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I live in a draw, well below local average ground level. There are two repeaters I want to be able to use (because they're in the network my club uses). One is in the 440 band, thirty miles away but more than a thousand feet up in a pass, with a small mountain (a little lower than the repeater) directly between; the other, on 2m, is on a radio tower fifteen or so miles away, but with the ridge that forms one side of my draw blocking.

Short of installing my own repeater or antenna on a tower high enough to get over the surrounding terrain, is there a trick for hearing and being heard by either of these repeaters while at home? I have 8W of transmit power available on a 16" Nagoya antenna that replaced the original on my BaoFeng BF-F8HP.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you hear the repeaters? $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Mar 27 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilFrost-W8II I'm not certain. I'm pretty sure they can't hear me, but repeater traffic levels in general seem low enough I'm not sure whether I'm not hearing the repeater, or it's just not transmitting. Some repeaters I can hear send an ID periodically, some don't -- so again, I can't be sure. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Mar 27 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ A mountain in the way does not necessarily block desired signals. Google radio knife-edge refraction. Any reason why you can't try and hear the repeaters? $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Mar 27 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeWaters I'm aware of diffraction, but for 70cm (the one with the mountain) I'm pretty sure a mountain doesn't count as a "knife edge", and I'm sure a gentle ridge doesn't for 2m. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Mar 27 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeWaters I've tried, multiple times with each repeater, at 4W and 8W power level. No response. I'm KX4QP -- just got my call a week or so ago. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Mar 27 at 19:21
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Reaching a repeater 30 miles (48 km) away with a mountain in between, with a handheld, sounds nearly impossible. Reaching a repeater 15 miles away with a ridge in the way with a handheld sounds very difficult.

You could experiment with several improvements:

  • A better omnidirectional antenna up high, like on the roof
  • A radio with more power, like a 50 W mobile rig
  • A directional antenna like a yagi
  • A passive repeater (a 1/2λ vertically-oriented conductor) on the ridge or mountain top
  • A repeater on the ridge or mountain top that is linked to the other repeater(s)
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    $\begingroup$ I've contacted the club, expecting a pointer to the networking management to check on the last possibility. Putting something either place isn't possible (posted land). More power is a possibility; the network crosslinks to 6m and 10m as well. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Mar 27 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon How about on your roof as he suggested? Better yet, a tower or mast? $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Mar 27 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ I'd love it if you can prove me wrong, but I'm guessing a passive repeater won't do much good at that distance. The other ideas seem like they're worth trying, especially the directional antenna. $\endgroup$ – mrog Mar 27 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ @mrog By itself I can't imagine that a passive repeater would help much, but in combination with a better antenna and/or more power, it might be just enough. I just had an idea: the passive repeater could be a passive yagi, or two connected yagis... $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Mar 28 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @rclocher3 That's a valid point. $\endgroup$ – mrog Mar 28 at 20:57
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Regardless of where you live or what band you operate, the general rule is: "If you can't hear 'em, you can't work 'em." A secondary rule for repeaters is that if no one is there, it gets boring fast.

The first challenge is to listen for the repeaters. If you do, you are most of the way there. If not, verify that your rig is configured correctly by going near the repeater and listening. If you hear nothing, try transmitting your callsign and seeing if you can key the repeater. If you don't, step back and figure it out.

When you do hear the repeater, next determine where you can hear the repeater. Can you hear it from the top of the ridge? If yes, can you see the repeater and your QTH from the top of the ridge? Maybe you can estimate how tall an antenna support structure you would need to be in line-of-sight.

I don't know your terrain, but the first antenna I put up for my son was a vertical antenna in a tree. It included a counterpoise. Rather than screw it to a base, I pulled it up with a rope. It worked really well for repeaters.

I've been advised that if you decide to install a yagi for better gain, it should be mounted with the elements vertical rather than horizontal. Repeaters are usually vertically polarized, so the system gain is much high if the yagi is also vertically polarized.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've pretty firmly established by now that I can't key the repeaters I need for the club nets from my home. There's so little repeater traffic around here that I'm not at all sure I could or couldn't hear them, but I've also established that one has a thousand feet of mountain directly in the way, while the other has round 60 feet of hill above line of sight near each end of the path. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Apr 2 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know any trick. If you could have someone come to your QTH with a higher power rig and a yagi you could see if the extra gain would help. If you are near me I could help. I'm near Boston. $\endgroup$ – cmm Apr 2 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ I'm in North Carolina, north of Winston Salem. :( $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Apr 3 at 11:17

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