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Belton Hamfest

This morning I ventured up to Belton to the hamfest. It was an early crowd, when I got there at 11:30 people were already packing up their tables and leaving. Some new kit, but mostly old odd gear. I decided a while back I wasn’t going to get a Yaesu ATAS-120 after readng the horror stories of what happened to them after they were left in the rain. I had my eye on a Little Tarheel II which had received solid reviews. Today at the hamfest, a vendor had one, so I bought it.

It’s a slick little unit, looks very well constructed. The coil + 32″ whip made it about 10″ too long to mount on top of the truck bed rail, which left the rear bumper. The when the unit is tuned to 6 meters, the coils are about 6″ below the side of the truck. Being the impatient cheap sort I am, I made my own bumper extension mount to swing the antenna off to the side. The thing appears to be designed to only be mounted via a 3/8″ stud mount, which seems really lightweight to me.

The Tarheel is a motorized screwdriver-type antenna, which means it has to be tuned to match whatever band I’m operating on. I suspect this is going to get really old really fast, because I have to tune the antenna by ear. When I pulled out the switch kit, it has this klunky momentary DPDT rocker switch — not exactly high tech. This is opposed to the ATAS which is designed to be tuned with the FT-857D; push a button and it automatically tunes for you. This has me looking for automatic tuners that work with the FT-857D, namely the Antenna BOSS.

Anyways, I hooked it all up tonight to play with it. From my apartment I wasn’t picking up anything interesting so I drove out to the end of the street. 60 meter was active, I picked up six conversations; there was some mild background static noise, but the voice was easy to hear. From listening to conversations and recording some callsigns I determined there was a group in Virginia, Michigan, and New Jersey; another pair in Arizona and California, another pair in San Diego. Googling tells me one was the “3.955 Ragchewers Group”. I couldn’t figure out what the San Diego guy was doing, he kept calling out K6VO over and over .. I don’t know if he was working DX or some sort of contesting.

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