I’m Going to VE1 Land! – Chapter 2: You've Got How Many Elements?!?
By Dan Levin
Once I got over the shock of my wife’s acceptance, I quickly settled down to the task at hand – planning my operating strategy. I set out on two parallel paths: first to understand the capabilities of the VE1JF station, and second to gather as much information as I could about operating WPX SSB from the East Coast. With respect to the station itself, all the news was good news. Jim has designed and built quite an impressive set-up, from the antennas to operating desk.
VE1JF is located on the north shore of Nova Scotia, near the town of Bridgetown. While this sounds like a distant and wild setting, ‘JF is actually south of Bangor, Maine! I always thought that Nova Scotia (a fairly long and skinny peninsula off the coast of New Brunswick and Maine) ran north/south – but in fact the peninsula runs more north east / south west. Jim’s place is in the Atlantic time zone, about 100 miles east of the Maine coast and almost exactly 1 hour east of VE3EJ’s fine QTH.
The core of the station is a single 110’ guyed Trylon tower, perched on the edge of a 220’ tall cliff overlooking the Bay of Fundy. As you can see from the map, the VE1JF QTH is blessed with an extraordinary over-water take-off from about 250 degrees (beaming ZL) around through VK, JA, UA0, W, and UA2 to about 55 degrees (beaming LA). The other 180 or so degrees the take-off is over flat land. Given the height above the sea when beaming over the cliff, Jim had to make a trade-off on the height of his antennas. Too high and the over-water directions would suffer from extremely take-off low angles (imagine a 10 meter yagi at an effective height of 500’!). Too low, and the over-land directions would suffer from a lack of low take-off angles!
Jim’s solution was a stack of three Force 12 yagi’s. The top and bottom antennas (at 110’ and 35’) are C-51XRN’s – 7 elements on 10 meters, 4 elements on 15, 3 elements on 20 and 2 elements on 40. The middle antenna (at 72.5’) is a C-31XR – the same antenna without the 40 meter section. Each yagi is fed with multiple feedlines – one for each band - and the antennas for each band are controlled by an Array Solutions StackMatch. Finally, each antenna is independently rotatable. This design allows for full two radio operation, with the operator able to select any or all antennas for each band independently.
Perhaps more importantly, by using single antennas or the entire stack this arrangement gives the operator pretty good control over take-off angles, in any direction. One of my biggest challenges was figuring out how to make best use of all this hardware, given no time to prepare before the contest! I had used somewhat similar stations before – N6NF has a two stack of C-31’s controlled by a StackMatch – but the unique cliff-side setup at VE1JF was going to be hard to figure out. That said, it was clear that there was nothing I could do to prepare myself – so I filed the high band antenna situation in my mind and moved on to the equipment on the operating desk.
Here again, I liked what I heard. 2 Yaesu FT-1000MP’s (one a Mark V) drive two Alpha 87A amplifiers. Jim uses WriteLog to handle logging and 2 radio control – which happens to be my favorite logging program.
After thinking for about thirty seconds, it became clear to me that if everything was as it sounded – a top-ten in the world score should be possible from this station. Now the question was, could I – with no experience operating from that part of the world – deliver?