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

Monday, February 6, 2017

Camp Helen, Florida Activation

The one-year National Parks On The Air program concluded in December 2016. It encouraged me to visit several National Park sites. Now the World Wide Fauna and Flora program can fill the gap as it covers National and State Park sites. The closest state park other than St Andrews State Park to me is Camp Helen. I have known about it for years but had made few visits. Sunday was my opportunity to visit and activate the site for WWFF. It is reference KFF-1845. Fortunately it was T-shirt weather in February. I am also beginning to renew my Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) mindset. It is a program that adds motion to portable operating. The next RaDAR challenge is the first Saturday in April. The question of what site and what gear to use will be pondered right up to the event.

40 Meter NVIS Dipole

Elecraft KX2

First, I checked in with the Park Staff. It took a few minutes for them to grasp what I was doing. But once they did they made me and Suzy very welcome. I decided to get the ten required contacts for a WWFF-KFF activation at the first stop. I used The NVIS 40 meter dipole which is only nine feet off the ground. The central area of the park seems to have good elevation above the surrounding area. I am sure that was why it was picked way back when. All around the site offers access to the beach, lakes and many trails.



I was fortunate to have many elements come together that help when I do activations and RaDAR.  I worked several friends who chase me. This included Mike KM4ELJ in Youngstown, FL, AK4JA Bobby in Georgia. He worked me on a tube QRP rig. Likewise, Tom WD0HBR in Dothan, Alabama. That is a motivation for 40 meter NVIS. It turns out at 11:30 or so it is usually the peak in the foF2 frequency. It was just just over 7 MHz. I worked Bob WB4BLX on 2 meters simplex with the aid of the Elk antenna. I also worked him on 40 CW.

 I have been getting into Amateur Satellites lately. I make the Sats part of my portable outings. Eddie ZS6BNE, the originator of RaDAR, made them a bonus for the RaDAR Challenge. I worked the 1 PM pass of SO 50. It had a 45 degree elevation. The central part of the park is open enough to have visibility of the pass. I heard my signal well on the duplex mode of the Kenwood TH-D72A. I got three contacts including XE1SEW DX.
 
The second part of my outing was to walk and talk using the Elecraft KX2 and a loaded whip on 20 meters. This is also known as pedestrian mobile. I forgot the counterpoise initially and had an answer to a CQ without it. I was able to do hunt and pounce with success. I did not keep a good log. However, I did work the Virgin Islands and St. Martin. Those were a shot over the lake. There is a trail that follows the lake shoreline. I also worked the Maritime net on 14.300 and a Vermont station in the QSO party. The KX2 and whip are the most portable of my configurations. Suzy enjoyed the walk.

 I have to think the Camp Helen site would make a nice Field Day location. It has a variety of buildings as well as an open area. There is even a wooden water tower that offers some elevation for antennas. Oh just thinking! I any case, I hope to return to Camp Helen often and activate more of the Florida State Parks close by.



Suzy

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Winter Field Day 2017

Winter Field Day happened to fall on a SEARS rocket launch day at Samson, Alabama. Chris VA3ECO and I did about 2.5 hours of operating when we weren't distracted by rocket launches. The weather was about 50 degrees. With a breeze, that was enough to keep us honest. We had fourteen QSOs with a mix of CW and phone for 120 points. However, the bonuses stacked up giving us a total  a total of 6120.
  • 1,500 points for not using commercial power.
  • 1,500 points for setting up outdoors.
  • 1,500 points for setting up away from home.
  • 1,500 points for satellite QSO(s).
Chris VA3ECO operating
The rig was my Icom 7100 at less than 100 watts with a 40 AH LiFePO4 battery. The antenna was the Chameleon 5 to 1 transformer and 65 feet of wive as an inverted L. This was good enough to give us a taste of the action. Below are a few rocket photos and the sound from the AO 85 satellite QSO. The satellite QSO was not until Sunday morning.

Chris' launch

Greg's launch of a three engine cluster with the Loc Viper rocket



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Rockets & Radios at the Samson Alabama Launch

I met Chris VA3ECO and his wife by chance at Conservation Park last Winter while Suzy and I were doing RaDAR. Chris has returned to Florida for this Winter. We were pleased that he came up for the January 14th Rocket Launch in Samson. Chris had done some rocketry in Ontario from his boat on a lake since cleared land is hard to find. He got quite a rocket show from our SEARS rocket club members. I did a launch of my Big Boy for Chris and Chis launched my Estes Stealth,

Chris VA3ECO and Big Boy

Greg's Big Boy launch on an E20 motor

Chris and the Estes Stealth

Stealth Launch on a C6-0
Chris put together this video of the launches.



Radio-wise, I setup my Elecraft KX2 for 40 meters. I did not have any luck getting back to my buddies in Panama City or Dothan, However, the NVIS Dipole did well to at longer distances to  Florida and Georgia. I had the honor to work KM4ZVC/AG for his first HF QSO as a new General Class.

The Elecraft KX2 shaded by the LowePro case


The 40 meter NVIS dipole

Suzy with the N6BT Bravo in the background

Suzy enjoyed trips up and down the road on the farm. I took her off the leash for some of that. I also did a SO 50 satellite pass. I got K3GDS at grid FN00 and N8IUP at grid EN81. The launch site is EM61.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

N4KGL Amateur Radio Highlights for 2016

Here are my 2016 Amateur Radio highlights

The 2016 ARRL National Parks On The Air  event was awesome. I was not close to many National Park Sites. However, Gulf Islands National Seashore SS08 was nearby. I activated SS08 eight times as N4KGL. Bob KK4DIV, Mike AI4NS and I activated SS08 as N4P at the Biodiversity Festival. We had a booth at the festival where we did a real-time propagation experiment and got lots of young people on air. Beyond that, I made a day trip to the Jimmy Carter High School in Plains, Georgia. I also stopped by the Natchez Trail on a trip to Nashville, and activated the Santa Fe Trail on a trip to Kansas.



I was able to do all three RaDAR Challenge Events April, July and November. A new portable operating activity started this year called the Second Saturday Sprint which is April through October. It gives you credit for anyone you work. That fits in with RaDAR style ops nicely. I did Field Day with the Panama City ARC as usual.



I got the Elecraft KX2. Now I use it for all my portable ops. I like the small size, light weight, up to 10 watts, internal battery, and internal tuner. That is hard to beat. I found I could attach a whip and counterpoise and operate it as a hand-help for pedestrian mobile. Even 40 meter contacts are possible with the whip.



I started learning how to use the amateur satellites for portable operating. So now I include a satellite pass on most outings. It is a different mindset for the radios. I have used several. The most recent is the Kenwood TH-D72A which is capable of full duplex. It is also very capable doing APRS with an internal GPS.



Another new discovery was the World Wide Fauna and Flora Program which has a National Program called KFF. I have done some activations already. It is going to encourage me to visit all the State Parks here in Northwest Florida. It applies to National and State Parks. This can be the replacement for National Parks On The Air.



Linda and I enjoyed Micky KE8ASK and John W8JER on their visit in during the winter. We also met up with them at the Huntsville Hamfest also along with Craig NM4T at the Monte Sano gathering. I gave a talk on NPOTA at the hamfest.



With respect to the blog and YouTube I now use the GoPro Session to document my outings. I learned that I can't talk that well but that's me. Of course, Suzy has been my companion on most outings. She will draw a crowd and cons them for belly rubs. She definitely gets RaDAR and is leading the way between stops. I actually know she is the star of this blog and pulls in the hits.
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Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Last National Parks On The Air Activation

The ARRL 2016 National Parks On The Air Event has concluded with the years end. It was a very popular amateur radio event to help celebrate the National Park Service Centennial. So I decided to squeeze in one more activation. I chose the closest site for me. It is the Okaloosa Island Day Use Area which is a little more than an hours drive just West of Destin, Florida. It is part of Gulf Island National Seashore which is designated SS08.l upload my logs to Log Book Of The World LOTW and the World Wide Fauna and Flora system. Note the NPOTA SS08 is KFF-0661 under WWFF. This is my eighth SS08 activation and the sixth time at this Okaloosa Island site.



The weather was a bit chilly at 55 degrees (F) and cloud cover. I started with a SO 50 satellite pass which netted two contacts. On HF I used the Elecraft KX2 running ten watts to a N6BT Bravo 7K vertical. I used 100 feet of RG-8 to get the antenna close to the saltwater shore on the North side. I did not go with my NVIS antenna for 40 meters since foF2 was not above 7 MHz. That nixed any HF contacts back to Panama City.  I was able to use the longer skip on 40 meters. I snagged Craig NM4T near Huntsville which was as short as I could get. It was a surprise and pleasure to work Craig my buddy and the Huntsville QRP guy. Also Suzy was my buddy once again.

So my total is 60 contacts. Several were the first SS08 for the chasers. The breakdown was

  • 40 CW (6)
  • 40 SSB (12)
  • 20 CW (20)
  • 20 SSB (20)
  • SO 50 (2)

NPOTA has been a great experience. It ended too soon. My plan right now is to continue my start with the WWFF-KFF for portable activations. It has hunters which are the equivalent to chasers in NPOTA.. You can take credit for 2016 NPOTA activations in that system by submitting your logs. The nice thing about KFF is that it includes National and State Parks. There are lots of State Parks in Northwest Florida for sure.

Elecraft KX2

N6BT Bravo 7K Vertical

Suzy

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Yes you can POTA After NPOTA!

Northwest Florida is loaded with State Parks. See this map. WWFF-KFF is an on-going program that can fill in the void when National Parks On The Air NPOTA 2016 concludes. KFF activators need 10 contacts from a state or national parks and more. Hunters can just register and get rewards without sending their logs. I have done a couple of activations recently. You can also send in applicable activation logs you have back to January 2016. I sent in my NPOTA logs to Jason for a couple of additional activation credits.



Here is a note from Jason W3AXX who is the KFF coordinator.

We at parksontheair.com have taken the momentum of the National Parks on the Air program, added National Wildlife Refuges/Parks/ Recreation Areas, and State Parks of all 50 states.
There are free awards, and a nice community ready to go in 2017.
It is a permanent program and part of the World Wide Flora and Fauna, which has international backing and active all over from Europe to Australia since 1993.
Please find the "click here" to get started on the parksontheair.com main page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/parksontheair/If you have any questions, please send an e-mail to w3aax@outlook.com.
73 44 W3AAX - Jason

Saturday, December 24, 2016

St Andrews State Park Florida Activation KFF-1917

I was off on Friday, December 23rd. I decided to activate St Andrews State Park Florida KFF-1917 for the World Wide Fauna and Flora program. It is the closest State Park to my home QTH. I have so many antenna choices that picking one can be difficult. This time I chose the PY1AHD Alexloop which is a magnetic loop for HF. There was also a SO 50 satellite pass. So I packed my KX2 the Alexloop with tripod, and the Elk antenna disassembled into one backpack. Suzy and I walked to my favorite picnic table which is right next to the Grand Lagoon. I always try to be as close to saltwater as I can to enhance low angle vertical radiation. My results were


  • 40 meter CW (3)
  • 40 meter SSB (4)
  • 2 meter FM simplex (3)
  • 20 meter CW (8)
  • 20 meter SSB (5)
  • VHF/UHF SO-50 Sat (1)
  • 24 total
The HF contacts were good for 10 watts and the Alexloop. My DX contact was CU3AA in the Azores 3300 miles away. I spotted myself on DX Summit which brought some WWFF hunters who found me. My cadre of local chasers included WB4BLX, W5RE, K4LIX, N4STC and N1HQ. The good news is that Northwest Florida has many State Parks. They will be popular with the WWFF hunters. Merry Christmas!

Greg N4KGL