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Category: Operating Tips

Antenna tuning affected by wet weather

Dipole antenna with ladder line feed

Most HF remote base stations use some kind of multiband wire antenna.  Often these wire antennas must go through and be supported by trees, especially if the antennas are really long and have to be fitted into limited space.   For example, a half-wave dipole antenna for the 75 meter phone band will be in the neighborhood of 120 – 125 feet (36 – 37 meters) long.  That amount of wire often will need to be threaded through trees to make in fit into the space available.

Although insulated wire is used for the radiating length, the wire is going to be in contact with foliage and branches at some points along its length.  As long as the weather is dry and the branches and leaves are not wet, this arrangement works pretty well.  It’s when the rain, snow, and ice begin that we see the antenna get detuned by the moisture and increased coupling of the radiating wire to the branches and foliage.   Although the insulation on the antenna wire blocks direct current, RF energy is easily passed from wire to tree, especially in wet weather.

With this extra loading, the antenna will no longer be “in tune” with the usual automatic antenna tuner memories that work so well in dry weather.  It will be necessary to run the tuning cycle again, sometimes more than once, while observing the SWR reading on the radio interface.   Often the band will come alive with received signals after this new tuning cycle is complete.  This is a good indication that you are on the right track, and as long as the radio does not return a “HIGH SWR” notice when you transmit, you should be good to go on that frequency.

When the weather dries out, the tuning will revert to normal, so be sure to run the tuning cycle again and make sure the SWR reading is low once again.



How do I find out which stations are online right now?

Mouse pad & mouse

Remotehams provides a real-time list of stations around the world that are up and running.  It’s easy to access with your web browser;  just go to http://www.remotehams.com/online.html and you will see a long list arranged in alpha-numeric order.

It will look something like this:

Online List screenshot

Online List screenshot

At the time I took this screenshot, there were 279 stations listed,123 Open to All, 199 TX Capable, and 172 Club Based (which usually requires club membership, but not always.)   It can be hard to find exactly the station callsign you want in that long list, so use this easy trick to search:

First, ignore the search box at the upper left of the page.  It is a site-wide search, not a search for stations that are online.  Instead, with the online list page open, type <CTRL> F  (Press the <CTRL> key and the F key at the same time.)  This will bring up a new search field where you can type the callsign you want to find.

Search screenshot

Search screenshot

The search item, in this case wa0tda, will appear on the page:

Screenshot search result

Screenshot search result

Now you can see the station status.  Easy-peasy!


Return settings to normal before logging off

Mouse pad & mouse

Did you change anything but the VFO setting?  If so, please reset the controls you changed back to these “normal” settings so that the next user will not be confused: 

  • RF Gain 100%
  • Power output: 100 W
  • Squelch: Open
  • Split mode: Off
  • Comp: On
  • AGC: Slow
  • Transmit meter:  Either Power out or SWR
  • ATT (attenuator) Off  (This is sometimes mistaken for the antenna tuner.)

Thanks, and enjoy the remote!

73 – Pat

HF Remotes Policy: Political rants & hate speech

Pat, WA0TDA, wearing headset and holding licensing manuals.
A word from the Admin’s desk. 

I never thought I’d have to write something like this, but we live in strange times, don’t we?

The HF remotes are available to help operators who need access to a resource that will help them stay on the air when they are traveling, living in circumstances that preclude antennas, are unable to access their own stations due to age or disability, or who simply want to use this technology as a convenience to operate from a location within the propagation zone of a particular remote station.

These shared resources are a community place where standards of The Amateur’s Code are valued and followed. There is zero tolerance for any kind of hate speech, bullying, or rants that incite conflict.

Think before you speak. I am quite tolerant and realize that everyone makes mistakes. A cuss word may slip out. Someone else may say something awkward or inappropriate. Handle it as if you are speaking to a gaggle of church ladies.

Remember that we in ham radio have a potential worldwide audience of listeners of all races and ethnicities and religions. What is a joke to one may be a hurtful slur to another. If you need an example, I need to dig no further than my listening to a guy on a 75 meter net call Covid-19 the “Kung Flu”. Do that on one of the remotes I administer, and you will be banned. Everyone should know better. Thankfully this did not involve a remote user.

Once banned, it will be necessary to supply me with a physical written letter delivered by the USPS explaining how this will not happen again before reinstatement can be considered.

We are all in this together. Let’s be thoughtful and helpful to each other.

Sincerely and 73,

Patrick Tice

Yes, you can say it… But should you?

Ham station with laptop PC connected to DMR radio for programming.

A laptop PC is connected to DMR radio for programming. The IC-7200 station is in the background.

Cast your thoughts back to the middle of the 20th century.  Yes, I know many of you can do so – you were born in that era and, though childhood memories may be a bit fuzzy.  Lots of us are old guys who grew up in a Minnesota that was much more rural and young and Christian and white. We pretty much agreed on most things.  That made it relatively easy to manage our politics, but even back then we knew our best bet was to keep our traps shut about that topic during Thanksgiving dinner.

In fact, when I got interested in electronics during high school, the more or less default advice on being a good ham radio operator was to never broach any of three deadly subjects on the air:  sex, religion, and politics.  

That was good advice then and it’s good advice now.  In fact, it’s even more so in 2020, when our new Minnesota is so diverse and our political landscape is so polarized.  We come to ham radio because we share a common interest in one or more of its many facets – circuit building, antennas, public service, contesting, DX, hidden transmitter hunting, space communications, digital modes, CW, DMR, SOTA, portable operation, special events, teaching and volunteering, and so many more.  Most of us leverage those topics by making them part of our on the air activities.  

No one is suggesting that talking about non-ham related activities is a bad thing.  In fact, it’s fun to connect with others who share your interest in other hobbies or topic areas like history, science, aviation, firearms, or stamp collecting.  

But much of life is about being practical.  Making good choices. Thinking about consequences. 

So yes, we can talk about the toxic three: sex, religion, and politics. The question is whether we should, because going there is like stepping into a minefield.  You may get through unscathed, but like as not someone is going away unhappy. Back in mid-20th century Minnesota, we were more alike than different, and the mines were further apart.  Today, we are way more diverse – different in our ethnicity, age, religious background, and yes, politics. That makes for a minefield with a lot more mines.  

Don’t assume that the op you are talking with on the air shares your beliefs on these toxic three.  You may be surprised that even those in your own demographic think differently on one or more of them.  Furthermore, the damage can filter outward from such conversations and be bad for Amateur Radio in general.  I have lost count of the remarks about “old dudes on 75 m” that I have seen on social media platforms frequented by younger folks.  Guys going on about their politics and religion are a MASSIVE turn-off to young people who might be interested in ham radio. 

Are we in it for fun, friendship, public service, and learning?  Yes!  

Are we in it for arguments and proselytising?  Not me. Let’s make better choices on the air. Please. 

Split mode operation warning

Some operators use the radio in split mode. That’s fine, but please be considerate and turn split mode off before you log off the system. Others may log on and not notice that the radio is in split mode when they want to transmit, so this is a problem. Leaving the radio in split mode when you log off will result in being banned from the system.