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

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Icom IC 7100 is my new base rig

To complement my portable Elecraft KX3, I now have an Icom IC 7100 for the house. This is an all band all mode transceiver. It has the DV mode for DSTAR as well. The control head with the touch screen interface is a winner.  Another innovation is the built in sound card. This eliminates the external sound card interface. Likewise it has a SD card for saving settings and recordings. Happily it works well with my SGC 237 external tuner. The tuner is connected to a 135 foot doublet fed with 300 ohm balanced line.  I find that 7100 is packable in a large tool box and could come in handy for field day.

Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Weekend

Three day weekends are good. Saturday was the SouthEast Alabama Rocketry Society launch at Samson, AL. John W8JER and his fiance Micky attended. They are spending a couple of months here escaping from the Michigan weather. I decided to make a launch of my Stealth below. It is not your usual rocket.

I spent Saturday night with my parents in Dothan, Alabama. Sunday, I setup in the backyard. My Dad spent some time out there with me He is 87. He was never a ham, but he had a lot to with me getting my license when I was a teen. He built many Heathkits including the large projection TV. I did work five stations on five bands. The first QSO was Venezuela on 10 meters SSB.

Monday morning I operated as K3Y/4 for the SKCC Anniversary. I used the KX3 with the NA4RR hex beam at the club house. I had some help from club members including Bob Leasko WB8PAF. The count was 28 QSOs across 17 states and two QSOs from France including Bert F6HKA on 15 meters. Manfred DJ1SJ made a real effort to copy me but no luck this time.

Setup for K3Y/4

Hex beam at the clubhouse.
Alas, it is a wrap for the weekend I enjoyed the fair weather.

Greg N4KGL

Thursday, January 16, 2014

K3Y/4 Ops Planned for January 20th

The Straight Key Century Club Anniversary K3Y on-air party is open to members and non-members alike. It runs from 00:00 UTC Jan. 2 to 23:59 UTC Jan. 31. There will be stations on from all US call districts plus KH6, KL7, KP4, and DX Continents. Details at Join SKCC if you are interested in CW!

I plan to be be operating K3Y/4 1400z - 1900z on 20 Jan from the Panama City Florida ARC Clubhouse using their NA4RR Hexbeam. My SKCC number is 5123T. I may get some help from fellow club members.The frequencies will be the following plus or minus:


Greg N4KGL

Panama City ARC Hex Beam


Saturday, January 11, 2014

N4KGL's Portable Antenna Journey

I got back into ham radio in 2008. My first new rig was the Icom 703 which made me a QRPer and opened the door to portable operating. Reviewing my photos and blog I can reconstruct a history of antennas I have used for portable operating.

I was doing travel for work in 2008/2009 and my focus was operating hotel portable. I guess my first highly portable antenna was the Buddistick. The second was the Parr End fed half wave. These factored into a number of hotel setups. Most notable was a trip to Italy and operating as I/N4KGL in Vicenza Italy. The game in hotel ops is seeing what you can get away with as far as stringing the end fed to near by trees or sticking the Buddistick out the window. Eventually I got a visit from hotel management but they gave me a pass.

Buddistick out the window at Italian hotel

Parr End Fed from window to trees at Italian hotel

Buddistick from balcony at Tampa hotel 
In 2010, I got into what I call parking lot portable. So my gear did not have to be so lightweight. I got a set of fiberglass military mast four foot sections. I have a hitch mount that let me stack 5 or 6 together. I have made a lot of use of the military mast including field day ops but still a bit heavy. I tried many antennas supported by the military mast including ham stick rotatable dipoles for 40 through 10. I would say the hamstick dipole not so great on 40 but does fine 20 meters and up. The Buddistick can be elevated to advantage. I experimented with shortened multiband doublets fed with 300 ohm line. One incarnation was a portable inverted U. It was a little unwieldy and I found it did a good job of catching descending rockets at our launch site. You can add 20/ 40 meter ground planes to my list of antennas supported by military masts. I got some tripod adapters for the military masts and that let me have stand alone masts.

Hamstick dipole and military mast from hitch mount.

A portable inverted U
Military masts with tripod adapter

In 2011, I finally got into fiberglass crappie fishing poles of up to 20 feet. This opened up possibilities for lightweight portable antennas. I built a SOTA tuner with lets you use thin half wave wires. This works well with the crappie poles.

Hendricks SOTA Tuner

20 foot crappie poles
In 2012, I took a leap to the Alexloop magnetic loop. It is a bit expensive. To look at it you would say that can't work so well. However, the only thing that limits you with the Alexloop is your mental attitude. My attitude changed as the performance is great and the convenience is wonderful.  I even have good luck on 40 meters where I have found it does especially good for NVIS. My support for the Alexloop is a camera tripod. I can operate at the beach, parks, parking lots and hotel rooms. In August 2012 I received the KX3. I like to say say the KX3 and Alexloop is critical mass for portable ops.

Alexloop on California beach

Alexloop on table top indoors.

In 2013, I ordered some 28 gauge ribbon cable. A 100 ft ten conductor roll can spawn many antennas. I built two of the NorCal Doublets one 44 foot long and one 88 foot long. I like the way the ribbon cable folds and I have made long wires and dipoles with two strands of ribbon cable shorted together. Also in 2013, I got the LNR Trail Friendly 40/20/10 End Fed. This antenna is so compact when wound up that it makes it perfect for my backpack or even my pocket.

88 foot ribbon cable doublet for 40 meter NVIS

LNR 40/20/10 Trail Friendly End Fed
Actually there are too many antenna experiments to mention them all. Antennas are lots of fun and I am endeavoring to understand the theory as well. So my Go-To portable antennas at this point are the Alexloop and the Trail Friendly End Fed. I can use the end fed with my 20 ft crappie pole or the 31 ft Jackite pole. Bear in mind I have lots of reserve antennas I drag out occasionally. The Buddistick came in handy for hotel ops in California recently.

There was a forum thread recently on the best portable antenna. I have to say the best antenna is the one that fits your portable operating situation or backpack. Of all the antennas I have used,  none have failed to yield some contacts. I think propagation conditions and the operators wanting to work you are bigger factors. Of course, you can help yourself by various tricks and strategies to make QSOs. I find that if CW is dry switching to SSB can be the ticket.

As for portable antennas, a journey it is and I find it never ending. My wife will tell you, those darn antennas are all over the house.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

N4KGL Beacon Rocket Plans

I have in mind to build another beacon rocket. This would combine my amateur radio and rocketry hobbies.The first beacon rocket had a successful launch. It trailed a 33 foot wire for a 20 meter band antenna. The last launch was a failure due to poorly constructed payload bay. I need a better constructed payload bay in a larger rocket.

I have an existing fiberglass rocket called Gizmo that is 5 inches in diameter. It is a short stubby rocket. I am procuring a two foot extension of the airframe. This will allow plenty of room for a radio payload. The rocket will split into two pieces at apogee. The upper section will have the nosecone/payload bay and the lower section will have the fins and the motor tube.

For an HF beacon, I envision having enough shock cord between the two sections for a half wave end fed antenna to be strapped to the cord. Say 33 feet for 20 meters. Since the antenna is coiled up in the rocket for assent the transmitter should be off. I may be able to use altimeter electronics to delay turning on the the transmitter until the rocket is at apogee. At apogee an ejection charge will fire to deploy the parachute and the antenna, Apogee may be a couple of thousand feet. The duration of the descent may only be a minute or so. It seems I could use a message like TEST DE N4KGL and be picked up by the Reverse Beacon Network.

At 20 meters the antenna would essentially be a vertical dipole up many wavelengths. It would be omnidirectional and would definitely be in the clear. I suspect the direct wave would be extended. I am not sure how much better it would be than a ground mounted antenna for DX. Perhaps I could have a reference beacon that is ground mounted beacon with a 5 KHz frequency offset.

I would also put a two meter fox transmitter in the rocket to help locate it should it leave the field. Hopefully I can get this going over the next couple of months. I will definitely will let the hams know if they want to try hearing it. It will be launched from the SEARS launch site in Samson, Alabama.

A Gizmo Launch
The original beacon rocket trailing a 33 foot antenna wire. You may see the wire in the photo.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Was A Excellent Year for N4KGL

In January, I built and used NorCal Doublets from ribbon cable. I also tried out a 9 to 1 balun with a 50 ft ribbon cable with counterpoise. It just so happens I worked ZS6RC South Africa on 15 meters SSB with the 50 foot wire. I operated in the Pet Rock Sprint with a Pixie Transceiver and the Alexloop. I managed two local contacts.

20 foot poles for NorCal doublet at rocket launch

Pixie for Pet Rock Contest
In February, I got a surprise visit from John W8JER at the SEARS rocket launch in Samson, AL. He was impressed with my AlexLoop and he went on to build his own mag loop. Also in February, I made the trip to the Orlando Hamcation with KK4DKT. My big buy there was a NA4RR Hexbeam. I met up with Kelly K4UPG and attended a QRP talk by W4QO. After the talk I gave a demo of the KX3 and Alexloop.

W8JER John talks to a friend in Michigan at the rocket launch

KX3 and Alexloop demo at Hamcation

In March, I supported the Panama City club at the Red Cross Home Expo. I setup in the outside area beside the Red Cross Van and gave a demo of ham radio. It was a SKCC Weekend Sprint that day and I racked up quite a few contacts with the Alexloop. It was this month I discovered the Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio RaDAR concept from Marcus NX5MK. Marcus established the RaDAR America contest and program. This led me to Eddie ZS6BNE's site where I learned how the RaDAR idea got started in South Africa.
Alexloop and KX3 setup next to the Red Cross truck.
In April, I operated my first RaDAR Contest from St. Andrews State Park. I setup in three locations in the four hour period. Movement is an unique aspect of RaDAR. It was great fun. I returned to the park soon after to the operate from Sandy Point.

88 foot ribbon cable doublet for 40 meter NVIS

N4KGL and Alexloop at April RaDAR Contest

In May, I had 18 RaDAR outings (16 Portable, 1 Mobile, 1 Pedestrian Mobile) at ten locations with 42 QSOs.
Alexloop at Top Sail Preserve State Park

Operating at St. George Island Lighthouse

In June, I did Field Day with the Panama City ARC club. The hex beam was used and also a 40 meter horizontal loop. The ops were outside using my KX3 solely on battery power for the duration.

Bob KK4DIV operating the KX3 at Field Day

NA4RR Hex Beam at Field Day

In July, I had more RaDAR outings including Falling Waters State Park. I also started using the Ham Central Terminal with the KX3.

Falling Water State Park

KX3 with Ham Central Terminal
In August, I set up in Tom WD0HBR's neighborhood in Dothan to participate in the Skeeter Hunt. I also attended the Huntsville Hamfest with Marv KK4DKT. This is where  bought The LNR Trail Friendly End Fed. Saturday Night there was BBQ on Monte Sano setup by Craig NM4T. this was the site for the Tuna Tin Build-A-Thon hosted by Rex W1REX. On Sunday I gave a talk on RaDAR at the QRP forums.

N4KGL at Skeeter Hunt

Three Amigos: Greg N4KGL, John K4KQZ and Marv KK4DKT
Tuna Tin Build-A-Thon on Monte Sano

In September, I made a work trip to the Oxnard California area.This is where all my RaDAR preparation paid off. The hotel just happened to be on the beach and there was a nice park next door. I operated in the QRP Afield contest from the park on a Saturday. The following day I operated from the park and setup on the beach in the afternoon. Working the JA stations was a treat. Especially when a JA answered my CQ while I was on the beach. Later that week, I got off early I operated directly off the top of a sand due with the Alexloop. I stay at a hotel near LAX the last night. I stuck the Buddistick out the window and had some surprisingly good contacts. Back at home I participated in the Peanut Power Sprint in the one watt Gober category. I did rather well and placed second peanut to Bobby AJ4KY my friend in Georgia.

Oxnard Beach Park

Oxnard Beach Setup

Sunset from the top of a California Sand Dune
In October, I headed up the Jamboree On The Air JOTA for our local scouts. The club setup portable at the site of their camporee. We got some scouts on the air and the club introduced the scouts to Fox Hunting. Also this month I got a few contacts in the Zombie Shuffle setting up portable at night. Then a nice trip to Headland, AL for the Wiregrass tailgate. You can guess it was another portable ops opportunity with the KX3 and the Alexloop.

10/25 Zombie Shuffle night ops

10/26 Headland Tailgate

In November, This was my second RaDAR Contest. It was a return to St Andrews State Park. I wanted to take advantage of the salt water effect. I made contacts at two locations. I loaded up a cart with poles and found it still pretty tough to move across the sand.

Location 1 with 40 meter half wave

Location 2: Sandy Point with a 20 meter half wave vertical

In December, I did RaDAR ops including a day in the Apalachicola/St George Island area and a day at Falling Waters State Park.

 EL79NP69 St George Island Lighthouse

My setup by the lake at Falling Waters State Park
Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) has been a central theme for my portable operating. I have have had fun collaborating with Eddie ZS6BNE the architect of RaDAR and Marcus NX5MK who brought RaDAR to North America. It turned out that the Google+ makes it easy to post photos of portable ops. I decided to setup a Google+ community called Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. It has caught on and there are 160 members now. The community has a global participants including South Africa, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia and the USA. RaDAR America has come along with monthly events and the April and November RaDAR contests .

I must say I have had great service from Elecraft KX3 all year. Wayne commented that the KX3 was designed with this kind of operating in mind. Likewise, the Alexloop is up to any deployment. I often wonder why I pack anything else. The Ham Central Terminal has expanded the KX3 capabilities nicely. The Tenergy LiFePHO4 Battery and LNR Trail Friendly End Fed get honorable mention. All of the gear above fits in my backpack shown below.

I'd say this was a pretty good year. I made lots of friends through Ham Radio. Thanks to everyone at the other end of the Ether.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

December RaDAR Outings

The weather in Northwest Florida was chilly and rainy but I still did a number of RaDAR outings. I had an outing on 12/14 in Apalachicola FL area with three stops by vehicle. Two stops were parks in Apalach and a third stop was at the St George Island Lighthouse. On 12/24 I had the day at Falling Waters State Park and operated from two locations. I did some operating from the passenger seat of the truck to beat the chill. On 12/7 we had a RaDAR On-The_Air Meetup. I only had one contact as I got rained out. We did have a RaDAR Google+ Hangout however. During this month I discovered I could wind-up some of the wire on the 10/20/40 Trail Friendly End Fed to operate on 17 meters. Santa Claus brought me some antenna books and a Plano waterproof box.

The lake at Falling Waters State Park

My setup by the lake Falling Waters State Park

My contact with a Maritime Mobile from Falling waters State Park

Operating out of the passenger seat to break the wind at Falling waters State Park

Another setup at Falling Waters State Park

Liberty Park in Apalachicola

The St. George Island Lighthouse

Battery Park in Apalachicola, FL

12/31 N4KGL RaDAR lunch from EM70CE82 sitting in truck with KX3 and Trail Friendly End Fed sloping to 20 ft pole. I worked S58N Slovenia, W8YCM/6Y5 Les in Jamaica, G4ELJ Duncan near London, XE1/DJ4EL Markus in Mexico on vacation from Germany. Very Nice DX! Happy New Year

12/30 N4KGL RaDAR lunch from EM70CE82 using truck for wind break. I worked W0DQ from Iowa on 18.091 Rig was KX3 in glove box and Trail Friendly End Fed

12/24 EM70FR64HQ N4KGL worked NE5DL TX, KW3F PA, KD6DKC CA, W4NA VA on 20 CW and KE5BZE TX on 20 SSB. Nice WX by lake in Falling Waters State Park FL

12/24 EM70FR64HQ N4KGL worked NE5DL TX, KW3F PA, KD6DKC CA, W4NA VA on 20 CW and KE5BZE TX on 20 SSB. Nice WX by lake in Falling Waters State Park FL

12/20 N4KGL RaDAR Lunch at EM70CE82 I worked Mark KO1U in MA 17 CW.

12/17 N4KGL RaDAR Lunch at EM70CE82 worked KI4YY Blaire in VA S7 report on me 17 meters SSB. Very pleased. Used LNR 40/20/10 Trail Friendly End fed with wire wound around choke to make it work on 17 meters.

12/14 N4KGL at EL79MR12KL Apalachicola FL park 10 meters SSB K6AM CA, NC0B CO, VE2GSO QC, KP4RSO, K0RF using KX3 and Trail Friendly End Fed

12/14 N4KGL at EL79NP69 St George Island Lighthouse
40 meters CW: KE4COH NC
10 meters SSB: F8EMH, W1SJ VT, IK2YCW, K2JMY NY 10 meters active with ARRL 10 meter contest. KX3 and Trail Friendly End Fed

12/14 N4KGL at EM79MR23 Apalachicola FL 40 meters CW: K2OO OH and KK4SGF GA. 10 meters CW: G4BJM NN7ZZ AZ and SP4Z. I am moving on to St George Island. WX is a few sprinkles so far.

12/7 RaDAR Meetup worked Pete N0OY 20 meters SSB

12/3 N4KGL RaDAR Lunch EM70CE82 20 meter CW VE3MPQ ONT and WX8J OH 3W 

12/2 N4KGL EM70CE82 RaDAR lunch KA3BEL NC and WB3GCK PA around 14.060 Sweet! Wilderness SST 20 3 watts EFHW.

12/1 Lynn Haven FL Park I got two contacts with Arkansas and a SOTA operator in Texas.  I also worked MI NJ and NC.