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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

N4P National Park Biodiversity Festival Special Event Report

"I love it when a plan comes together" applies to our of N4P operation on May 21st. Our team operated N4P as one of the exhibits at the Biodiversity Festival at Naval Live Oaks near Gulf Breeze, Florida. We provided a science based activity for the festival participants. Our activity demonstrated how radio waves bounce (or refract) off the ionosphere to enable long distance contacts. The activity was in three parts:

  1. Discuss layers in the ionosphere skip, the skip zone, sunspots and the sunspot cycle.
  2. Give them the opportunity to talk to our contacts on the air.
  3. Have them plot a contact, measure the distance and record the distance. They could see the pattern of the skip and skip zone develop.

Mike AI4NS used some graphical aids to perform step 1. Greg N4KGL operated the N4P station for Part 2. Bob KK4DIV assisted the participants in plotting the contacts on a map for part 3. We were also assisted by Patrick KD0DVH and his wife. Thanks Mike, Bob and Patrick!

We  activated  Naval Live Oaks as part of Gulf Islands National Seashore (SS08) for National Parks On The Air. We paced our contacts as visitors arrived. We got most of them on the air. We had help from out NPOTA contacts to carry the other side of the conversation. We also did some hunt and pounce. A contact with 4V1G in Haiti was super. We also chatted with KC1CXC aeronautical mobile near the Dominican Republic. His commercial flight left Aruba and he was headed to Philadelphia.

Our 20 meter contacts were mostly between 600 and 900 miles from the data. We had additional contacts between 900 and 1800 miles. The skip zone was about 600 miles. We had one exception at 400 miles and one ground wave contact with Pensacola Florida.

The rig was my Icom 7100 and a 40 amp-hour LiFePO4 batter assisted by a 100 watt solar panel. The antenna was a N6BT Bravo 7K vertical. Our graphical aids came from a Propagation 101 presentation by Lee Jennings ZL2AL now a Silent Key. The maps were from CQMaps.

The reactions of the kids to speaking on the air were varied and memorable. Some of them were very young. I feel involving the participants enhanced their experience. So we felt pretty good about the day. The band conditions could have been better. But hey that how is the ionosphere rolls. Thanks to the National Park Staff for inviting us. If we had another opportunity we would do it again. Perhaps this idea would work for Jamboree On The Air (JOTA). Please checkout these YouTube videos.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The N4P National Park Special Event will be May 21st at Naval Live Oaks, FL

There are a couple of things coming together. First
The National Park Service and National Geographic have teamed up this year to host a National Parks BioBlitz throughout the country in celebration of the National Park Service Centennial. Gulf Islands National Seashore, in partnership with Okaloosa Science and the University of West Florida, will host a BioBlitz species identification and Biodiversity Festival on May 21, 2016, at the park's Naval Live Oaks Area in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
Gulf Islands National Seashore is home to many different plants and animals.
Craig McDonnell
and second

In 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) will celebrate its 100th anniversary, and radio amateurs will be able to help mark the occasion with the ARRL National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) event.

As a result, there will be a special event station using callsign N4P at the NPS Biodiversity Festival at Naval Live Oaks on May 21st. We will be doing National Parks On The Air but with a twist. We will involve the participants in a real time science experiment by collecting data on radio wave skip while operating on 20 meters. The participants, many being youth, will help us make contacts. They will also plot the contacts on a grid square map. The distance will be read from the map and logged. Over the day, we hope to see a pattern of the skip distance and the skip zone. N4P will be SS08 Gulf Islands National Seashore for NPOTA. However, we would like chaser's four digit grid square in addition to their state for plotting the contacts. Please be patient and slow the pace so we can get those kids on the air. Listen for us around 14.265. Greg Lane N4KGL and Bob Plank KK4DIV will operate N4P and assist the "scientists" who participate in the experiment.

The First Second Saturday Sprint (SSS)

Jim K0RGI has come up with a new sprint concept for field ops and their chasers. It is the Second Saturday Sprint. Visit the QRP Field Ops Community on Google+.  The Sprints are May through October. So get your member number. Mine is 103.

For May I had a nice mix of contacts at 5 watts on 40, 20 and 2 meters. A dozen in all. I was glad to reach members Kelly K4UPG and Pat NQ0N. I have a cadre of local chasers that help. Suzy and I enjoyed the nice weather in a park in Lynn Haven, Florida by St. Andrews Bay. The rig was the Elecraft KX3 and the antenna was the Bravo 7K vertical next to the water.

I like that other events and casual contacts count. This is a good concept for QRP Field Ops. Thanks to Jim K0RGI for setting up this event. I am sure it will grow month by month.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

NPOTA Activation at Naval Live Oaks

Naval Live Oaks near Gulf Breeze Florida is part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. The NPOTA designator is SS08. I am planning to support a BioBlitz/Biodiversity Festival event at Naval Live Oaks on May 21st. So the trip was in part to check out the site prior to the event and I might as well make it an activation.

My antenna choice was the Bravo 7K from It worked very well for my activation at the Jimmy Carter Plains Georgia site. It has the advantage of being self supporting. Neither NLO or the Georgia site wanted me to use the trees. I find the Bravo 7k works fine on 40 meters but not so well for the close in contacts. This is because a vertical has a null for the high angles required for NVIS.
I did locate the Bravo 7K as close the the shore as I could without being in the way.. The picnic area has saltwater on the south side.

The rig this time was the Icom 7100 that packs up with a tuner and battery in a toolbox. I used my dog stroller to get the gear to the picnic area. Suzy does not need the stroller. I started on 40 meters. I actually worked three other activators at PK04, RC04 and HP17. I worked W4MQC who was maritime mobile. KM4ELJ, Mike, was able to pull me in. He is near Panama City. A highlight was working Tom WD0HBR from Dothan, Alabama. His rig was a Frog Sounds at one or two watts. I think he came in better on my end that I did on his with 50 watts.

I had more than the ten contacts required on 40 but I went to 20 meters to test out the antenna. I had three on CW. Then on SSB I got a string going. I stopped before it became a pile up. I want to save some for the May 21st event. I will use this same setup then.

The weather was nice and sunny. I got a little burned as I never got around to using the sun-screen. Suzy found some shade under the picnic bench. The park filled up as it was a great time to be outdoors.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Natchez Trace Parkway NPOTA Activation

I was able to snag another activation while on a trip to Nashville with my wife. The Natchez Trace Parkway PK04 is over 300 miles long. The parkway's Northern end is in Tennessee near Nashville. As it was a stop on the way home, I planned for about an hour of operating to get ten contacts.

As time was a premium, I used a simple setup off the back of the truck. My rig was the Icom 7100 and battery in a tool box. I have added the Icom AH-4 Tuner to my box. I ran a 36 foot wire from the tuner to a 30 foot pole. I had two 25 foot wires as a counterpoise.

I operated on 20 meters. I worked as much DX as stateside including Canada, Austria, Slovenia, Mexico and the UK. I did not get spotted and that was just as well with the short time. I ended up with five SSB contacts and six CW contacts. It took an hour and a half.

We traveled about 30 miles on the parkway and it is a refreshing change from the interstate. We saw some wild turkeys along the way. Our stop was at the Garrison trail which can be used for horses. NPOTA can be catch as you can. This is my fourth activation.

Monday, April 4, 2016

N4KGL April 2nd RaDAR Challenge

There are now three annual RaDAR Challenges. They are the first Saturday of April, July, and October. You can practice Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio at any time, However, the challenge puts the focus on a 24 hour period and encourages RaDAR to RaDAR contacts. The unique aspect of RaDAR is movement. You make five contacts before departing for the next location. This is a stress test for your portable radio gear and your operating skills.

After reviewing the many sites here in Northwest Florida I chose Port St. Joe Florida. They have a trail system among several parks. There are many factors that could affect your plans. Those include be the propagation conditions or the weather. We had a downpour on Friday that ended. However, the overcast and stiff winds shortened my outing to three locations.

I decided to use my RaDAR Rover also know as a dog stroller. Suzy our basset does not ride in it. I loaded it with my Icom 7100 rig and a 40 amp-hour battery. Ordinarily you would go light and small for on-foot RaDAR. But the cart can handle the weight. I have several antenna options with the rover including the Alexloop, a Chameleon Hybrid base with MIL whip and the extension. I also can use a sixty foot wire with the base.

I have some local hams that will chase me. So 40 meters is the band of choice for NVIS or possibly ground wave contacts. At my first location at Jetty park, I worked Bob WB4BLX in Panama City and Tom WD0HBR with the Alexloop. I was weak but we got it done. I find the mag loop can be used for NVIS. The whip is not so good for NVIS. However I did work three more stations further out in Florida, Alabama and Virginia.


Suzy and I transitioned to the second location at Frank Pate Park. I decided to use the Chameleon Base and a sixty foot wire over a tree limb. I worked five more stations on 40 meters including Don KK4DWC in the Panama City area. It turns out Suzy meets and greets fellow dog lovers and their dogs. So you have to factor that in.

The third location was back at Jetty Park. I did not want to get too ambitious and the winds were wearing on us. I used the whip on 17 meters there. I worked two Hungary stations, NI6BB the Battle ship Iowa in California and a Oregon station. I was also pleased to work N5AQM/QRP in Arizona.

I was headed out for the fourth location but Suzy was balking a bit and I think she was telling me this was enough for the day. The winds really beat us up. I had fun and look forward to more RaDAR operating. The choices are many for the site and the equipment. Usually I get another RaDAR operator but not this time. However, I was pleased to hear that a local ham Mike, KM4ELJ, did get out and made five contacts from North Bay County. If you are interested in RaDAR please checkout the RaDAR Community and Eddie ZS6BNE's Blog.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rainy Day RaDAR

I had ambitious plans for Saturday. I wanted to explore Salinas Park in Gulf County, Florida. The steady showers and thunderstorms nixed that plan. However, since my wife was working there in Port St Joe for the day, I needed to make the best of it. I decided to go to Jetty Park first. It had a small pavilion to shield me from the rain, The antenna I chose was the Alexloop mag loop. I have found that a mag loop will work well under pavilions even if they have a metal roof.

The pavilion at Jetty Park
I had arranged a RaDAR to RaDAR attempt with Eddie ZS2BNE in South Africa on 12 meters CW. I was near the saltwater of the marina which was on the path toward South Africa. At the scheduled time Eddie was there, faint but he was there. I pulled out my report as 419. So what a pleasure to hear you Eddie. Hopefully, we can R2R during the April 2nd RaDAR Challenge. RaDAR is the Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio concept that Eddie introduced in South Africa. Now, RaDAR has gone global.

The Alexloop

The Elecraft KX3

My operating was sparse during the day as I went QRT when the thunder rolled in. At the Jetty Park, I also worked a Virginia station on 30 CW and Italy on 17 meters SSB, The Italian gave me a 58 report. I later setup the Chameleon F Loop under a pavilion at Frank Pate park, I snagged a Colorado contact on 17 meters. The mag loops help out on rainy days. It was not the rain that kept me QRT but the lightening.

The Chameleon Mag Loop


My plan is to return to Port St Joe for the April 2nd RaDAR Challenge. We will see how the weather shapes up. The forecast looks better than this weekend. It is still raining today, Easter Sunday

Pelicans and Gulls on the Jetty

A line of gulls waiting out the rain

Boats in the marina