I live in a nice neighbourhood, but unfortunately not a very hamradio friendly one. Don’t get me wrong, my neighbours are very fine people, but I can foresee a few odd looks if I were to start erecting massive antennas. And it’d only take one to complain about “odd things that happened to them” (and we all know the tabloid hysteria regarding mobile phone masts!) and the formerly good neighbourhood relationship could soon turn sour. This is why I practice what I like to call a “low profile” hamradio (inspired by the famous book). I don’t have a proper HF antenna. For a while I was working using the shielding of a disused TV aerial coax, fed via an ATU. I recently upgraded to an automatic ATU, feeding a random-length piece of wire roughly in an inverted-L formation. This is hardly comparable to a decent resonant dipole but at least it operates automatically and with a good VSWR on all HF bands.
I work with low output power levels in order to minimise the possibility of causing any interference. I used to work with only about 5W, but since I updated to an automatic ATU that requires a minimum of 10W for automatic tuning, I now most often work with about 30W of power.
I also work on lower VHF bands (6m and 4m). My location has proven challenging even for this: my loft is so low that I can’t even install a rotator and at least one decent Yagi antenna under the roof. My first QSOs on 6m were done using a mobile vertical whip mounted on an aluminium ladder (I needed something to mimic a car’s chasis HI), with only 15W out from a 2m/6m transverter (driven by an ancient Yaesu FT-290R). In E-sporadic season 2007 I was having regular contacts with stations in excess of 1600 km (1000 miles) away, with my personal best ODX being UY2UA (almost 2200 km). Later that year I upgraded to a 6m dipole and a self-built spanking new 4m Moxon rectangle currently located in the shack.
Can hamradio be enjoyed despite such challenging conditions? Categorically yes, as my log testifies. I know I will probably never win a 5BDXCC. I also often can’t break a pileup. From my location I’ll never be able to work EME… But all this doesn’t mean I enjoy this hobby any less. If anything, the obstacles motivate me for finding inventive workarounds.