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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

N4KGL Solar Eclipse QSO Party Plans

I am planning to participate the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP). Ham activity captured by RBN, PSKreporter, and WSPR will be used by scientists to understand the effect of the eclipse on HF propagation via the ionosphere. They want to maximize activity on the ham bands to get lots of data. CW and digital modes are best. SEQP logs will also be collected. There are bonuses for being outside and public place. 

The Solar Eclipse QSO Party is 9 to 5 CDT. The eclipse will be maximum in Panama City at 1:38 PM I plan to operate from St Andrews State Park.The grid square there is EM70DD. I can take advantage of the salt water effect on the South shore of Grand Lagoon. I will use my Icom 7100 to a Chameleon vertical antenna mainly on 20 meters CW. When I CQ, it should be picked up on RBN. The SEQP exchange includes grid squares. I will log with N1MM+ and submit my log for analysis.

The SEQP also encourages WSPR.I plan to deploy two WSPRlite beacons each to a Bravo 7k Vertical along the shore line. I am double checking the beacons to support my salt water effect study. The spots for the beacons should be similar.

These are my plans as of now. It will be interesting to experience the eclipse effects on propagation in real time. Consider operating if you can. It is in the interest of science you know.

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The August Second Saturday Sprint

The 2017 Second Saturday Sprints are sponsored by QRP Field Ops Google Plus Community. They occur May through October each year. The sprints are two hours 1900 UTC to 2100 UTC. See the rules at this link. The goal is to work other members of the QRP Field Ops group. However, any contacts you make will count. Therefore, you can leverage off of other events like the SKCC Weekend Sprint.. Likewise, I have a cadre of local chasers. They find me on HF and 2 meters simplex. This is good practice for RaDAR ops where you need five contacts anyway you can get them before moving to the next stop.

N6BT Bravo 7K Vertical

My favorite picnic table next to Grand Lagoon
This month, I chose to operate QRP portable from St. Andrews State Park. I was involved with salt effect tests during the first part of the day. Dennis WA6QKN assisted. I continued using the Bravo 7K vertical for the sprint. The rig was the Elecraft KX2 running 5 watts. I am enjoying the Alex-Mic I ordered from HRO. It provides an amplified speaker and a microphone.

The Elecraft KX2

My new Alex-Mic

I cycle through 40 CW, 40 phone, 20 CW and 20 phone, My out of town contacts included PA and Orlando on 40 CW, PA and ON on 20 CW, and PA, OK and FL and 20 Phone. The rest of the contacts were local chasers including Bob WB4BLX, Don KK4DWC, and Steve N4VSP. I had fifteen contacts for the two hours. The Bravo 7K vertical did well. I was right on the shore of Grand Lagoon taking advantage of the salt water effect.


A Test of the Saltwater Effect for Vertical Antennas using WSPR

Saturday, August 12th
1620 UTC to 17:20 UTC
St Andrews State Park near the boat ramp on Grand Lagoon. 
The antennas were two identical N6BT Bravo 7K verticals each with a WSPRlite Beacon on 20 meters running 200 milliwatts.

Vertical 1: WSPRLite callsign N4KGL located on the Grand Lagoon shore (salt water)
Vertical 2: WSPRLite callsign W4RYZ located on a dirt area near about 700 feet inland.

The Bravo 7K verticals were at the endpoints of the line above.

The overhead view of the inland location

The beacons were started at the same even minute, and both had a 20% duty cycle. Over the course of an hour, each beacon transmitted seven times. However, to my disappointment only the first transmission was simultaneous. The simultaneous reports showed a mean 10 dB SNR advantage for Vertical 1 at the shore using DXplorer. The shore vertical also showed a DX10 advantage in the average distance 2960 km vs 2386 km. I did further analysis taking an average SNR for receiving stations common to both beacons over the test. The SNR-DELTA was well in favor of the shore vertical as shown in the table below. 

I surmise that the overwhelming difference is due to reduced ground losses. The dirt in this area is sandy and has a conductivity of 1 milli-mho. The salt water has a conductivity of 1500 milli-mho. Note since the Bravo 7K has a tripod we put it over the shallow water at the shore.

Now to increase the confidence in the data perhaps the test could be repeated switching the position of the two verticals. Also, I would consider increasing the duty cycle to 100% to get more simultaneous spots. Note this test was a two ham effort. I could not have pulled it off without the assistance of Dennis Walker WA6QKN. We had fun doing it.

I think my favorite spot to operate at the Grand Lagoon shoreline is well chosen. It does seem to supercharge a vertical. The Bravo 7K has never the less served me well at National Parks for NPOTA that were inland. It has an advantage that it does not require trees for support.

Shore Bravo 7K vertical

Inland Bravo 7K vertical

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Flight of The Bumblebees 2107: A Fun Packed Four Hours!

The Flight of the Bumblees is sponsored by the Adventure Radio Society each July. This year brought the most QRP operators I can remember together. At least 122 Bumblebee registered. Even with the Solar Cycle in the pits, twenty meters was buzzing with QRP stations.

The dipole. It was double this size for 40 meters.

The N6BT Bravo 7K right on the salt water
I chose St. Andrews State Park this year. I have a favorite picnic table directly on the South shore of Grand Lagoon. I parked the N6BT Bravo 7K vertical setup for twenty meters directly on the shore. This gave me a shot over salt water for most of North America. This year I also had the weather going for me. It was partly sunny and hot but the breeze across the water made it tolerable. I also had the assistance of my friend Dennis WA6QKN.

Dennis WA6QKN
I ran the Elecraft KX2 at 5 watts. I used the QRPWorks SideKar with a mini keyboard to generate the CW macros for the KX3. I also used the AlexMic I just received.  It had the volume we needed as the boat traffic was very noisy.

Elecraft KX2 and accessories
I actually called CQ for most of the time. It was more productive than my usual hunt and pounce. This was my best FOBB yet. Here is a summary.

20 meters: 29 BB out of 50 contacts
40 meters: 8 BB out of 11 contacts
Total: 37 BB and 61 Contacts

I had contacts from Panama City ARC members including Bob WB4BLX, Jim K4LIX and Jim KW4UT. Dennis WA6QKN had as much fun as I did. He was assisting with setup, tear down and looking up BBs as we went. The vertical was potent of 20 meters. We switched to a 40 meter half wave dipole for 40 meters.  So it all came together I am thankful for many great contacts including friends Larry W2LJ, Steve KF5RY and Jim K0RGI. Suzy was a good buddy and had fun too.

Dennis WA6QKN and Suzy


WSPR Comparison: Vertical vs. Dipole.

I recently obtained two WSPRlite beacons. My trip to St Andrews State Park Sunday for FOBB 2017 Flight Of The BumbleBees was an opportunity for an antenna comparison using WSPR. I compared a vertical vs. a dipole. The vertical was my N6BT Bravo 7K Vertical located directly on the South shore of Grand Lagoon. Grand Lagoon is salt water. This puts the salt water between the antenna and most of North America. The dipole was a 20-meter dipole about ten feet above the grass near the shore of Grand Lagoon. Dennis WA6QKN and I set up the antennas and hooked up the WSPRLites.

The N6BT Bravo 7K set for 20 meters and shore of Grand Lagoon

The 20 meters half wave dipole at 10 feet above the grass near the shore.

The beacons ran for one hour period between 1526 and 16:36 UTC. The dipole actually ran two minutes less. The dipole also had an extra six feet of RG-8X feed line. Using DXplorer from SOTABeam I got the following results:

Best 10 DX spots
       Vertical 2593 km average distance, max distance 3650 km
       Dipole 2057 km average distance, max distance 3410 km

Total Spots
        Vertical 150
        Dipole 87
Vertical WSPR Map

Dipole WSPR Map

My quick analysis indicates the vertical had the edge over the dipole in distance and total spots. You could have helped the dipole by more height but the ten-foot height is easy with my support poles and requires no trees. In any case, this sets the stage for future experiments including the vertical by the salt water shore vs the vertical located inland. My theory is a vertical on the salt water shore is hard to beat. We will see what the numbers say.

UPDATE: I looked at the simultaneous spot on DXplorer web site. They are listed here. Tom WD0HBR

By my count, looks like you had 34 simultaneous spots and for 21 of them the vertical showed a 10db or greater advantage.  In only 13 instances was the advantage less than 10db and only once did the dipole out performed the vertical. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Location Location Location

I have wondered if I could gather empirical evidence that operation on the salt water shore is better than inland for vertically polarized antennas. I have lots of opportunities to operate at the salt water shore here in Northwest Florida. I try to have the salt water between myself and the desired contacts. For example, the North Shore at St Andrews State Park basically covers the US and Canada but also Europe and Japan. The theory says the low angle radiation is enhanced at the salt water shore for verticals. DXpeditions often use verticals from their island locations. I have found that on the salt water shore I can hold down the frequency with low power if I am using a vertical. I often get a string going. I also noted a signal increase on a station when I was doing pedestrian mobile as I approached the shoreline. 

I purchased two SOTAbeams WSPRlite beacons with the idea of doing comparisons of salt water shore locations versus inland locations. WSPR is Weak Signal Propagation Reporter. You can see WSPR reports on I happen to have two Bravo 7K verticals made by I could deploy a Bravo 7K with a WSPRlite beacon at two test locations simultaneously. SOTAbeams has a web based tool at to aid with comparisons.

The WSPRLite and a USB battery pack

Sunday, I checked out one SOTAbeams WSPRlite beacon running 200 milliwatts on 20 meters in my front yard using a Bravo 7K vertical. I was pleased with the WSPRlite It was easy to configure with my callsign and grid using the computer. To use the WSPRLite I just hooked it up to the antenna, plugged it into a USB power pack and pushed the button on an even minute.I was getting results shortly on WSPRnet. I also tried out 

The Bravo 7k Vertical hooked up to the WSPRlite in tmy front yard.

I have realized I will need a second callsign for the second beacon. I ask the club to borrow their call W4RYZ. I can even locate the two antennas/beacons a wavelength or so apart and see if they if their reports agree. This could be done inland and at the shore. Then I could try one inland and one at the shore. 

The spots on I later got spotted in Germany

I realize there will be nuances in doing comparisons. We will just see where it goes. It will take some time to pull this off. Check this blog for future reports.This looks like the science fair project I never got to do. They did not have science fair at my school in the old days.

Greg N4KGL

Julian OH8STN describes the WSPRLite Antenna Comparison Methodology in this excellent video

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Try a QSO Today Podcast! You will be glad you did!


Eric Guth 4Z1UG interviews an interesting ham each week for about an hour. These podcasts have been a source of education and inspiration to me. I am learning that the Ham Radio universe is much larger than I thought. Now I am working my way through the 150+ episodes already in the archives.

I recommend these particularly if you are wondering what to do next in the hobby. You can pick these up through iTunes or STITCHER. However, I have been downloading them from the podcast list. I spend at least three hours a week driving, and these podcasts have made the drive enjoyable.

Greg N4KGL