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Antenna/Tower Replacement Party

P40L/P49Y Tower/Antenna Work Party Oct.-Nov. 2019 Notes

Primary Author Andy Faber, AE6Y, P49Y, with additions by John Fore, W6LD, and Ed Muns, W0YK, ver. 12/06/2019

Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. There was a huge amount of effort in planning logistics, including ordering, shipping, dealing with JP and others on the island etc. Almost all of this was done by John Fore, W6LD, with a bit of help from Ed Muns, W0YK, and me.

On this Sunday before leaving, we had decided that we would make up some jumpers for the antennas, using the K3LR method of preparing the PL-259s. I ended up making five of them: three for the 1015, one for the Mid-Tri and a 47-footer with leftover Bury Flex. Here’s my method:

1) Use silver plated PL-259s, e.g., Amphenol.

2) With a tubing cutter score the outer insulation, slightly longer than the PL-259 insert.

3) Use a utility knife to cut a strip out to the end to peel off the insulation.

4) With the coax vertical in a vise, unbraid the braided shield all the way back to the cut. Try to get it even and with no overlapping strands. Cut away the foil.

5) Wrap three turns of ¾-inch electrical tape around the white dielectric starting at the braid end.

6) Use cable cutters to cut off and remove the dielectric even with the end of the tape.

7) Put on the connector, including the outer shell. Trim the inner conductor so it just reaches the end of the connector. Tim says to tin it, but it can be hard to insert if tinned.

8) Solder the center conductor. Check for extra solder and file off any on the outside of the pin.

9) Cut the braid to about ¼ inch. It’s easiest and neatest to grab the strands in one hand and hold the ends while cutting them off.

10) Fold the neatly arranged and non-overlapping braid strands around the back of the shell and carefully solder them to the shell. A Weller 140-watt gun works OK for this. You can solder about half of the braid wires before having to flip it over in the vise and solder the other half.

11) Tape up the back of the connector, starting about an inch and a half or so from the end, wrapping toward and over the connector then back.

John made another five jumpers. Having all these jumpers completed in advance the trip turned out to be very valuable, as we had more than enough other tasks to fill the upcoming 10-day work party while in Aruba.

Thursday, October 24, 2019. A very early start; waking up at 3:35 a.m. to drive to John’s house in Atherton. Ed also arrived, and John summoned a plus size Uber Toyota Highlander that managed to accommodate our two 50-lb suitcases apiece (barely possible only because all three of us squeezed into the back seat). We had rigorously tried to keep each suitcase below 50 lbs., which necessitated leaving some tools and supplies behind – probably won’t be a problem since we tend to bring multiple sets of tools, and have a huge amount of stuff on site. We hadn’t totally succeeded in reaching that weight limit, but had no trouble checking the luggage through to Aruba. In addition to clothes and tools and the coax jumpers, I was bringing down a rebuilt Tailtwister courtesy of the C.A.T.S. (formerly known as as Rotor Doctor) and about a dozen of the Sterilite plastic boxes for organizing and storing parts. (among the three of us, we carried a total of 24 containers, half small shoe-box size and half medium size, to augment what we already had on hand at the cottage).

The flights to MIA and AUA were both uneventful and on time, arriving in Aruba at about 9:30 p.m. We spent some time in SFO and MIA in the Admiral’s Clubs indulging in their free food, clean restrooms, and even some purchased food in Miami. We all got caught up a bit on sleep on the first flight, and I spent much of the rest of the flight again reading the four antenna construction manuals, John’s exhaustive 24-page day-by-day work plan, and my trip notes from our 2008 refit.

We are planning a comprehensive rebuild, including replacing all three towers and new antennas. In preparation, Jean-Pierre had undertaken a number of projects at our request, including:

1) Not radio related, but replacing the kitchen tile with Corian counters, a huge improvement. We had talked of rebuilding all the cabinets, but a basic cleaning and new handles was an adequate sprucing up. We also kept the old stainless sink, which looks like new with the new countertops. The new faucet, however, has a knob that is a little small and hard to turn with wet hands. As a bonus, JP used some of the extra Corian counter material to refinish the top of the old card table inherited from Carl, which Ed and I like to use in the operating room.

2) Regarding the towers, JP had added concrete about 15 inches high to the Rohn 45 base, rather than replacing the base, just to give some reinforcement. In addition, he had jackhammered out the base of the old north Rohn 25 tower (the 10/15 tower) after he and John had determined that the corrosion of the base where the legs enter the concrete was too advanced to permit continued use, even with additional concrete (the leg closest to the house had actually separated). When he and Cris took down the tower, they had to cut the guys and drop the last 30 feet due to the dangerous condition resulting from the advanced corrosion at the base. JP used our one “new” 10 foot section of Rohn 25 remaining from 2008 for the new base and set it in about three feet of concrete. (And, of course, JP and Cris had removed the 10/15 Yagi and tower sections prior to the concrete base replacement.)

3) He had installed a new guy point in the NE section of the yard, about 10 feet south of the old one that had been in the corner of the lot. He had also drilled a one-inch hole in the garage vertical beam for installation of a huge eyebolt for a guy point for the north tower. It looked precarious, but JP assured us that the garage walls were reinforced in that area for strength and that it would work.

In addition, under the long-distance guidance of John Crovelli, W2GD, his landlord Humphrey and a helper had prepped and painted with some kind of acrylic paint all the new tower sections. This hopefully will extend their lifetime, and having it done for us is a huge savings of time and money. John Fore gave cash to John Crovelli to give to them.

John had done a great and complex job of ordering supplies from a number of suppliers, including DXE (towers, misc. hardware), JK Antennas, Green Heron (controllers and new rotator), SteppIR (new 2L yagi and controller) and others. This had all been shipped to the island (in two shipments by a shipping consolidator in Miami, Bon Bini Cargo Services, that had been recommended by JP) and cleared customs at rates ranging from 6% (on towers and hardware) to 22% (on antennas and antenna controllers). JP and Cris had picked up all the stuff and brought it to the house, performing a high levelinventory which confirmed all material arrived, unlike in 2008 when one box (containing the thrust bearings) went missing.

We are planning to install new antennas as follows:

1) Replacing the C31 on the south tower with JK Mid-Tri, three elements on 20m, four on 15m, and five on 10m on a 24-foot boom.

2) Replacing our two element 10/five element 15 with a JK dual feed 1015: five elements on 15m and six on 10m on a 36-foot boom.

3) Replacing our separate four element 20 and two element 40 with a JK 2040 Falcon: same number of elements on one 30-foot boom.

4) Removing the 80m one element and hooking back up our 80m inverted vee. The 160 vertical dipole will be as before, but with the tower now 10 feet higher should work a little better [Note, since we ultimately didn’t use the last Rohn 45 section, the final height of the 80 and 160 antennas will be about the same as before (about six feet higher in the case of 80) when they are later installed. The 20m now is at the same height as before but the 40m is 10 feet lower, since it is now on the same boom. We had raised the Rohn 45 tower 10 feet in 2008, so the 20 and 40 will both be 10 feet higher than the original configuration inherited from Carl.].

5) In the Rohn 45, we will install a new Yaesu rotor. That and the two Tailtwisters will have new Green Heron controllers (in part to allow future remoting).

At the cottage the new Corian countertops look great. There are boxes everywhere, shipped from JK Antennas, DXE, Green Heron, and John himself, full of antennas, supplies, etc. Ed and I went to bed circa 11:30; John stayed up a bit later inventorying and organizing materials, in large part, to clear off table surfaces for us to start the next day. I’m in the small bedroom, Ed in the big one and John on an air mattress in the radio room [Note: that over the next couple of nights John discovered that one air mattress has developed a slow leak and should eventually be replaced].

Friday, Oct 25, 2019. A hot humid day with relatively light winds [just like all the rest of the days on this trip, as it turned out]. I was outside most of the day inventorying all three antennas. I was up first, and off to Ling’s to buy groceries. I realized when I got there that I had foolishly left my wallet at the cottage, but fortunately had my green purse with $500 in cash emergency money, so could just pay cash.

Back at the house, John and Ed went over to the man lift place (JARA Equipment Rental). Before that Lisandro had stopped over to say hello. John and he had an agreement where he would buy half (11 feet) of one of our two chrome-moly 22-foot masts, and ideally he would like us to provide him with a bit more length when we cut the mast to the extent consistent with our needs. As usual he was a font of information. We have limited opportunities to socialize with him and Lissette as they are leaving on Monday for 10 days in Orlando on vacation. John Crovelli also came by to return some borrowed goods (e.g., our battery operated drill) before he goes to P49V to fix a dead Skyhawk antenna and then back to his shack for the CQWW SSB contest that starts today.

In the mid-afternoon, John and Ed made another trip to JARA (the entire facility had been shut down for lunch when they had gone earlier) to look at the Snorkel 126 (a 126 foot boom lift) they were offering as a substitute for the same price for the JLG 80-HX (an 80 foot boom lift) that had been reserved by John. There is a major problem with the lift we had reserved; they had called a few days earlier and informed us (first Cris, and then in a follow-up with John) that after a site inspection they had determined the lift would not fit through our gate. In the follow-up call with John, they had explained that the reason it would not fit was that the retractable axle on their lift unit was broken and could not be retracted. The Snorkel 126 is indeed an impressively large piece of equipment and would create additional maneuvering challenges. David (Aguirre) from JARA came back with John and Ed late afternoon to walk the site and evaluate options (which included seriously considering bringing the JLG 80-HX into the back yard from the back, but it turned out the gate on the far side of the Cunucu was also too narrow). [Note: in the course of exploring these options, we discovered that the house at the far end of the fair side of the Cunucu where the dirt road enters has been demolished. There is still lots of debris, old rusted out vehicles and garbage in and around the property and the plans for future development are unknown]. After a lot of discussion, we decided that the Snorkel 126 was the only viable option available from JARA and we would try to make it work. David agreed to have it delivered Monday morning between 7:30 and 8.

The remainder of the day was spent inventorying and organizing materials, with me focusing on the antennas as I had agreed to take the lead on antenna assembly, and John focusing on the other tower, guying and other materials. Inventory of the JK Antenna parts was a lot of work when doing it solo; at the end Ed helped out, which made it much quicker. In all the JK antennas, the only missing part was one piece of 18-inch aluminum tubing with one-inch outside diameter for an element of the 1015. We keep thinking we will stumble across it. There’s a lot of variously sized hardware with these antennas; in place of the ubiquitous Force 12 rivets, there are screws and nuts of many sizes to keep track of.

Ed had called and made a reservation at Marina Pirata for a birthday dinner for me. It was very pleasant sitting out on the water, and we were joined by Lissette and Lisandro, who, as always, were delightful company. Although the weather today was hot and humid, by nighttime it was in the 70s and just like dining out in Hawaii. Lisandro had warned us about the prevalence of mosquitoes, given the hot weather and a lot of recent rain, and I had started to feel a few towards the end of the afternoon but none at dinner. As we all agreed, the place hasn’t changed in 20 years: still the same good but not great food, same pleasant ambience on the water with fish that go crazy when you throw in a piece of bread, and same Jamaican waitress calling everyone “my love,” etc. But reliable.

Saturday, October 26, 2019. A very busy day, finally finishing working by the porch light outside at 7 p.m. We then went out for dinner at the Santa Cruz Bar, a Chinese restaurant/bar in Santa Cruz. Had pretty good chop suey, large enough to have to bring some back. I was very happy to take a shower. I came here with my Aruba shirt still anointed with one Noalox patch from 2008. By the end of today, it had many more, as did my shorts, and my exposed thighs looked blue from bruises, but it was just the remnants of Noalox that hadn’t yet been washed away.

Today was a day for antenna building. Ed and I started on the 1015, by assembling the 36-foot boom and attaching it to a metal mast that holds up one end of the clothes line and is perfectly located off the back porch for this use. We then assembled the center sections of all 11 elements (five for 15m and six for 10m), which involved a lot of measuring, fiddly parts connections etc. That took until 12:30 or so, when we all took a break for sandwiches. It was still hot and humid, but slightly better than yesterday. John made a quick morning trip to WEMA for some of the long list of materials we had collectively compiled the prior day (including knee pads which were turned out to be very handy as the week progressed). After lunch he and Ed finished the boom and center section alignment and installed a Phillystran truss to replace the nice stainless one that come with the antenna, but that we worry will fall apart in Aruba. Although the steel truss cables furnished by JK look beautiful and shiny, Lisandro says that the problem tends to be not the cable, but the cable crimp (and, we ended up needing trusses of a different lengths than the standard trusses anyway). Ed also spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to reverse the brackets for the baluns to put the body of the baluns (which are boxes about 4 inches square by 2 inches deep with two output terminals and one coax input at either end) closer to the boom so that they can be secured to the boom and not be at risk of vibrating in the wind.

Meanwhile, I assembled all 11 elements – more accurately, 22 element halves. This involved coating ends of telescoping tubing with Penetrox, then putting in one screw per joint of various 8-32 or 6-32 sizes and measuring and mounting the tips with hose clamps. Normally the tips are also predrilled, as they are in the Mid-Tri, but because our dual feed design is not standard, Ken Garg, W3JK, the designer and manufacturer of our new antennas, felt that all the element tips should be adjustable. I have no idea how we would adjust them all, but he mentioned something on the phone about doing a uniform adjustment on them all if necessary to raise or lower the resonant frequency (normally something one might expect for the driven elements only). He has been very helpful when we have called him a few times, and Ed even sent him a picture of the revised balun placement today and got an immediate OK from the designer.

At about 4:30 we started on the Mid-Tri. We assembled the three-piece boom (the 1015 had five pieces), after Ed and John applied some muscle to straighten out one end of one of the sections that had gotten bent inward slightly in shipping. We mounted it, then John and Ed spent time working on the three 20m element center sections, while I made all ten 10m element halves and all eight 15m ones. The boom is only 24 feet, so it seems quite manageable compared to the 1015, though it has a more complicated feed system with three drivers in proximity. The coax and balun go to the 20m driver which is connected by two angle strips to the other two driven elements. I finished about 15 minutes after they did, by the porch light which did not provide ideal seeing conditions. I was glad that I had brought the right Allen wrenches, nut drivers, and various socket and open end wrenches. Also a supply of plastic nitrile gloves (though they are macerating to your hands), and a big package of cheap little utility brushes (the kind with five-inch aluminum handles) for dipping in the Penetrox bottle to coat the outside of all telescoping tubing as well as the threads used to hold everything together. The element hardware is stainless, with Nylock nuts, and there is said to be serious risk of galling on those as well as the larger bolts used for everything else without such anti-seize paste.

I mentioned that we were missing one piece of tubing. After calling some tubing suppliers on the island, John and Ed decided to cannibalize some old elements that had been removed from our old 20 in 2008. After 30 minutes or so of cutting, drilling, and cleaning, we had a perfect replacement.

Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. Another very full day. It’s now 7:45 and I just took a shower and feel human again, albeit tired and sore. We are about to go to the Urataka Center Pizza restaurant to have dinner with John Crovelli, who operated the contest low power this weekend.

I woke up after a better sleep a little before 7, so couldn’t resist going running from our circle north to the next one, in the very pleasant Linear Park that they have built after widening the road to our circle. There were probably about a dozen other walkers and runners and about the same number of fairly serious looking bicyclists. Everyone smiles and says “bon dia” to you.

The first order of business for me was to finish the 20m elements for the Mid-Tri, then I moved on to building all the elements for the 2040. There are only six of them but they are more complicated, particularly the 40m elements which have large solid metal loading coils in each element which have to be fastened onto the element with complicated hardware in a very specific way. JP came over and worked with us all day. Late in the afternoon, we mounted the Mid-Tri on the Rohn 45 and checked it with the RigExpert antenna analyzer. Its resonance points were all a little low as expected, though close to 13.2 MHz on 20, which is disconcertingly low. We checked all the dimensions carefully with a tape measure, and they were all spot on, so hopefully this anomaly will disappear when the antenna is raised.

John and Ed and JP spent a lot of time finishing the element alignment on the Mid-Tri boom, then started assembling and checking out the 2040 boom. Ed and I put together the center sections. For 40m they are much heavier than on the other antennas, with a U-shaped “channel” about 18 inches long substituting for the normal boom to element plates. Hopefully it will all be worth it. We did a bunch of yard cleaning up and moving tower sections around in anticipation of the man lift coming tomorrow morning. There is a huge amount of work involved in building these three JK antennas,, including lots of time aligning, straightening, final tightening, dealing with truss cables, etc. We all worked very well together but I‘m tired and sore.

Dinner was good, sitting outside at the Urataka Center Pizza Place. The World Series was on, with Astros leading 4-0 in a series that is now tied at 2. Very nice large screen TV. We had a Meat Lover’s pizza, in John C’s honor, and two Balashis each. John had done very well in the CQ WW SSB contest, racking up 5M points low power assisted. Back home at 10:25 for an early bedtime.

Monday, October 28, 2019. We all were up by 7, checking news of CA wildfires, etc., in anticipation of the arrival of the truck. It finally came at about 8:30, as did JP, and a little later John Crovelli as well. It arrived just about the time I returned with shopping from the Calidad Supermarket. This is yet another small Chinese supermarket, but is practically within walking distance. Take the road off to the left just on the other side of the little store on our road (now You Hui, used to be Juleny’s). Only one guy there spoke English, but when I said a few words in Chinese, they all smiled. I never knew this store existed, but John and Ed were aware of it and have frequented it on past visits.

The man lift is a huge thing, a Snorkel 126-foot lift. It has one large telescoping boom with a bucket at the end. Unfortunately, we had a lot of problems all day long, and had to have multiple visits from an operator (who only spoke Spanish) and a mechanic, particularly since in the morning and also in the afternoon after the operator had laboriously driven it into the backyard, the axle would not expand. What is supposed to happen is that a little jack projects downwards from the front and raises the wheels off the ground so they can be hydraulically extended or retracted, but for some reason the jack was a problem item. This caused several hours of delay, but eventually by late morning the lift was in place and ready for use.

Anyway, it was first positioned outside near the south tower, as the first order of business was to take down the 43-foot Rohn 25 tower with the C31 on it. Using the lift, John and Ed took the antenna apart element by element. They reported that the U-bolts came open easily (usually by breaking a rusted bolt/nut) and the elements could just be slid out and lowered on a rope to the ground. After all the elements were removed, John and Ed removed the boom from the mast, lashed it to the lift basket, and were able to bring it down to ground level without getting too close to the power lines along the front of the house.

While all this was going on, we had put the 1015 up on the Rohn 45 at five feet or so off the ground and checked that it seemed to have resonance dips mostly as expected. I had noticed that some of the elements that I had made had loosened slightly, so, with John Crovelli’s help I rechecked the tightness of all of the elements for all three JK antennas. Either as an effect of tightening with Noalox, or maybe just heat cycling – something had definitely loosened some of the joints.

After a lunch break, we quickly took down the old C31 tower in two sections of about 20 feet each, using the lift as the “gin pole”, and with John Crovelli’s assistance on the tower. Although the sections came down very quickly, later in the week JP would end up needing to spend a lot of time and effort dismantling the upper sections and removing the mast due to the extensive rust.

John had arranged with JARA to have a lift operator return after we were done with the C31 antenna and tower, which turned out to be about 3, as we were anxious about moving the lift into the backyard given its massive size (with only about 5” of leeway on each side as it passes through the gate, after retracting the axle). The operator had difficulties retracting the axle and spent quite a bit of wasted time on the phone being “coached”. After about an hour he had the axle retracted and then he laboriously repositioned the machine into the backyard to put it in position to take on the Rohn 45 back tower. It must have taken him another hour, but he did it perfectly with about five inches of clearance on either side of the gate opening. Earlier, as part of general outdoor work, JP and I had finished the job of moving all of the newly painted Rohn 25 and 45 tower sections out of the way, and Ed and we had moved the 1015 boom, all 36 feet of it, off the Rohn 45 and off to the side.

At the end of the afternoon, John C climbed up the 45 and disconnected all of the coax cables, tossing them down for JP and me to coil up and label. John Fore took me up for a ride after the three JARA employees had left. It was fun to ride up and see the great views from 65 feet up. However, we could also see very bad rust on some sections of the tower legs, getting worse as you get near the top even scarily including holes an inch or two long entirely through the tower legs. The machine itself is hard to control. Although John got better at the operation as the week went on, repositioning the bucket could be time-consuming, and we estimate that we may have lost nearly two full days due to its recalcitrance. Sometimes the controls operated smoothly, other times there would be no movement then a sudden jerk of the bucket, and sometimes when seemingly well within its design parameters it would suddenly get upset, start beeping and lock up. JP thinks it was imported from the States as an old, not terribly well-maintained piece of equipment. The Manufacturer’s plate shows it dates from 2001, and the counter shows 6200 hours on the diesel engine.

Concerns with the Snorkel 126 were so great that John and Ed made a trip late in the afternoon to AIS to see if an alternate equipment rental arrangement would be feasible. AIS agreed to rent a new 80 foot boom lift for six days at essentially the same rental rate charged by JARA (generally, AIS is about 20% more expensive than JARA, but their equipment offerings appear to be much more extensive and in better condition; in addition, they apply a 33% discount for weekly rentals whereas JARA only provides an 18% discount, with the result that weekly rentals are about the same cost). They told AIS that we would let them know the following morning whether we would proceed with the rental from them and we also informed JARA that were very disappointed by the Snorkel 126 and that we would decide whether we wanted return it the next morning (which they were surprisingly understanding and accepting of). As things turned out, after working with the Snorkel 126 on the Rohn 45 tower during the next morning, we made the determination that the work with the Snorkel 126 was proceeding OK, in spite of the frustratingly finicky/dysfunctional controls and false alarms and that switching equipment itself would likely cause too much additional delay. So we ended up keeping the Snorkel 126 for the remainder of the week.

We drove up for dinner at 7:30 to Barefoot, the very nice restaurant just north of the airport, where we met John C. They had said when I made the reservation that we would have to sit on the deck, as the beach section was apparently full of people enjoying the feeling of sand on their toes while they ate.

I should relate an unusual occurrence. At one point in the day, I lifted the lid on the toilet to use it, and was confronted by the green head and upper body of a lizard staring at me. Since we keep the lid down normally, it’s hard to envision exactly how he got there. He seemed as surprised as I was, and turned around with his head in the (clean) water, at which point I grabbed his tail and released him in the front yard. I would guess his total length was about 18 inches. There’s an obvious moral for toilet users here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019. Ed and John spent most of the day in the man lift bucket wrestling with the Rohn 45. JP and I were ground crew. They first took down the 20, which now has only three of its original four elements. They took it apart element by element, and we lowered each to the ground, using the same pull-rope pulley hoisting system we used on the south tower. Before that, JP and I spent some time sealing the coax ends and labeling all the feedlines that had come down yesterday afternoon. We coiled them up under the overhang near the radio room, took down the catenary and coiled up the beverage feedlines, pushed through the wall by John, in the cunucu to get them out of the way.

The 40 was next, only two elements but about 10 feet above the top of the tower All day long the lift was a pain to use, as it doesn’t react smoothly to the controls, sometimes moving the bucket with a sudden jerk, and sometimes not at all. Also, there are certain bucket movements that just don’t work. John has become a master operator but it takes more time to reposition the lift each time than it should. The 40 mast clamp was loosened to allow the antenna to be lowered down to the tower top and the antenna inadvertently dropped a few feet, hitting the top of the thrust bearing. Surprisingly the shock actually bent the tips of all four half elements downward. None of us thought there was nearly enough force to cause that.

Even the Force 12 Sigma 80, which is a big, heavy brute, came down smoothly. But they had to do a lot of cutting using the battery powered grinder. In fact, the biggest time sink was deciding exactly how to deal with the top section, which has a heavy top plate, a rotor, and the 140-pound/22’ chrome moly mast. They eventually cut the mast in half (just above the thrust bearing) and cut the tower about three feet below the top, and we managed to lower the pieces successfully to the ground. For this work we were using the old gin pole, with poor clamping action noted by Ed and John. We ran our old heavy pulling rope down to a pulley at the base of the tower, then through another one that JP had brought over attached to the tree near the garage, then to JP’s Rav4, used as a tow mule. They’d yell instructions to me, I’d relay to JP with hand signals, and all in all, it worked smoothly and safely.

They cut out the two sets of guys after we had loosened them (top set) or disconnected them (bottom set), and merrily kept cutting their way down the tower section by section (the rust was so advanced on the upper 30 feet of the tower that cutting the tower legs with the grinder literally only took seconds). At about 6 p.m. there were three sections left. JP had let us know that there was another ham on the island interested in our old Rohn 45 sections, so John and Ed tried to be a bit more “gentle” in the approach to removing the lower three sections since they were not badly rusted and could likely be salvaged. They tried to unbolt the top one, which should have been possible at that height, but they found it easiest to grind off the nuts and knock the bolts out with the punch; stymied, however, by the grinder’s two batteries having been used up by that time and with only 15-30 minutes of remaining daylight, we called it a day.

It was interesting to look at the material coming down off the 45 tower. As mentioned above, the top 20 feet or so of the tower were pretty bad, especially the holes near the top- some of which were larger than an inch in extent. The chrome-moly mast was highly corroded also, though seemingly still structurally sound. The Force 12 antennas were a mixed bag: generally the aluminum tubing and the connecting rivets were all in good condition, but the areas where there was steel in contact with aluminum were heavily corroded. This latter included the boom-to-element plates and the U-bolts holding them on. Some of the U-bolts had failed about two years ago, causing the 20m reflector to drop, and a similar failure had caused one of the 80m T-bars to fall off.

In the interstices of these aerial operations, JP and I tested the seven newly-shipped and painted sections that we now have on hand. All sections fit together OK (though we didn’t push them all the way in to make sure the holes line up. But we had to enlarge or massage slightly over 50% of the holes (misusing a portable drill with a slightly smaller bit for that purpose), which are of two different sizes at each joint. We also did a little filing on the inside section ends to remove protrusions or burrs that might impact their fit.

After a beer, we went off for another meal at the Santa Cruz Bar, but it was closed, so our general debilitation led us to the McDonald’s nearby. Not a particularly good meal, but cheap and quick.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019. It’s 10:33 p.m., and I’m about to go to bed. After work I went grocery shopping at the Calidad Supermarket. Then I stayed home to continue building the SteppIR, while John and Ed went back for Chinese food, thoughtfully bringing some back for me. JP and I had started to work on the SteppIR outside, with simple stuff like building the boom, but got diverted for the rest of the day with support activities. I set up a soldering station at the kitchen table, using the old Black and Decker workmate as a holder, which made the operation quite convenient.

A lot got accomplished today, starting with removing the last three sections of the Rohn 45. JP and I continued our “gin pole duty,” pulling and letting out the gin pole cable (fortunately using his RAV4, not our arms) while John and Ed lowered sections down. Generally, I would make sure the tower section was positioned, then give JP hand signals, since he couldn’t see the lift bucket from his car, nor hear them. When that was done, they immediately started adding sections. When they go three new ones back up, they stopped while we figured out how to do the guying. We arrived at a rather complicated scheme, rather than calculating lengths with geometry. Each guy point first of all has an equalizer plate, then a “pigtail” of ¼-inch EHS, then Phillystran to the attachment point. Here’s a summary of the process:

1) Making the EHS pigtails takes a lot of effort, as we are using big grips, not cable clamps. They are very ornery to work with. Fortunately JP enjoyed that sort of struggle and has strong hands, while I assisted him by holding parts in the right direction, having my tool belt with a vise grips, channel-lock pliers and large screwdriver, along with a supply of Phillystran end caps and black tape for them. But it was hot, sweaty work, particularly for the guy point in the cunucu (for which I was glad we had a set of kneepads; JP sort of squats when he does this kind of work; kneeling is much easier for me, but in the cunucu kneeling can be quite painful.

2) We ended up making three 10-foot EHS tails and three 12-footers. Sometimes a big grip would go in just a minute or two, but sometimes for whatever reason it would just refuse to be braided properly, or one strand of the EHS would refuse to go into place and it would take 10 minutes of hard work to beat it into shape [Note description later of a way to simplify this process].

3) The Phillystran big grips were larger, but a little less finicky, so overall they caused about the same degree of difficulty.

4) The tower attach points are to guy brackets using ½-inch oval iron loops (about three inches long; note that these oval loops are only present on the Rohn 45 guy assembly; on the Rohn 25 guy assemblies, the big grips/thimbles are attached directly to the bolts on the assemblies because the Rohn provided links are too small for the half inch thimbles used with the Phillystran big grips) fitting through big thimbles for the Phillystran. However, the thimbles had too narrow a spread between their two jaws, so JP pounded on the ring with a hammer while I held the ring with vise grips to force it through, then he had to straighten out the thimble jaws with the vise grips and a 12-inch wrench.

5) We would attach one end of the Phillystran to a big grip, attached to the EHS runner to the guy point, then have them hoist up the Phillystran, still connected to the huge roll it came on, then cut it to length, toss it back down for us to put on the big grip and the hardware mentioned above, the we’d hoist it back up to them to attach. In this manner we got all three lower guys attached and one of the top guys also.

At the end of the day, there was some discussion about whether to use all seven sections or stop at six. The main attraction of the extra section would be better results on 80 and 160, not 20 and 40. I said I wasn’t going to vote, since they were the ones in the lift, but JP was strongly against the added height, as it would just be harder to service, and seeing all the damage in the last few days made us worry about the longevity of the new kind of antennas. In the end, John and Ed maneuvered the lift up to 75 feet or so to see how it felt, and announced that discretion was the better part of valor in this instance. We finally quit after 6:30 when it was getting too dark to operate the lift safely.

Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. Got up at 6:45 to work on the SteppIR. A lot of fiddly electrical connections took an hour or more, but when finally set up activating the “Test Motor” sequence from the controller showed everything working, even through 150 feet or so of control cable. The beryllium tapes go in and out an inch or two just to verify the basic functioning, with a whirring of the stepper motors. I had set up a soldering station at the window end of the dining room table, and Ed took it over to rewire a control cable pigtail to our new Yaesu 2800 rotor to be used on the Rohn 45 tower. He also had to wire pigtails on a control cable for the Tailtwister rotor, where John C had cut the cable in taking the cables off the tower.

Strangely, while I was indoors, some kind of bug or spider seems to have given me three raw looking (but fortunately not too itchy) bites on my leg just above the sock line, also some irritation at the sock line that looked like flea bites. [In future days, I sprayed some OFF on my legs each morning and had no recurrence, and no one else had this problem either, so it remains a bit of a mystery.]

Lots of activities were accomplished today, though we are still seriously behind schedule, and discussed at dinner what our plans should be for our last three days, on the assumption that we have to do some triage and cannot accomplish everything we want to do.

John made an early morning (for him) quick run to WEMA to purchase more of the materials from our list, including silicone caulk, white Krylon paint for the SteppIR (to provide additional UV protection), clear Krylon varnish for weather proofing on antennas where stainless steel meets aluminum, stain and brushes for the new table for the radio room and a quality 100 foot replacement extension cord to replace the one that had failed during JPs work on the 10/15 tower.

John and Ed again spent a lot of lift time, finishing the Rohn 45 tower, including setting in the 11-foot chrome-moly mast (from the very heavy 22-footer we had shipped here, after cutting it in half with the grinder), installing the upper guy points and doing their part to measure and install the upper guys, and setting in the Yaesu rotor on its rotor plate.

Meanwhile JP and I accomplished a variety of tasks. These included going over all junctions for the elements for the 20/40 where there are stainless fasteners near aluminum parts of the elements and first spraying the areas with clear Krylon spray, then coating them with silicone caulking material. These are all good two-person jobs, for example with one of us pushing out some caulk and the other spreading it around with their fingers, cooperating in manipulating the elements. Again, my kneepads were lifesavers. The nitrile gloves were very helpful for the goop-spreading task. We also painted the SteppIR element halves, but our two cans of white Krylon spray paint only got the job three-quarters done. Gotta buy some more tomorrow.

We also extended the fiberglass poles for the SteppIR and applied heat shrink tubing to the joints, per the new manufacturer’s recommendation (my 10-year old version just had used silicone tape). In another new innovation, they also now come with end caps designed to allow air circulation but keep insects out. We also made up some more EHS pigtails. Finally, we checked the four 10-foot sections plus the seven-footer for the Rohn 25 north tower for the JK 1015. This actually was harder work than with the Rohn 45 sections; although they are lighter and thus easier to handle, in general they didn’t seem to fit as well and also needed more work on the holes. JP struggled for quite a while to come up with a method to force the top plate section (with legs about 18 inches long) onto the shortened section. He kept coming up with one creative idea after another and finally got the job done. He’s a mechanical genius.

In the late afternoon, John and Ed took up the boom for the 20/40 on the lift, and managed to attach it to the tower and install the replacement Phillystran truss cables and connect and dress the coax jumpers. We were prepared to send up a 40m element half to them, but they came down at about 6, and we all relaxed and enjoyed two Balashis apiece (in small bottles though) instead. Unfortunately, the lift is sufficiently tricky to juggle smoothly in position that the idea of just popping element halves into the center sections (which are all attached to the boom now) is turning out to be more time-consuming than hoped and the ability to rotate the boom turned out to be a helpful timesaver as it reduced the time otherwise required to reposition the lift. JP and I sent the control cable up to Ed and John so they could temporarily connect the rotator and test its operation and so we would be in a position to rotate it as they installed the element halves the next day.

The other big event was that Cris managed to line up tree trimmers, a guy and a younger helper. They did a great job with a pole-mounted trimming saw and a chainsaw of trimming five of the trees in the backyard that were interfering with guy wires; with the Phillystran, we were especially worried about abrasion. They worked pretty hard for five hours or so in the hot sun (as were we). They charged 600 florins ($340). I paid them cash plus a $20 tip and two Balashis. Later, when working on the north Rohn 25 tower (10/15) we wished more trimming had been done to remove extensive dead branches in the top of the adjacent tree which we kept getting hung up in.

Dinner was at the Sensei Sushi restaurant in Santa Cruz, right opposite the WEMA hardware store. It was excellent. We had several different kinds of sushi rolls, plus edamame and even a dessert of fried cheese cake (no kidding) with ice cream. Definitely the best meal for me ever in Santa Cruz. We are all so tired at the end of the day that the thought of driving up to O’stad or the high-rise hotel area for dinner is completely out of the question.

Friday, November 1, 2019. Got up at 6:25 so I could go for a run, then drove to WEMA to buy another can of white paint for the SteppIR elements, since they now are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., then back to the house to meet our self-imposed schedule to be in the air by 8. However, when JP showed up at 8 and we all headed out, we were stopped for a while by an intense rain shower. Fortunately, it did not last long, dried quickly and there was no recurrence.

Today Ed and John first installed all the elements in the JK 2040. We sent them up the 40m elements one by one to avoid damaging the external loading coils, and in groups of 4 half elements for the 20s. It took them about an hour and half to do it all. They reported that it was a little off-putting at first, but after a while it wasn’t very difficult. I had the easiest job of the morning, to sit in the shack for much of the time turning the Green Heron rotor controller for our new Yaesu 2800 so they could minimize repositioning the man lift. After lunch we instituted a code to say “Clockwise” or “Charlie Charlie Whiskey” for the two directions since on the family radios sometimes the exact direction would get lost in wind noise. Generally, JP stayed outside and watched, yelling through the open window if necessary to relay orders. By lunchtime it was all done, and they had checked them out with the RigExpert analyzer, but wanted to do so from the shack with the actual feedlines and with the boom truck away from the antenna.

The analyzer showed that 40 was resonant at just about 7000 kHz; since it was constructed using the manual’s CW setting, the resonance point should have been 7070 kHz. The SWR at the shack at resonance was 1.3 to one. The 2:1 SWR bandwidth was about 200 kHz. John got Ken Garg, W3JK, the designer and manufacturer of the new antennas, on the phone and he recommended shortening the driven elements one inch per side and the reflectors two inches. He said that generally each inch of the driver shortening raises the resonance 25 kHz. Twenty looked very good, but the resonance was at about 14225, with less than 1.4 to one SWR on the whole band. To try to reduce the SWR on 20, Ken recommended trimming D1 only by ½ inch per side. After lunch, John and Ed made those adjustments. Back in the shack, on 40 the resonance point did rise to about 7025. Other SWR readings on 40: 7000 (1.3); 7050 (1.28); 7080 (1.31); 7100 (1.38); 7200 (1.9). And 20 is now less than 1.4 to one on the whole band.

After we knocked off and had a Balashi, I went to the Calidad for a small grocery refill, a case of Balashi, some other drinks, paper towels, yogurt, some chicken and crab salad (which turned out to compare favorably to Lings’s versions) and that was about it. We have been going through a huge amount of liquids; I’ve been drinking a lot of fruit drinks, which are widely available here in non-refrigerated packs (as is sterilized milk in different flavors). For lunch I even had cereal with chocolate milk – what a guilty pleasure.

JP and I uncoiled and labeled the 40m, 20m and 80m feedlines, and took off existing jumpers – actually an annoying project because they have been weather-sealed. We fed them up the tower with the rotor control cable to hook up our shiny new 20/40 like a real antenna. Meanwhile, John and Ed were finalizing the rotator loops, weather proofing coax and control cables connections and positioning the cables on the tower. [Note that this time we used special padded cable-ties procured from Metalworks/KF7P to attach cables. In 2008, we had used tape because of concerns over cable-ties “cutting” into cable jackets. Others have reported (e.g., the PJ2T team and P40W) that tape has a tendency to trap water and exacerbate corrosion (although that has not generally been our experience), so this time we decided to use the “padded cable-ties” although they are expensive. We will need to monitor them to see how well they hold up in the Aruba environment.]

Next step was to turn to the north Rohn 25. Raising the first two sections (which JP and I had assembled) was hard since they kept getting stuck in the tree, but eventually three new sections were standing above the seven-foot base that JP installed. We rigged up one permanent guy to the northeast anchor, and three rope guys. My hardhat came in handy when I was helping Ed install the first new section (our doubled 20 footer) onto the base section that JP had installed. While standing a few feet up the tower, Ed dropped a punch and I bent to pick it up. When I straightened up, I heard but hardly felt my hard hat bonk against the corner of the air conditioner in the front bedroom. Without the hard hat it would have been a serious jolt.

For dinner we drove down to the Columbian restaurant near the Pos Chiquito Rum Shop just above our roundabout. It was open, but had disco lighting , loud music and hardly anyone there, so we ended up back at Sensei Sushi for some more excellent sushi It’s a very popular joint, both eat in and take out, and all the sushi seems to be made by one non-Japanese guy. This time we ordered more hot rolls, and though they seemed to have less structural integrity than last night’s version, they still tasted great. We discussed our growing realization that we aren’t going to finish everything on this trip. We still want to at least get the 10/15 up tomorrow and install the south tower, with or without the Mid-Tri on it. Also needed are some cable dressing and guy wire adjustments to the 45, and Ed is going to try to put Teflon sheets between the coils of the three-turn 40m shunt coil and tape the turns together, in an attempt (recommended by Ken) to get more inductance at the feed point to provide a better match.

Saturday, November 2, 2019. After going to bed at a little after 10 and sleeping very soundly, my alarm woke me at 6:35 and I went out for a Linear Park run for 35 minutes or so. Sweaty but satisfying. Much of the morning was spent fiddling with the 20/40, including adjusting the 40m coil (which seems to have reduced the SWR at resonance slightly), dressing the rotor loop, pulling cables up the tower from the reconstructed catenary line, etc., all of which took hours of work for four people in the hot sun. We ended up with the 160m and SteppIR feedlines coiled at about 40 feet ready for future use. We also added the SteppIR cable to the catenary, raised it up about 40 feet for measurement, but lowered it and left it coiled up at the base of the tower. Ed wants to put on quick disconnects, and prefers to have the cable in the catenary now even if he has to put on the connectors outdoors in the future.

While the modification to the 40 meter hairpin coil resulted in a reasonably acceptable SWR curve, the dip should be deeper. Ken Garg has agreed to send a replacement hairpin coil with more inductance (basically another turn on the coil) and the plan is to install it when we finish the rebuild project on a return effort in January or February 2020.

After lunch, we declared the Rohn 45 tower essentially completed for this trip – and by the way it looks simply beautiful gleaming in the sunlight. We also tightened up the guy wires using the Loos gauge to reasonable consistency. We then turned our attention to the north Rohn 25 tower, which needed two more sections and its top section (which is about 8 ½ feet tall in all, comprised of a special short seven-foot straight Rohn 25 section plus the 18-inch top plate section). The main time consumer there was working out the guying, a lengthy process due to the need to measure for guys, put big grips on Phillystran, set up the anchor hardware etc. All of which JP is great at, with some help from me.

By the way, we worked out another way to do the big grips which saved lots of time, effort and swearing. Before, we had been putting the end of the EHS or the Phillystran into the grip between the painted marks (yellow for EHS, and red for Philly) and trying to completely conceal the end in the braid. Now we have decided to put the end closer to closed end, and begin wrapping at the painted marks. This leaves the end visible for an inch or so in the exact middle between the braids, which actually seems nicely symmetric. Then, the wrapping goes smoothly and you don’t fuss to get the end concealed. At the end of the day, the tower had all its sections, all its guys, and the rotor partly bolted in. Ed and John didn’t quit till it was just getting dark enough to be inadvisable to be operating heavy equipment.

We took Cris and JP out to a restaurant called the Fish House, which Lissette had recommended as having the best fish on Aruba. To get there, drive up the road through the Spanish Lagoon area (i.e., the road that starts just on the water side of our roundabout) about three miles or so till you come to a fence marking the southern end of the airport. There is a marina on the left (Varadero), and the restaurant is the last driveway (no sign at the entrance). We sat inside, but outside looked very pleasant also, and had a “land and sea platter,” plus a few drinks here and there. Ed and I agreed we’d like to try the real fresh fish, instead, to see if it merits Lissette’s encomiums. Afterwards we walked around and looked at some very nice looking, serious, charter fishing boats and even some long-haul sailboats, which John particularly admired. Perfect temp for strolling around outdoors.

Sunday, November 3, 2019. The plan was to get cranking on the 10/15 this morning, but things got off to a slow start, and then everything took longer than anticipated. The result was that we got a working antenna by nightfall, so that is the good news. I got up at 6:25 and went for my usual run, this time meeting no more than a dozen or so early souls out on a Sunday morning.

John and Ed successfully mounted the rotor, but yesterday the Green Heron box that was supposed to work with it blew a fuse while hooked up to the rotor just using the rotor pigtails. [Consultation with Jeff, the owner, by phone from the Admiral’s Club in MIA revealed that this should not be a problem, and just replacing the fuse should be enough (particularly since the rotor is run with longer control cables that will slightly reduce the motor current) However, Jeff also divulged that he reduced the fuse from 3A to 2A last year and had another report of blowing fuses with TailTwister rotor. So, he surmised that maybe 2A is marginal for this rotor and advised us to use 3A. Ed procured a lifetime supply of 3A fuses which we’ll use in the two T2X rotor control boxes, saving all the supplied 2A fuses for the Yaesu controller.].

This morning when asked to rotate the antenna with the Tailtwister box, the brake wouldn’t release. The green light on the box lit up, but there was no power getting to the brake solenoid. JP and I measured about 32 volts at the rotator control box, and also at Ed’s Weather Pack connectors in the shack. The problem was diagnosed to be a broken ground wire at the tower end of the cable from the shack to the Weather Pack connector ; we sent up the connector kit on the pull rope, with which Ed fitted a new Molex pin male terminal to the connector – all of this took over an hour to fix.

Of course, before reaching the point of rotating the antenna, they had fully installed the rotor, and we had gin pole lifted the 11-foot long chrome-moly mast up to them to be stepped. BTW, all this work was done with the machine parked in the NE corner of the property, from which, with some attention paid to guy wires, they could get a clear reach up to the top of the tower, now at about 55 and a half feet.

They spent a lot of time dealing with the coax jumpers, weatherproofing the joints (on this tower, as on the Rohn 45 tower, each juncture was first covered with a layer of electrical tape, then with a layer of Rescue tape (vulcanizing tape) and then with a final additional layer of electrical tape for UV protection), routing the coax, etc., with the result that they didn’t start putting on the 22 half elements until 4 p.m. or so. When that was done, back in the shack the RigExpert showed 15 pretty flat across the band, but 10 had a resonance at about 28500 with a second dip at 28900. Ken on the phone suggested lengthening the drivers ¾ inch and D1 1¼ inches. Though the light was fading they went up and made the adjustments. Ken also suggested playing with the shunt coil, and on a number of successive tries, with me reading he rig analyzer in the shack, they succeeded in reaching a curve that started at 1.5:1 at 28000, resonated at 28300 at 1.2, and went up to 2 to one at about 29000. This is basically acceptable, but seems likely not the optimal results for a design that had 36 feet of boom to play with and six elements. These designs are always compromises, but it shouldn’t be hard to achieve a lower SWR over a MHz on ten meters.

[Note that John and Ed considered using the third “spare” coax to connect one of the new yagis, but saw that the PL259 had not been resoldered yet and the shell appeared to be lose. That served as a reminder that, in general, John in 2013 had resoldered all PL259s on coax cables in use at the time using the “K3LR method”, but that had not necessarily included the “spare coaxes” (one on each tower) on either the tower end or the shack end. All of those PL259s should be checked and potentially resoldered using the “K3LR method” in January or February when the balance of the 2019 rebuild project is completed. Note also that as things turned out, we connected the old 15 meter feedline to the 10 meter yagi and the old 10 meter feedline to the 15 meter yagi, resulting in the labeling of those cables at the shack end being reversed.]

While the result is in the range of acceptable, Ken Garg is eager to guide us to a more optimal result. He has agreed to send us a replacement hairpin coil (with less inductance) and recommended that our next tweak be to adjust D1 by lengthening it by ½ inches on each side. He also seems eager to see the resulting curves and then guide us, real-time, on any further optimization adjustments. The plan is implement these “tweaks” when we complete the rebuild project during a return effort in January or February 2020.

In the meantime, JP and I did a lot of yard and tool organizing, including moving all the old aluminum into the yard from the cunucu (from which JP thinks it might get stolen), putting away tools, flattening all the cardboard boxes for disposal, grinding off the thrust bearing on the south 25 sections so the top sections could be resold, moving them into the cunucu, moving the Mid-Tri into the garage, organizing parts left over for the JK antennas (in a plastic box in the second bedroom, with a baggie containing all the 10-24 and 8-32 screws and nuts needed to mount the elements on the boom for the Mid-Tri), tightening up the catenary and adding the beverage feedlines to it, and stringing a separate one to the corner of the garage to avoid having them stepped upon, and many other similar tasks. All the time being ready to drop everything and provide whatever ground support was needed for the lift crew.

Cris and JP came back at 8 to talk finances. We gave JP cash for his 20 days of work. We gave Cris a replenishment of household money, as her accounting showed her down to her last $205. Ed grabbed some leftovers for dinner while this was going on, and I had some refrigerator items a little later including excellent cutup bell peppers, some string cheese and leftover crab salad from Calidad, plus one last pudding. Actually, very satisfying.

1) Two new towers safely installed.  Old ones safely dismembered and removed.
2) Two new antennas safely installed.
3) SteppIR ready to have its elements attached and to be carried up and mounted. 
 Mid-Tri needs a tower and its element halves attached.
4) No injuries other than a few minor scrapes and cuts endemic in such concentrated
 mechanical work.
5) No personality disputes.

Left for future work:
1) JP to install raised guy point at SE corner of lot.
2) Install south tower.
3) Mount rotor and Mid-Tri.
4) Install stand-off brackets for 80 and 160 on Rohn 45.
5) Install and optimize 80 and 160 meter wire antennas (including testing for
 interactions and making adjustments to minimize).
6) Install SteppIR on Rohn 45, including Weather Pack connectors on control line.
7) Check and confirm beverages (including the labeling, which may have gotten swapped)
 and install replacement E/W wire.
8)   Get replacement 40m and 10m hairpin coils from JK Antennas and swap in.
9)   Tweak the 10m driver and D1 with Ken’s help to optimize SWR.
10) Replace the 1-1/2” SS thrust bearing set bolts with 1” to minimize risk of damaging
 coax jumper loops.
11) Finish permanent guying of North Rohn 25 tower.
12) Replace balance of old Beverage wires while old wire is still intact for pulling in
 new wire.
13) Finish ty-wrapping cables to tower legs.
14) Install safety wires in all turnbuckles.
15) Stain second operating table; modify assembly to our needs.
16) Re-solder PL259s on coax spares (including the fifth feed line to the Rohn 45 tower
 that will presumably be connected to the SteppIR).
17) Install shelf below main operating table for power supplies. 
18) Cover all EHS pigtails with silicone caulk
19) Check final connections at all guy anchors and top off with plastic caps (covered
 with electrical tape) where appropriate.