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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Flight of the Bumblebees 2018 was a QRP Swarm

You can have fun with QRP even at the bottom of the solar cycle. The annual Flight of the Bumblebees last Sunday is a good example. The bumblebees are portable stations. I had 34 contacts of which 21 were with fellow bumblebees. All of them were using five watts or less.

Bravo 7K Vertical
This year I chose Carl Grey Park in Panama City, Florida as my venue which is on the shore of North Bay. I like to place my vertical antenna on the saltwater shore. My vertical this time was the N6BT Bravo 7K. I setup up the vertical for 20 meters which was the most active band. I also set up a low dipole for 40 meters. The rig was the Elecraft KX2.



Twenty-seven contacts were on 20 meters. I was also pleased to get four on 15 meters. 40 meters had a lot of static crashes and not many stations. However, I did work Steve KF5RY in Texas, Randy KB4QQB in North Carolina and Bob WB4BLX here in Panama City,

Elecraft KX2
It is nice to work your QRP friends on FOBB. Shel KF0UR in Colorado was on, He is with the QRPWorks who makes Elecraft Accessories. I worked Kelly K4UPG. He is a QRP ringleader in the Orlando area.  I worked Randy KB4QQJ in North Carolina on 40, 20 and 15. He heads up the Great Outdoor Radio Club, GORC. In the West, I got Steve KF5RY in Texas on 40 and 15 and Myron WV0H in Colorado. These two are on the RaDAR Community. Local friends included Bob WB4BLX on 20 and 40 and Bob WB8PAF on 20.

Dennis WA6QKN
I better not leave out Dennis WA6QKN who assisted me with logging. He is getting pretty good with CW copy. We also had a friendly squirrel come by to share my lunch. Suzy would have liked that, but I did not bring her this time. The weather held out right up to the last hour. We could see some lightening in the North. In the end, a stiff breeze came up and turned over my Bravo 7K vertical. I never dreamed that could happen, but there was no damage.

The scene along North Bay at Carl Grey Park



Saturday, July 21, 2018

Stepping out for the Summer 2018 RaDAR Challenge

The Summer RaDAR Challenge is particularly challenging in Northwest Florida due to the July heat and humidity. Nevertheless, I chose to do RaDAR on foot this time. I picked a venue that included the Hathaway Bridge and extends to Carl Grey Park in Panama City. This area is on North Bay which provides a shot over saltwater to the rest of North America.


I toyed with the idea of operating HF pedestrian mobile from the top of the Hathaway Bridge using the Elecraft KX2 and an MFJ 20 meter whip. I did a test prior to the challenge. I found that the whip that normally tunes well with the KX2 internal auto tuner, did not tune well on the bridge. The SWR did not get below 3.8 to 1. I suspect that it was the metal railing that extends the length of the bridge. Also, the bridge has no stopping signs for pedestrians. It makes operating HF pedestrian mobile a challenge for me. However, I did manage a contact with Steve WG0AT. I was terrible sending code while walking.



My plan got refined to use only the Alexloop for my HF antenna. I held it in my hand while standing for locations 1 and 2. I had the Elecraft KX2 in an open camera case on my side. For locations 4 and 5, I held the loop while sitting on a park seat. This approach made my antenna setup time essentially zero. It also minimized the weight of my pack up.



I always like to make contacts with Tom WD0HBR when I am portable. The question was, could the Alexloop get my signal to Tom's QTH seventy-five miles away on 40 meters? The answer is in the video below.



My four-hour operating window for the challenge was 10 AM to 2 PM local time. That time coincided with the IARU HF Championship. When I checked 20 meters at 10 AM, I could not find a clear spot due to the contest. I decided to QSY to 15 meter SSB and pick up five local contacts.






After my walk to the top of the Hathaway Bridge, I worked five more local contacts on 2 meters FM Simplex. I had trouble getting the fifth contact, but Linda KG4TJL rescued me. She is Bob WB4BLX's XYL.






I returned to the same spot I used for location 1 to be my location 3. This time I got on 20 meter SSB and worked five locals including Bob KK4DIV, who was also doing the RaDAR Challenge around Panama City. He decided to drive between locations. Bob KK4DIV Bob WB8PAF and I used magnetic loops for our HF antennas.





I headed to Carl Grey Park for location 4.  It had some needed shade while still on the bay. I decided to join in on the IARU contest to get five SSB contacts. I did hunt and pounce. After five contacts, I took a meandering walk in the park area to get one kilometer and returned to the same spot for location 5.




At location 5, I got four more contest stations on CW and then an SKCC station answered my CQ for the fifth contact.




The RaDAR Challenge offers a bonus for the first Satellite contact. My four hour period was ending with an AO-85 satellite pass. I used a Yaesu FT-60 HT and an Elk antenna that I had been carrying. I was successful to contact two friends. They are Robert KE4AL in Dothan and Jim K4LIX here in Panama City.



I have always said, if you take more than an Alexloop for an antenna on the RaDAR Challenge you are taking too much. Well, this time I used just the Alexloop for HF and did fine. This RaDAR Challenge I made it to five locations. That is my personal record. I hear Myron WV0H had eight locations. He is a roadrunner Hi Hi


Thanks to all the locals for the contacts. They include Phil N4STC, John KN4PMA, Jim K4LIX, Jack N1HQ, Don KK4DKT, Bob WB8PAF, Bob WB4BLX and his XYL Linda KG4TJL. I have a Fitbit watch that tracks my steps. With the challenge, I had a 10K step day.


I am looking forward to the November 3rd, 2018 RaDAR Challenge. Please join us and do RaDAR to RaDAR. It will be cooler here in Florida. Note, Eddie ZS6BNE the originator of RaDAR, has written a new book called the RaDAR Game. You can download it at.this link. The RaDAR Google+ community is at https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/109283065808971118728

RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. Bob KK4DIV's video is below.




Monday, July 9, 2018

N4KGL's Plans for the July 14th RaDAR Challenge.

The RaDAR Challenge comes with many choices to make involving the venue, the equipment, and the time of day. This July 14th, I plan to go minimalistic. I will use the Elecraft KX2 with an MFJ whip and drag wire counterpoise on the HF bands.



The venue will be unusual. I have chosen the Hathaway Bridge over St Andrews Bay in Panama City, FL. Its height above the salt water will be in the order of seventy-five feet. I expect altitude to be advantageous for my 10 watts with a limited antenna. I will also consider the adjacent Carl Gray Park as an additional stop. It is right on the bay. The salt water effect for vertical polarization has been helpful for my portable operating. I should get excellent low angle radiation at the shore or on the bridge.




I have had success operating pedestrian mobile with the KX2 at street level and next to the salt water. However, it takes some work and luck to score a contact. The KX2 is literally a handi-talkie for HF, I find the Alex-Mic by PY1AHD is useful. I use a KX2 paddle, but I tap it like a straight key. I will also have a VHF HT with me. Simplex FM contacts count as well.

The bridge has some constraints. You cannot stop on the bridge per the posted signs. Therefore, I must keep moving. Per the RaDAR rules, you must move at least one kilometer after five contacts if on foot. However, you also can move while you make the required five contacts, The bridge is not the place to be if a thunderstorm is coming through. That was the case this Saturday and I canceled a practice walk across the bridge I wanted to make.



The toughest part of RaDAR on foot in July here in Florida is the temperature and humidity. Therefore, I better start early in the day. A satellite pass opportunity may influence my timing. The first satellite contact is a bonus. I doubt that I try to operate sats from the top of the bridge. I hope to make some RaDAR to RaDAR contacts. Let me know if you will be operating RaDAR.

The planning is a big part of the RaDAR Challenge. It is a chance to be creative. Also, weather and other factors may require a plan B. If you try RaDAR have fun making plans and good luck on the event. Be safe!

73,

Greg N4KGL

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Get Ready for the July 14th, 2018 RaDAR Challenge

RaDAR Is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio


RaDAR Challenge Rules from http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/

1. Aim
The RaDAR “Challenge” is a unique event aimed at promoting the use of Rapidly Deployable Amateur Radio stations. Categories (Fixed / Field / Moving) may be changed at any time during the challenge. The points system is so structured as to encourage portable RaDAR operations especially moveable RaDAR stations.
RaDAR operators are encouraged to be self-sufficient during each challenge, with not only power supply and communications equipment but food, water, protective clothing and shelter.
2. Date and Time
RaDAR operators define their own operating time schedule. It’s up to each individual to plan his / her MAXIMUM, SINGLE PERIOD, FOUR HOUR ops. He / she should consider propagation with the ultimate goal of inter-continental RaDAR to RaDAR communications in mind.
00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 7 April 2018, Saturday 14 July 2018 and on Saturday 3 November 2018. Twenty four hours will give equal opportunity to the international community of RaDAR operators.
3. Bands and Modes
All amateur bands are allowed including cross band contacts via amateur radio satellites. Modes – CW, SSB, FM or any legal amateur radio digital mode. As from 2018 the WARC bands will be excluded even though the RaDAR Challenge is not a “contest” as such.
QSOs via terrestrial FM repeaters should preferably not be used for the purpose of the challenge.
4. Suggested HF calling frequencies
See https://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/radar-calling-frequencies/ for the RaDAR Calling channels, the latest suggested international list of calling frequencies
5. Exchange
The RaDAR challenge requires more than a minimalistic information exchange. Accurate information exchange is considered more important than a large QSO count. Call sign, name, RS (T) report and grid locator. The grid locator of six characters is acceptable but should preferably be accurate to 8 or 10 characters for higher position accuracy (especially for moving RaDAR stations).
6. Scoring (For determining your own success rate)
1 point per QSO. Individual QSOs could be per mode, per band, per satellite, per grid location. If the moving RaDAR station has moved the required distance contact can be made with a previously worked station, again. Suggestions have been made to call CQ including grid location, for example CQ RaDAR from grid KG34acXXyy, to help callers determine whether it is possible for a new contact with a previously worked moving RaDAR station
7. Categories and multipliers
The following multipliers are applicable to determine the final score. If category/mode of transport changes were made during the challenge, than calculate accordingly.
X 1 – RaDAR Fixed station (in a building away from home)
X 2 – RaDAR Field station (camping)
X 3 – Moving RaDAR station – see modes of transport below.
8. Moving RaDAR stations
Modes of transport and required movement distances (moving RaDAR stations only)
Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats (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 (Changes for 2018) : Moving RaDAR stations need to make five QSO’s before moving to the next deployment point, thereafter they are required to move to their next destination. The move needs to cover the required distance before further contacts can be made. This requirement tests the ability to rapidly and successfully re-deploy your amateur radio station. If it be gentlemanly to make further QSOs before moving then please feel free to do so but the QSOs in excess of five per deployment point can not be counted for points.
9. Bonus points (All categories)
Five (5) points for a minimum of one satellite OR digital modes QSO involving a computer, smart phone or digital modes device. (For clarity thereafter 1 point per Satellite / Digital modes QSO).
Five (5) points for the first successful same continent RaDAR to RaDAR QSO.
Five (5) points for the first intercontinental (DX) QSO
Ten (10) points for the first successful inter-continental (DX) RaDAR to RaDAR QSO.
10. Log Sheets
Log sheets must be submitted by 14 April 2018, 28 July 2018 and 10 November 2018 and sent by e-mail to edleighton@gmail.com Note: A photo of the station should accompany every log entry including each new location that moveable RaDAR stations visit. The results and photos are used to promote RaDAR and amateur radio.
Please visit http://radarops.co.za/ zs6bne.wordpress.com and Google+ RaDAR Community for more info about RaDAR.


I encourage all hams to participate  Let us know your plans and results. Good luck and be safe!

Greg N4KGL
www.N4KGL.info





Friday, June 29, 2018

The Nostalgic Hallicrafters S38-C Receiver

I have heard many QSO Today Podcast guest hams say that the S38, or similar, was their first receiver. I found a cheap Halicrafters S38-C Reciever on eBay. It was recapped by the seller. 





I am using the S38 up with a 10-foot indoor antenna. The 3:5 to 13 Megacycle band is stacked with shortwave stations. I hear English language broadcast from Holland and Beijing  It is nice to access so many stations without changing bands, I can tune them with a flick of my wrist. The sound is room filling. This radio does a good job at what it was designed to do. 



I can also hear 40 meters CW and SSB with the CW BFO turned on. Those signals may be too fleeting for serious ham radio. I have a hard time dialing in an exact frequency, but I hope to eventually hear Bob Heil's Ham Nation podcast and organ music broadcast on the WTWW shortwave station in Lebanon, Tennessee. 


Excerpt follows from http://www.stanwatkins.com/hals38.htm
The Hallicrafters S-38 was a basic, but very good communications receiver introduced in 1946.  The S-38 was Hallicrafter's entry-level communications receiver, priced at   $39.50   The radio was so popular, that it was produced in several variations and remained in production until 1961!  Famous industrial stylist Raymond Lowey designed the cabinet used in the S-38 through S-38C.  The S-38-D and S-38E were externally restyled and bore little resemblance to the earlier models.  The S-38 contained only six tubes, but included the following useful features:
  • Electrical bandspread with 0-100 scale
  • Automatic noise limiter
  • Four Bands covering .54 to 30 Mhz
  • Headphone terminals
  • Standby switch
  • Variable BFO for CW reception (later models omitted the variable BFO, reducing the tube count to five.)
To keep the receiver price low, all S-38s were transformerless designs.  This type of design works well, but presents dangerous shock hazards.  The safest way to operate an S-38 is to use an isolation transformer in the AC supply to the radio.   The set can be operated safely without an isolation transformer, but ONLY if the original back cover, bottom cover and rubber chassis isolators are in good condition. 





Greg N4KGL

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Monday, June 25, 2018

The N4Y 2018 ARRL Field Day Report from Kinsaul Park

Our callsign was N4Y. Field Day this year was a two operator, one transmitter operation on emergency power. Our exchange was "One Bravo Northern Florida." Dennis WA6QKN and Greg N4KGL were the operators. The venue was Kinsaul Park in Lynn Haven, Florida. It had plenty of space for antennas. We could not stay past the 10 pm park close. We resumed on Sunday morning until the end of Field Day. This was just as well as we were attacked by No-See-Ums after dark Saturday.

Dennis WA6QKN and Suzy
We started early Saturday morning. There was some drama as the medical alert service called and said they were dispatching EMS to my Mother's house in Dothan seventy miles away. It took about forty minutes to find out it was not a medical emergency. My Mother stepped out on the back porch and the door locked behind her. So Field Day was on after all.



Dennis and I, with help from Phil N4STC, erected a 272 foot 80 meter one wavelength square horizontal loop. It was fed in the center of the South wire. We tried a 4 to 1 and 2.5 to 1 balun. The 4 to 1 had the best SWR. It had a low of 1.9 on  80 meters and between 2 to 1 and 3 to 1 on the rest of the band. 40 meters and 20 meters were under 2 to 1 for the most part. The 2.5 to 1 balun had worse SWR than it previously had when feeding the loop at the corner.

The 80-meter one wavelength horizontal loop.
Our second antenna was the myantennas.com 80-10 1K Endfed which is 130 feet long. We oriented it on an East-West line at 20 feet up. The SWR was a little high on 80 meters but OK on the other bands. I was not disappointed with the loop, but the end-fed did the job as well, we think. On Sunday, we went with the end-fed alone on a North-South line. It served us well even on 15 and 10 meters which opened up Sunday morning.

Our solar assist.
The rig was the Icom 7300 powered by a 40 amp-hour Bioenno LiFePO4 battery. The battery was on a 50-watt solar panel and the Sun was out all day. It turns out the battery voltage was higher at the end of the day than the beginning. So the power we consumed was replenished by the solar panel. The Icom 7300 is a pleasure to use. I walked down the band making CW contacts with the spectrum scope. I used a 50 Hz filter to hear just one station at a time.

Continuing after dark
Dennis did a fine job on the phone mode. On Sunday, he worked a fifty station string on 15 meters. At the end, we tried our hand on PSK-31 on 10 meters. We got the hang of it and could do more next Field Day.  I attempted using the FM satellites with no success. I never got going with the linear sats. I did pull off five natural power contacts using a solar panel and a 58 Farad supercapacitor for 100 bonus points.

That is right!
We did have ham visitors and curious park-goers. One visitor was enthusiastic about getting his license. I used the rocket club trailer for hauling the gear. It had six water type fire extinguishers which puzzled the visitors. Suzy did her best job doing the meet and greet. No one went away disappointed.

Suzy
In the end, we made 180 contacts, 109 on phone, 57 on CW and 14 on digital. I believe we have some momentum going. We plan to have a big multi-operator, multi-transmitter Winter Field Day camp-out in Falling Waters State Park at the end of January. The enormity and enthusiasm for Field Day across the country, remind me that Ham Radio is doing well and has lots to offer on a social, technical, and service perspective.

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!