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

Monday, January 6, 2020

My Solar Cycle 25 Reboot

I am attaching some significance to Solar Cycle 25 for my ham radio experience. I got my Novice and upgraded to general during Solar Cycle 20. However, I took a 25-year break from the hobby and missed the peaks for Solar Cycle 21, 22, and 23. In 2008, I got relicensed and I have been active during Solar Cycle 24. I see the upcoming Solar Cycle 25  as a great opportunity to personally enhance my amateur radio experience. I have not pursued aspects like contesting, DX, or Awards. So I should at least dabble and keep records in those activities.

My Splash Screen

Keeping records is my weakness even though I design databases at work. So my Cycle 25 Resolution is to log my contacts. There are dozens of computer log programs out there. However, since I have so much database experience, I will create a logging database for my own purposes. The first phase is to design the schema, tables, fields, and relationships. The more complete and correct the schema is, the easier creating the application or GUI will be. I actually teach a class on this at work.

My database schema diagram for Cycle 25 logging
The schema is coming along see the relationship diagram. You may glean something from it even if you have not studied databases. I am attempting to cover activations like POTA, RaDAR, Winter and ARRL Field Days, and Satellite Contacts for starters. Unfortunately, every activity and contest is a little different and will require specific fields to support them. Since I can write my own queries against the database, I can do statistics for each activity and overall statistics.

I also have considered multi-station operating at Field Days. It would be nice to use a networked central database for logging. I hear this is really tough to pull off in the field. Therefore, I am looking at an approach to synchronize copies of the logging database via sneakernet every few hours. This is a KISS approach. The database will be implemented in Microsoft Access since I have so much experience with that tool.

Solar Cycle 25 has not been officially started yet, although there are hints that it is on the way. A couple of Cycle 25 sunspots have been spotted. We just have to have faith it will start at all. It is up to the Sun. I am looking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The November 2019 RaDAR Challenge and Parks on The Air

Dennis WA6QKN and I combined Rapid Deployment Radio (RaDAR) and Parks On The Air (POTA) with a fun bike ride in Wakulla County, Florida. Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio includes the outdoors, amateur radio, and movement. The RaDAR Challenge has a four-hour window to operate.
Our rail-trail route between Wakulla Station and San Marcos

We began at the Wakulla Station on the Historic Tallahassee St Marks Rail Trail POTA K-3661. When we put a spot on the POTA website the chasers came quickly. We had fifteen contacts in fifteen minutes on 40 meters SSB. That covered the required five for RaDAR and the required ten for a POTA Activation.

Then we mounted our bikes and headed 7.5 miles South on the Rail Trail. The radio gear was pulled in a bike cart. The equipment included the Elecraft KX2, Elecraft KXPA 100 amplifier, and a 30 AH Bioenno LiFePO4 battery. We used a SOTA Beams Band Hopper dipole for an antenna.

Dennis WA6QKN

We arrived at the San Marcos de Apalache State Park POTA 3652 at St Marks, Florida. Once again, we spotted ourselves on the POTA website and got fifteen more contacts. Some were the same chasers as the previous stop.

Our radio gear

The bike ride was more than the required two kilometers, but it was a beautiful tree-lined journey. The trip down was 51 minutes downhill going South and 57 minutes uphill on the return.

My bike with the cart for the radio gear
Back at the Wakulla Station, I attempted an AO-91 pass but no joy. Dennis and I then found a Mexican Resturant for a nice lunch. Then we drove a couple of hours back to Panama City. On the way, we listened to Bill Browns WB8ELK's QSO Today episode.

Greg N4KGL at San Marcos State Park
The RaDAR Challenge's time constraint, radio contacts, and the required motion are challenging but fun. You have to try it to understand.

The river landing at St. Marks, Florida. See more photos at

Thursday, October 31, 2019

N4KGL's RaDAR Challenge Plans Saturday, Nov 2nd (Revised)

Dennis WA6QKN and I will combine Rapid Deployment Radio (RaDAR), Parks On The Air (POTA), and Amateur Satellites along with a fun bike ride. All of this will be in Wakulla County, Florida. Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio combines the outdoors, amateur radio, and movement. You are welcome to try RaDAR in the field or chase us on the radioPlease check for our spots. We will use N4KGL as our callsign. In RaDAR we need at least five contacts to move to the next location. For bikes, we need to move at least two kilometers. Our bike rides will be longer to get from park to park.

Our four-hour clock for the challenge will start at 1300 UTC, 9 AM EDT, with the SO-50 pass at the Wakulla Station Trailhead on the Tallahassee St Marks Historic Rail Trail (POTA K-3661). We will complete our five contacts on HF and ride our bikes to Wakulla State Forrest (POTA K-4643). Then continue the bike ride to Wakulla Springs State Park (POTA K-1862). Our HF contacts will be CW or SSB on  40, 20, or 17 meters. Please watch for our spots on 

Our rig will be the Elecraft KX2 with the Elecraft KXPA100 amp. I will use a bike cart to pull the rig and a 30 AH Bioenno battery. The antenna will be a SOTABeams Band Hopper Link Dipole.

We may continue this pattern beyond four hours to qualify for one of the RaDAR Awards sponsored by Parks On The Air.

Warthog Award: two RaDAR* transitions at or between entities during a 24 hour period.
Rhino Award: three RaDAR* transitions at or between entities during a 24 hour period.
Cheetah Award: five RaDAR* transitions at or between entities during a 24 hour period
Ostrich Award: seven RaDAR* transitions at or between entities during a 24 hour period.
Leopard Award: ten RaDAR* transitions at or between entities during a 24 hour period.
Lion Award: twelve RaDAR* transitions at or between entities during a 24 hour period
RaDAR rules

Parks On The Air

Tallahassee St Marks Rail Trail

Friday, October 25, 2019

My Go-To Antennas

Here are some antenna choices that serve me well. I operate portable more often than at home.

For horizontal polarization on portable ops, I am favoring the SOTAbeams BandHopper 40-30-20 meter link dipole. This is an extremely lightweight antenna that comes with RG-174 feedline. The good news is that the antenna does not weigh down the top of a telescoping pole. You will need to lower it to change the band using the jumper clips. I use the SOTABeams Tactical 7000 telescoping pole to support the BandHopper. There are lighter telescoping poles that would work as well. Note, I also like the LNR Trail Friendly End-fed for 40, 20, and 10 meters. I just have not used it lately.

SOTABeams Band Hopper at a campsite. Hard to see, isn't it.

For vertical polarization on portable ops, I love the N6BT Bravo 7K vertical. The Bravo 7K is self-supporting with integrated radials. When I am on the saltwater shore, the vertical is my top choice due to the saltwater effect. I also have had good success inland. It does not require a tuner. I find I can switch between 40 and 20 by changing the coil jumpers. The other bands require adjusting the element lengths. The adjustments are pretty straightforward.

My Bravo 7K Vertical. The horizontal elements are hard to see.

For the ultimate in portability, my choice is the Alexloop magnetic loop. During the current solar minimum, it has been my backup, not my go-to. However, I have high hopes for the Alexloop in Solar Cycle 25 when the upper HF bands get better. You can't beat it for a quick and easy setup. The performance will surprise you even on 40 meters.

My PY1AHD AlexLoop magnetic loop on the beach.

For FM Satellites on portable ops, I use the 2 meter/440 MHz Elk Log Periodic. I can disassemble it for easy pack up. It is also great for T hunts.

My Elk Sat Antenna. It was a cold January day.

For ARRL and Winter Field Days, the 80-10 EFHW has been very successful.  It is 130 feet long. I support it with a camo pole support and several Jackite poles.

My 80-10 EFHW. It is 130 feet long.

For Field Day on a small campsite, I designed a 100-foot long vertical loop fed a the bottom center with a remote tuner. It is supported by three 30 foot telescoping poles. The horizontal length is 30 feet, and the vertical sides are 20 feet. The lower wire is 10 feet off the ground. I have used this antenna at campsites and on island expeditions.

My Field Day 100 foot vertical loop uses three Jackite poles for support and a remote tuner at the bottom center.

At my home QTH, I had to rethink my antennas as Hurricane Michael took down my trees. I have chosen the N6BT V8, vertical sold through HRO, as my home antenna. It is similar to the N6BT Bravo 7K but uses an MFJ remote tuner at the base of the antenna. The antenna tunes well on 40 to 10 meters. The elements come off quickly for storms. I also remove the vertical element between uses to make the antenna less of a target for lightning.

My N6BT BT vertical in the backyard of my home. The horizontal elements are hard to see.

At my home QTH for receiving, I have a noise problem on the HF bands due to high-voltage lines running over my backyard property line.. The noise is intolerable on any antenna I put in the backyard. This encouraged me to try a receiving loop. I choose the W6LVP broadband magnetic loop with the T/R switch. For me, the loop makes HF operating at home possible. I mounted the W6LVP loop on a four-foot mast in the front yard near the house. I use a lightweight rotator to adjust the orientation to get a noise null. I use the N6BT V8 in the backyard as the transmit antenna.

My W6LVP HF receive loop in the front yard of my home.

Have fun with antennas!

Greg N4KGL

Friday, October 18, 2019

Radio, History and Nature

Linda and I took a three-night camping trip to FDR State Park near Pine Mountain, Georgia over the Columbus Day weekend. For me, the draw is Dowdell Knob a 1345 foot peak in the park. This peak qualifies for Summits On The Air or SOTA. It is W4G/CE-004. Since I live in the flatlands of Florida, Dowdell is the closest SOTA opportunity. The history aspect was our visit to the Little White House and museum located nearby in Warm Springs, Georgia. This is where President Roosevelt took advantage of the warm springs for his polio. The president died at the Little White House halfway into his fourth term. Roosevelt fostered the Rural Electrification Program. I learned that when the farmers got electricity their first purchase was a radio. The nature aspect was our visit to the Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens. We were immersed with the butterflies among the plants they enjoy. It was a challenge to capture them with my smartphone camera. I will let the pictures and video fill you in on the details.

View from Dowdell Knob more photos at

Roosevelts Little Whitehouse, more photos at

Callaway Gardens Butterfly Center, more photos at
The SOTA activation on Sunday morning was successful. I had a pile-up going on 40 meters for the first hour, I was getting better than one contact per minute. In all, I had 88 contacts; 68 on 40 meters, 17 on 20 meters and 3 on two meters. Of those 51 were SSB, 34 were CW, and 3 were FM. One of the two-meter FM contacts was about 45 miles to Mauk, GA. The contacts also counted for Parks On The Air (POTA). The park reference is K-2173.

I also did some operating from our campsite number 501. It had room for an 80-meter Dipole. I talked back to Bob WB4BLX in Panama City on 80 meters SSB. So this camping idea is working out for us. I expect we can do this in a big way during our retirement years.


Greg N4KGL

Our rented camper.

Friday, October 4, 2019

N4KGL's November 2019 RaDAR Challenge Plans

My plan for the November 2nd, 2019 RaDAR Challenge is to start operating at the
San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park near St Marks, Florida. After five contacts, I will bike on the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail to the Wakulla trailhead. That is about seven miles. After five contacts there, I can bike back to San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park for more operating. I hope to do three stops during the four-hour window of the RaDAR Challenge. All the stops will be at Parks On The Air references. That should attract some chasers.

I did some RaDAR practice while camping at Top Sail Preserve State Park. Please see the video.

The RaDAR Challenge rules can be found here. Please visit Eddie ZS6BNE's web site and the MeWe RaDAR Community for more info about RaDAR.

I encourage all hams to participate and make your own plans  Let us know your plans and results.

Good luck and be safe!

Greg N4KGL

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

QCX Joy at the Panama City ARC Tailgate

Well, it is definitely cheating to buy a QRP-Labs QCX transceiver already built. But that is what I did when I saw one at the Huntsville Hamfest. The seller said he just likes to build them. He had three for sale and when I doubled back to buy the 30-meter version was the only one left. For 60 dollars this was a good deal.

QRP-Labs QCX Transceiver

My first attempt to make an on-air contact was "No Joy."  I had no test equipment out in the field, but I listened with another rig. I actually heard an oscillator on the right frequency on receive but heard nothing on transmit. I happened to be reading the QST Review of the QCX and found something interesting.

Excerpt from QCX Review in QST 

That was a lucky break indeed as the QCX was in Code Practice Mode. I turned code practice mode off, and the RF output is working. I measured the power into a dummy load, and I am calling it 2.8 watts out. This measurement is not particularly accurate, but I will take it as nominal.

Now your luck will vary in making contacts at this power level. However, I had an excellent contact with Tom K4UTJ in Galax, Virginia when I was set up at the Panama City ARC Tailgate last Saturday. I was using the SOTAbeams Band Hopper 40/30/20 link dipole for the antenna supported by the SOTAbeams Tactical 7000 mast in the center. I had a rough time initially but gee it helps to have those link dipole jumpers correct.

I recorded most of the QSO here. The QSO went on for 13 minutes. Tom had to bail out. So catching a fish with QRP is fun even if it won't happen every time.

By the way, I am fine with the built-in key, which is a micro switch. I am a straight key guy. I also like the way the rig decodes my outgoing CW.