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

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Change of Venue for the N4Y Field Day Operation

I decided to be closer to home for the June 23/24  Field Day. I moved the Falling Waters State Park reservation to a future date. The new venue is Kinsaul Park in Lynn Haven, Florida. The upside is the ample open space for antennas. The downside is that we will have to tear down by 10 PM Saturday Night and set up again on Sunday morning. Overnight is not allowed at the park.

Expected position of the 272-foot horizontal loop on the field.
Kinsaul Park happens to be where we previously tested the 272 ft horizontal loop. It nicely fits on the field. I am looking at configuring it as a square and feeding the antenna in the center of the South wire. This means the max gain of 40 meters will be North and on 20 meters the max gain will be Northeast and Northwest. Being in Northwest Florida, this orientation favors the rest of the USA to our North. We expect 40 and 20 meters to be the most active, The loop is an excellent 80-meter NVIS antenna. We will be checking 80, 15 and 10 for contacts. There usually is a brief high band opening during Field Day.
Using the Icom 7300 at Kinsaul Park
Our category will be B2,  2-person club/non-club portable using emergency power. The operators will be Dennis WA6QKN and me, Greg N4KGL. Our primary rig will be the Icom IC-7300 with power up to 100 watts. Our source of DC power will be Bioenno LiFePO4 batteries replenished by a 50-watt solar panel. The callsign is N4Y, and the exchange will be 1B Northern Florida.

The 50-watt solar panel.
I am planning to try for the 100 point satellite bonus. I have gear for both FM and linear satellites. I hear that the linear Sats are the better bet for Field Day due to the congestion on the FM sats. Only one satellite contact will count for ARRL Field Day

The Icom 910h for linear satellites

The Arrow satellite antenna
Another attractive bonus is Alternate Power. I will charge a supercapacitor bank either from solar or pedal generator, I will try for the five QSOs using the Elecraft KX2.  Each QSO is 20 bonus points.

The supercapacitor bank for the alternate energy bonus
Dennis WA6QKN will be a full-time participant this year.  We will trade-off operating and logging duty. We have been doing portable ops together for a while. He is the ideal Field Day partner.

The weather will be hot, but rain should not be a factor.
  • Saturday
    • Mostly sunny, with a high near 88. West southwest wind around 10 mph.
  • Saturday Night
    • Partly cloudy, with a low around 78.
  • Sunday
    • Mostly sunny, with a high near 89.
We welcome the local hams and the general public to come by for a visit. We are at the West end of 5th street in Lynn Haven. Our setup will begin around 7 am on Saturday. Field Day starts at 1 pm. We will have to tear down at 9 PM on Saturday Night. Sunday looks like a start-up at 7 or 8 and a 1 pm tear-down.  Of course, these times are approximate and may be modified.

Good luck everyone on ARRL Field Day!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Field Day Antenna Testing for the AG6IF Loop and the MyAntennas 80-10 End Fed UPDATED

Phil N4STC, Dennis WA6QKN and I met Saturday morning at Kinsaul Park in Lynn Haven, Florida to do some antenna tests for Field Day. I had been interested in a one-wavelength 80-meter horizontal loop. I did some modeling with EZNEC. The loop looks like a good prospect for Field Day with 80-meter being NVIS, 40 meters is omnidirectional at 60 degrees elevation and 20 meters has four 30 degree lobes with gain. I obtained an AG6IF 2.5 to 1 balun sold on eBay with the 260 feet of wire required.


A panoramic view of the loop antenna setup
We set up the one wavelength AG6IF 80 meter Loop with a camo pole tripod at the corner feed point and seven 31 foot Jackite fiberglass poles to complete a square with 65 feet on a side. It resonated on 80, 40 and 20 meters. Initially, it dipped above the 40 and 20 meters band and we added twelve feet to the 260 ft supplied wire. That gave us an excellent SWR on the low end of 80 and across 40 and 20 meters. The load on the upper end of 80 meters is more than the Icom 7300 internal tuner can handle. That is no biggie. The loop was very quiet regarding background noise. We made a 20-meter contact with W0LAV in Missouri with an excellent report.

UPDATE: Myron WV0H had modeled this loop and had predicted in an email to me the need to add 13 feet of length. This was spot on. He also says the SWR would be better with a 4 to 1 balun. I will give that a try. Thanks, Myron!




Before I had settled on the loop, I ordered a MyAntennas 80-10 meter Endfed. The antenna is advertised as a no tuner antenna for 80 through 10 including the WARC bands. At the end of the session, we put up the 130 feet long end fed antenna flat and straight at 20 feet. Indeed, it has reasonable SWR on all the bands. I would use a tuner at some spots. There is no significant mismatch on the coax. We checked into the SouthCARs net using the EndFed.


Phil N4STC wiring up the balun.
Dennis and I will be camping at Falling Waters State Park, Friday and Saturday night for the June 23/24 Field Day. We might go with both antennas. We are on track to use the Icom 7300 as the rig. Thanks to Phil and Dennis for their help today. We are looking forward to the big event.


Checkin SWR with the Rig Expert-AA-54

Checking out the antennas on air with the Icom 7300.

Suzy getting some attention.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

N4Y Field Day Site Survey for a Horizontal Loop Antenna

Dennis, Suzy and I went up to Falling Waters State Park Saturday to survey our campsite and the adjacent open field. First, our campsite will be #5. It is a pull through type for an RV and therefore is wide. Fortunately, it is also deep. I believe it is the best campsite in the park, We will pitch an 8-man tent there. Our Field Day category will be B, two operators, and one transmitter. The callsign will be N4Y. We will camp Friday and Saturday night. Our Field Day operations start at 1800 UTC Saturday and last for 24 hours.

The open field behind the campsite
The back of the site borders an open field. We have permission to use it. However, we can't interfere with the volleyball court. We found looking out of the back of the campsite that the volleyball court is to the right, They have that area planted in grass. So to avoid that area there is an ample unplanted area to the left.

The campsite from the rear
We are seriously considering a 260-foot loop that is one wavelength at 80 meters. It can be a square or triangle. Let's assume it is a square with 65 feet on each side. We can align it with the compass points. I believe feeding the loop in the Southeast corner is the practical choice to minimize feedline length to the campsite. I am hoping the feedline length will be no more than 100 feet. We will need to elevate it over a trail that runs along the back of the campsites.

3-D radiation pattern for 260-foot horizontal loop on 80 meters
Modeling this loop with EZNEC I find that on 80 meters has maximum gain straight up ala NVIS. On 40 meters, it is omnidirectional but has the max gain at 60 degrees elevation. On 20-meters it has four lobes with a max gain of 10 dbi at 35 degrees elevation toward the Northwest. Unfortunately, there are nulls at the four compass points. You have to give up something to get gain. We might need a second antenna like a 20 meter vertical to fill in the gaps.

3-D radiation pattern for 260-foot horizontal loop on 40 meters


The antenna supports could be four camo pole tripods 20 feet high on the corners with four 30-foot Jackite poles in between. I will need to round up a few more camo poles. I have a 2.5 to 1 balun that could be used at the feed point. An alternate feed would be 300-ohm balanced line to an Icom AH-4 tuner. The determination of the matching system will need to be a field test here in Panama City. We can see if this antenna acts as advertised.

3-D radiation pattern for 260-foot horizontal loop on 20 meters
After the site survey, we set up the Icom 7300 at a pavilion. We played around with PSK-31 which is new to Dennis. We did not have it quite setup right on transmit, but we can work that out later. A heavy afternoon shower encouraged us to call it a day.


Dennis took more photos. See them at this link

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

I finally did an Antenna Model with EZNEC

I had let my lack of patience delay using any kind of antenna modeling software. I could see the results others got for particular antennas, but I could not do it myself. With Field Day coming, I have many choices of antennas including dipoles doublets and end-feds. What are the radiation patterns for these antennas at the height I can raise them?  What will the Standing Wave Ratio (SWR) be across multiple bands?

The antenna view of the one wavelength 80-meter horizontal loop


I had some insight into EZNEC after listening to Roy Lewallen W7EL's QSO Today Podcast. Roy provides an EZNEC demo version. It is limited to 20 segments. For the simulation, wires are divided into segments. I was able to exercise the program's features by starting with the BYdipole.EZ model. "BY" means backyard. I found when I did more complex antennas, I got a warning to increase the number of segments. So I purchased the regular version EZNEC 6.0 which allows 500 segments.

The wires input for EZNEC


It takes some effort to put the wires into EZNEC for complex antennas. I got lucky that EZNEC has a wizard to create the wires for a loop. I used that to create the four wires for square one wavelength 80-meter horizontal loop. That antenna is under consideration for the N4Y field day station a Falling Waters State Park. We have permission to extend our wires into an open field adjacent to the campsite.

80 meters elevation plot


Using EZNEC, I could see for myself that at one wavelength the loop is a cloud burner. That is fine with me. 80-meter has not yielded many contacts and using NVIS is just as well. The hot bands for field day are 40 and 20 meters. The elevation comes down to the neighborhood of 50 degrees for 40-meters and 30 degrees for 20 meters. Of course, you can just characterize the pattern with a few numbers. The patterns are pretty complex. Bob WB4BLX reminded me that L. B. Cebik W4RNL (SK) called this category of antenna HOHPL or Horizontally oriented Horizontally Polarized Large antenna.

The 3-D plot for 20 meters


I have not acquired all the insights required for antenna modeling, but at least I have a tool to assist. The big skyhook loop looks promising for Field Day if you have the room. It will take all my fiberglass poles to elevate 268 feet of wire twenty-five feet above the ground. The matching could be done with a tuner like the Icom AH-4 or it may be that a 2.5 to 1 balun will make the loop usable on its resonant bands 80, 40 and 20 meters. If I am lucky, I can deploy the loop here in town before Field Day to test the physical antenna

The SWR plot for 80 through 10 meters

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Countdown to the 2018 ARRL Field Day

It is now less than 30 days to the June 23/24 ARRL Field Day. My friend Dennis WA6QKN and I are looking forward to operating using callsign N4Y from Falling Waters State Park near Chipley Florida. I was at Falling Waters for the June 2017 ARRL Field Day and January 2018 Winter Field Day. My last two setups were limited to one pull-in campsite. This space limitation was the motivation for the 100-foot vertical loop that uses 30 feet on the ground. Last June, I used the Icom 7300 and last January I used the Elecraft KX3 on QRP. The loop works nicely with the Icom AH-4 tuner. I may lean toward the Icom 7300 for ease of use with the AH-4.



The new wrinkle is our reserved site is adjacent to a large open field. I got a green light from the park staff to extend our antennas into the field. So now I can start daydreaming about alternative antennas. Other than longer and higher is better, I don't have much skill in evaluating antennas. Unfolding the 100-foot loop and making it a 100-foot doublet is an idea. I could also go with a 40/20 fan dipole. What about an 80-meter horizontal loop on all bands? So having many choices is a dilemma. I can recommend the 100-foot loop for limited space based on using it for Field Day and other portable events. I still may go 100-foot loop and add a second antenna, perhaps vertically polarized, for diversity sake.





Sunday, May 6, 2018

Two Hundred Elmers via QSO Today Podcasts

The QSO Today Podcast hosted by Eric Guth 4Z1UG is approaching two hundred episodes. It is quite a feat producing a weekly podcast consistently for almost four years. The secret is that Eric enjoys doing the interviews as much as his listeners enjoy hearing them. The fact is that Eric and I learn something new in each episode. Eric says the guests are the movers and shakers of amateur radio. He is right, and there is an endless list in this hobby. Eric starts with how each guest started in ham radio. From there, Eric explores the unique talents and accomplishments of each guest. There is a tier of guests you have heard of like Bob Heil K9EID and Wayne Burdick N6KR. But the guest list is deep and wide. They include QRPers, DXers, contesters, homebrewers and more.


I am getting about an hour of access to these guests per episode. It is access that only those who run in their circles would have. Eric is on a mission to capture an oral history of the ham radio experience. He gives older guests priority. I was sad to hear about the recent passing Art Bell W6OBB. Eric recorded Art's story about two years ago. Art had an exceptional story in ham radio and broadcasting.

I particularly enjoy guests that played a role in or witnessed history first hand. Examples are

  • Laurie Margolis, G3UML who reported and scooped the invasion by Argentina of the Falkland Islands starting the Falklands war in 1982, 
  • Vjollca Belegu, Z61VB, Kosovo’s first YL ham radio operator, who survived a dark period in Kosova’s history when lives and ham radio were derailed, and 
  • Dennis Vernacchia, N6KI who gives his story of Army Mars during the Vietnam War. 

Likewise, I am in awe of accomplishments of sight-impaired hams like Ron Milliman K8HSY and Jim Kutsch KY2D. I learned about contributions of YLs like Carol Perry WB2MGP and Ellen White W1YL. Don't miss Dennis Blanchard's K1YPP story of ham radio and the Appalachian Trail. Explore the philosophy of life and ham radio with Mike Rainey AA1TJ. Also, learn the origins of RaDAR with Eddie Leighton ZS6BNE.

Eric Guth 4Z1UG QSO Today's host

I missed out on the hobby for 25 years and never had Elmers in the realm of DXing, Contesting and homebrewing. Now I know what Mult-Multi, SO2R, and WRTC are about. I previously had no clue. If you want to enjoy these podcasts for their Elmer value, you will just have to find the time. I take advantage of time in my vehicle. Frankly, I am guilty of binge listening. I pick up more gold nuggets on the second listen. I am on a quest to recall the stories from just the name and call. It is my memory exercise.

Thanks to Eric and his guests, for these podcasts. Please accept my congratulations in advance for two hundred episodes. They are enhancing my ham experience immensely.

73,

Greg N4KGL
Panama City, Florida

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Wiregrass ARC Headland Alabama Tailgate April 2018

I enjoyed attending the April 28th event on the Square in Headland, Alabama. It was an opportunity to visit with Tom WD0HBR and my other ham friends from the Dothan area. I started with breakfast at Hardees at 7 AM and then went over to the site. I brought Suzy with me this year. She worked the crowd for belly-rubs. I did not stay for the whole event as I needed to also visit my Mom who lives in Dothan.

I have been hearing many references to the ARC-5 military line of radios on QSO Today Podcast. Don K1DC brought his line of ARC-5 gear to sell. It was my first chance to see this famous gear close up. I did not bring it home, but enjoyed the tour by Don.

Don K1DC ARC-5 gear

Don K1DC ARC-5 gear
Another friend, Robert KE4AL, brought his Icom 910 rig to do demos for amateur satellites. Robert tunes his rig manually instead of using computer control to adjust for doppler. He showed me how it is done on a linear satellite pass. I will try to repeat this technique with my Icom 910. BTW, Robert is going with Matt NJ4Y on July 6-8 to the Dry Tortugas, grid EL84, in the Florida Keys.  They will be doing HF and satellites.

Robert KE4AL works a Sat

KE4AL's Icom 910
I usually bring something to demo. This year, I operated my Elecraft KX2 from a park bench. The rig was setup like an HF HT with a 40 meter MFJ loaded whip and  a nine foot counterpoise wire. With Tom WD0HBR as my witness, I worked Jim, K4VRT in Tallahassee, Florida. Jim was the net control for the Sunrise Net on 7.123. Jim copied all my info. We all know a four foot whip is very inefficient antenna on 40 meters, but you can have success never-the-less.

The scene at the Square in Headland

The scene at the Square in Headland
I have to say the social side on amateur radio is a big benefit of the hobby. It was nice to visit with my friends at the Headland Tailgate.on a beautiful April day.

Suzy sunning