Maestro and ToughBook laptop

Maestro and ToughBook laptop

ToughBooks are available refurbished under $300 with licensed operating system from Toughbook Tech.

Built strong enough to be a aircraft wheel-chock!

Ruggedized touchscreen does better with the stylus than finger jabs, which is a contrast to the Maestro touch screen sensitivity.

For activation of smaller islands the Maestro & Flex-6700 will stay behind, with the Flex-6300 then being paired with the Toughbook via SmartSDR for Windows.

For antennas I have several choices there. Typically I have been using a SteppIR CrankIR with the Flex-6300 for island activations other than the main island. I have several other portable antenna options.

Depends on what Island access I’m allowed (full setup on the activated Island or using one of the US Island Programs alternative rules when not allowed to completely disembark. http://www.usislands.org I think is the URL.)

On Washington Island itself I have a proper antenna farm in the works. As I am rethinking this whole setup you’re invited to follow along as I rework plans.

Still to come is a mobilization preparation of the Flex-6300 to keep everything needed together and protect it from some level of adverse weather while out on the smaller islands.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Maestro Road/Boat Trip to Washington Island

Pictures and much of text was originally posted at the FlexRadio Systems Community forum as I described my first weekend Maestro excursion.


 

Winds made the ride almost an hour

Winds made the ride almost an hour

 

Okay, just like a Flat Stanley, where have you taken your Maestro to go do radios?

Snapshot is quick shot off the ferry boat to Washington Island, Wisconsin (US Island WI-001L) where this weekend it will be a quick overnight running a Flex-6300 with a SteppIR CrankIR antenna.

Weather is a bit edgy though I hope the wind drops and drizzle stops long enough to get the antenna setup yet today.

With it sleeting out who knows?

So where has your Maestro gone?

A quick set of photos. (The small boar is one my youngest Vic KC9NWB shot.)

Wild Board standing guard over a Maestro near the table edge

Wild Board standing guard over a Maestro near the table edge.

The Flex-6300 needed a software upgrade to run with the Maestro.

Maestro conducting another Software Update

Maestro conducting another Software Update

The strong signal is George W9EVT who live about 3/4 a mile away.

George W9EVT is about 5000 feet away and his signal shows it!

George W9EVT is about 5000 feet away and his signal shows it!

Bands have not been good and highly variable. Definitely seeing my antenna limitations holding QSO count way down.

Have been playing with also running K6TU iPad control and on the Win10 box other programs like DDUTIL alongside the Maestro.

Maestro with K6TU Control Software on iPad

Maestro with K6TU Control Software on iPad

Off for coffee and church, hopefully my rate will improve afterwards.

One of the observant forum members comment on how my Maestro edged close to the table’s edge:

Steve, your making me nervous. The Maestro is too close to the edge of your table. Nice pics.
73 de Rob K1SR

And I replied:  Thank you. The Maestro with tilt feet gives such a solid feel that you spotted how I crept it up near the table edge.

Didn’t seem as worrying in the flesh as in photos, and certainly is an interesting phenomena as I try to be careful.

Running a vertical wire antenna in this weekend’s bands wasn’t a highly productive exercise. Would have twenty-thirty signals on a band, then only a few weak traces and all over between extremes.

Snowed and deleted, so never got the Maestro outside either.

Until next trip.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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