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

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.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

2019 W/VE Islands QSO Party from Santa Rosa Island Florida

I had a great time operating the W/VE Islands QSO Party from Santa Rosa Island AKA Okaloosa Island near Destin Florida on Saturday, August 24th. I used the callsign N4I. Myself, N4KGL was the only operator. The island is USI FL003S for the Island QSO Party and K-0661 for Parks On The Air. The site is the Okaloosa Island Day Use Area which is part of the Gulf Island National Seashore. I like the site because it has a saltwater shore on the bay facing the rest of the country. I used an N6BT Bravo 7K vertical to take advantage of the "saltwater effect". The rig was the Icom 7100 running 100 watts.

N6BT Bravo &K vertical at the saltwater shore

Suzy was my partner for the day. Since no dogs are allowed on the beach,  I set up in the picnic area and ran a coax over the sand dune to the vertical at the water's edge.  My operating time was just over four hours with a break for lunch.



The bands were in good shape. I had pile-ups going on both 40 and 20-meter phone. My stats were
  • Total Contacts 124
  • 40m CW 6, 40m PH 38
  • 20m CW 4, 20m PH 76
  • 4 Islands 
  • 4 Parks On The Air
  • 1 Beach On The Air
We had many good signal reports and we were getting well into Canada. In fact, I worked my friend Chris VA3ECO by chance. He lives on his own island ON304. Note, he comes down to Panama City for the Winter months.

The control head for the Icom 7100

The rest of the Icom 7100 and a Bioenno battery in a box.

Suzy feeling the heat

Friday, August 23, 2019

WB8ELK Pico Balloon Forum Talk and Launch at the 2019 Huntsville Hamfest

I attended the Pico Balloon Forum presented by Bill Brown WB8ELK. I already had one of Bill's balloon payloads. The forum was just what I needed to understand the details of prepping the ballon. The balloon is a party type mylar balloon. After the talk, Bill checked the lift of the balloon in the Embassy Suites lobby. Then Bill and Bev WB4ELK launched the balloon successfully in front of the hotel. The payload has the APRS ID WB8ELK-5. APRS tracked the balloon near Chatanooga, across Georgia, South Carolina and out over the Atlantic. The balloon's altitude was up to 27000 feet. It headed up the Eastern Seaboard within range of shore APRS IGates. Eventually, it went out of APRS range presumed to be headed Eastward. We will be checking aprs.fi to see if it is spotted in a few days. Some of the ballons circumnavigate the Earth but there is no guarantee.

Note Bill's QSO Today Podcast interview is Episode 250. It highlights Bill's lifelong interest in Space.

Bill WB8ELK and Bev WB4ELK checking the lift of the Pico Balloon. The net lift is the weight of a penny.




I have not finalized the launch window for my payload. I will look into piggybacking some STEM activities the SEARS Rocket Club is doing. The rocket launch site in Samson, AL may be a good place to launch. The payload itself is an engineering marvel. It is solar-powered has a single circuit board with a 20 milliwatt transmitter and GPS. The payload is very light as required for a pico balloon launch. Bill has done the engineering I just have to prep and launch.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

N6BT V8 Vertical Dipole Installation

I just installed an N6BT.com V8 vertical antenna in my backyard. I had not settled on a home antenna since Hurricane Michael took my trees and the storage building. Unfortunately, I still have high voltage power lines across the back of the lot. I am not in an HOA neighborhood. A tower and a beam would be effective but that would be a significant investment.

N6BT V8 installed in the backyard.
 I have had good experience with N6BT antennas. I use the N6BT Bravo 7K when activating parks. It is a remarkable performer on the saltwater shore. However, it has also done the job over the ground in the parks. The N6BT vertical antennas evolve. Instead of using coils and adjusting element lengths like the Bravo 7K, The V8 uses a remote tuner, in this case, the MFJ 993BRT. Tom Schiller N6BT calls this antenna a vertical dipole. The ancestor to this antenna was a vertical dipole with a horizontal section at both ends for capacitive loading. As Tom says, the top element was extended, and the top flat section was removed. On the lower element, it was shortened and extended horizontally. So there you have it. This is very asymmetric vertical dipole indeed. The good news is that the antenna is complete and does not require ground radials.




Please watch my YouTube video that covers the details of the installation. The biggest issue was the tuner, which is from MFJ. The one I received was DOA. It did not do anything. I supplied the 12-volt power via a bias T on the transmitter end of the coax. Yet, I did not hear any relay clicks when RF was applied, so tuning never started. I did get lucky after removing the cover, there were some switches hidden under a circuit board. This board would be for the desktop version of this tuner. One of the switches is labeled power. I pushed that switch, and the relays clicked when 12 volts was applied. I left it like that and put the cover back on, and now the tuner works as intended.

The MFJ 993BRT remote tuner mounted.
Initially, the antenna did not tune on 40 CW. After playing around with the hairpin coil, it finds a match on 40 CW. So it tunes quickly from 60 meters and up. On 80 meters the tuner struggles. It will quit trying after a while. Strangely if a reapply RF, the SWR is good. In any case, 80 meters will be the exception for my operating. Since I now have a remote tuner in the middle of the yard, I could experiment with some wires to make a doublet or maybe turn the V8 into an inverted L for the low bands. I do have a tree on each side fence line to run a wire to. I think I will find out what the stock antenna will do first.

The hair-pin coil
I have consistent noise from those powerlines. It sounds like arcing, and I should call the power company. Short of that, I have a W6LVP broadband loop mounted on a short post with a rotator in the front of the house. This antenna is much quieter, and I can null the noise to some degree. Therefore the V8 is mainly a transmit antenna. I am delighted with the W6LVP loop.

The antenna slips into a PVC pipe buried 18 inches.
I have had several rag-chew QSOs on 40 CW for a start. If the solar cycle gets cranking, I will be ready for the high bands. I am a little nervous about lightening. However, I can lift off the vertical section of the antenna and lay it on the ground. Then the antenna is much less of a target.

The N6BT Bravo 7K predecessor to the V8
The bottom line, I am going to enjoy this antenna. I can now get on the HF bands from the house. Thanks to Tom N6BT for an antenna solution that works for my situation. This antenna is available exclusively from Ham Radio Outlet. The tuner is a separate purchase.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Fun with the Bumble Bees

Flight Of The Bumblebees 2019 was a fun time with on the air friends and local friends. I was at Carl Grey Park in Panama City, Florida. The activity was brisk for the first two hours of four and fell off after that. My first contact was Larry W2LJ. I also worked friends Steve KF5RY, Steve WG0AT, Shel KF0UR, Jim W4QO, and Ed WA3WSJ. In town, I worked WB8PAF and Jim KW4UT, who was using an HW-8. 20 meters dominated. I just picked up Georgia and Alabama on 40 meters. The grand total was 46 contacts and 28 Bumblebees. I was assisted on-site by Dennis WA6QKN and Ron KK4DWE. Phil N4STC and Jim KW4UT came for a visit.

My N6BT Bravo 7K vertical antenna is positioned on St Andrews Bay for the saltwater effect.
My gear was the Elecraft KX2 at 5 watts CW. The internal battery almost carried the whole event.   The 20-meter antenna was the N6BT Bravo 7K on the St Andrews Bay shoreline. My 40-meter antenna was the SOTA Beams 40/30/20 Band Hopper link dipole.



In the scheme of things:
  • 2016 38 QSOs 25 BB
  • 2017 61 QSOs 37 BB
  • 2018 34 QSOs 21 BB
  • 2019 46 QSOs 28 BB
This year was the second-best out of four years. I am still impressed with what 5 watts will do even at Solar Minimum.


Shel KF0UR one of my contacts was on Mt. Blodgett in Colorado Springs, CO, at 8000 feet MSL

WA6QKN on the left and N4KGL on the right hard at it.




Suzy has ears for CW.



Wednesday, July 24, 2019

N4KGL July 2019 RaDAR Challenge Report

For the July 13th, 2019 RaDAR Challenge, I chose to transition between stops on my new bike. I experimented with different ways to carry the gear on the bike. I found my Jackite Pole to be unwieldy at its four-foot collapsed length. So I invested in the SOTABeams Tactical 7000 mast. Its collapsed length is 23 inches, and it is 23 feet extended. I carried the mast and an angle iron stake in a gun sling across my back. I pound in the stake in the ground to anchor the mast. I also made use of bags on the rear bike rack and a backpack. The rig was the Elecraft KX2. My antenna of choice was the SOTABeams Band Hopper link dipole for 40/30/20 meters supported in the middle by the Tactical 7000.

My Raleigh Venture Bike setup for RaDAR
There was rain in the forecast influenced by tropical storm Barry. Happily, we did not get a drop of rain. The venue was Kinsaul Park in Lynn Haven, Florida. I did all the operating from the park but took my rides in the neighborhood. In the four hours for the RaDAR Challenge, I did three stops with five contacts each and made two bike rides in between stops.



There were not many RaDAR operators out except for John VA3KOT. I did not pick him up. So I took advantage of SKCC contacts on 40 meters CW and some IARU contest contacts of 20 meters. A highlight was working my ham friend Curtis WB4SHX in Mississippi purely by chance on 40 meters SSB. I mixed in some local contacts from N4STC and N4VSP. Unfortunately, I did not get a contact on the SO-50 satellite pass at the end of the four hours.

The SOTABeams Tactical 7000 mast and the SOTA Beams Band Hopper link dipole deployed. 
My Elecraft KX2 resting on the rear bike cargo rack
RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. Thanks to Eddie ZS6BNE for the RaDAR Concept. The challenges continue to be fun.  The next RaDAR Challenge is the first Saturday in November. Check out the RaDAR group on MeWe.

The first two-kilometer transition by bike

The second two-kilometer transition by bike

Monday, July 15, 2019

Radio Camping at Kolomoki Mounds State Park

Linda and I camped at Kolomoki Mounds State Park near Blakely, Georgia for two nights starting on July 2nd. The campground is next to beautiful Lake Kolomoki. We did not have any cell coverage for our AT & T phones. What a shock!



I did a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation for K-3726 with 33 QSOs. I used the Elecraft KX2 with 10 watts in the beginning and later with the 100-watt amp. I ran across Bobby AJ4KA in Newnan on 40 meters CW by chance. He was running a homebrew tube rig on a dummy load by accident he said. I gave him a health and welfare message since we had no internet.



The campsite had liberal space for an antenna. I used the SOTAbeams Band Hopper 40/30/20 link dipole. I also did a SO-50 sat pass using callsign W3ZM/4 for the AMSAT 50th Anniversary Celebration. I got three contacts including Jim K4LIX in Panama City.



I took a couple of bike rides up steep 80-foot hills. It almost killed me on the way up but coming down was fast and sweet. Linda and I also took in the park museum and learned what the mounds were all about. They are pretty neat unless you are getting sacrificed at the Chief's funeral.



So we had a successful trip and gave the Georgia gnats something to do. I recommend this park for a getaway.

44/72/73,

Linda & Greg N4KGL