K7RL Station Tour

Update: May 8, 2019

I’m pleased to announce the station will be available on BeLoud. Please check their site for more information!

BeLoud.us


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Background

Welcome to the K7RL station tour. Since I was a little kid playing with walkie-talkies, I’ve been fascinated with radio, electronics, and the science of how it all works.

During the citizens band radio craze of the 1970’s, I eventually moved up to a Radio Shack CB where I was introduced to skip and working far off places using 5 watts and a small vertical antenna mounted to the chimney of our house. Solar cycle 21 was very powerful, and even my peanut-whistle station could be heard around the world. I was hooked.

Living across the street at the time was a retired ham that was truly the living embodiment of “Home Brew” electronics. He used cardboard for  circuits and metal boxes complete with dials, knobs, and switches. All of his transmitters and receivers, and anything else he needed, were all created from scratch. I’d hear CW coming from his garage and wander over to see what new things he cooked up. With a small dipole antenna over his house, he was working the world on a larger scale than me.

In 1986 that I decided to get my ham ticket. Back then, all license classes were required to pass a Morse Code test, in addition to a written exam. Novice was 5 wpm and General Class was 13 wpm. Extra class was 20 wpm. I passed all of my exams in one sitting and earned a General Class license. I was officially a ham.

In the 1990’s, when the FCC lowered code speed requirements, I took my written exam for an Extra Class license. My original FCC issued call was N7GYD, until I applied for a Vanity call in 2003 and became K7RL.

Location

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Camano Island, Washington

Camano Island is located approximately 50 miles north of Seattle, Washington. It is surrounded by the Puget Sound, but does not require a ferry to gain access. A small bridge separates the mainland from the island. If you want to learn more about Camano Island, click the map above.

My QTH is somewhat unique in that it is bluff property overlooking the Puget Sound. The main tower sits at the top of bluff, which is approximately 180 feet above sea level. This picture is looking down from the tower:

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Check out this aerial footage of the property.

Closest distance from the tower to salt water is about 600 feet, which is towards Europe. Salt water takeoffs are from 330 degrees clockwise to 130 degrees. To take advantage of this terrain, I’ve installed a full-size vertical for 160 meters. You’ll see it in the next section.

The property also has many tall trees, making a nice support system for wire antennas.

Antennas

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Tower #1

The main tower is a free-standing 135′ “Bertha” mono-pole installed in 2002. It’s a very robust system designed to handle 100 square feet of antennas. The stacks are as follows:

  • 7/7 on 10m @ 40′ and 80′ – M2 Inc.
  • 6/6 on 15m @ 55′ and 105′ – M2 Inc.
  • 6/6 on 20m @ 50′ and 118′ – M2 Inc.
  • 4/4 on 40m @ 72′ and 132′ – JK Antennas
  • JK802 – 2 element beam on 80m @ 120′

Tower #2

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45′ Aluminum Tower

This smaller tower is 45′ and features a KT36XA. It’s about 100 feet behind the main tower and is used in contests on the second radio when the main tower is pointing in a different direction.

Tower #3

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15m & 20M monobanders fixed to Japan

The all natural “tree” tower holds a pair of monobanders for 20m and 15m fixed to Japan. The 20m antenna is at 100 feet, and the 15m antenna is 70 feet. They can be switched into the main stack on tower #1, or used by themselves.

Tree Supported 160m Antenna

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Can you spot the 160m vertical?

There’s no doubt verticals work well for DX on the low bands. Add salt water and you have a nice enhancement to those low angles.

This 160m vertical is supported by two tall trees. One feature of island living is we tend to get strong wind storms in the late fall and winter months. These storms test every weakness in an antenna system, especially if you’re using a tree that bends and sways as your primary support.

In an attempt to keep the antenna in the air, I hired a couple of tree climbers to install eye hooks in the top of each supporting tree. A catenary line between the trees supports the antenna.

How’s it working? So far so good. The antenna is much more stable and doesn’t require branches for support which can easily break.

Performance has been quite good. My last test was the spring Stew Perry where many east coast stations reported I was either the only west coast station heard/worked, or the only Washington station. 2018 CQ WW CW, 42 countries and 15 zones.

Newest Additions to The Station

JK1015

The JK1015 is a dual band antenna featuring 6 elements on 10m and 5 elements on 15m. It’s fixed to USA and only 20 feet high, but designed around HFTA for maximum signal strength at all radiation angles. It’s positioned overlooking the bluff.

JK1015B

JK802

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Second from the top is another new addition, the JK802, a 2-element 80m  beam at 120′. Click here to read more about it. 

Equipment

Acom 2000a amp, Elecraft K3, Flex 6600M, automatic band switching, Stackmatches, and remote control hardware and software round out the station. The entire station can be remote controlled by computer with SmartSDR from Flex or a K3/0.

Both the Flex SmartSDR and K3/0 with Remoterig are fantastic options. It really sounds and feels like you’re at the radio where ever you go.


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