Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Big Stick (Part 4)

Back in November I started looking to make arrangements for a crane. My first stop was the same outfit that put up my tower in 2013. Unfortunately, they were busy with other projects and had no interest in digging their crane out of the snow, thawing it out, and getting it running, just for my little one hour tower job. They did say they might have some other crane work coming up early in the new year and to check back with them then. I wasn’t thrilled with their response but at the time there wasn’t much I could do about it and things weren’t exactly skipping along at my end either. I decided to just press on and deal with the crane situation when it was time, which was already starting to look increasingly distant.

When the holiday season arrived I was driving home one day and something caught my eye. It was a bright red star made of Christmas lights hanging forty feet in the air above a house. When I took a closer look I realized it was hanging off the boom of a little crane parked in the driveway of a local contractor. I just happened to bump into him that weekend and inquired about his crane. Apparently, he had just brought it to town in the summer and would be more than happy to put it to work for me. I didn’t get too excited though. It seemed awfully small to do what I needed to do but the price was right and at that moment I didn’t have a lot of other options. I downloaded a copy of the specifications for his crane and started crunching the numbers. It had a 55-foot boom (fully extended) and that would just barely reach to the middle of the tower. It could lift the relatively light tower and antenna at maximum reach but it would still be much too far away from the tower mount to set it in place. Then I noticed in the load chart there was a column of weights for a “pick-carry”. I wasn’t exactly sure what that was but when I Googled it I realized it was exactly what it sounded like. It had a rating for travelling while holding a suspended load. That meant as long as it could raise the tower nearly vertical it could walk it over to the mount and set it down! We were in business, as long as I could get the tower ready to go.

I obsessed over every detail of the crane operation until I was convinced it could be done safely.

After Christmas I got back from my holiday and the sun returned right on schedule but it was typical January weather. Cold, cold, cold! Every weekend that it warmed up above -30C I’d be outside trying to finish all the final details. Antenna boom and first two elements on (the last element would go on when the crane lifted the tower a few feet more). Choke balun installed. Coax and rotor cables installed and terminated. 80m half-sloper wire installed and ready to deploy. I’d cross a few items off the list and then have to hunker down and wait whenever the mercury plunged into the low minus thirties and forties. January soon turned into February but with the couple of additional hours of sun each day I managed to get the last few things done in the evenings after work. Finally, after months of fits and starts, it was ready to go!

We had to wave off a couple of times due to weather but eventually, on a bright sunny morning at -26C, the crane rolled into my yard. I carefully reviewed my plan with the crane operator and Gerry VE8NT (ex-VE8GER) who had kindly volunteered to give me a hand. I'd come this far and I didn't want any last minute surprises to spoil all my hard work. My XYL even agreed to take a few pictures and video out the windows to document the event for posterity.

Even for a little crane it was a tight squeeze to get it close enough to the tower.

Gerry and I getting things rigged and ready.

Up, up, and away!

The little crane performed flawlessly.

That tower isn’t going anywhere.

Bring on the DX!

Bonus feature: Here's a little video I put together of the tower raising operation...

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