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

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

April 2020 RaDAR Challenge Report

Here in Florida, we are under a Stay-At-Home order due to the Coronavirus. This thwarts all social activity. In particular, the beaches and state parks are closed. Fortunately, recreation like cycling is allowed. So Dennis and I made our RaDAR Challenge plans and chose Conservation Park near Panama City Beach as our venue. This park has miles of trails suitable for bikes.

N4KGL pulling the gear with a bike trailer.

I chose to go with the Icom 7100 as our HF rig. The antenna was the SOTA Beams Band Hopper link dipole supported in the center by the SOTABeams Tactical 7000 telescoping pole. I brought an angle iron stake with a small hammer to pound the stake in the ground. As you can imagine this is not backpack gear. I loaded the rig in a toolbox that fits on my bike trailer. I also put a 40 amp-hour Bioenno LiFePO4 battery in the toolbox. I could have gone with the Elecraft KX2 in the backpack but nevertheless, I brought the big guns. In addition, I packed a Kenwood D710 into the toolbox for VHF. It will do packet comms with its built-in TNC. It is also a full-duplex radio for the FM satellites. I brought a SOTAbeams Travel mast and a rollup J Pole for the VHF antenna.



Local contacts are valid for RaDAR. We made a lot of those of VHF and HF. It is nice to involve my nearby ham friends in the RaDAR experience.

We rode our bikes to the first stop at EM70BG22 and setup. The four-hour clock started at 10 am. I manned the radio and Dennis did the logging. We worked W4IMH, W4NNO, and N4ROJ on two-meter FM simplex. Frank W4IMH was about 40 miles away in Fountain, Florida. To finish the five we worked two Missouri QSO Parrty stations on 40 meter SSB.

N4KGL at one of the stops.
At the second stop at EM70BG26, we worked my RaDAR friend John VA3KOT in Southern Ontario on 20 meters CW. The next three were QSO Party stations on 20 meters SSB and the last contact was Mark KD4IMA on two meters simplex.

At the third stop at EM70BG19, we tried the Noon pass of the AO-92 and AO-91 FM Satellites. The rollup J pole did a fair job on receiving. I heard myself of the downlink at times. However, with the congestion on the satellites, we had no luck. We then worked Bob WB4BLX and Rick NZ2I on two-meter simplex and also on 40 meters CW. The last contact was Nebraska also on 40 meters CW.

Dennis WA6QKN with a mask.

We doubled back for the fourth stop at EM70BG26. At this stop, we tried a two-meter packet contact with Bob KK4DKT in Lynn Haven. Despite the luck we had on simplex voice we could not connect with packet. We did pick up KK4DIV, N4STC, on two-meter simplex. On 40 meter SSB, we got KK4DIV, N4STC, and KD4IMA. We stayed on since he four hours was winding up and we worked George W4GHG in Lynn Have and a Tennesse and Louisiana contact out of town.

One of our transitions between stops

Our bike transitions of two kilometers took about ten minutes. I estimate our setup and teardown were about 15 minutes each. With the support of local hams, it did take long to get the five contacts. We got in four stops in four hours. The toolbox packed with radios and battery is my go box for emergencies. Two-meter simplex, as well as HF, worked well for local contacts. There were friends around the country looking for us but missed us. Spotting ourselves proves difficult.

Chris VA3ECO has taken up RaDAR and was out for three hours and did two locations. There is still snow on the ground up there in Ontario, Eddie ZS6BNE had success on the satellites in South Africa. See his blog.

With the Corona situation giving us cabin fever, it was enjoyable to get a dose of radio and exercise outdoors doing the RaDAR Challenge.

73

Dennis and Greg




Friday, April 3, 2020

Our RaDAR Challenge Operations are On for April 4th!

The RaDAR Challenge is a portable amateur radio operating event with movement between deployments via foot or various conveyances. Operate in a four-hour window of your choosing in the UTC day. No specific venue is required, although parks are a natural choice. You may operate any band and mode except repeaters. Satellite and digital contacts are encouraged with bonus points. You must make five contacts to move to the next location. The rules are available at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/.

The April 2020 RaDAR Challenge is this Saturday. Normally we would be operating from a State Park, but the Governor closed the State Parks due to the COVID-19 situation. Per the Gov. DeSantis' 4/1/2020 Executive Order "Essential Activities" as: "Participating in recreational activities (with social distancing guidelines) such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, running, swimming, and taking care of pets." Therefore I believe RaDAR is essential. Fortunately, Conservation Park in Panama City Beach is open. There are miles of dirt trails for hiking or bike riding. This park is an excellent fit for RaDAR.




Dennis WA6QKN and Greg N4KGL are doing the RaDAR Challenge on the Osprey Trail in Conservation Park. We will ride bikes between stops carrying our radio gear. Our callsign will be N4KGL and our four-hour window will start at 10 AM CDT or 1500 UTC. We must make five contacts to move down the trail. The required distance on bikes is two kilometers or 1.2 miles. We will look for contacts anyway we can get them that includes RaDAR to RaDAR, local contacts or search and pounce. Our first choice for HF is 40 meters followed by 20 and 17 meters, CW will be around 7.030 and SSB is TBA. On VHF we will announce our ops on the 145.210 Repeater. Simplex contacts will count so switch over to 146.565 FM to work us. We can work you on multiple bands modes and multiple stops.

If you will be operating RaDAR or chasing us sent me an email at lanekg@gmail.com and I will send updates to your email. We appreciate the efforts to find us. It can be challenging.

Have a great weekend and have fun on the radio.

Dennis WA6QKN and Greg N4KGL.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Get Ready for the Next RaDAR Challenge April 4th 2020

RaDAR Is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio


The next RaDAR Challenge is April 4th, 2020 UTC. RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. Movement is encouraged between deployments via foot or various conveyances. Operate in a four-hour window of your choosing. No specific venue is required although parks are a natural choice. You may operate any band and mode except repeaters. Satellite and digital contacts are encouraged with bonus points. Remember it is five contacts and move. Get into the flow zone. Detail rules are available at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/


I encourage all hams to participate  Let us know your plans and results. Good luck and be safe!

Greg N4KGL
www.N4KGL.info




Tuesday, February 18, 2020

POTA and RaDAR on the Florida Gulf Coast

Chris VA3ECO, Dennis WA6QKN, and I had a fun adventure Saturday, February 15th operating Parks On The Air and riding our bikes. We met at Grayton Beach State Park and set up at a pavilion next to the lake. I had all my gear, including an Icom 7100 and a battery in my bike trailer. Dennis and I unpacked the tuner and poles and set up a 39-foot antenna wire. My 25-foot pole supported the far end. The rig end had a six-foot pole to raise the wire above the ground.  The radiator came down the short pole and was terminated at the tuner. We spread out a couple of 30-foot counterpoise wires on the sand. I put a spot on the POTA site. The contacts on 40 SSB came quickly. We stopped at 22 since we wanted to start our bike ride to the next park. Chris had a 17-foot telescoping whip mounted to his bike and his Yaesu 857 in the basket. It did not fair very well on PSK due to RF feedback problems. Chris did get an SSB contact on 20 meters. 


Our modest 39-foot wire antenna faired well.
We discovered that Highway 30-A toward Top Sail Hill State Park was closed. Therefore we rode seven miles East to Deer Lake State Park. The hour journey took us through the Watercolor seaside community. At lunchtime, there were throngs of pedestrians and other bikes on the path. The bell on my bike came in handy to part the crowd.

Staging our bikes at Grayton Beach
Deer Lake State Park has a boardwalk out to the beach. Dennis and I set up at a bench stop along the way. We strapped the 25-foot mast to the railing. Once again, we spotted ourselves on the POTA site for 40 meters SSB. We had a flood of 66 contacts in that many minutes. Chris set up his bike station further along the boardwalk. He moved the whip to the bike handlebars and got eighteen contacts on 20 meters SSB.


Chris VA3ECO operating his RaDAR equipped bike 

We all felt good that we took advantage of some beautiful blue sky weather, played with radios, and got some exercise. We made almost one hundred Parks On The Air contacts altogether. I believe the bike, trailer, and Icom 7100 are viable for the RaDAR Challenge. Our ride between parks would take up two of the four hours. However, doing multiple parks also fits into the Florida State Parks on the Air Contest on the same weekend. We have a month to mull over the options. The RaDAR Challenge is April 4th of this year.

The beach scene at Deer Lake State Park

The bike ride between Grayton Beach and Deer Lake State Parks

Friday, January 31, 2020

N4Y Winter Field Day 2020 Outing from Falling Waters

This year we had a setup similar to previous Winter Field Days at Falling Waters State Park near Chipley, FL. At campsite 5, Linda and I had a camper. We also had a tent for operating. Chris VA3ECO and Dennis WA6QKN used the tent for sleeping quarters. Tom WD0HBR and Sandy joined the group for Friday set up and dinner at the Mexican restaurant in Chipley. George W4GHG brought his family on Saturday and made his first out of town HF contacts. Bob KK4DIV and Carla had a tent site and station at the other end of the campground. Visitors included Frank KC8VKA and Rick NZ2I.

Dennis WA6QKN in operating tent

The N4Y class/category was 2O. We used non-commercial power. Chris helped out with a satellite contact for 1500 bonus points. This year, I created a logging program I call Cycle 25 Logger. It worked well enough. A couple of improvements were noted.

Carla and Bob KK4DIV camping and operating.
We balanced our time among eating, socializing, and operating. Chris warmed up Margot's Canadian Chili Saturday night. Chris also cooked eggs for breakfast. We found plenty of activity on the 80, 40, and 20-meter band. However, 15 meters was dead, which could have boosted our multiplier of 9X. Digital PSK-31 contacts were our biggest point maker.



Here is Bob KK4DIV's excellent video on Winter Field Day



The experience was enjoyed by all. We plan to combine camping and radio for the Florida QSO Party from Three Rivers State Park near Sneads, FL in April 2020.


The Falling Water's namesake


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 https://photos.app.goo.gl/8eGqxfw2soN6C9678