The Ham Shack at Sandbridge Beach

There was a plan.

They don't always work out as envisioned.

While we are visiting Jim's ham shacks, I though you might like to see where my weekend hamshack is. Since these pictures were taken, in the summer of 1996, the RV hamshack is finished. If you just want to see the results, skip this page and click on the Sandbridge Hamshack.

This is where I spend most of my weekends in the summer. The RV park is called "Outdoor Resorts of Virginia," and it is an upscale resort with lots of amenities. The location is the southernmost part of Virginia Beach, VA. From here it's about 17 miles by sand dune or water to North Carolina. My QTH is located on a tiny peninsula and I am fortunate enough to have one of the three lots right on the point. There is approximately 125' between me and my neighbor to the right. My neighbor to the left, just moved in and he is also a "ham." The trailer is a 40 foot, two bedroom unit will two pull-outs which make it nearly 12' wide. It's really quite comfortable and the view from the trailer is wonderful. And, there is room inside for a hamshack!

Where the inflatable boat is shown anchored, there is now a 24 foot long boat dock. There are also four additional poles where a boat lift may someday be erected. More importantly is the real intended use for one of these elevated posts, each of which stand about 7 to 8 feet above the average water level. That post will support a 20 foot marine vertical antenna. A homebrew tuner will feed the antenna on all bands except 10 meters. On that band, a shorter whip will be used for a better takeoff angle.

A remotely controlled tuner will be mounted just below the vertical whip. I plan to build a simple switched L-network that will get the SWR reasonably low in some part of each band. A low loss Collins 180S-1 tuner, located in the hamshack, will fine tune the SWR to 1:1.

The idea is to use the external tuner to get the SWR low enough so that coax losses are minimal. Since this tuner is out in the weather, it must be simple and easily waterproofed. Also, the system must handle the output of a Collins 30L-1, about 600 watts.

The ground system will be significant. I have 75 feet of bulkhead frontage on the water. Two ground straps will be installed along the length of the bulkhead. One will be 1 foot above the average water height and the other will be about 2 feet below the top ground strap. This way one or both of the grounds will be in the water most of the time. However, the bay sometimes empties out so that you can walk out into the bay as far as 100 yards on dry land. Back Bay (as this body of water is known) is wind driven and not tidal. When the wind blows out of the north-west, the bay water level drops two or three feet. Since the water at my bulkhead is only about 3 feet deep, on average, you can see what happens.

The ground system will be further enhanced by running ground straps along the dock and down the poles into the sand and mud bay floor. A secondary ground system will consist of several ground radials around the concrete trailer pad and buried in the grass. This should be an excellent ground system since the water is brackish and fairly conductive.

A View from the Antenna Site

This is the view, from the RV and antenna, looking out into the bay. My location is on a point with water essentially in all directions. To the north and west, I am directly on the bay. The photograph on the above is the view to the southwest. Landfall in that direction is several miles. Northwest of this location the landfall is a couple of miles or so. The bay then extends out to several miles in a northerly direction. To the south, the water is about 125 feet away and extends for 30 or 40 miles down to Currituck Sound in North Carolina. About 1200 feet to the east is the Atlantic Ocean. Back Bay is separated from the ocean by a narrow strip of land, thus the name, Sand Bridge. The land is as narrow as 200 yards in places and as wide as a mile farther to the south. I have a good aerial photo which shows this in detail. As soon as I find a copy, I'll try to scan it in. But, as far as a radiated signal is concerned, there is water in all directions.

The computer models predict excellent results from the vertical antennas, due to the excellent ground system and the water. Takeoff angles will be very low on all bands. All utilities in the RV park are buried, so I hope receiver noise will be minimal. It would also be nice to be able to run a KW in such a densely populated area. In tests conducted recently, all was well in the noise department.

If you are wondering who the boys are in the inflatable, the young man sitting on the side, at the motor is my 16 year old son, Jamie. Sitting inside the boat is a friend from his Boy Scout Troop. The boat is a 12' Yukon inflatable with a hard keel. The 15 horsepower, high-torque motor (engine) is sufficient to make the boat plane with Jamie and one lightweight female passenger. While planning, the boat is capable of about 22 knots. It's incredibly agile and quite a ride when you sit just inches above the water! The bay is usually populated with jet-skis and wind-surfers. Pontoon and Jet-boats are also popular.

Hopefully, I'll get the shack built and installed in the summer of 1997. If I don't, there is always next summer! I'll let you know how the plans and predictions worked out.

The Shack ... the plan.

The hamshack will be installed in a tiny closet near the rear of the trailer. The closet was designed to house a washer and dryer so it is equipped with dedicated 20 amp. electrical service. Fortunately, the trailer, like most Park Trailers, and each site in the RV park are wired for 50 amp service, so I shouldn't have any problems with voltage drop.

Since this is a future project, hopefully a summer project, I don't have pictures of the installation. But, here's what is planned.

In the closet will be a custom built console to hold all of the equipment except the remotely controlled tuner. Plans call for a TS-930S to be mounted in the table top and sloped back just as you saw in Jim's shack position #1. There will be room for a keyer paddle and keyer on either side of the transceiver.

This station will have to be oriented vertically since I have less than 30" of width to work with.

On the first shelf above the table top will be a Collins KWM-2, a monitor scope and wattmeter. On the next up will be a 30L-1 linear and a 180S-1 tuner.

This will not be an overly elaborate shack. Of course, there will be usual accessories, coax switches and special lighting. All-in-all, this should be a totally fun project. If you have any suggestions or have done a project like this, I like to hear from you.


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Here's how it worked out.