After my recent few attempts at VHF roves in 2022 (2022 CQ WW VHF Contest Report and 2022 September VHF Contest Report), I decided to try again with a different mindset for activity. I’ve long considered a method to mount antennas to my car so that there was no setup between stops as that was exhausting and time consuming as a one-man band during the contest. My original plan was to get a trailer hitch on my Accord, pay someone to weld me a hitch mount for a ~10 ft mast, mount my 6m Moxon and 2m Yagi and hit the road. However, as I had been recently working with my friend to get our company ham club back together and brought it up with him, he had some additional ideas for the setup. After sketching out how we could make this work as I first envisioned, he mentioned he had some spare pneumatic parts from previous projects piling up, and we could use that to make a movable mast. In Kansas suburbia, there are few good spots from an elevation perspective. We do have several parking garages in the area so I began to wonder if these could be decent options during the contest, and a pneumatic mast would make this even easier as most garages have a seven foot height limitation. We spent several hours over the week or so before the contest in his shop getting together a system that utilized two 18″ pneumatic cylinders mounted to a panel that attached to a trailer hitch receiver. We then built up a way to affix a piece of steel pipe to serve as the rest of the mast. In my trunk, I had a compressed air tank (actually two for a backup) with switch that allowed me to control the mast going up or down. After mounting the antennas to the mast, we had a great system that kept the antennas pointed in the same direction as the car.
From an RF perspective, I made essentially no changes since last year and just used my Yaesu FT-991a (Amazon Affiliate Link) on 6m and 2m with a connection to a laptop. My goal for this contest was to take it easy around the KC suburbs mainly testing the mast, its air consumption, and performance while driving on the road. I only activated two grids – EM28 and EM29 – as I live near the grid line, but I tried operating at several local parks balancing privacy from other park users with maximum elevation. My last stop on Sunday afternoon was the top of the Lenexa City Center parking garage in EM28ox.
From a numbers perspective, I only claimed a score of 5,916 with 101 total contacts to 53 different grids. The only DX I hit was Mexico with two QSOs. From a band perspective, 6m was unsurprisingly the workhorse band:
- 6m: 38 Phone and 54 Digital
- 2m: 7 Phone and 1 Digital
- 70cm 1 Phone
Since my main goal of this contest was to test out the new rover setup, I was perfectly happy with this low score. As I entered the Limited Rover category, this is nowhere near competitive, but I had fun! I have several takeaways and improvements for next time:
- The compressed air tanks worked well. Since the pneumatic lines weren’t regulated, it consumed about 10 psi per up/down cycle plus some general loss throughout the day. We started the tanks at about 90 psi using his home air compressor, but I had to fill the one up at a gas station Saturday night which only went up to about 50 psi. Regulating the air pressure would help with efficiency in general as only like 5 psi was plenty to raise the mast.
- My RF cabling was a bit of an afterthought so I used coax I had on hand and just squeezed it under the trunk. This was fine but I had lots of coiled cable in the car that could be reduced in the future.
- My main 2m/70cm FM rig was the Icom ID-5100 installed in my Accord. When I installed it, I rain power cables from the battery/frame to the passenger cabin, but it is a bit too small of gauge. When the car is off or the alternator isn’t putting out full voltage (Honda has a dual-stage charging system, so it often just holds the battery voltage at 12.something), the radio would reset when keying down at higher power. This was very annoying when trying to grab spur-of-the-moment FM contacts when I was parked. Easiest solution is just temporarily connecting the radio to a separate battery.
- I had the 2m yagi above the 6m Moxon. In hindsight, I should have put the 6m on top to maximize that workhorse band.
- I have a cheap 70cm yagi that I didn’t put up this time, but I will consider in the future. I’d also need a duplexer to connect to the radio.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was how good of an option the parking garage was. It put me up above five stories, and I was not hassled being there for several hours. I’ve tried operating satellites from that same location, and I had some noise issues, but it seemed fine this time. In the midwest, you have to be creative to find good spots for VHF roving, so I was happy to know this is viable for the future.