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Newbie needs help with AO-40!!

     I subscribed to the board yesterday to seek help. I don't have an Elmer
so all I learn is through reading books and the internet.
     I got interested in working satellites a couple of years ago when I got
back in Ham radio after being inactive for abt 20 years.  I bought a used
Yaesu 5400 and a couple of Cushcraft yagis that were new but old stock. The
2 meter is a 22XB and the other is a 738XB. They are on a 24ft. tower with
150 feet of 9913 and a Landwier pre-amp on each and each has polarity
switching. I bought them because they were a lot cheaper than M2 and
others.(I also know you get what you pay for.) I have used them to work the
low sats with great success. I can work FO-29 from horizon to horizon.
     Over the holidays I built downlink antenna for AO-40 using a .75 meter
offset dish, an AIDC 3731AA from K5GNA, with a helix feed. It appears to
work fine. The last couple of nights the beacon is S7-S8. The noise floor is
S0-S1 and most QSOs are S3-S6 on the meter of my TS-2000X. The antenna is on
the ground until I get through fiddling with it, then I will put it on the
     Now for the problem. I have been reading that 50W with an antenna such
as mine(19 ele./15 dB supposedly) should make Leila scream!! For the last
two nights I have tried to hear my signal and finally heard it but it was
barely audible. I thought I was looking in the wrong place for my return
signal, but I was doing it right it was just weak. I swept the sky to see if
my antenna might be off a few degrees, I went outside with a compass and
protractor, and I switched polarity. Nothing helped!!
     I have been trying so hard to make a good receiving antenna while AO-40
has been inactive and I never thought my uplink antenna might stink.  I have
heard from a couple of sources that some older Cushcraft Sat antennas were
junk, but I thought mine might have been an exception. The 738XB receives
the low sats well, but I have not used it to transmit very often(AO-7 a
couple of times).
     Where should I proceed? 1.Sell the Cushcraft on E-bay and get an M2 or
another brand. 2.Get set up to use the 1200mHz module on the TS-2000X for
uplink. 3. Buy an amplifier for UHF(how big?). 4. Something else.
     Thanks for any help that ya'll can give me and I'll be back for more
help in the future I'm sure.

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