Last fall, when I put up the 20m ground plane antenna, I honestly meant for it to be only a temporary installation. I was just playing around with the antenna and didn’t expect for it to be up very long. The antenna worked better than I expected, though, and the couple of weeks turned into a couple of months, and then winter came along. And as cold as it’s been this winter, there’s no way I could have dug a trench for the coax.
So, the coax just lay on the ground as it snaked its way into my shack. Up till now, though, everything’s been working just fine. The SWR was very low across the whole band, and I was having great results on CW and even worked a little SSB with it.
Tonight, however, after not operating for nearly a week, I noticed a big difference. Instead of an SWR of nearly 1:1, I’m measuring an SWR of about 1.6:1 at 14050 kHz and nearly 2.0:1 at 14300 kHz. What changed?
I went outside to see if perhaps one of the radials had become disconnect or mangled and make sure that the radiator was still vertical. Those looked OK, so I took a look at the coax and found that the coax is now under about an inch of ice. It’s possible, I suppose that either the ice is affecting the characteristic impedance of that section or that water has seeped into the coax.
I suppose that it’s also possible that the connector connecting the coax to the rig is bad–I had disconnected the coax before going out of town–but I rather doubt that. I have disconnected and reconnected that connector several times already with no adverse affects.
I guess that I’m going to have to wait for the ice to melt before I know for sure if this is the problem. I tried chipping away at the ice, but then I got scared that I’d damage the coax for sure doing this. And to top it all off, we’re supposed to get another five to eight inches of snow tonight.
The lesson I’ve learned is, “Don’t be lazy.” After deciding to keep the antenna up, I should have found a better way to run the coax into the shack. If I’d done this, I probably would not be having this problem right now.