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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

N4KGL's 2016 Winter Field Day

I had never participated in Winter Field Day before. However, I had always liked the idea as I love the ARRL June Field Day. The WFD event is newly sponsored by the Winter Field Day Association. It turns out this year's date coincided with a rocket launch in Samson Alabama. So I scoped my WFD down to operating during the launch that gave me a four hour window. Conditions were great for launching rockets and operating the radio. The high was 68 degrees Fahrenheit, no precipitation and sunny skies. That does not feel like Winter.

John and Micky watch rockets from my Winter Field day setup in the background.
I chose to operate my Icom 7100 on battery. I was testing the Chameleon Windom 40 off center fed dipole. I deployed it relatively flat by using four supports. I am finding that the SWR curve is better with the OCF flat rather than inverted vee. This applies to another OCF I also own. I also tested out doing computer logging on the field. Any time I combine computers and ham radio it is challenging. I discovered that N3FJP Software had a logging program specific to Winter Field day. That program works well and I could see the screen good enough to get the job done. I powered the laptop with a Bioenno power pack. The power pack has an inverter built in. I plugged the laptop into the AC out. On top of that the power pack has a built in solar controller. So I used the Bioenno 28 watt solar panel to charge the power pack. This was good training for computer logging during a a full Field Day.

The operating table with the laptop for logging. Notice the Bioenno power pack and solar panel.
I did not know just how many stations would participate in WFD. I was pleased to find plenty of activity mainly on 20 meters although there was some on 40 meters as well. I worked 29 stations in the event. I had some help from WB4BLX, W5RE, WD0HBR, K4LIX and W8JER who I know personally. John W8JER and Micky KE8ASK joined me at the launch. They are regulars at the launches during the Winter as they spend the Winter in Panama City instead of their Michigan home QTH.


Now add on to this that there was a huge crowd at the launch. I brought Suzy our Basset. Suzy was spooked by the first loud launch but she got comfortable with it as the day went on. She loves meeting new people and of course it is mutual. She gets lot of petting and belly rubs. My only launch was a 18 inch saucer rocket on an I280 Metal Storm motor. Notice the sparks.

18 inch saucer rocket launch with a Metal Storm motor.
I will add Winter Field day to my radio event list. Perhaps I will enlist some ham buddies to make it more of a full blown Field Day next year,

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Green Activation of SS08 for NPOTA

I used a solar panel plus a supercapacitor bank to replace a battery for today's activation of SS08 which is the Gulf Islands National Seashore. A Green activation counts toward being Five Star Activator in the National Parks On The Air Event. A solar controller controls the current to maintain the voltage. This acts very much like a battery. There was plenty of sunshine to keep it going.

58 Farad supercapacitor bank
The rig was the KX3. I ran 10 watts most of the time. But on 20 meters SSB the KX3 was kicking down to 5 watts. The pile up did not seem to notice. I later tried a LiFEPO4 controller and it works better because the voltage setpoint is 14.6 volts instead of 13.5.

100 watt solar panel

A solar controller on the right is used to maintain the voltage

I also used the Chameleon Windom 40 with several masts. The NPS asked me to avoid using the trees. I started on 40 CW with friends, K4GXV, WB4BLX and WD0HBR. Things really picked up on 20 CW and SSB. I got 57 contacts total.

The KX3 ran 10 watts most of the time

A Chameleon Windom 40 supported by several masts
The temp was in the 40s but the sunshine made it tolerable so Suzy and I operated outside, I think this shows you don't need a 100 rig because the fish will bite any hook you have.  I used about 1.74 amp hours. My last activation I used 16 amp hours running 50 to 100 watts. This time the source was entirely solar. There was no commercial source involved. That is Green as it gets. I might try to charge the supercapacitor with a human power generator in the future. Any volunteers to pedal?



The view of the bay on the North side of Okaloosa Island

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Portable Operating Sites Map

This is just a beginning to map the spots where I have operated portable amateur radio. There can be a variety of sites even in just one park. I started the mapping with St. Andrews State Park near Panama City, Florida. We enjoy the ones by the salt water for the view and the salt water effect on our signals.

Greg N4KGL

Thursday, January 7, 2016

NPOTA Five Star Activator Recognition

Be aware of the Five Star Activator recognition for the National Parks On The Air event. I am planning to pursue some of these. See the numbered items below. On my part, I have done Item 8 and 9 already. 4 is easy. 1, 2, 5  7 and 12 are planned. 3 is a maybe., 6 and 10 are a stretch. 11 is nope. 13 is shooting for the Moon!
“Five Star Activator": Special recognition on Activator certificates for Activators who engage in exceptional outreach during activations throughout the event. Activators must perform a minimum of five items on the Five Star Activator list and provide documentation (photos, video, electronic media, etc) of those activities to ARRL HQ upon request. Five Star Activator actions include:
1. Media Publicity: Send a press release of your activation to the local media. It is not necessary to send ARRL a copy of the press release, or a copy of the actual media publicity received (newspaper article, etc.); however, ARRL reserves the right to ask for proof of claimed activities. 
2.   Public Information Table: Promote Amateur Radio during your activation by making appropriate handouts and information available to the visiting public at the site (note: distributing literature in an NPS unit may require a special use permit). 
3.   Youth/Scouting Involvement: Activate an NPS unit with a youth group or Scouting program. 
4,  Radio E-Message:  Transmit at least one electronic message via Amateur Radio to a third party. Any digital messaging format may be used to earn this bonus. The message must leave the NPS unit via RF on an Amateur Radio frequency. 
5.  Digital Modes: Demonstrate Amateur Radio using any of the digital modes available to radio amateurs to an audience of at least one person not familiar with the digital modes. Can Do!
6.  Satellite Contact: Make a minimum of one QSO through an Amateur Radio satellite or the ISS. QSOs must be between two Earth stations.
7.  Green Power: Make a successful Activation using solar, wind, water or non-fossil fuel power.  Includes batteries charged using “green” power.
8.  Battery Power: Make a successful Activation using battery power. Batteries may be charged using commercial mains.
9.  Social Media: Promote your activation, post video or photographs of your activation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media platform (not your website)
10.  Intrepid Traveler: Activate at least five different NPS units.
11. Stamp Collector: Participate in the NPS Passport program.
12.  Share The Mike: Have a non-ham or new ham make a contact. (Similar to Field Day’s GOTA operating)
13.  Moonbounce: Make at least one QSO via EME. Please use discretion when selecting your operating location.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Gulf Islands National Seashore NPOTA Activation


This new year brings us the 2016 ARRL National Parks On The Air Event. Portable operating like RaDAR has been my passion for a while. So this is a fit for me. The activation part of NPOTA involves traveling to a National Park System Unit and making at least ten contacts. Units include the national parks but there is a variety of locations included. In my case, the nearest NPS unit is the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Its designator is SS08. The seashore is actually a number of locations on the Florida and Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Okaloosa Island location is the closest to my home QTH of Panama City, Florida. It is a little over an hours drive.

The scraggly pine was handy for my antenna

I have been excited about my first activation since I heard of NPOTA. I went to the Okaloosa Island park in December to scout it out. It is a minimal park on the shore of Okaloosa Bay. There just happens to be a scraggly pine that is perfect for supporting my Chameleon Tactical Dipole lite. The dipole or doublet has 60 foot legs. The legs stretch out to palm trees on each side. I also tried a Chameleon vertical about 50 feet from the saltwater with great results on 17 meters.

I operated from the seat of the truck. The rig is an Icom 7100 in the box. The tuner and battery for the rig is also in the box.

I wanted to do the activation on New Years Day. Unfortunately it was a rainy New Years. So I chose January 2nd to go. The weather was in the 40s with a breeze. So I used the same pine tree for the antenna but I ran the coax to the truck. I operated the Icom 7100 from there. Suzy came with me so I took breaks to walk her. She actually enjoyed the chilly weather.

Suzy did not mind the chilly weather.

I had a plan to walk up the bands from 40 to 17 meters. On 40 meters CW, I had the ten contacts in 25 minutes. If you get spotted they come running! Eventually, I got up to 20 SSB and had the pileup of my life with 38 straight contacts over the course of 40 minutes. Now that pushed me to my limit of operating capability. As portable operators know, we can sometimes have a problem scaring up contacts but this was not a problem with NPOTA. I had 67 contacts for the day.

I am working through using ARRL Logbook Of The World. This is necessary to get credit for activating or chasing. I got the first ten contacts put in and I showed up as an activator on the leader board. If you want to do NPOTA and you are not enrolled in ARRL LOTW you should get that out of the way. It takes a few days to get your signing certificate.

Many of us are not so close to units to activate. I hope to combine activations with other family travel during the year. We will see. Of course, I can return to one of the Gulf Islands I might do that in a month or so. So stand-by for that.

The view toward the bay.
Greg N4KGL