Sunday, December 1, 2013

Indoor Antenna Trial. Success!

AK2MA Kitchen Shack
While living in Alaska, I worked many stations all over the lower 48 with many on them East Coast using indoor antennas. Let's face it, when the propagation is favorable, you can work the world with little to nothing. I pulled my portable station equipment out of the storage container and set it up on our kitchen table over the long weekend. I set up my Buddipole antenna in the upstairs hallway (3rd floor). Indoors, this would have the antenna at around 25 feet in height above ground. After setting up the Buddipole in the hallway, I decided to try 15 meters first. Once I got the antenna tuned, I headed down to the kitchen to fire up my Yaesu FT-857D. I unpacked my J-37 Straight Key along with my Vibroplex keyer. I turned on the rig and immediately heard my first DX using my indoor Buddipole antenna.

Buddipole antenna set up indoors
My first QSO was with Rade, E77W in Bosnia Herzegovina. I had my FT-857D output at 100 watts, so I was at full power. It was an easy QSO and it was great to get my first European DX in the logbook. I checked upstairs after the QSO to make sure I was not hurting any of the electronics and all appeared well. No clock radio explosions or unexplained toilet flushes. I decided to tune all the bands and see what I could hear. I was surprised to hear activity on all bands, 10 meters thru 40. I logged into the SKCC Sked Page and hooked up my straight key to the FT-857D. I ended up making a straight key QSO with Joel, W4JBB in Alabama. I monitored the SKCC Sked Page where online conversations led to propagational QSO's. I worked Jim, WA5KMA in Texas. I was asked to head to 40 meters for a QSO with Dan, K3DRQ in Pennsylvania. After running upstairs and setting the Buddipole up for 40 meters, I was able to snag Dan on 40, fulfilling his request. After working Dan in PA, I worked Art, WK2S in New Jersey upon his request for 40 meters as well. Art had a great signal into Eastern MA. After our QSO, I headed back upstairs and retuned the antenna for 15 meters.

Antenna Tuning Life Saver!
Thankfully, my MFJ Analyzer makes short work of getting the antenna tuned for a new band. The Buddipole is a good portable antenna but if you want a respectable SWR, you will need to take a few minutes to tweak the coils and change the element lengths. If I had to run back downstairs each time to check my SWR, it might have great physical results but not a great ham result. 

After retuning my antenna for 15 meters, I worked Tony, K6ELQ in California for another SKCC QSO. It seemed my 100 watts and the Buddipole were going to work. I would obviously be roughing it, but it's better than no radio! I have no plans of drilling any holes or putting up any tower at this location for various reasons. So, a less permanent antenna will be my radiator of choice. Not that I will be doing much contesting but at least I can make an appearance in the contests making a few QSO's. Maybe chase Worked All States? When I heard Les, KL7J on 15 meter CW this past weekend, I had hopes of even landing my old state of residence, feeling the irony of ham radio role reversal. 

10 Meters From Today
When I woke up this morning, I had decided to set the antenna up for 10 meters. I also decided to try making contacts at less than 100 watts. I enjoy QRP operating and the Yaesu would allow me to dial down my output power to 5 watts. For anything less, I would have to bring out the Icom IC-703Plus. But for now, 5 watts would work.

My first QSO was with a very loud Ted, CT7AEQ on 10 meter CW calling CQ. I had dialed the rig down to 50 watts for that QSO. Not far from Ted, I found Filippo, IZ1LBG calling CQ. I set the FT-857D for 5 watts and to my surprise, Filippo came back with my call. A few minutes later, I had a valid QRP QSO with a station over 3,800 miles away (using QRZ information). I also shot a short video of that QSO with my cell phone. Since I was running a full 5 watts, it only calculates to a bit over 700 miles per watt. Had I been using my IC-703Plus, there is no doubt in my mind that I could have worked Filippo with less power and achieved my first 1,000 Mile Per Watt award from the QRP ARCI Club. At least I know it will sure be doable! And to top off my afternoon, I heard a weak ZS6JBJ calling CQ on 10 meters looking for SKCC QSO's. I answered his CQ and I was extremely excited to hear John come back with my callsign. Of course, I had increased my power output to 100 watts as I felt I would need at least that to make a contact with John. 

This past weekend got me reacquainted with using and tuning my Buddipole antenna system. It also allowed me to become more familiar with the menu system on the FT-857D. I hate reading manuals but I finally had to break down and read the manual to get the FT-857D to do a few things I needed for it to do. Having a few days to become familiar with this rig, I'm liking it even more. I'm actually thinking of using it as my full time portable rig as the IC-703Plus only has a high power output of 10 watts, where I can have 100 watts if needed with the Yaesu. Also, the Yaesu is smaller so it would be pack friendly. The only difference is, I would have to haul an external tuner (I have an LDG) if I did not want to fine tune my Buddipole for a flat SWR. 

I plan on experimenting with a few more bands but I think for now, my activity  will be on an indoor antenna. This is something new to me as I've always used outdoor antenna's. This was a very humbling weekend experience for me. I've left behind my AL-1500 and 4 element tri-bander for low power and an indoor antenna. I'm ready to take on the challenge and join many that have, or are, currently doing the same. I plan on being more active with QRP and once I find a few good higher elevated locations to operate from, I'll be doing some winter time /p operating as well. I have to admit, winter here is a bit more balmy than I'm used to. I'm sure the locals don't feel that way but for this ex-Alaskan, I'm enjoying the many more hours of daylight and warmer temperatures.


  1. Great work from your indoor buddy pole and QRP at times to boot. Nice to read the indoor antenna is doing the job. I have almost finished my setup here. Last night I fired up the K3 and the KX3 using the Alexloop indoors. I called CQ but was not spotted anywhere....have to look into that.

  2. Great write-up! I am really glad to hear the BP can be used inside. I'll definitely be trying my Buddipole from indoors this summer once the temps hit 110*+.

    I just received my BP a couple of days ago. I set it up in the backyard yesterday, but I screwed it up somehow. It was my first attempt to get on the air, so I'm sure I messed up a setting on either the antenna, the radio or both. I'll give it another go this weekend. I was trying it on 10m yesterday, so I think I will try 40m and see if my results are any better.

    Thanks again for your post.


  3. John, I have to say it works good for me. Nothing I'm going to be breaking records with but it will sure help me satisfy my need for getting on the air. If you need any help, feel free to drop me an email and I can go into a bit of detail on my set up, which may help you. Good luck and please, keep those hot temperatures down south! ;0) 73 and good luck!