Monday, December 3, 2007

Near Disasters

Some years ago, when I was a teenager, I was into CB radios -- just like the rest of the country. My license was KAFU0074, and my 'handle' was "Magic Fingers". Don't ask. Anyway, I wanted to raise an antenna. I lived on the hill above Whitworth College, in north Spokane. There was a cliff face behind me, but I had an unobstructed view to the north, east, and south.

There was an old unused flagpole in the yard -- it was perfect for my plans. The flagpole was a large pipe, and threaded into a connector near the bottom. I soaked the threads in penetrating oil for a few days, then got some friends over to help. Those of you who know me know that I'm a big guy -- someone who could easily lift and move a 20' flagpole by himself. As a matter of fact I have done just that, recently. However, back then I was, literally, half the man I am now.

I was just as tall, but so skinny... My friends were both shorter than me, and also not body builders by any means. Somehow we managed to unscrew the flagpole and lift it off it's two foot stub base, then lean it against the side of the house. Moving to the roof, we assembled and attached the antenna to the top of the flagpole. Then it was time to move the assembly back onto the flagpole. That's where the near disaster of the title comes into play. The flagpole was easy enough to handle by itself, but we added 20 pounds of metal. Worse yet, the additional weight was all at the top of the pole, adding 10 feet to the height and 8 feet to the width, due to the projecting ground plane radials. Not to mention we had to deal with the long antenna cable dragging along behind us.

To say we were over-matched is an understatement. It was all we could do to merely lift the assembly, and maneuvering it into position was a precarious undertaking. We moved back and forth like stumbling drunks, barely keeping the antenna upright. Complicating matters was the previously unnoticed presence of the power lines that fed the house. The power lines were well out of the way from the flagpole alone, but with the extra 10 feet height we were within inches of touching the power lines.

I'm not sure how, but we managed to get the flagpole back onto it's stub, and screw it into place. I suspect divine intervention. We were all exhausted, and for some reason I couldn't get my friends to help me on another project for some time. On the plus side, my CB base station reception and range was fantastic, and the neighbors hated the antenna.

We failed to take into account all the variables, and nearly had a disaster. Here's a story about some guys playing with a nuclear reactor, and their quite real disaster. This is only a near disaster in the sense that it could have been much, much worse. What happens when your nuclear reactor goes out of control and catches fire? The Windscale Disaster.

No disasters on Whidbey Island, ever.

No comments:

Video, Live Cams, Stories, Art, and much, much more from Whidbey Island