And now for something completely different…

Long-time readers may simply shrug their shoulders, thinking, “Well, yeah…a POST, a real entry from K4ZA, after ‘lo these many months!”

And they’d be right, of course, for which I apologize. The health-related issues with my Mother up in Ohio, and closer to home, with my very own XYL, delayed not only lots of client jobs, but travel in general. And without travel, there’s no work, and without work, there’s hardly any reason to post. But I digress, work has resumed.

Besides running down to K4ATX’s, where we lowered and tilted over his crank up tower, attempting to figure out why his DB-18 suddenly stopped working, the first job up for discussion is the subject of the abused Monty Python title above. I’d received a call from a local Charlotte company involved with installing data transmission equipment on water towers. They wanted to know if I thought I could climb such structures, and install and maintain that type of antennas. I admit the idea piqued my curiosity a bit–who hasn’t looked up at one of those big things (at least a ham, that is) and wondered what it would be like to climb and work on? So, they offered to try me out on a non-functioning tower job up in Mocksville, NC, only a couple hours from Charlotte.

Climbing the tower leg was simple; the ladder is really rugged and solid. Even the part that tapers out and AWAY from the leg (as the legs all tilt inward, of course, as you near the top), wasn’t hard to climb. You step up and off the ladder on to the catwalk, which surrounds the entire tank. On the opposite side from the leg with the ladder, is a another ladder leading up and over the tank itself. I was apprehensive about that climb, but again, everything was totally solid and a simple climb. I suspect looking down would contribute to a somewhat sickening feeling, but my focus is always on my hands while climbing, so I had no trouble at all. But I had to “stay” on the ladder, as the tank was painted (I’d guess with epoxy paint, as it was slippery) and as smooth as the proverbial baby’s butt. Once at the very top, it was obvious why things weren’t working, as the antenna was laying on the tank itself, held in place only by the coaxial cable. Obviously capacitively coupled to that huge steel structure. Whoever installed it was not very mechanically inclined, as they’d used a floor flange, screwed in with four #10 1/2-inch self-tapping screws, holding a 1.25-inch length of water pipe. Structurally, such a flange has no real strength, holding only a couple threads of the pipe, and it had simply broken in two from the wind-induced forces.

Of course, the coax (which ran to the ground) was pretty heavy, running up the ladder, then around to the opposite side of the tank, so it took me a while to lower that by myself, while trying not to slide off the slippery slope! They’d sent along a new antenna (800 mHz), which was nearly 21-ft long, an old Station Master clone. I knew I’d never be able to hold that overhead and mount myself. But that was a moot point, since there was absolutely nothing to mount anything to up on top of the tank.

A few quick phone calls and they instructed me to mount it on the catwalk if at all possible, providing directions for where it should go. They’d sent along one of their own technicians, who said he’d come help if needed, so I had him come up and while I held the new antenna up in position, he bolted the bracket on to the catwalk’s angle iron structure. Then he climbed down and I followed, securing the new Heliax to the climbing ladder’s mounting brackets.

They’ve already inquired if I am willing to do more installs. So…I guess everything went well in their minds; I was just pleased to have successfully climbed such an interesting structure.

stay tuned…

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