Over the past few years, I have been increasingly intrigued by 6M (50mhz) operating. The real exploration from this QTH began in 2009, when I installed a 3-element SteppIR yagi with the extra 6M passive element, making for a four-element yagi on that band.
In August 2017, I reconfigured the SteppIR for 6M by adding a second passive reflector element properly spaced behind the driven element, following the suggestion of GM3SEK. That optimized 4-element yagi worked very nicely, and I made plenty of meteor scatter and FT8 contacts with it.
But as with so many things in ham radio, one never has quite enough gain — there’s always a next step.
The 6M “beacon” from British Columbia is VE7DAY. When I saw in September 2018 that John was selling his M2 6M7JHV antenna at a bargain price, I jumped at the chance to buy it. John upgraded to a 9-element Loop Fed Array (LFA) on a 50-foot boom.
I made arrangements and over a weekend drove the 500 kms to John’s place (a trip that involved a two-hour ferry ride each way and an over-night at my parents’ place about an hour south of John’s QTH). When I got home the next day, it took precisely a couple of hours to assemble the antenna — and almost 24 hours from the time I left John’s place, I made my first QSO with the new antenna sitting on sawhorses in the back yard.
The QSO just happened to be a meteor scatter contact with VE7DAy. A fitting return to the air for a proven performer.
It took another three weeks to locate new LMR400 coax and find all the hardware I needed to install the M2 6M7 on the mast. Finally, On Oct. 8, 2018, my son Dan and I spent a couple of hours tilting over the tower, attaching the new antenna and raising the tower back to vertical.
And the first QSO with the new antenna back in the air? Yep, VE7DAY via meteor scatter.
The antenna is mounted a few feet below my SteppIR 3-element. While I had the tower tilted over I should have removed the two aluminum 6M passive elements from the SteppIR but I forgot. Note to self: don’t get so excited when installing a new antenna.
Now, I will need to tilt over one more time — hoping fall weather will still allow it in late October — to remove those elements, as I strongly suspect they are hurting the gain and pattern of the M2 6M7 below them.
Dan and I tilted over the tower on Oct. 14, thankfully on a warm sunny afternoon. Earlier that morning, using the SteppIR’s 4-element 6M yagi I made a few test CQs on 50.260 and ended up working WA7HQD in Utah (DN31). He got a -01 and I got a +05 via meteor scatter, and I was pretty pleased that I was able to confirm that the SteppIR was indeed behaving like a 4-element yagi should.
I asked Doc to listen for a bit longer while I switched to the 6M7JHV. After 15 minutes he hadn’t heard a peep from me, and I heard nothing from anyone. That confirmed that the SteppIR aluminum elements, in particular the reflector sitting about 3.5 feet above the M2 yagi and a few feet in front of the M2’s driven element, were indeed acting like a blanket shielding the M2’s driven element from fully hearing signals.
Out I went with Dan to make the fix. We had to remove the front two sections of the M2’s boom to tilt the tower close enough to the ground to reach and remove the SteppIR’s aluminum GM3SEK add-0n aluminum reflector.
Dan got up on the ladder and did the honors with the wrench, removing that reflector element while I removed the aluminum factory-supplied first director from the SteppIR — my part was easy, working at chest height while standing on the ground.
We cranked the tower back to vertical without incident, reassembling the M2 boom as the tower tilted up sufficiently, and I ran inside to see if it worked.
Now, fall 2018 hasn’t given us any E-skip propagation in the Pacific Northwest, but meteor scatter is always an option — though very random. I started hearing activity almost right away — pings from stations in Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, etc. I tried working a few, but didn’t have immediate success.
Then, the following night after work I pointed southeast and sent three CQs on 50.260 Mhz. Immediately, Gary AG0N — 988 miles away in Nebraska — replied with a +05 report. I fine-tuned the bearing to point right at him, and he confirmed the QSO on the next ping. He later told me that he had been pointed EAST when he first heard me off the back quarter of his antenna. That’s pretty good for 100W on 6M via meteors.
Next step? Winter is almost here and 6M activity will mostly be sporadic meteor scatter for the next few months. I’ll have fun puttering around with “rocks” until propagation returns in the spring.
And, seeing as this feels like a long-term affliction, I will keep an eye out f0r a good used 6M amplifier to give me a bit more dB out than the 100W transceiver will support.
(Update – April 2018: in November 2018 I added an Acom 1000 to the shack, providing a kilowatt on 6M…. By April 2019 I was watching for sporadic E-layer propagation, or Es, but so far not much happening. I can hardly wait for summer Es).
I am now equipped for low-power meteor work on 6M and 2M (with a 7-element cross-polarized yagi at the top of the tower).
It’s a lot of fun just calling CQ and seeing which monitoring stations report hearing me on PSKreporter.