Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators–Vertical vs Horizontal Antennas, post #237


Every now and then the debate over vertical vs horizontal antennas comes bubbling to the surface in the amateur radio press.  The articles produce the usual exchange of views, with most of us caught between two premises:  vertical antennas radiate equally well (or poorly) in all directions and horizontal antennas offer “ground reflection gain” of typically 6 dB, giving them an edge over vertical antennas.  The truth lies somewhere in between, depending on your ground conductivity, local antenna restrictions, and materials available.

In the December 2012 issue of “QST”, Joel R. Hallas, W1ZR, examines the case for each antenna system and offers some guidance for those of us who may be forced to choose one antenna over the other.  “Vertical or Horizontal HF Antennas–What’s Best for You?  If you can have only one HF antenna, how do you choose?” (page 45).

The article is clear, concise, and on target when it comes to explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each antenna type.  Hallas supplies some simple elevation patterns to illustrate his points.

Briefly, Hallas says “a ground mounted or elevated vertical monopole with a length of 1/4 wavelength or less will tend to radiate at low angles, but how much and how low depends on the ground conditions surrounding the antenna at some distance.”  Hence, the need for an effective ground radial or tuned counterpoise system if your antenna site is far removed from salt water or marshy ground.  One can see this effect is action when DX-peditions position there vertical arrays near salt water.  In past articles, Hallas has encouraged amateur radio operators to think of ground losses with verticals because “most of us don’t have the advantage of an ocean at our doorstep and we have the pattern resulting from the signal traveling along the surface of a lossy earth.”

I found this idea quite true when I worked at a commercial AM radio station in Hilo, Hawaii.  Before the KHLO-AM (850 Khz) tower was lost in 1996, the station had an old base-loaded self-supporting tower (only 180-feet tall) sitting in a salt water marsh about 60 yards from Hilo Bay.  The radial field extended into the marsh, which gave the station an exceptionally good ground.  Our puny 1 kw power got the station into Europe, Asia, and even as far as the mid-west of the mainland United States.  When the station leased a tower about 4 miles from ocean, it took 5 kw to cover the same day time service area that the old 1 kw transmitter was delivering.

As for horizontal antennas, Hallas notes that “the ground reflection gain reinforces radiation at particular ranges of elevation angles depending on the height of the antenna above ground.”  At elevations below 1/2 wavelength, the horizontal antenna fires a lot of rf at high angles–perfect for NVIS (near vertical incident skywave) propagation.  Before I built my 40 meter under-the-house loop, I used a 40 meter dipole at 15 feet off the ground to join various interisland nets.  The signal was strong out to about 200-300 miles, just right for covering the length of the state of Hawaii.

Hallas also notes that, unlike a properly built vertical, a horizontally polarized antenna is directional–“favoring the directions perpendicular to the conductor.  This is more significant as the dipole gets higher.  At a height of 3/4 wave, the dipole is down 16 dB at the ends, arguing for another antenna, if you want coverage in all directions.”

So, what does one do, when circumstances dictate the use of only one antenna?  Hallas says use the antenna that best fits your situation and enjoy it–“even if you wish for something different.”  If you want to pursue DX and are confined to ordinary ground conditions, “you can expect better results with a vertical until you can get a horizontal antenna higher than at least 1/2 wavelength.”  Hallas adds that this is not a difficult problem if you are chasing contacts on bands higher than 40 meters.  For example, a “height of 1/2 wavelength is about 17 feet on 10 meters, while it is about 130 feet high on 80 meters.”

Of course, your mileage may vary, depending on your location and various restrictions.  In my present location, I use a homebrew 20 meter vertical dipole for DX work and a 40 meter-under-the-house loop for local contacts.  Each antenna works well for its intended purpose.  I also get 20 to 10 meter coverage from my 20 meter delta loop in the back yard.  I feed this loop with 450-ohm ladder line.  I can get either vertical or horizontal polarization depending on whether I attach the feed line to the top of the mast or at a corner of the delta loop.

If you can manage both a vertical and a horizontal antenna, you can have the best of both worlds.  I say this knowing full well that,  in the back of my unsettled mind, I really want a 100-foot tower with a 4-element 20 meter beam on top.  But, reality rears its ugly head and I must work with what I have.  Check out Hallas’s article.  It may help you decide the kind of antenna you really need.  Have fun.

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Aloha es 73 de Russ, KH6JRM–BK29jx15–along the beautiful Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island.

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators–Favorite Antenna Books, part 3, post #236


No ham radio station is complete without some reference material on antennas.  Antenna material can run the gamut from conventional books and magazine articles to antenna websites and blogs.  All have valuable information that will increase your knowledge and appreciation of the “radio art.”

Here are some more antenna books that you may find useful in improving the performance of your amateur radio station.  Like the other sources cited in previous posts, I’ve found insights and tips in these books I might not have found elsewhere.

CQ Publications (

The Short Vertical Antenna and Ground Radial, Jerry Sevick (W2FMI) (SK), CQ Publications, order #SVERT.  Although this is a fairly small volume, the late Jerry Sevick has packed in an amazing amount of data and construction tips on inexpensivwe, yet effective shortened HF vertical antennas.  I’ve used a few of his vertical helix designs to maintain a low profile in restrictive operating environments (i.e. HOAs and CC&Rs).

VHF Propagation-A Practical Guide for Radio Amateurs, WB2AMU and WB6NOA (Gordon West), CQ Publications, order # VHFProp.  Gordon and his amateur friends have compiled an easy to understand volume covering topics ranging from sporatic-E skip and F2 Propagation to Tropo Ducting, Meteor Scatter, and Auroral Propagation.  An essential book for those working above 50 Mhz.

American Radio Relay League (ARRL), (

Simple and Fun Antennas for Hams, order #8624.  This book is filled with interesting antenna designs that are easy to build and maintain.

ARRL’s VHF/UHF Antenna Classics, order #9078.  Another enjoyable read for those working above 50 Mhz.

The books recommended for your antenna collection will provide hundreds of proven designs that will make your station standout.  Most of the antennas described in these volumes are inexpensive, practical, and easily fabricated from local sources.  I’ve found the neighborhood hardware store a ready source of wire, mast materials, and simple tools.


One of the advantages of being a substitute teacher for the State of Hawaii, is the opportunity of attending seminars and workshops that occasionally have amateur radio applications.  This afternoon (Tuesday), the xyl and I attended a “Discovery Education Ohana Night” at the Imiloa Astronomy Center near the University of Hawaii-Hilo Campus.  The educational workshop was organized by the Discovery Channel’s “Inspiring Curiosity” program for students.  As an added bonus, the 150 attendees received a 45-minute planetarium show from University of Hawaii at Hilo astronomers.  The program included an outstanding 3-D presentation of the radio astronomy, infrared astronomy, and milimeter astronomy being conducted at the summit of Hawaii Island’s Mauna Kea Observatory Complex.  Courtesy of an excellent videoconference connection between Hilo and the Discovery Telescope at Flaggstaff, Arizona, those participating in the workshop received an update on planetary research and ground breaking projects on dark matter, black holes, and space probes.  Truly outstanding stuff, especially the research being done in radio astronomy.  The best part of the afternoon was a demonstration on  how the Discovery Channel’s education program could be used to supplement physics, math, and life science curricula in the classroom.  The workshop had demonstration stations which allowed students to download videos, text, and streaming material for classroom projects.  Students and parents were able to sign up for the free program which could be used either at school or at home.

I found the program fascinating and intriguing.  I’m sure some of the material could be included in my math and science classes.  All that’s required is a PC, Mac, laptop, and a high-speed connection.  Since the Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School has laptops and a high-speed internet connection, integration of the Discovery Channel’s “Inspiring Curiosity” program with the school science curriculum should be easy.

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Until next time,

Aloha es 73 de Russ, KH6JRM–BK29jx15–along the beautiful Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island.


Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators, Favorite Antenna Books, part 2, post #235


In my previous post, I listed some of the books I found helpful in my antenna research.  In this segment, I’ll be branching off the printed word into the realm of the internet.  The amount of antenna resource material is voluminous.  There is enough internet data to keep you busy for hours.  Although I consider myself a “book” person (I once worked as a university research librarian back in the 70s), the internet offers an efficient, cost effective way of pursuing amateur radio topics, including the design, building, and modification of antennas.  Listed below are some of my favorite websites covering the antenna portion of amateur radio.  This list is not exhaustive–it only reflects my preferences.


These sites cover the broad spectrum of amateur radio activities, from antennas to the latest in digital technology.  Some of these sites have discussion forums dedicated to antennas, towers, HOA/CC&R problems, and RFI.

The American Radio Relay League (  I’ve mentioned the ARRL before as a good source of books and other publications related to amateur radio.  If you are a member of the ARRL, you can gain access to its extensive archieves, which contain all “QST” issues back to 1914.  The antenna archieve is especially interesting.

The QRZ site ( is a treasure trove of information covering everything from the FCC data base of amateur radio callsigns and discussion forums, to on-line swap meets and practice radio exams.–Amateur Radio (Ham Radio Community Site) (  Like the QRZ site, this ham radio community site features forums, equipment reviews, and current amateur radio news.  The antenna, tower, RFI, and youth forums are especially valuable.  Many of my antenna questions have been answered on this site.


The “how to” place for amateur radio mobile operations is the website maintained by Alan Applegate, K0BG (  Many of the installation tips offered by Alan can be applied to the in-home radio operation.  His articles about mobile antennas, rfi, and grounding can be applied directly to any mobile or static operation.  Because of my own space limitations, I find Alan’s suggestions both instructive and practical.  I’ve often considered my home station as a “fixed” mobile operation.  I’ve used mobile antennas for years to overcome limitations imposed by space, HOAs, and CC&Rs.


AntenneX Magazine (  This on-line publication deals with antenna designs, techical information, and product reviews.  Registration is required.  There is some free access to popular antenna articles.

AC6V’s Amateur Radio And DX Reference Guide (http://www.ac6v).  This site contains hundreds of antenna projects from the simple to the complex.  The range of articles covers all kinds of antennas from 160 meters to the EHF range.  The site discusses and evaluates antennas, both commercial and hand made.  The articles on stealth or hidden antennas are particularly interesting.

So, there it is–two quick lists of antenna reference materials, both book and internet format, that can boost your antenna knowledge.  Half the fun of amateur radio is designing and building your own antennas.  If you decide to “roll your own”, keep an antenna project notebook to gauge your progress in making the “ideal” antenna for your qth.  You’d be surprised just how much you can learn in just a few short years.  I must admit that  some of my earlier antenna projects were disasters, both from a design and esthetic standpoint.  But, with experience and a few solder burns, I’ve become rather adept at building simple “skyhooks” that deliver what I want, even in the restricted environment of my current station.

Why not design and build a new antenna today?  Make it a simple dipole, vertical, or loop.  Test it, refine it, and make it your own.  You will gain knowledge and a feeling of having accomplished something with your own hands.  Besides, there are great amateur radio enthusiasts who did the same thing you’re doing not so long ago.  I feel humbled and yet proud to walk the path blazed by Hertz, Popov, Marconi, De Forest, Armstrong, and even the “Old Man” himself–Hiram Percy Maxim (a co-founder of the ARRL).  Oh, yes…be sure to have some fun while you raise that monster beam or string that dipole between the trees.

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Until next time,

Aloha es 73 de Russ, KH6JRM–BK29jx15–along the beautiful Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island.

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators–Favorite Antenna Books, part 1, post #234


Eversince I became a nervous novice operator in 1977, I’ve been collecting antenna books and magazine articles about antennas.  Although many of my antenna related items stem from my long employment as a broadcast journalist, others come from my desire to know more about simple antennas that anyone (including yours truly) can build.  Over the past 35 years of active “hamming”, I’ve collected a few priceless volumes that still teach me lessons today.  And, following the advice of late antenna guru, Lew McCoy (W1ICP), I’ve kept a simple antenna project book which records my successes and failures at various antenna projects.  One thing is sure after the passage of years, solder burns, wasted finals, and “creative” antenna experiments–there is much to learn and the quest for knowledge and the “perfect” antenna really never ends.  Over the next few weeks, I will list some of my favorite antenna resources, with the hope that some of them may help you design, build, and use that ideal antenna you’ve always dreamed of owning.

So, here we go with the first part of my list.

Source:  CQ Communications (

W6SAI  HF Antenna Handbook, Bill Orr, W6SAI (SK).  Bill was known for his easily understood writing and often humorous style.  Orr packs many inexpensive and practical antennas into this well organized volume.

Lew MCCoy On Antennas, Lew McCoy, W1ICP (SK).  Lew writes in a casual, conversational style that makes antenna theory and construction seem easy.  Lew tried every antenna in this book to make sure it was the “real McCoy.”  I’ve built a few of his simple designs and have found them inexpensive, easy to build, and even easier to repair.

Source:  American Radio Relay League (ARRL) (

The ARRL Antenna Book, 22nd Edition.  A highly useful book that describes antenna systems, from planning, to design and construction.  CD ROM included with book order.  Comes in both hard and soft cover.

ARRL’s Antenna Compendium Series, volumes 1 through 8.

Basic Antennas.

ARRL’s Small Antennas for Small Spaces.

The ARRL also carries a good selection of antenna books from the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB):

RSGB Practical Wire Antennas.

RSGB Successful Wire Antennas.

RSGB HF Antennas for All Locations.


Antennas From the Ground Up, Volume 1, L.B. Cebik ( W4RNL) (SK).  A concise and clear explantion of basic antenna systems.

Antennas From the Ground Up, Volume 2, L.B. Cebik (W4RNL) (SK).  A continuation of volume 1 with many new antenna projects.

73 Verticals, Beams, and Triangle Antennas, Ed Noll (W3FQJ).  A collection of easy to build antennas for  amateur radio operators.

Mobile Handbook, Dave Ingram (K4TWJ) (SK).  Everything you need to know about mobile operations.  Many of Dave’s ideas can be used in your shack, especially where space is a problem.

These resources only scratch the surface of the antenna material available for both the new and experienced amateur radio operator.  I’ve found these books very helpful in building my own antennas.  In future posts, I will be discussing other antenna resources, including those on the internet and from fellow amateur radio operators.

You can join our blog community with a free email subscription or by tapping into the blog RSS feed.

Until next time,

Aloha es 73 de Russ, KH6JRM–BK29jx15–along the beautiful Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators–random wires revisited, post #233


One of the easiest antennas to build is a “random wire” that is stretched out as long as you can. One end of the wire attaches to a tall tree or other support. The other end of the wire connects to the random wire lug on a suitable antenna tuner. An example of this type of tuner is the MFJ-16010 Random Wire Tuner for HF. Random wires are antennas whose length doesn’t bear a relation to the wavelength of the frequency chosen. That’s why a tuner is required. The tuner will minimize the SWR (standing wave ratio) in your antenna system.

All of this sounds fairly simple…measure out a length of wire, run it to a tall support, counterweight the antenna so it gains flexibility in the breeze, make sure insulators are attached, and run a length of wire to the antenna tuner. If things were that simple.

There are a few caveats to the otherwise easy to build and erect antenna:

First, follow the advice of Jack (VE3EED) and Mike (AB3AP). These experienced amateur radio operators suggest that you avoid a half-wavelength of any frequency you chose because of the very high impedance the wire presents to your 50-ohm transceiver. There are specially designed half-wavelength antennas that incorporate an impedance network, such as those made by Par Electronics and its business successors. Jack and Mike recommend the following lengths be used for your random length wire antenna (all measurements are in feet): 29, 35.5, 41, 58, 71, 84, 107, 119, 148, 203, 347, 407, and 423. Based on my experience with random length wires, I’ve found a quarter-wave length for the lowest frequency you want to use adequate for such antennas. For 80 meters I’ve used 65 feet; for 40 metes, I’ve used 33 feet; for 20 meters, I’ve used 16.5 feet; for 15 meters, I’ve used 11 feet; and for 10 meters, I’ve used 8.3 feet.

Another thing a random wire antenna needs is a good earth ground regardless of whether you low or high power. If your radio room is in a basement or on the ground floor, you could get by with attaching copper braid from your antenna tuner to a cold water pipe or utility ground. On hihger floors, a good counterpoise wire will be necessary to prevent RF burns and interference to home electronics. With the random wire connected directly to your antenna tuner, a portion of the radiating element is in the room with you and that can make you mike or key “hot” with RF.

A counterpoise can help reduce RF problems and improve your signal. A counterpoise is a wire connected to the ground lug on your antenna tuner. For the best results, a counterpoise wire should be a quarter-wavelength at the lowest frequency you want to use. On 80 or 75 meters that counterpoise could be as long as 65 feet or 33 feet if you are operating on 40 meters. You can often accommodate a counterpoise by looping the wire around the room, along the baseboards or even under rugs. You may want to measure out a separate counterpoise for each band you wish to use. Just attach the counterpoise bundle to the ground connection of your tuner. According to an ARRL ariticle on random wire antennas, “the counterpoise acts as the other ‘terminal’ of your antenna system, effectively balancing it from an electrical standpoint.”

If you chose your lengths carefully, use an “L”network tuner, and use counterpoises, your random wire antenna will deliver plenty of contacts. This antenna is cheap, easy to build, and will get you on the air until you can build a more efficient antenna. Have fun!


Random Wire Antennas,
How To Build a Cheap Tuner For a Ham Radio,
Random Wire Antennas–best lengths to use For Random Wire,

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Until next time,

Aloha esw 73 de Russ, KH6JRM–BK29jx15–along the beautiful Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators–a modified 20 meter vertical dipole, post #232

A modified 20 meter vertical dipole.

Over the past few months, I’ve used a 20 meter vertical dipole attached to a 33-foot MFJ fiberglass mast for most of my 20 meter activity.  Since my backyard is fairly small, verticals, inverted vees, and an occasional delta loop have been the antennas of choice.  Most of these antennas have performed well, considering the space available.

In the case of the 20 meter vertical dipole, I used 50-feet of RG-6 (with UHF adapters) as my feedline.  The old Drake MN-4 antenna tuner handled the small mismatch without any problems and the venerable Swan 100 MX seemed to chug along with out overheating.  As I peered into the backyard on Thanksgiving morning, it seemed a bit crowded with all of the masts sprouting like weeds from the lawn…time to simplify the “antenna farm”.  Besides, I didn’t want the neighbors to get too curious.  The masts blend in well with the backyard trees and vegetation, but one can never be too cautious where HOAs and CC&Rs abound.

I lowered the 20-meter delta loop, rolled up the antenna elements, collapsed the mast, and safely stored the antenna in the garage storage room, otherwise known as the “junque box”.  The 40 meter vertical helix got similar treatment.  It was built on a collapsable 33-foot mast, which telescoped down to a few feet.  The wire was unwrapped, inpected for damage, and stored in stored in a plastic container.

With the exception of the invisible under-the-house 40 meter loop, I would be left with one fiberglass mast in the backyard and my  various emergency HF portable  antennas which I could press into service should the need arise.  Last week, I gave the old B & W apartment antenna a good work out and repacked it in a plastic box.  This antenna is similar to the MFJ-1622 antenna.

For the rebuilt 20 meter vertical dipole, I measured out two 16-feet, 6-inch lengths of AWG 14 wire and attached them to the fiberglass mast with nylon ties.  All of this work was done with the mast nested on the ground.  I replaced the original RG-6 coax with a 50-foot length of 450-ohm ladder line.  The ladder line would give me the ability to use the 20 meter vertical dipole on all bands from 20 to 10 meters.

Once I raised the fiberglass mast on a homemade swivel and mount and secured the guy lines (dacron rope), I ran the ladder line to remotely mounted W9INN 4:1 balun.  A short piece of RG-6 with UHF adapters connected the balun to the Drake MN-4 tuner.  Short pieces of RG-6 linked the tuner to the low pass filter and then to the Swan 100-MX.  The Drake tuner handled whatever mismatches were present on the 20, 15, and 10 meter bands.  With the simple change of feedlines, I was able to get 3 antennas for the price of one.  Also, I can get multiband (40 to 10 meter) use with my under-the-house 40 meter loop if I feed it with ladder line or tv twinlead.  The only band I haven’t tried in my small backyard is 80 meters–frequencies I may try with a vertical helix, top loading, and an elevated counterpoise system.  I’ll keep that idea for the extended Christmas holiday when I’m not teaching at the Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School.

So far, the modified 20 meter vertical dipole is working well.  The antenna is easy to build, erect, and take down when the operating day is done.  As with all of my homebrew antennas, I always lower the masts to ground level and disconnect/ground all feedlines.  This simple procedure affords a bit more protection from thunderstorms, lightning, and high winds.

I trust your Thanksgiving Day feast was spent with close friends and family.

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Until next time,

Aloha es 73 de Russ, KH6JRM–BK29jx15–along the beautiful Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island.

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators–Delta Loop Collinear Antennas, post #231


This antenna comes under my category of “nice to have” antennas.  Given enough space and no restrictions from HOAs and CC&Rs, antennas of this type will produce enough dx to keep you busy for years.

I ran across this intriguing antenna in the December 2012 issue of “QST“, pp. 32 to 34.  The author, James K. Boomer, W9UJ, is an experienced project engineer with over 50 years experience working for the Collins Radio Company, The National Cash Register Company, and The Magnavox Company (now Rayttheon).

Having used several delta loops in my less than illustrious ham career, I can testify that these antennas are fairly easy to build, maintain, and modify.  However, when you set out to use multiple full wave loops as W9UJ has done, you will have an antenna that takes careful planning, plenty of space, and attention to detail.  If you’re looking for some useful gain over a single delta loop, you may want to give the loop collinear antenna a try.

In W9UJ’s words, “we can also get substantial directivity gain by stringing two or more full-wave delta loops end to tend, forming a collinear array and feeding the loops in phase.  These arrays are easy to build, and their bidirectional pattern provides usable gain over a single loop.  While the peak response on harmonics is higher than optimum angles, there is still usable gain at low angles.”

If I had more space along my property line, I would try to erect W9UJ’s 40-meter loop collinear antenna.  According to the diagrams in the article, each delta loop measures 47 feet, 8 inches on a side, with a supporting rope of 23 feet, 10 inches joining each top section of the two loops.  This arrangement requires a horizontal distance of about 120 feet.  That lets me out, since my property line extends only 45 feet from the street to my neighbor’s back yard.  I may try a collinear designed for 15 or 10 meters and see if my results are better than my single element 20-meter delta loop.

W9UJ provides detailed instructions for feeding each loop, whether it be with 75 or 50 ohm coax (RG-11A/U, RG-11, and RG-213) or ladder line.  Each single element loop is attached to a 1:1 balun.  Coax from each balun is run into a coax “T” and then to the shack.

According to W9UJ, the “loop end separation is not critical, with increasing gain as the separation increases, until after abut 1/2 wavelength the pattern starts to fragment…on 15 meters.”  With a 67-foot separation, “the 40 meter 15-degree elevation gain increases by almost 3dB.”  W9UJ advises amateurs who select this separation distance to  use strong strain insulators.  And for those who want more gain, W9UJ offers several models of three and four element collinear arrays.  The author provides detailed documentation of his design and operating perameters, complete with useful azimuth plots for 7, 14, 21, and 28 Mhz bands.  This antenna is most interesting and seems to perform well in the author’s location of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

If you want more information on this delta loop collinear antenna, you can reach W9UJ by visiting

Meanwhile, it’s back to reality for yours truly…limited backyard, overhead power lines, and nearby neighbors.  I’ll put W9UJ’s loop collinear on the back burner until my xyl and I build our home in the Puna District.  At least, we’ll have 2 acres to play with.  So, until that day comes, I’ll just have to make do with the 20-meter delta loop, the trusty inverted 40-meter vee, and the full-wave 40-meter loop under the house.

Have a happy Thanksgiving with your family and drive safely this holiday season!

Until next time,

Aloha es 73 de Russ, KH6JRM–BK29jx15–along the beautiful Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island.  Be sure to join our blog community with a free email subscription or by tapping into the blog RSS feed.

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