Winter 2008 Issue

Non-Noodling Rover Masts

Whether it's via rover operation or supplying emergency communications, the portable station operator often finds it difficult to reliably erect an antenna up more than about 15 feet. Here WB6NOA reviews the BlueSky Lite mast for its ability to fill the height needs of rover operators as well as portable emergency communicators.

By Gordon West, WB6NOA

Photo A. Tom Mackay, W6WC, prepares to assemble the BlueSky Lite mast for a southern California 2007 Field Day operation. (WB6NOA photo)

Ham radio operators know all too well the word “noodle”—the unpredictable, unsteady bowing of light-weight mast sections. As VHF and UHF rover operators are aware, getting your antennas higher than the local scrub likely requires non-noodling, stout mast sections capable of supporting even a rotor on top.

“We had our long boomers up and playing at 40 feet with absolutely no noodling,” comments Bill Alber, WA6CAX, referring to the BlueSky Lite mast system (http://www.BlueSkyLite. com) available from W4RT Electronics ( Barry Johnson, W4WB, of W4RT Electronics, was so impressed with these made-in-the-USA mast systems from BlueLite that he brought them in for distribution at W4RT.

The blue anodized-aluminum mast systems are manufactured in Florida, originally intended for the public-safety market after a hurricane or tornado has ripped through town. The quickly deployable system is “ready to roll,” in a professional-looking 54" ¥ 14" ¥ 14" three-wheel carry bag with fiberglass runners to slide easily into a pickup truck. During a recent Field Day, preceded by the ARRL June VHF QSO Party, we deployed the mast system to support everything from a Hi-Q motorized dipole system; followed by a pair of stacked boomers, including rotator; and finally tested with a Hex beam covering 6 through 20 meters.

For one test, during the VHF QSO Party, we compared mast rigidity of two 30-foot mast systems, supporting Chip, K7JA’s homebrew copper-water-pipe 6-meter beam. With conventional mast materials, numerous sections of guy rope were required to keep Chip’s beam steady. With the BlueSky Lite 30-foot mast kit, only a single set of (supplied) guy ropes to the included guy ring was necessary to keep this DX homebrew biggie aloft.

The BlueSky Lite 30-foot mast kit includes the following components, compartmentalized in the heavy-duty Cordura® rolling bag:

• Seven blue anodized-aluminum mast sections, 2.75-inch OD, 48 inches tall, predrilled for locking pins (supplied)
• Complete UV-resistant black guy-rope system, with collars and professional ground stakes
• Two-pound hammer for the ground-stake task
• Pre-mount top-section antenna pole, 24 inches, with generic antenna mounting plate (see paragraph after list)
• Base plate for ground mounting, including base plate stakes and the 2-lb. hammer
• Lock-hitch pins for securing poles together
• Lock-hitch pins for securing guy rings
• Detailed instruction manual
• Optional trailer-hitch mount and mast adapter

The top-mount flat mounting plate has been pre-drilled to accept an electric rotator assembly (flat), or to accommodate nearly any configuration of U-bolts to secure a beam or horizontal mast section for a pair of VHF/UHF phased beams. There are so many holes in the supplied top plate that there is little chance you would ever need to drill any more for almost any type of rotor or U-bolt.

Each blue anodized-aluminum mast section slips and interlocks into the next section so they won’t turn within each other. You can use as few or as many of the sections as you need to get your VHF/UHF antennas up in the air when operating rover.

“We have seen ham radio operators configure the antenna to 30 feet with more than 20 lbs. of antennas and the rotator on top,” adds Scott Vanover, of BlueSky Mast, Inc., parent company of BlueSky Lite, LLC.

The sturdy ground plate, with the supplied ground stakes, keeps the base from jumping out of position, but allows the base to hinge the masts up. For rovers, you may wish to order the optional trailer -hitch assembly, which would allow the mast sections to simply slip in and secure.

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