First, let me set the stage. The first thing you need to know is that I am an idiot. Now, I’m not your typical idiot who is blessed with something as simple as a low IQ. No, I am a special type of idiot: one in which my measured intelligence is in the top two percent of those measured, but whose propensity towards doing stupid things nears infinity.
It was this event, of which my daughter bore witness, that caused me to forever abandon the idea of hurling lead weights into the air. Instead, I reasoned that something softer, rounder, and perhaps even fuzzier would do. I then had the epiphany that tennis balls are a ham’s perfect projectile. The perfect weapon for launching these projectiles? The simple fishing pole.
destroy alter one in order to get it attached to the fishing line. As a man, I couldn’t help but reach for the power tools. I reasoned that by drilling two holes in a ball, I could then tie said ball directly to the fishing line and call it a day. Naturally, that plan failed. As any fisherman will tell you, tying a lure directly to the line makes it hard to change lures, which is why lure-weilding fishermen use leaders. Remembering this as my first experiments failed, I added fishing leaders to my shopping list.
You may have noticed that my tennis balls have fun little doggie paws emblazoned on them. Since I was
mangling improving my tennis balls in such a way that would render them useless for pointless activities such as tennis, I purchased a three-pack of dog toys that resembled tennis balls in principle only. I figured since my goal was to hurl these perforated balls into the trees, I didn’t need to spend big money on the good stuff. Spending 99 cents on a three-pack made good financial sense since I had spent way too much money on all the other nonsense involved.
If you try this at home, one of the first things you will likely learn is that typical hobby fishing line is not strong enough. On my third practice cast, my four-pound test line snapped, hurling my nice bowline-knoted tether-ball creation over the tree-line and into the woods where it was lost forever. I made a mental note to buy more pet-branded novelty tennis balls when I went out to buy heavier fishing line.
tied looked up how to tie the arbor knot necessary to secure the line to the reel. My equipment prepared, I gathered my antenna rigging accouterments and set out into the woods.
On the first excursion into the forest, Colleen came along to help. Her job was to document the proceedings, which, according to the official record, involved two hours of me staring into the sky with a fishing pole in my hand. On this, my second trip, I decided to go alone, though to be honest, that’s because I was home alone all day and not because Colleen begged me to leave her out of any future “antenna-rigging nonsense”.
Dipole antennas like to be high, and there are countless webpages that provide measurements and recommended heights. Alas, I was limited by the trees and branches available to me so I picked three trees that coincided with the feed-point and two ends, and worked from there. My first target chosen, I aimed my fishing pole, and cast my rope-bound fuzzy grenade to the sky. To my absolute dumbfounded shock, my first cast sent the ball sailing up into the air, arcing perfectly over my branch of choice. I considered adding “antenna rigging” to my resume right below “bowline knot-tying master” in the miscellaneous skills section. Smug with my success, I pressed on.
When the rope got to the branch, it hit a snag of particular malice after which no amount of fiddling would release the line. Even the weight of fifty feet of hanging rope combined with all the arm-waving and gesticulation I could muster would not free my creation from the tree. After twenty minutes of stubborn battle with the rope, considerable swearing, and promises that I would get my chainsaw if the tree didn’t let go, I conceded defeat and cut the line. It took me twelve casts and two more tennis balls to get the rope back where I wanted it. As I cast again and again, I contemplated how this dance of failure after a hint of success could be used as a metaphor for my entire life.
With the line finally over the limb again, I started to build my designed system of ropes. For each of the three support points, I planned on two sets of rope. First, I would use the line over the limb as a halyard line. On this line, I would hang a pulley from which I would hang the second line. This second line would be the line supporting the antenna. It sounds complicated, but don’t worry, bowline knots make it simple.
My reasons for this design were two fold. First, should the line remain in the tree long enough for the tree to grow around it, I could still raise and lower the antenna through the attached pulley. Second, I could always cut the loop and recover the pulley. Since the pulleys I used were delrin-based marine pulleys, they cost about forty dollars each, so the ability to recover them seemed like a good idea.
I screwed an eye bolt into each of the trees so that I’d have something to tie off all these lines. I know a lot of people don’t like to hurt the trees, and I can appreciate that. I grew up on a farm, and we used trees for everything from a platform for tires swings to a place to nail in an electric fence. I made sure to thank each tree for its service, but I stopped short of giving them each a hug. Besides, the trees should feel lucky that I didn’t cut them all down in a fit of rage after they refused to release my snagged first line.
With each of the three trees rigged, I mounted the antenna and hauled it up into the trees. With hours of rigging and knot tying, pulling the antenna up took all of five minutes which is exactly the kind of time-savings I enjoy. The pulleys give me the flexibility of adding counter-balances to the antenna, but I have a feeling that between the exiting pulley system and the slight slack in the antenna, that even a strong wind won’t break it. Time will tell.
With the antenna where it needed to be, I set out to run the coax feed line. Since the antenna is in the woods and is strictly for HF bands, I chose RG-213 coax for its combination of low loss and flexibility. This part was pretty boring though, because I couldn’t tie any bowline knots in the thick cable.
At each end of the run I soldered on a silver-plated PL-239 using my handy butane torch, made the connections as waterproof as possible, and the job was done. I then threw the cable through an open window and was on the air. If you’re wondering about permanent entry points, lightning suppression, grounding, and those sorts of things, stay tuned because there are all ready too many words in this article so those topics will get their own.
In summary, this is not the type of installation you’d see on the cover of CQ magazine but for my uses it’s just perfect. Sure, I’d love to have a 300-foot tower with multiple antennas hooked up to my 2000-watt linear, but you know what? I don’t have any of that stuff, and my simple dipole does the job just fine at the modest 100 watts my radio can deliver. Besides, I don’t like ladders and my dipole was (sort of) easy to install by myself and now that it’s up I don’t have to be lonely any more!
Ooh – the 40-meter band just opened up. Gotta go!