Aerials eh? Potentially a contentious subject, but always a hot topic for us lightweight portable SOTA ops. Unfortunately, while I am quite good at doing the maths bits for aerials, things go pear shaped when I need to start any practical work. I’ve rarely managed to fit a plug without the SWR going through the roof, and just don’t ask about the soldering iron and the Bencher paddle…
But fortunately, I’ve got a couple a local mates who are not only practically adept, but are SOTA activators. Richard G3CWI got me going with halfwave dipoles for 80m and 40m, which have always worked really well for these bands. A 30m dipole has recently been added to increase the fun. (The 40m and 30m dipoles also work acceptably on 15m and 10m respectively).
My other friend (yes, I’ve got two, I’ve never been so popular) Sean M0GIA has lots of ideas. Some of them are dreadful. Some of them are inspired. International SOTA Weekend must count amongst the latter. His converted CB aerial for a multiband HF vertical, without doubt, one of the former. A great big shiny metal rod with dual purpose - an effective lightning conductor for the summits and the most elaborate but functional dummy load you ever used. Great on receive, flat SWR, but the effect of a mesmorizing inverse amplifier on transmit. Truly astonishing.
But then he comes up with an idea (hardly original, but still a good one) to chase the horizon using a vertical 20m antenna with a groundplane. Four bits of wire and a feeder. And did it work? Yes - I instructed him that he had to hand it over to me in return for some leafeting I did for his XYL, and proceeded to work the world on 5 watts from the summits - UA9, JA, VE, W, LU etc, 599 both ways being typical. Although the theory of how the antenna was effective was simple to understand, its performance had a certain “magic” about it. “Magic M0GIA” was mentioned, soon after which the antenna became known as the Magic Moggy.
I immediately informed Sean that I wanted one making for 17m. Sean got straight to work on this, and I only had to deliver about 2200 more leaflets and wait several decades before he made me one. And Thursday 27th May 2010 was the night it would debut.
Jimmy M3EYP was at a scout event at Barnswood in the Staffordshire Moorlands with his mate Edward, so it was an easy decision to utilise the two hours of downtime. I continued up the hill to Gun G/SP-013 and marched to the summit.
I set up the MM17 with the driven element elastic-banded to the very top end of the SOTA Pole, meaning that the feedpoint was about 7 feet off the ground. The groundplane radials, also acting as guys for the pole, were angled at about 30 degrees to the horizontal in this arrangement.
I was about to kick off when I realised I had left my phone in the car - so there would be no self-spot. Fortunately, my alerted QRG of 18.077MHz CW was clear, and double-fortunately, well-known SOTA chaser Laci HA7UG answered my very first CQ call. This was great, because it meant I could ask him for a spot, which he kindly provided. Many thanks Laci.
I then operated continuously for fractionally over one hour making 36 contacts into 18 DXCCs, which were: Hungary HA, Poland SP, Austria OE, Germany DL, Slovakia OM, Croatia 9A, England G, Belgium ON, France F, Russia RA, Wales GW, Italy I, USA K, Switzerland HB, Denmark OZ, Ukraine UT, Serbia YU and Greece SV.
The architect of the MM himself, Sean M0GIA came out for a stroll to the summit, to check on the progress of his latest creation. He arrived as I was putting QSO number 30 and DXCC number 15 into the logbook, so was soon musing about the MM12 and the MM10 projects!
If the evening couldn’t get any better, the sun was out, the sky was blue, and the colourful panorama from Shutlingsloe, over The Roaches and down to Tittersworth Reservoir was stunning. OK, as “views from the shack” go, it’s not quite in the league of Ailsa Craig GM/SS-246, Great Gable G/LD-005 or Slieve Donard GI/MM-001, but still pretty good.
Radio traffic eventually dried up just after 8pm, perfect timing for me to break everything down and drop back down the road to pick Jedward up from the scout camp. A most enjoyable evening. Thanks to Sean M0GIA for the excellent MM17 to go alongside the MM20, and to all the SOTA chasers that came on to work me - it is really appreciated, thank you.
73, Tom M1EYP