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

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

N4Y Winter Field Day Operations Jan 26/27

A group of my ham friends, their family members and I will camp and participate in Winter Field Day using call sign N4Y at Falling Waters State Park. The park is near Chipley, FL. We have three campsites reserved. Campsite 5 has plenty of space and borders a large field. We can extend an end-fed antenna into the field. Campsites 11 and 13 are adjacent which will make more room for antennas. We anticipate running two stations.  We will be 2O or 2 Oscar for two transmitters/outdoors. Our rigs will be on battery/solar power. We will use CW, SSB and PSK-31 digital. We will also go for the amateur satellite bonus. Temps will be in the 50s in the day and the 30s at night. That's is a Florida Winter.
Purpose: To foster Ham camaraderie, field operation, emergency operating preparedness, and just plain on the air, outdoor fun in the midst of winter for American, Canadian and DX Amateurs. Don’t let those winter doldrums keep you locked up in the house… get out and play some radio!! 
When: Winter Field Day runs for 24 hours during the last full weekend in January each year from 1900 UTC (2pm EST) Saturday to 1900 UTC (2pm EST) Sunday. For 2019, the dates are January 26th and 27th. Station set-up may commence no earlier than 1900 UTC (2pm EST) on Friday, January 25th.

We are hoping for a big on the air turnout. The event seems to grow each year.

Greg N4KGL

Falling Waters SP Campsite 5
Note there is limited parking. If you plan to visit please park at the main parking lot and hike in or let us know and we will shuttle you into the campground.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Watch Your Solar Cycles or a Solar Cycle is A Terrible Thing To Waste,

I reviewed how my lifetime lined up with the solar sunspot cycles this weekend. As we know, HF propagation is much better on 20 meters and up during the maximum of an eleven-year average cycle. I made a table of my life's solar cycles below. I am not sure if there is any significance that I was born at a solar cycle minimum. Cycle 20 was on the high side when I operated as a novice around 1967/68. I remember that the fifteen-meter band was very active. I also remember listening to phone stations running AM on 10 meters. My modest backyard vertical got me plenty of DX. I missed the maxes for Cycles 21, 22, and 23. In fact, I was off the air for twenty-five years and my license expired. In 2008 I got relicensed and that was the minimum for Cycle 24. The max came roughly in 2014. So I have experienced one cycle when I was more enlightened on what was going on with propagation. Now we are poised for Cycle 25. It may be lackluster or it may be better than the last one. We will see. Anyway, while we are at the cycle bottom we can plan for better times on HF. Being 65 now, it looks like I will be in my early 70s for this one. I hope to be retired and enjoying it to the fullest.






Friday, November 23, 2018

If the Antenna Fits Use It: Myantennas.com 80-10 End Fed Half Wave

My backyard in Panama City, FL got cleared of trees and a storage building due to Hurricane Michael. My 80-meter doublet that was supported by a large pine tree is no more. I now have an open slate for antennas. Of course, a tower and a beam are possible.  But short of that what could I do.

I finally decided to try the myantennas.com 80-10 EFHW 1K. I have used it for Field Day with success. EFHW is End Fed Half Wave. For 80 meters an EFHW is roughly 130 feet. Fed from the end it has a high impedance and requires a matching transformer. I am pretty sure the myantennas.com EFHW has a 49 to 1 Unun in the box. On the harmonics, the antenna is a multiple of a half wave and has the same impedance at the end. That covers 80, 40, 20 and 10.  However, the antenna is quite usable on 30, 15, 17 and 12 meters also. I checked the SWR on all bands in the shack. The SWR is under 2 to 1 on the lower half of 80 meters, 40 meters, 20 meters, 30 meters, 15 meters, and 12 meters. 30 meters is under 2.4 to 1. This is the closest to a tuner-less antenna I have used.


myantennas.com 80-10 EFHW 1K



Physically, I took advantage of my patio cover, camo poles and my scraggly popcorn tree that made it through the storm, I had previously wanted to cut that tree. I used a 16-foot camo pole at the feed point, a 20-foot camo-pole, and the tree limb to support 80 feet of the antenna. The last 40 feet of the wire slopes to the back fence at a 90-degree angle to the rest.





This link gives some insight into the radiation pattern. I should do my own EZNEC model for my particular layout. Anyway, we will see how it plays out on the bands. Since I am not a DXer or Contester I think it will do fine.






Tuesday, November 6, 2018

N4KGL RaDAR Challenge Report November 2018.

Our RaDAR team, Dennis WA6QKN, Suzy and I, had ideal weather for the Nov 3rd, 2018 RaDAR Challenge. Our venue was Topsail Hill Preserve State Park near Desitin Florida. The paved trails and the cart we used made our transitions easy.


Our first location at the main parking lot at Topsail Park.
Our first location, EM60UI79AA, was at the main parking lot. I attempted a SO-50 Satellite contact but had no luck squeezing in. FM satellites are very congested, particularly on weekends. Likewise, an attempt to make a RaDAR to RaDAR QSO with Pat N5VMO in Arkansas failed on our end. If you don't have the PSK-31`setup working before the event don't expect it to work in the challenge.

The one-kilometer transition was easy even with the cart loaded with the Icom 7100, 30 AH battery and antennas.
We got our first five contacts on 40 meters CW using a low 40-meter dipole. The rig was an Icom 7100 running about 70 watts. The rig was set up on the dog stroller we use as a cart. I faintly heard the letters "kot". That was VA3KOT John Corby calling from Ontario, but the propagation just was not right for a contact. We did work WW1USA from the World War 1 Museum in Kansas City, MO.

Our second location in the park.
Then, it was off to the second location, EM60UI67PU, one kilometer away via the park trails. Suzy loves the trek. We set up a 20-meter dipole this time. With some effort, we got the five contacts on CW. A surprise was a call from CS7AFI in Portugal. That counts for the intercontinental DX bonus.

Dennis WA6QKN logging contacts.
The third location, EM60UI58TT, was on the trail to Campbell Lake. We used the Chameleon vertical whip antenna for 20-meters supported by the cart and two quarter-wave radials. This time we got a string of five SSB contacts by calling CQ POTA. The contacts included Puerto Rico and Ontario.

Dennis surveys Cambell Lake. It is a coastal dune lake.
We still had time left, however not enough to get to a fourth location. Instead, we treated ourselves to the view at Campbell Lake. It was beautiful. Then we had the return walk to the parking lot. My Fitbit registered 10,000 steps for the day.

Suzy makes her own contact and gets a belly rub.
Dennis and I have done several challenges and have made it to four locations in four hours. Usually, we have a few locals and chasers but not this time. We are frankly hard to follow if we go to search and pounce. Also, propagation would be difficult back to Panama City. This outing we enjoyed the break from the hurricane recovery in Panama City. It will be a long time before the clean-up and repairs are done. Things improve a little bit every day there.

Note A RaDAR email group is picking up interest at https://groups.io/g/RaDAR Please join if you are interested in Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR).


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Top Sail Preserve State Park will be the N4KGL RaDAR Challenge Venue

The next RaDAR Challenge is Saturday, Nov 3rd, 2018. Dennis WA6QKN, Suzy and I will form a RaDAR team using callsign N4KGL. We have chosen Top Sail Preserve State Park for our venue. Top Sail is on the Gulf Coast near Destin, Florida. Top Sail has paved trails through the park. Those will be ideal for on-foot or on-paw RaDAR. Per RaDAR rules, we will make five contacts and then move one kilometer to the next location.



We have chosen to start with a SO-50 Satellite pass at 1545 UTC from the parking area. The park is in grid EM60.  We hope for at least one sat contact for the RaDAR bonus. If we get five on the sat we would be ready to move. Most of our operations will be on 40 and 20 meters HF. Note Top Sail is K-3664 for POTA, Parks On The Air.



We will proceed on the trails toward Campbell Lake, stopping every one kilometer to make our five contacts. We will be using a dog stroller to carry the Icom 7100 100 watt rig and battery, It takes little effort to push the stroller even with heavy gear. The stroller can support a vertical. A dipole also can be used by attaching a PVC conduit mast to the stroller. The dipole ends will be supported by 10-foot poles.

We have four hours to make contacts The radar exchange includes RS(T), name and location. The location is preferably a grid square of six digits or more. We will use these frequencies

7.029.5 CW
7.296 LSB

14.059 CW
14.346 USB

However, if there is no luck on those frequencies, we will hunt and pounce. The pace is so rapid it is difficult to spot ourselves. We will do the best we can. Check DX Summit for N4KGL and K-3664. Ham Alert is a good idea. Set that up ahead of time for N4KGL. RaDAR Ops can use a RaDAR group on WhatsApp. Ask me for the invite link.

In any case, the weather forecast for Saturday is looking ideal here in Northwest Florida. We hope for some RaDAR to RaDAR contacts. Those are always a challenge but very rewarding. If RaDAR interests you please check out the RaDAR group and the  Google+ Community

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Columbus Day Weekend Camping and Ham Radio At Falling Waters SP

Linda and I camped at Falling Waters State Park on Columbus Day Weekend 2018. On the following Wednesday, Hurricane Michael came through our hometown, Panama City, Florida. Most of Bay County got walloped. We were fortunate the damage was not very extensive at our house. We have moved back in.

Linda in front of the 13 ft camper
It is notable that we rented a 13-foot camping trailer for the weekend. The camper was light enough to pull with the van. This was our first outing with a camper. It all went smooth. Falling Waters is an excellent camping destination with clean facilities.

Campsite 5 at Falling Waters
I will also note, the campsite was one I chose for its amateur radio potential for future Field Days. The site had room enough for a 40-meter OCF antenna. The back of the site is a large open field. I extended a 132 foot end-fed into the open field. That is about as good as it gets.


The field directly behind campsite 5
There were ham radio activities to keep me busy. I activated the park for POTA. I had sixteen contacts on Saturday and twenty-one on Sunday. They were mostly 40 meters SSB. Saturday was the Leaf Peepers QRP event. Dennis WA6QKN joined me. We knocked our selves out and only found four other leaf peepers. The band conditions were degrading. A geomagnetic storm was coming on.

The waterfall at Falling Waters State Park
My luck improved for the two-hour Peanut Power Sprint on Sunday. I had twenty-five contacts, Eighteen on 40 meters and seven on 20 meters. Eighteen were fellow nuts. I had twelve SPCs. Note, I worked Larry W2LJ on both 20 meters and 40 meters. My category was salted running five watts portable. I used the 40-meter OCF antenna. I was pleased to do well considering the band conditions.

Keegan, Justin, and Amy

On the family side, my Daughter Amy visited us and brought her family. We had a cookout and visited the waterfall.  On Monday, they were evacuating the park for Hurrican Michael. We thought it might not be as bad as predicted. It was worse, CAT 4/5 as we know. We rode out the storm in Dothan, Alabama with my Mother. Not very bad on us up there other than power was out for days. I came back to Panama City for the days and spent the nights in Dothan. We got the tree on the house removed and eventually power was restored. Things are getting better every day, but a long road for the residents of Bay County.

Hey, we are looking forward to the Winter Field Day and June Field Day and future camping at Falling Waters!.

73

Greg N4KGL




Friday, October 26, 2018

Something Old and Something New after Hurricane Michael

Fortunately, our home survived Michael fairly well and we have moved back in. I must start over with outside antennas because the trees came down. Actually, it will be easier to work amateur satellites from the backyard.

I have picked up some vintage treasures from eBay including an original Ameco AC-1. I also have an SDRPlay RSP-2 Software Defined Radio that I have not found a good use. So why not use the Ameco AC-1 to transmit and The RSP-2 for receive. I will need a transmit/receive switch to keep from damaging the SDR. For that, I am using an MFJ 1708B RF Sense SDR Receiver TR Switch. I am letting it switch on RF sense. The AC-1 is set up for 40 meters and uses crystals to set the frequency. I get four watts RF out.

Ameco AC-1
Being rock bound or crystal controlled can be challenging because pretty much you have to call CQ at 4 watts or get lucky that a station calling CQ is close enough to the crystal frequency to hear you. However, I happen to have a 7.123 MHz crystal which is the frequency for the daily Sun Rise CW net. The SRN net is friendly to all check-ins. They will remember you between check-ins and chat a bit. I QNIed this morning using the AC-1/SDR combo. I got a report of 339 but the NCS, K4AXF in Virginia, copied all my info and repeated it for the net.

SDR Play RSP-2 in the foreground.

I enjoy the glow of the 6V6 and the 6X5 tubes just like the novices did for their first QSO .way back when. You know the RSP-2 is a pretty good receiver for a little over one hundred dollars. I am using the free HDSDR software on my laptop. You could homebrew some transmitters and use the RSP-2 for the receiver. You can't monitor your transmitted CW with it because the SDR latency will throw you off. I need a mute circuit for an external speaker so I don't have to mute the speaker myself.

The MFJ SDR TR Switch

My antenna was my 30 ft horizontal, and 20 ft vertical loop fed a the bottom center. The lower wire is ten feet above the ground. Hurricane Michael took all my trees I used for antenna support. So this loop that I constructed for Field Day comes in handy. It uses three 31 ft Jackite poles for support. I already had an SGC tuner just outside the house back wall. I ran 300-ohm balanced feedline between the loop and the tuner. The antenna tunes nicely on 40, 30, 20, 17, and 15 meters.

The Field Day loop comes in handy after Hurricane Michael. It replaces the 132-foot doublet I had in the trees. Now no trees.


HDSDR software on the laptop

BTW, I used VIZ Isotap II Isolation and switched autotransformer to avoid getting shocked. I am not sure if it was necessary, but I did it anyway. If you are wondering I have several AC-1s. This one is an original and worked on the first try.

VIZ isolated autotransformer