Tower Time

‘Twas a beautiful, sunny day in Georgia, and the sunshine found me around a hundred feet up in a tower. Some fellow Amateur Radio operators and I teamed up to resolve a weak transmit issue with a local repeater system, and while I freely admit that the rest of the team did all the technical work, I was the only who got high on this mission ;P.

All kidding aside, there were a couple of interesting parts to touch on. The first one, as my faithful readers will have guessed, is safety. I am aware that many thousands of people have climbed a tower in the past, perhaps many times, without all the standard safety gear, and it’s ‘been fine’. Whoopie. Rule #1 is safety, so I was there in full ‘battle rattle’; harness, with suspension seat, helmet, toolbag, and assorted doo-dads and gizmos to help me stay tied off to the tower. I recommend you always use all of the required safety gear, and a little more than when needed, because it’s not fun to get your radio system up to snuff on the tower, only to not be able to play with for a few weeks or months while you’re a body cast.

The second part i’ll touch on was the key issue here: Water. Water had gotten into the connector between the hardline and the jumper. I know, I know, ‘But what about the sticky tape stuff that seals up the connections???’ Yes, what about it? Well, it was on there, and it was sticky, but it still let water get inside. Fun fact: Water will always find a way in, eventually, so the best way to handle this is seal it up as best you can, but leave a way for water to drain out. In order to facilitate this, I set the connection up in a vertical fashion (see pictures below) and the sealed it up to the edge of some heat shrink tubing on the jumper, leaving the tiniest little path for water to drain out, should it ever find it’s way in there.

Lastly, i’ll touch on one of my favorites: Quality. Yes, it took more time for me to clean everything up before putting it all back together. Yes, it took more time for me to line everything up just right so the antenna is vertical, and is blocked the least amount by the tower footprint. Yes, it took more time for me to wrap the tape down and up, instead of just one pass. But you know what? It’s worth every minute spent on it, because that antenna will be up there for a long, long time, and the extra 20 minutes I spent on quality work is a big part of that longevity. In this vein I would urge you, too, to take the little bit of extra time needed to do a quality job, the first time, and every time.

The connection from hardline to jumper is veritical, with the hardline coming in from the top. This helps to prevent water from getting into the hardline.
The first of two layers of the ‘sticky stuff’, you can see I aimed to overlap it 50%, and got it right most of the time.
Keeping an eye on that bottom level, lining it up just right with the bottom edge of the existing heat-shrink tubing on the jumper.
The second layer went on nice and tight.
All wrapped up nice and tight!
I wrapped the vinyl tape around, first layer sticky side out, second layer sticky side in; this helps keep the sticky off the stretch tape beneath, and makes a better seal. It’s also well-secured to the tower so the chafing or banging don’t cause issues.
The antenna looks good out on that standoff, doesn’t it?
The view from up there is great, but not to die for. 100% tie off, stay safe, and enjoy many more days!