SKCC 5123T----- FISTS 14979----- Flying Pigs 2331----- NAQCC 3610-----QRP ARCI 14176-----Polar Bear 257

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The AlexLoop Made My Day Again!

The Alexloop portable magnetic loop never ceases to amaze me.  In June of 2012, I opened the box from RT Systems and I was making QSOs right out of the living room for starters.




I have had success several times from inside hotel rooms and once on my Brother-In-Laws coffee table.


Then there was the time on a California Beach a JA answered my CQ on 17 meters SSB.


I often deploy my Alexloop at lunch. At one lunch I worked ZS6JBJ with 5 watts on 10 meters CW.


For RaDAR Contests, The Alexloop has been the best choice for setting up quickly and moving to the next location.


In the last RaDAR Contest, I carried the Alexloop deployed to do what I call Semi-Pedestrian Mobile.


This post was brought on from my weekend trip to Jacksonville, Florida. I had a brief time to operate in the courtyard of the hotel.  I set up the KX3 for 10 watts feeding the Alexloop on a tripod, On CW, I worked France and Mexico on 12 meters, Germany and New York on 15 Meters, Ohio on 17 meters, Tennessee on 15 meters, Florida on 30 meters and Hawaii on 10 meters. Yes the Hawaii contact Made My Day!


I just have to be in awe of what something so small compared to wavelength and made mostly of coax (and a capacitor) can do. You can build your own if you like. However, I have gotten a lots of fun for the dollar with the one Alex PY1AHD sells. Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in Alexloop and your results may vary!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

RaDAR Contest November 1st 2014

Are you ready for a exciting amateur radio challenge? Deploy as a portable station make five contacts walk one kilometre deploy again and make five contacts. Continue for the four hour period. You could do the same moving three kilometres via car, motorcycle, bicycle or other vehicle. Mix transportation modes if you like. You have entered the world of Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio aka RaDAR. You will enjoy making tradeoffs in radio, antennas, and choice of operating frequencies. The four hour period puts you under a little stress to manage all the factors in real time. Hams worldwide practice RaDAR any time they can but there is the four hour RaDAR contest the first Saturday of April and November. The next RaDAR Contest is Nov 1st 2014 1400 UTC to 1800 UTC.

In addition to on foot and vehicle categories, there are also portable and at home categories. Each category has a multiplier. Power is your choice QRP and up with multipliers. All amateur bands, besides the WARC bands, are allowed including cross band contacts via amateur radio satellites. Modes – CW, SSB, AM, FM or any digital mode. QSOs via terrestrial repeaters will NOT be allowed. Call sign, Name, RS(T) Report, QTH and grid locator at least 6 characters and 10 preferred. There is a bonus for your first satellite or digital mode QSO. Also there is a bonus for your first RaDAR to RaDAR intercontinental QSO.

There are two contest managers:
Eddie Leighton ZS6BNE for IARU 1 see http://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/radar-the-new-contest-april-2014/
and Marcus Kessler NX5MK for RaDAR America http://radar-america.blogspot.com/2014/02/radar-america-contest-april-2014.html You will find the contest details at those links.

RaDAR originated in South Africa headed up by Eddie ZS6BNE. It has spread to the Americas with the efforts of Marcus NX5MK. There is a growing worldwide participation with the RaDAR Community on Google+ See https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/109283065808971118728
 
 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Taste of SOTA: Dowdell Knob Activation by N4KGL

My first Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation was Saturday, October 11th. The summit was Dowdell Knob WG4/CE-004 near Pine Mountain in Central Georgia. I was nearby on family visit with relatives in Columbus Georgia and had a day pass. This summit is a one point activation. It is easy access using a road takes you to the peak. At the top there is a scenic overlook and a picnic area.



I had a debate with myself during the planning stage on what power to use; QRP verses 100 watts. I chose the Elecraft KX3 at QRP power. I had fifty-nine contacts all together. With SOTA, QRP power seems to be enough as there are ample SOTA chasers who want to work you. They show up as soon you are spotted on the SOTA Watch web site. Of course, light weight QRP gear would be helpful for the more challenging activations that require a hike.

Greg N4KGL


As for the antenna it made sense to use the trees available.  I hoisted the center of a 40/20 fan dipole on a line I threw over a limb. I stretched the ends out to other trees with long cords. I used the KX3 tuner to match the 40/20 fan dipole on 15 meters.

the center of 40/20 fan dipole

My first contact was sweet. I had given Tom WD0HBR in Dothan, Alabama a heads up to meet me on 40 CW. We were both 599 at QRP power.  I think propagation was just right between the summit and Tom's QTH.  Tom runs a MFJ 9040 and a simple wire in his backyard.

40 CW continued to be good with a string of fifteen contacts. Then, I switched to SSB and picked up five more. 20 CW yielded twenty on CW and only two on SSB.  I was getting some weak reports for a time and a fellow tapped my shoulder and said a wire fell down. Hey that makes sense. He even put it back up for me. The end of the 20 meter dipole had fallen straight down.

The tree I used in the picnic area.


I had been emailing with Carlton K2CMH recently who lives in Columbus and I invited him up. He and his wife came and we had a nice chat about gear for portable ops. He has a KX3 and we had a 40 meter QSO before he left Columbus. I was also was monitoring 146.52 FM simplex. I caught a K4SCS mobile on and was very pleased to have a 2 meter contact.


I am always looking out for ops from the RaDAR group. I worked Fred VE3FAL on 20 CW and later on 15 CW. On 15 meters he was running his PRC 104 man-pack.  I also worked Pat NQ0N on 20 CW and did not realize he was as RaDAR buddy until later. I got some DX; M0BKV in England, CU3EJ in the Azores on 20 meters , GA8VL in Scotland on 17 meters, and Bert F6HKA on 15 meters. Bert is a awesome SKCC DX operator.

I used the Bravo 7K on 17 meters


A pleasant surprise was three operators from the Atlanta area that came in the afternoon. They were K2UFT Dick, KB4KFT Bill and KF4UPO Mike . Dick was the first activator of Dowdell Knob. Mike had a pelican case of Elecraft gear  including the KXPA100 amplifier and the PX3 panadapter. Now that is two items I don't have. Dick made some contacts on 30 CW while I went on to 17 meters. On 17 meters I used the N6BT Bravo 7K.

K2UFT Dick, KB4KFT Bill and KF4UPO Mike
So fifty-nine contacts makes for a lot of fun and the visitors were a great bonus. The weather was perfect.  I now have taste of SOTA. The SOTA operators and the web sites are very helpful. I may find my way to some other Georgia or Alabama summits in the future. There is lots of cross-over between doing RaDAR and doing SOTA. Both focus on light weight gear and adapting antennas to outdoor sites.  With RaDAR you can use any interesting site rather than specific summits.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

N4KGL SOTA Activation is planned for October 11th

Summits on the Air (SOTA) is an award scheme for radio amateurs and shortwave listeners that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas. SOTA has been carefully designed to make participation possible for everyone - this is not just for mountaineers! There are awards for activators (those who ascend to the summits) and chasers (who either operate from home, a local hilltop or are even Activators on other summits).
I am not positioned well to be a SOTA activator as I live in Florida. However, the Dowdell Knob summit W4G/CE-004 is not too far from relatives in Columbus, Georgia. I will attempt to activate W4G/CE-004 Saturday October 11th. Since it is my first activation I am sure I have lots to learn. Access to the summit is easy from the looks of it. So It will not entail a long hike. I hope the skills I have learned from RaDAR will come in handy.

My start time is 13:00 UTC or 9 AM Georgia time. Likely frequencies are 14.061-cw,14.285-ssb,7.031-cw,7.285-ssb. I will start out on 40 and move on to 20 later. I may operate into the afternoon.

SOTA has a spotting page at http://www.sotawatch.org/spots.php There are many chasers in SOTA. Checkout the SOTA site for details on activators and chasers. See http://www.sota.org.uk/ I also enjoy contacts with the many friends from The RaDAR community and the Panama City ARC. So give it a shot. All contacts welcome!

The summit is in F. D. Roosevelt State Park. In fact FDR is right there at the lookout on Dowdell Knob enjoying the view.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

RaDAR & Rockets in Southeast Alabama

The RaDAR Community On-The-Air Meetup coincided with the Southeast Alabama Rocketry Society Launch on Saturday October 4th in Samson, Alabama.  I have to be on my game to participate both events. RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio.

I used my Icom 7100 and the Bravo 7K vertical for the two hour meetup. I had a RaDAR to RaDAR QSO with Don KK4QAM on 40 meters SSB. It was S2 on both sides.  I could hear John VA3KOT on 40 meters. It was better on 20 meters CW and we claimed a RaDAR to RaDAR contact. I copied his grid as EN93XX66, I also worked Jason N4JTC in Panama City, FL on 40 meters SSB. Jason was about S4. He copied me well at first but there was some QSB. I did not have big expectations with the Bravo 7K on 40 meters. So it was a surprise I got through to Panama City 85 miles away on a non NVIS antenna. I had a few other contacts including AE7AP operating SOTA at W7M/CL114. My best report was a 589 from W0CMLon 20 CW.

N6BT Bravo 7K on the rocket launch field

The Icom 7100 is a fixed portable rig for RaDAR.
It was a pleasant surprise when Bob WB8PAF from Panama City arrived at the launch site. He brought a brand new FT 817. It is nice to have another Panama City ham doing portable ops. Bob pulled off a good one when he put his MFJ portable antenna  (see photo) out on the dirt. He worked California on 10 meters CW with the short whip on the box. He says he has done pretty well with the box in his early ham days running 100 watts. I launched one of my more unusual rockets for Bob, It was a 18 inch diameter saucer. Bob caught the launch on his cell phone camera. See below.

Bob WB8PAF operating his FT 817

Bob's MFJ portable antenna.

The 18 inch saucer launch on a J sparky motor
I spent Saturday night in Dothan with my parents. Sunday afternoon I invited Tom WD0HBR over. I We did test drive of the X1M rig Marv KK4DKT has for sale. We used the Bravo 7K vertical on the driveway.  It was tough going initially on 20 CW but switched to 20 SSB and worked New Jersey and Canada. Then we went back to 20 CW and worked Massachusetts.

Tom WB0HBR and my Dad.

The X1M QRP rig
So it was nice to spend time outdoors with my rocket and ham friends. The weather was awesome in Southeast Alabama this weekend.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The 2014 Peanut Power Sprint Goober Entry

The Peanut Power Sprint is sponsored by the North Georgia QRP Club. It is only two hours long and is concentrated fun. This is the second year for the sprint. I decided to enter the Goober category again. That is one watt or less portable.
The curious thing is at 1 watt I do better in this sprint than any other.

The weather was no fun. It was overcast with a light drizzle. My set up was the KX3 and a 40/20 meter fan dipole. At one watt it is not the time for a compromise antenna. I do have some advantage as I am in NVIS range for Georgia stations and there are a lot of them.

I had a total of 29 contacts 20 on 40 CW and 9 on 20 CW. 15 of the 20 on 40 CW were Georgia stations. The scoring was

27 nuts X 7 = 189
2 non nuts X 3 =6
QSO points = 195
Number of S/P/Cs = 9 (GA FL AL NC VA NY TX IL NJ)
Total score = 1755

The funny thing I had more contacts but a lower score than last year as I had fewer S/P/Cs.  Perhaps I should have spent more time on 20 meters to reap more SPCs.

The lesson to me is that one watt is plenty power. I only had one QSO that they struggled to copy me. It just helps that 100 stations are clamouring to work you.

Oh yes, it was nice to contact Larry W2LJ in NJ. His famous blog is http://w2lj.blogspot.com. Also fellow RaDAR operator Myron WV0H had 41 contacts as a Goober. I think he will take first place.

72s,

N4KGL

There were 3 31 foot poles and two 20 foot poles for the 40/20 fan dipole.

The center pole

The KX3 and straight key

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Exercising the N6BT Bravo 7K Vertical Dipole

I have been very eager to exercise the new N6BT Bravo 7K.  I had a couple of outings this week:


Thursday PM: With the prospect of a stormy weekend I left work early and headed to St Andrews State Park. There is a spot facing Grand Lagoon that has a picnic table. I picked that spot to locate the Bravo 7K. I had a good run of contacts on 17 SSB. I was running 100 watts with the Icom 7100. I had DX including France Italy and Columbia and NM, TX and AZ state side. This was followed by a run on three Maryland stations and West Virginia. These four were on a line directly across the Lagoon. Was that the salt water effect? I had many good reports. 


St Andrews State Park next to Grand Lagoon The Bravo 7K is set for 17 meters.
Saturday PM: I initially set up the Bravo 7K on 10 meters to try to contact Eddie ZS6BNE. He was getting RBN spots in the USA. We gave it a good try but no joy. Well as long as the Bravo 7K was setup in the front yard I took advantage of the opening on 10 meters. I also chose to use the KX3 at 8 watts. Here are my contacts.

PP8ZAC 28.012 Brazil

W1AW/7 28.038 Idaho

KP3DX 28.410 PR 

NP3RE 28.450 PR 

LW9DHR 28.020 Argentina

CX2DA 28.495 Uruguay 

PU5DUD 28.505 Renato Brazil 

LU7DH 28.510 

CX8DS 27.533 Oscar my rpt 56/57 

LU5AQU 28.346 

That was fun! I was getting S5 up to S9 reports and really no struggle to get through. I think the low angle of 20 degrees was in my favor for DX.

My front yard. The Bravo 7K is set for 10 meters.

A few things I like about the Bravo 7K:
  • It breaks down to fit in a bag about 3 feet long.
  • There is no tuner required as the SWR is under 2 to 1 for 40 through 10. It is broadband.
  • I can use it for QRP or QRO. 
  • It is self supporting as the tripod is included. I got the leg extensions for the tripod. I don't need any poles.
  • The tripod legs adjust for uneven ground.
  • You set it for the desired band but you do not have to do any tweaking or tuning after that.
  • It is kind of visually appealing
  • I am having good luck with contacts including DX

Of course, I do have to acknowledge that it weighs about 12 lbs. It does take about 10 minutes to setup. It takes about 3 minutes to change bands. By its design it is not a NVIS antenna.

I am very pleased with this antenna. You may know I am pleased with many antennas. I also like the AlexLoop, various end fed wires and yes the dipole. The fun is picking the one for your portable situation and operating goals. I definitely want to do more testing of the Bravo 7K on the beach and bay side. There are a number of articles on the salt water effect for vertical antennas. The salt water can bring the take off angle from twenty degrees to almost zero degrees. See N6BT.com Perhaps I can take advantage of the salt water effect to work Eddie ZS6BNE and other DX RaDAR operators.