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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

FOBB 2015: Friends In the Swarm

Flight of the Bumblebees is one of several QRP events that draw a big following. I decided to go to St Andrews State Park which is one of my favorite spots for portable ops. I chose the North Side of the park by Grand Lagoon. I have even a specific picnic table I like right on the water. This was a big outing for Suzy our seven month old basset. I was a little concerned with the heat.

Suzy
First off my favorite picnic table was occupied. So I picked another further away from the water. The shade was good as it is under a good stand of trees. So I used the pine trees tho do an inverted L with the 60 foot wire that comes with the Chameleon Hybrid Micro. I got the vertical point about 25 feet high and the rest was sloping some what. I was 20 minutes behind the start. It turned out some adults threw a water bottle not at Suzy but in her direction. That got her a little skittish. So I heard a buddy Bobby AK4JA but Suzy decides she will feel safe on top of the picnic table right in front of me. I sent the worse code. It really took Suzy a while to get comfortable with the scene. I had a nice string of twenty on 20 meters. The 11th contact was KS4L randy who I met at the Huntsville Hamfest.

Elecraft KX3

The 21st contact was on 40 meters it was Jim K4AHO who I have met at the Orlando hamfest. He is in the QRP group there with Kelly K4UPG. My 25th contact was Larry W2LJ. It just would not have been a QRP event without Larry. Larry blog is http://w2lj.blogspot.com/ Two contacts later was Craig NM4T booming in from Huntsville. Craig is know as the Huntsville QRP Guy. He sets up the Monte Sano event on the Saturday night of the Huntsville Hamfest. My 32nd contact was Sandy W5TVW who I met on the air on Saturday during the RaDAR Meetup.

Chameleon Hybrid Micro. I used two 25 foot radials on the ground.
All together I had 39 contacts. 30 on 20 meters and 9 on 40 meters. I did not have much trouble being heard. So I think the Chameleon inverted L was a good choice as well as the Elecraft KX3. Suzy eventually discovered that under the table was just fine. She had a good time overall. So I was pleased and enjoyed the many familiar calls. It is pretty amazing what QRP to QRP can do. Now how about that Skeeter Hunt August 9th!

Picnic area under a stand of pine trees.

The view toward Grand Lagoon with a pirate ship in the distance.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pedal Power QSOs

I have a 58 Farad supercapacitor bank that worked well at Field Day. It was charged using a solar panel. That is a great setup. I made five natural power QSOs at Field Day with the supercapacitor and the KX3. I ran into the K-Tor website and decided to try the "Power Box" which uses pedals. Pedals are much easier to deal with than a hand crank. A human powered generator would work if there are clouds or it is after dark.



The "Power Box" threw me at first as it puts out 110 volts DC. Yes DC. I have learned that most chargers and wall warts are the switching type. Those devices can operate on DC as well as AC. Now the "power Box is rated at 20 watts. You can use what ever charger you device would normally use to convert the 110 volts DC to the correct charging voltage.



In my case I am using a 10 watt charger to charge the supercapacitor as if it were a battery. Now I don't plan to charge the capacitor from zero volts to working voltage. I can do that with a solar panel. The supercapacitor loses about one percent a day due to the balancing circuit. That is pretty good really. So the main thing is to replace what I use to make QSOs. I found it takes about four minutes to go from 13 volts to 12 volts with the 210 ma draw from the KX3 on receive. It takes about 1.5 minutes of pedaling to put that energy back.



I had a QSO with KP4CPC today and the voltage went down from 13 volts to 10 .75 volts running five watts CW. OK it seems it took five minutes of pedaling to get it back to 13 volts. The charger was putting out 700 ma. I may find another charger that would double that current. But hey exercise is part of the RaDAR game. So there you go! Actually a cool night would be better for pedaling but I was just testing.



I think this device will be interesting for the next Field Day and makes a good educational tool. In fact, I might get others to do the pedaling!

RaDAR On The Air Meetup for July

The weather today is 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Panama City, Florida which feels like 103 F.  I setup Field Day style my front yard. I used the Icom 7100 at 90 watts on SSB and 40 watts on CW. My go box has a healthy 40 ah battery. The antenna was the Chameleon Hybrid Micro 5 to 1 transformer with the 60 foot wire setup as an inverted L using two 30 foot Jackite poles.



The first hour was on 40 meters. My first contact was Jim K4LIX from nearby Callaway Florida. Second was a RaDAR operator Don KK4QAM in Sweetwater Alabama. Nice to do RaDAR to RaDAR with Don. Then was W5TVW Sandy in Hammond Louisiana. He had a great signal with an Icom 703. We chatted for quite a while. Don does portable operating so we have a lot in common. I did a QSY to 40 CW and worked W5TVW again. We exchanged SKCC numbers.



The second hour was 17 meters. I started on 18.157.5 and worked N4ANF Gary in Colorado. Then I had a string of locals calling. They included Ron KM4ELJ, Bob WB4BLX, Jaque KK4LUW and Jim K4LIX again. It is nice to get participation from our local club members. Then I picked up Dan WB5OER in Galena, Texas. The last SSB call was Marv operation W4RYZ the Panama City Club station. QSY to CW and I worked Jim NM1W and exchanged SKCC number. Next was K4LIX again and the last station was K4ISW Lee in Virginia.



So I can't complain. I don't think many wanted to bear the heat. I had some shade that helped. I believe I will take this antenna arrangement to the State Park for Flight of the Bumblebees on Sunday. Suzy was out there with me and Bob WB4BLX came by on his bike for a eyeball QSO.

RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio! Find out what the other RaDAR Ops did at https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/109283065808971118728



Monday, July 13, 2015

Scorch Your Butt Off RaDAR Outing

July 12th was an appropriate date for the Scorch Your Butt Off QRP Event. In Panama City Florida the temperature was 93 Degrees F. The "RealFeel" was in the one hundreds. Never the less, I was going to participate. I thought I would head for the shade. Our Under the Oaks Park would be appropriate I thought. I was bringing Suzy our basset along. To my dismay the park has a no dogs allowed sign. I think that is the first park I have run into with no dogs allowed. So time to vector to another location for the 11 a.m. start. I decided to go to George Park which is where the Panama City ARC clubhouse is located. The picnic table was occupied so I went to the far corner of the park where a couple of large oak trees are located.

George Park. The house is across the street.


I clamped the Chameleon Hybrid Micro to the metal fence and extended the 60 foot radiator up over a limb and out to another tree.  The rig was the Elecraft KX3. I could hear very little on 14.060 at least no participating stations. A similar situation on the Homebrew Sprint the week previous. Well from what I read on Larry's blog  I was not alone. However, there was a fair number of SKCC stations doing the Weekend Sprint. I suspect most of them were not QRP.

The Chameleon Hybrid Micro clamped to the fence.

My first QSO was on 40 meters. It was K4PDM in Kentucky. He was not in any sprint, After that I picked up four SKCC stations on 20 meters CW. It comes in handy to be in the SKCC. They like to work me for credit. In RaDAR you want to leverage on any event you can. I probably should not have had Suzy out there but she dug a nice hole find the cool ground. The shade of the Oak did help.

Suzy


Having five contacts, It was time to make a RaDAR move. I thought Suzy had enough so I went home and setup in my front. I used the Chameleon Hybrid Micro with a tripod and the whip. With some effort I worked another four SKCC stations on 20 meters. I forgot to take any pictures on the second setup.

The Elecraft KX3


Well, I did get nine RaDAR Points on the day with one move after the first five. It is always interesting to select the antennas for each location. I did find the large oak at the park was a great support and provided helpful shade. I'll remember that for future outings.

The O2Cool Fan does help a little. I'll take any help I can get from the heat.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Monthly RaDAR Active Point Program Starts Now

The aim is to encourage and recognize Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) activity. RaDAR Operators can keep a count of RaDAR QSOs for RaDAR Points. A RaDAR Point is earned by making a contact while on portable outing away from their permanent station. To get more than five RaDAR Points on an outing you must travel the required distances (See below) before making additional contacts. RaDAR Active Points will accumulate on a monthly basis and then reset.

Posting a photo to the RaDAR Google+ Community (or anywhere you choose) and additional details for RaDAR activity is welcome but not required. A post to the community monthly will solicit the current RaDAR Active Point counts for participants. Participants may list their RaDAR Active Point count on any post to the community. For fun use the hashtag   

All amateur bands are allowed including cross band contacts via amateur radio satellites.
Modes – CW, SSB, AM, FM or any legal digital mode. QSOs via terrestrial repeaters will NOT be allowed. This is not a contest there are no winners or losers. Participants do it for the challenge and enjoyment of Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio.

Travel Modes and Required Distances:

Modes of transport and required movement distances (moving RaDAR stations only)
Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats etc. (Motorised transport) – 6 km
Bicycles – 2 km
On foot and paddle canoes – 1 km
Wheelchairs – 500 m
Aeronautical mobile stations are considered moving stations and can communicate at any convenient time.
Note: Moving RaDAR stations can move at any time but are required to move to the next destination after five contacts have been made from the present location. The move needs to cover the required distance. This requirement tests the ability to rapidly re-deploy your amateur radio field station.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

2015 Field Day Highlights

This year, I provided the outside setup for the Panama City ARC 2F Field Day at the Bay County Florida EOC. Our call was W4RYZ. The weather forecast was for thundershowers which was the case. I was expecting a major drenching of the gear but that did not happen. It did quell any idea of operating overnight. Saturday afternoon was nice and sunny. Sunday morning was overcast.

The setup outside the at the EOC. The building is part of Gulf Coast State College North Campus
Speaking of the Sun, I will cover that first. The 100 watt solar panel keep the battery well charged despite operating the Icom 7100 at 100 watts. The panel pumped 10 amp hours into the battery.After the sun set Saturday we were strictly on battery. I hooked up the power monitor backwards so I don't have good data on the load side. I don't think we challenged the capacity of the 40 amp hour LiFePO4 battery I was using.  Also Sun related, I used my two foldable 28 watt panels to charger the 58 farad supercapacitor array for the natural power QSO bonus.  I made the five QSOs using the KX3 at 10 watts. The voltage held up nicely.

The 100 watt solar panel and the two foldable 28 watt panels.
Antenna-wise, I deployed with help from club members all five antennas. These were 1) a 40/20 fan dipole, 2) the Chameleon Hybrid Micro with a 60 foot inverted L with four 25 foot counterpoise wires 3) a two meter ground plane, 4) two Bravo 7K verticals as a parasitic array and 5) a Chameleon Tactical Dipole Lite in a NVIS configuration. Yes, I got those antennas setup no problem but with the rain threatening I packed up the Bravo 7Ks before I used them. Also the supports on the Tactical Dipole were not up to the job and it fell over. So as you would expect the 40/20 dipole worked like a champ on those bands. I kind of forgot I could use it on 15 meters. I did try to tune it on 80 meters by mistake (I thought I was on the inverted L)  Well that explains why it would not tune as tuning a 40 meter antenna on 80 meters is worse case load for the tuner.

40/20 meter fan dipoles.
We used the Inverted L on 80 meters Saturday Night but for some reason there were few Field Day stations on the band. I did work a few with effort. Sunday Morning 10 and 15 meters were active and the Inverted L really did a good job there.

The Inverted L antenna using the Chameleon Hybrid Micro 
We had a good combination of operators, loggers, supporters and visitors at the outside station. I particularly enjoyed a visit from my ham/work friend Dennis. I had not seen him in a long time. He recently recovered from a serious illness. He was very interested in the setup and we had some long over-due quality time. Also Michael almost ten years old got the hang of operating and had a good string of contacts. Michael is Bob KK4DIV's Step Son. Suzy our Basset spent Sunday Morning with us.

Steve, Michael, Suzy and Bob


Of course, the outside station was just part of a successful Field Day at the EOC. Thanks to Steve KM4BWV, Jacque KK4LUW, Bob KK4DIV,  Mike KM4ELJ, and Bob WB4BLX for joining me outside. Also thanks to Genella (studying for the test) for her enthusiastic support.

Michael and Suzy


The setup at night

The Club Hex Beam on Phil N4STC's trailer/tower.




Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 Field Day Setup

Field Day is one of my best memories from my teenage ham days. It is one of those things I think about all year. I am operating this year with the Panama City ARC W4RYZ 2F station at the Bay County EOC near Southport, Florida. I pretty much provide the outside station. There will also be an inside station. They will use a hex beam in the parking lot. I am outside at the Northwest corner of the building. A 100 foot doublet does the job, but I am bringing the works for antennas this year.

Antennas:


Antenna Layout


1-2 is 40 meter dipole 3-4 is 20 meter dipole. These have a common feed point at 28 foot camo pole mast. There will be 30 foot poles at 1, 2, and 3. At 4 will be another 28 foot mast. It will hold up one end of the 20 meter dipole. It will have a 2 meter antenna at the top. at 5 is a 30 foot mast having the feed point and radials for a Chameleon Micro Hybrid with a 60 foot wire that goes up the mast and toward 4. At 6 will be a 16 foot mast to hold up the Chameleon EMCOMM2 with 60 foot NVIS radiator extending to 7. There will be a 60 foot counterpoise extending under the radiator. 8/9 is a parasitic array of two Bravo 7K verticals. 

Rig:

When I bought the Icom 7100 I had it in mind for Field day. I used the KX3 at ten watts one year and it did the job. However, since our club entry is not QRP I can go for 50 to 100 watts with the 7100.I have an external LDG IT-100 tuner which will come in handy.


Icom 7100 control head.




The icom 7100 main unit, battery and tuner.



Power:

I have a 40 amp hour and a 30 amp hour LiFEPO4 battery from Bioenno. These were quite expensive but they hold the voltage high enough to operate the Icom 7100. The Icom 7100 will crash if the voltage drops to 11.7 volts. I will be using a 100 watt solar panel to replenish the power I draw from the battery during daylight. We will see how the battery management goes. I can drop down to 50 watts at night if needed.


100 watt solar panel


Natural Power Bonus:

This year I am going to try for the five natural power QSOs using a solar panel supercapacitor combination. I will be assured that there was no commercial power electrons involved. We will see how it goes.


Super capacitor bank,


The rest:

Here is the pop-up canopy from a past year at night. 





Well this is quite load of stuff. It is not RaDAR or QRP this time. The Florida heat and humidity are something to deal with. Of course there will be thundershowers. I hope to get lots of club operators involved. The club should have a big Field Day over-all with both stations. Good luck on your Field Day!