Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Let it Snow!

Here are my post Christmas Pedestrian Mobile Ops way up North in Columbus, GA.. I was trying out the new pack . Looks like I need to do some adjusting to get the antenna straight up. I worked St Louis, MO and Galena, MD on 20 meters. They were solid contacts. My assistant was Chuck my Brother-In-Law.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My QRP Pack

I am highly challenged to pare down my pack up for QRP portable. However, I think this pack will help. It was a good deal from EBay from seller 2010joeyc ALICE-LARGE-RUCKSACK-FRAME-LC-1-US-MILITARY-SURPLUS $29.99 free shipping. I have of course more than I need as pictured but it has most of my small QRP radios, tuners, antennas and so forth in it for my Christmas trip. I also found that it will work great for pedestrian mobile. More on that later. I got the idea of the pack from the Amateur Radio Pedestrian Mobile Handbook. You can download a pdf version from LuLu.com.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint

The ARCI Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint  was Sunday December 18th. This gave me a good opportunity to use my kit radios. Kits were considered homebrew for the event. My kits are the Wilderness SST and Wilderness Sierra. The sprint had a 5000 bonus for portable operation so I decided to operate out of the backyard. But it was a hard choice as to which antenna to set up. I finally chose my ground plane for 20 and 40 meters. I got to use the Deluxe Tenna Dipper to confirm it was setup right.

I chose to start on 20 meters with the SST and worked OH X 2, PA X 2, MN, NJ and CA. Then I switched to 40 meters using the Sierra and worked K4MTI "Pepto" here in Panama City FL, then Kelly K4UPG in Orlando FL and John K4BAI in Columbus GA. I enjoy the nearby contacts so this made my day. 

It was chilly in the backyard and it was getting dark I tried to get something going on 80 meters to make at least one contact for an additional 5000 point band bonus. However, I was unsuccessful jury-rigging the ground plane to work on 80. No joy. But a good session overall using the kit radios. There is always some extra satisfaction when the rig is a kit you built.

Greg N4KGL

Friday, December 16, 2011

KISS Analyzer

I completed the Deluxe Tenna Dipper Kit from QRPkits.com. I can say the KISS principle is up held with this kit. Compared to the MFJ and other antenna analyzers it is more compact, less costly and very simple. I have had bad luck with analyzers going out of calibration. The simple bridge circuit inside this unit requires no calibration. When the LED indicator goes out or even dims you are ready to operate. So you can use it to adjust the length of your dipole or set the coil on your Buddistick antenna. Also you can use it to adjust your tuner before transmitting. Your rig will appreciate that.

The build was one morning. There is one SMT part but it was easy. I did have an issue that the LED did not fully dim. After some troubleshooting I found that I had switched two leads on the toroid transformer. Now it works great and the LED fully dims.

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, December 11, 2011

SKCC Sixth Anniversary Celebration

I signed up to participate in the Straight Key Century Club Sixth Anniversary Celebration. There will be K3Y stations on from the ten call areas for the entire month of January. Note the call K3Y represents "Key".  I am signed up to be K3Y/4 during January 15 and 16. The times I selected are 0800 to 1100 and 1230 to 1530 Central or 1400 - 1700 and 1830 - 2130 UTC each day.

This is a three day weekend for me. Our rocket launch is in Samson, AL on Saturday and I'll drive to Dothan Saturday night. Sunday I'll operate from my Dad's workshop still in Dothan. Monday I'll operate back home in Panama City. I could do the Sunday morning session at home and perhaps the afternoon from the W4RYZ club house. I am expecting this to be a real workout because I am usually the chaser not the chased. The K3Y event is a great time to get SKCC numbers if you are interested in their awards.

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, December 4, 2011

QRP Pedestrian Mobile and Rockets

The December 3rd South Alabama Rocketry Society (SEARS) launch was a good opportunity to test my pedestrian Mobile Setup. The Wilderness SST operates 14.057 +- 4 Khz. This is a good frequency to find other QRP and casual CW ops. I worked Don KZ8R in Sanford, NC, Art W8PBO Ravenswood, WV, and Dan W9DLN in Crivitz, WI. So I am very pleased with my PM setup and made a transition up and down the flight line. See pictures below with some of my rockets including Deuces Wild, Big Boy, and Gizmo. Also see more rocket launch pictures at this link.

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, November 27, 2011

N4KGL Pedestrian Mobile Setup

I was inspired by a recent contact with WA3WSJ/PM Ed in Pennsylvania while I was QRP portable here in Florida. Ed publishes an excellent book Amateur Radio Pedestrian Mobile Handbook. The book has great material for PM and much of it applies to any type of portable operations.

The photos below are of my pedestrian mobile setup to try out. The clipboard holds a Wilderness SST 20 meter transceiver, a Hendricks BLT + Tuner and 10 Eneloop AA batteries in a holder. There is a camera strap to hold the clipboard in front from my neck. The antenna is a 12.5 foot vertical wire with a buddistick coil at the base. It is held vertical by a 13 foot crappie pole. The antenna components are strapped to a flat sheet of plastic that came from a lap desk. This is worn like a backpack. There are bungees to go around each shoulder and one around the waist. A counterpoise wire is hooked to the tuner and is about 16 foot long. (The best length is TBD). The counterpoise is dragged as you walk. I need to come up with a better disconnect for the counterpoise as they are easy to get stuck or snatched.

I was testing in the backyard but there is a contest filling the band today. I did get one contester to come back to me so I am pretty sure it is good to go. Ed has a lot of guidance for PM in the book including safety. I'll try a nice open area to get started and a buddy to keep me out of trouble. The weather is going downhill now. So I will look forward to a future pedestrian mobile opportunity.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

QRP Pole Dancing

This may not be what you expect. However, I have setup an 18 foot crappie pole with an attached Wilderness STT for 20 meters and Hendricks QRP BLT + tuner. The crappie pole has an step in electric fence post attached. I have a plastic key that I can just hold in the opposite hand while keying. The key is on Ebay looks like a toy but works great. The antenna was 16.5 feet of wire up the pole and the same length stretched out to a tree. I tuned with the BLT + tuner. With the tuner other configurations of antenna could be tried. My brief test in the backyard yielded a QSO of good length with AG4EA Bill in South Carolina. He was running QRP in the park that day. I also checked the Reverse Beacon and my CQ was copied in Canada as well.

While not pedestrian mobile, it would be quite easy to carry on a walk to the park. The weight of the equipment balances out with the rest of the pole collapsed. You just need some grass to poke it into and let the dancing begin.

Greg N4KGL

Monday, November 21, 2011

Breaking In the YouKits HB-1B

Actually no break-in is required. It is ready to go out of the box. You will probably want to remove the internal battery holder if you are not using it. I did not get the available 18650 battery pack. I ordered the HB-1B off of the Youkits web page. It is the latest YouKits Transceiver and has four bands 80, 40, 30 and 20 meters. I have previous experience with the Ten Tec R4020. The difference is four bands verses two and a continuously variable IF filter which goes down to 400 Hz. That is my favorite feature of the rig. It is slightly smaller than the R4020 also. You can find this rig also on eBay and on the Ten Tec web site at some point.

On Saturday I did some operating from my Dad's workshop in Dothan. I have an Off Center Dipole deployed there. It was a pleasure to have Thomas WD0HBR over. We were able to tweak the calibration on his MFJ QRP rig. This was my first opportunity to use the HB-1B and had contacts on 40, 30 and 20 with good reports.

I have been toying with trying pedestrian mobile. I got a beehive type mount and put it on my lap shack. See photos below. The mount connects to a Buddistick coil and a non-Buddistick whip that I have. I was receiving on the couch and decided to make a call to W5TV Tom on 20 meters and got him. This is not bad for a indoor contact to TX. Tom has an attic dipole by the way. So lets call this Couch Potato Portable. I used a QRPkits BLT + tuner you will see on the lap shack.

Sunday night I participated in the Run For The Bacon Flying Pigs event. I enjoyed using the new rig and exercising the variable filter. I had four contacts on 40 and four on 80 which is about par for me for the two hour event.

So I give this rig a 5 of 5. This was the second HB-1B I received. The first one had some issues. To the credit of Youkits I got a new unit shipped quickly and sent the defective unit to Youkits in Canada. You will be surprised that the shipping from China takes only 3 to 4 days. After the unit gets picked up in China it only takes two days to make the trip to your door.

Greg N4KGL

Monday, November 14, 2011

QRP Fishing

As you can see below I am making the most of the BNM fiberglass fishing poles paired with the step in plastic fence posts. The longer 18 foot pole is available at some Walmarts and the step in post is available at Lowes or Tractor Supply. Yes you will be asked if you are catching any fish.

The three pole setup was for a Half Square for 20 meters or a upside down U dipole for 40 meters. The center pole was just for support. I used a Hendricks SOTA tuner for end tuning. As I recall I started on 40 and had one contact where I was pretty weak. I also made a contact on 20 meters. My operating was brief that day.

The next configuration was a 40 meter full wave loop. I used a Military mast tripod to hold up the feed point support of the loop and three fishing poles for the other supports. It was fed with 300 ohm line to the Hendricks BLT + tuner I just built. It did tune on 40 and I was very impressed with how quiet it was. Note that the loop on the fundamental is considered a NVIS antenna. My QSOs included  KY, K4MTI local in Panama City, and Gainsville GA. The highlight was a QSO with my friend Thomas WD0HBR in Dothan 75 miles North. So I would say the loop was doing pretty well as NVIS antenna. At higher frequencies the loop would have a lower take off angle. I tried tuning the loop on 20 meters with the BLT with no luck. However, I did forget to try the low Z switch. As a last minute effort I hooked up the 300 ohm feedline to a LDG 4 to 1 balun and the LDG Z817 tuner. It did tune on 20. I snagged WA3WSJ pedestrial mobile in PA. I felt pretty good about that one. So I score the loop well for portable ops where you have room for it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend Wrap Up

Saturday, I made a trip to Headland Alabama for the Wiregrass ARC tailgate.  It was also a chance to visit my Parents in Dothan. The tailgate was on the square in Headland. I met some folks from the Wiregrass club including Jim KC4HW and James KE4GWW. I was joined at the event by my Dothan buddy Thomas WD0HBR. With the weather being beautiful I took advantage of the town square to try some QRP. I setup an end fed half wave for 20 meters from a bench to a 18 foot crappie pole. I made a couple of contacts. I had some visitors take a look at the QRP setup. I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of Panama City Hams Steve N4VSP and Henry N4HHM.at the tailgate. To top off a good time I won the main prize a FT-1900 2 meter radio. As they say it was worth the drive.

Sunday, I did some backyard operating trying out the Ten Tec R4020, SOTA Tuner, crappie poles and end fed wire. I thought an inverted L configuration would be a good one. But, even though the tuner LED would dim, the R4020 complained and would not load up. So after trying a few things I had good success with using a bead balun between the tuner and the radio and putting a 17 foot wire on the counterpoise terminal of the tuner. In fact this configuration works for a 66 foot full wave on 20 meters. I have several crappie poles taped to "step in" electric fence posts. This allowed me to get close to a half square configuration. See W0YSE diagram.

One post was not tall enough. Note the full wave 20 meters is a half wave on 40 which loads up fine. So two bands without getting out of the chair. I worked N0GBR who was running 1 watt from Omaha, N5URL from Okahoma City, and AE0SL all QRP ops.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

N4KGL Beacon Launch is a Bust

The 14.060 beacon rocket launched on October 15th but the payload bay broke into two pieces removing the antenna from the transmitter. The electronics did a free fall and the transmitter board has a bend in it. I have decided low power rocket construction is not going to cut it on a high power rocket. (you would think I'd know that!) The motor was an I161 and the rocket did have excellent boost and hang time. So next try I will do something better for the payload section. Jason N4JTC and Sonny KK4CVV came to the launch in Samson, AL. Jason launched his Hornet rocket also shown. See Jason's Blog at N4JTC.com for more coverage of the launch. If you tried to hear the beacon, sorry it did not work.

More pictures from the launch are at this link.

Friday, October 7, 2011

SOTA Tuner Delight

The SOTA tuner is a kit from QRPkits.com. It is designed for end fed half wave wires. It consists of an SWR indicator with an LED and a parallel tuned circuit for the matching. It turns out I had built a SWR indicator previously from QRPkits.com so I just used that board instead of the supplied parts. There was a hiccup on the first checkout and I sent an please help email to QRPKits.com. I a reply from Ken LoCasale WA4MNT with corrected instructions. The corrections were: 

1. - Tap the toriod at 4 turns, not 6 turns.
2. - Run a ground jumper from the BNC ground lug to the counterpoise ground lug.

Note the corrected instructions are now on the QRPkits.com web site. After the corrections were made the SOTA works like a champ. 

In my backyard test I ran a 33 ft wire for 20 meters to a limb 10 feet high. I worked KD2JC Joe in Howell NJ with no problem.  Then I put a Black Widow 13 foot pole up to support the mid point of the wire. My next QSO was CO2KK in Cuba. OK 20 meters is good so how about 40 meters. I doubled the wire to 66 foot and moved the pole to the mid point. I snagged W4UOR Bill in NC right off the bat. My tests used 4 to 5 watts with the Ten Tec R4020. During my testing I found the tuner works fine without a 1/4 wave counterpoise. I was using a six foot BNC cable and I figure it supplies the necessary counterpoise.

The small size of the tuner is a definte plus. Now  I can get a lighter packup for QRP with this arrangement. Along these lines, notice in the pictures that I taped the Black Widow pole to an electric fence post which has a stake at the end.  I also used a fence post to hold the tuner. This lets me move the rig around without disturbing the antenna wires. So maybe on the next outing I'll venture from the parking lot out to the beach.

St. George Island Parks On The Air

Linda and I combined the visit to the K4L Lighthouse Expedition with operating at the St George State Park on the East end of the island. I did parking lot portable since they won't let you walk on the sand dunes. My first contact was with K4L on 6 meters. I used two whips from my Buddistick kit as a rotatable dipole. Then I switched to using 20 meter ham sticks as a dipole. I was very pleased to work Darren M1CZZ in England. The QSO went on for several exchanges. I was lucky to make all five contacts in 1.5 hours before sunset. Linda got a chance to read her Kindle on the beach.

Oct 6th 2011 Between 2100Z  and 2225Z

K4L           58/59     50.125     St. George Lighthouse Expedition
M1CZZ       57/59    14.270     Oldham England
W5FBS      55/59    14.261     Oklahoma City OK
KC5JTN/M  56/58    14.265     Austin TX
EA3FTA                 14.258     Spain

Visit to K4L St. George Lighthouse Expedition

Linda and I made the trip to St. George Island FL to visit the St George Lighthouse Expedition. We found the lighthouse was decorated with dipoles and a vertical. There were a couple of rigs outside and a couple in the keepers house.  Lots of interesting gear. The operators are friendly and are working pretty hard making contacts.  You can find out more about K4L at http://qrz.com/db/K4L Maybe you can work them on the air. I worked them on 6 meters from the other end of the island.
Charlie Wooten from Panama City was there. He is a member of the DX club and also the Panama City ARC. The lighthouse also has a small museum and gift shop. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Under The Oaks Park Portable Ops

I met up with Marv KK4DKT at Under The Oaks Park in Parker FL for some portable operations. The morning temps were cool and very welcome for the first day of October. We were surprised to find that there was a festival going on at the park. Marv put up his 20 meter dipole in a oak tree near the water. The activity on 20 meters was mostly the California QSO party. Marv snagged a Costa Rica TI8 station pretty early with his rig. I was able to work a MI station on CW using the R4020. Then the last QSO was a CA station using my IC-703 on SSB. Marv by the way showed me some new knots for the antenna supports.  The park really is very nice with many trees and a view of the water. So looking forward to another visit. A non-festival day will be a lot quieter. Enjoy the pictures as the view was great. Note I was using my tongue for fine tuning.

Greg N4KGL

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Converting 20 Meter Ground Plane to 40 Meters

I have been using a full size 20 meter ground plane. So I added a coil to tune 17 foot vertical wire to 40 meters. I also extended two elevated radials to be 1/4 wave for 40. I was able to work Dennis WD9DWE in North Vernon IL on 40. He was using his downspout antenna. I was testing this antenna in my back yard using the Ten Tec R4020. The ground plane is supported by military mast sections to the 20 foot level plus a 13 foot black widow pole on top. 

I guess you can call this a big brother to the Buddistick. The military mast with the tripod adapter is an easy setup. You can lean the whole affair over to make adjustments to the coil. The one thing you cannot say is that it is light weight.

I continue to enjoy the R4020. I worked KC8ZTJ John in MI and KA2MLH Bill in IL on 20 meters with the ground plane bypassing the coil.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

QRP AField and POTA at George Park Panama City FL

Saturday September 17th was a fun operating day at George Park in Panama City FL. I participated in QRP Afield sponsored by the New England QRP Club. and Marv KK4DKT worked Parks On The Air POTA contacts.

 The day began with erecting antennas. I had the assistance of Marv and Ron KK4DWE. The first mast was for a 20 meter ground plane and the second mast held a 40/20 fan dipole. I had the concept of an antenna shoot-out and was going to include a 20 meter delta loop as a third antenna but backed out to start operating. I was able to switch between the dipole and the ground plane. There was a slight increase of noise on the ground plane over the dipole but I made most of my contacts on the ground plane. The electrical noise on 40 was extreme so we stuck with 20 meters. I am very pleased with the ground plane performance and find the antenna visually appealing.

 I enjoyed working 15 contacts for QRP Afield. There were 11 SPCs: FL, PA, AZ, IL, NH(2), TX(2), NY, MD(2), ME, WI, SC. All contacts were on 20 meters with exception of SC on 40 meters. Since I was portable and operated at 5 watts there is an additional multiplier of 10. So 15 X 11 X 10 = 1650 points. This was my first QRP event with the Ten Tec R4020. It did a great job. I was using an external set of ten Eneloop AAs and started the day at 14 volts and was down to 12.5 volts at the end. So I could have kept going.

A big hello to W3PO Pat who mentioned he is a reader of this blog in our QSO.

Marv KK4DKT did an hour or so of operating and got six contacts on 20 meters. He should be good for activating George Park under POTA.

There was also a visit from John KJ4MAK and Gary AJ4KY during the day. All hams were members of the Panama City ARC. It was suggested to have more portable events for the club.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Tall Pines Beg for an Antenna

My parent's home in Dothan, Alabama is on Pine Tree Drive . This is where I grew up and started doing ham radio in the late 60s. The tall pine trees are impressive and beg for an antenna. However, the first limbs are 50 feet plus high. It was not possible for me to throw anything that high. This was my motivation to get the Big Shot Slingshot. I was able to get lines over limbs at the 50 plus foot level with the Big Shot. As usual the layout in most lots favors an Off Center Fed and this is my first OCF. The shack is my Dad's workshop near the back of the lot. This weekend was my chance to get the OCF up. I am using a Balun Designs 4 to 1 balun fed with 70 feet of RG-8X. The long end is 90 feet and the the short end is 45 feet long. The long section is East West and is over the roof. The short section does a dog leg to the North East. The antenna is 40 feet above the ground. I am leaving ample slack as the pines can really bend in high winds. So how does it tune? Well 80 meters is 5.5 to 1, 40 meters is 2.7 to 1, 20 meters is 1.7 to 1 and 10 meters is 1.8 to 1.  So no tuner on 20 and I am very happy with that. With the exception of 80 I think this is par for the course. We will see if my internal tuner on the IC 703 will handle the SWR on 80. I think it will.  I always have limited time in Dothan so I am calling this a success! I did work  MO and AZ using QRP on 20 meters while I was there.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Enter The Black Widow

I have been reading about the Black Widow vertical and similar antennas using the BNM Black Widow fiberglass pole. I got over to Walmart and they had a 13 foot model for less than $10. I wanted to see if I could extend the military mast I use with the Widow. Indeed it will feed through a 4 foot mast section and wedge nicely out the male end. I used a little tape to stabilize it. So that means I can have a 13 foot extension that is light weight. Therefore the usual 20 foot mast can now be extended to 33 feet. It also dawned on me that a 20 meter ground plane could take advantage of this by taping the 1/4 wave vertical element to the mast starting at the tip of the Black Widow. The three radials meet the vertical element about 16 feet up.

So at last a portable antenna that is not a cloud warmer and is at a good height. I setup up this antenna for testing in the backyard and had a good run of QSOs with the Ten Tec R4020. I worked PA, ME, OH, IL, and MD. The MD contact was W3PO running 1 watt. I think the 20 meter ground plane is going to be a go-to configuration. You might notice I was using an external 10 pack of Eneloop AAs for these QSOs Velcro-ed to the bottom of the lap shack..

 Greg N4KGL

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Extending the BuddiStick for Parking Lot Portable

I have put the Buddistick at the top of my 20 foot mast before. However, just for fun I added a 15 foot wire running down the mast from the driven element. At the five foot level I convert to coax and attached the counterpoise there. It works out that using the two 11 inch arms and the telescoping whip plus the 15 foot wire is just right for 30 meters. For 20 meters remove all of the Buddistick except one 11 inch arm. On 40 add the coil and set the tap at about 50%. The counterpoise is set for about the same length as the vertical part except 40 which was 31 feet. From one perspective it would be more efficient because it uses no coil or less coil than it would without the wire. From another perspective the height of the antenna is less. In any case I'll have to try it out on the air. Note the overcast weather is due to Tropical Storm Lee which has given us light rain so far in Panama City.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Checking out the Ten-Tec R4020

My first outing with the TenTec R4020 was my own backyard Sunday AM. The humidity was down so it was very comfortable. I had eight Eneloop AAs installed in the battery holders internal to the case. Ten-Tech leaves it to you to wire up the two holders in series. The initial voltage was 11.5 volts and that gave me 3.5 watts into a dummy load. I setup a 20 foot mast and a 20 meter Inverted V. I had some beginners luck working Indiana, Hawaii and Georgia. The Georgia contact was an example of NVIS I believe. Even though I was making contacts I thought the band is a little dead. It turns out I had the attenuator option on the whole time. Things sounded a lot more lively with it off. This rig has a great receiver!

Then I added a 40 meter dipole by using a T connector to give me a fan dipole. I re-adjusted the lengths of both dipoles and came to a good SWR on both 40 and 20. On 40 I had no problem working Mobile AL and Jacksonville FL. I noticed the battery voltage had dropped to about 9.9 volts after about two hours and the output power was dropping also. But I still managed solid QSOs.

I can say it was a pleasure having a rig with big rig features in a small package. The digital display, settable IF filters, memories are all very nice. So I look forward to more experience and outings with this rig.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Huntsville Hamfest and Monte Sano QRP Contest

I enjoyed the trip to the 2011 Huntsville Hamfest.. It was the second Huntsville reunion with my buddy John K4KQZ from Columbia TN. We met on the air a while back and discovered we had worked together 30 years ago. It was also a pleasure having a new ham Marv KK4DKT along on the trip. He made a new HT purchase at the fest. The highlight of the trip was the Flying High QRP Contest on Monte Sono State park only a few miles from downtown. The contest was hosted by Craig Behren NM4T at a nice cabin in the park. I met a number of QRPers including Randy Moore KS4L from Huntsville. Craig had setup several antennas and Randy provided an Elecraft K3 to operate. We had BBQ and pie for eats. Then two teams formed with a pilot, co-pilot and navigator. The pilots did the operating supported by the co-pilot and navigator. I volunteered to be a pilot encouraged by Marv. The two teams had 45 minutes to operate. There were multipliers for states and DX and a bonus for getting an QRP ACRI numbers. The other team went for DX having the highest multiplier. They snagged three. My team went for anything we could find and worked 5 states. The math revealed that five states was 10 points ahead of three DX contacts. So I was very fortunate to win a Ten Tec R4020 two band QRP rig. This rig is one that fits my portable style of operating as it covers 40 and 20 with batteries inside the small case. The digital display and features are very nice. The receiver is excellent. I plan to try it out this weekend. I also won a drawing for pick of any RadioWavz antenna. I decided to pass this on to Marv and he can use an antenna for his HF rig he just received from a friend. We chose an 80 meter OCF which should cover 80, 40, 20 and 10. The QRP gathering was great and lots of prizes. Craig says there will be more QRP activities at the 2012 Huntsville Hamfest. I definitely plan to attend. Enjoy the photos below.

Greg N4KGL

Monday, August 1, 2011

Flight of the Bumble Bees 2011

We had a good Bumble Bee flight to Solomon Park a two block walk from my parent's house in Dothan, AL. I was joined by Thomas WD4HDR and my Dad. The rig was the Icom 703 and the antenna was a 20 meter dipole about 20 feet high. We were able to snag AF4O in MS, W4MPS in NC, N1EU in NY, N5GW in MS, K3RLL in PA and KX0R in CO. The weather was a bit warm but we got a cold rain shower after a couple hours and went QRT. It was still a great event. We have the park scoped out for a return in the future.

Greg N4KGL

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wakulla Springs and Portable Ops

It is hard to beat the gators, manatees, and birds you will see on the boat tour at Wakulla Springs in NorthWest Florida. I made a trip with Grand Kids and Daughter. I worked in some contacts with my IC 703 and the Buddistick. The noise level was S zero. I had zero luck on CW. However as it often works out, you change change your luck going SSB. I worked VA2PW in Quebec and WD9FOX in central IL. So that is 2 of the 5 of the contacts I'll need to activate the state park under Parks On The Air POTA. I had several folks observe me on CW and come by for a chat. One guy said that is better than texting and I said yes and no monthly charges either. I also had a long chat with one of the park rangers. He was very impressed. Grands Kids loved it. I hope I can go back to complete the POTA activation.

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Enjoyed the Magic Band

6 Meters Band That Is!

There was the CQ WW VHF Contest going this weekend. The band was open to go with it. This is the most I have ever done on 6 meters. I had QSOs with Costa Rica, Belize, Turks and Caicos Islands, Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba and five in Mexico. Lots of fun!

I used the IC-703 at 10 watts. The first go I used my 80 meter doublet which tuned up fine on 6. Then this morning I tried out a rotatable dipole off the vehicle in the driveway. I used the arms and whips that came with the Buddistick deluxe kit.

There was my friend Jason N4JTC in Parker on as well and he worked most of the same stations. Likewise I heard AJ4SQ nearby.

T Network Tuner

I came across a roller inductor and two large variable capacitors. No idea of what the values are. But certainly the makings of a tuner. So I cleaned them up and wired them up. The tuner seems to work. There are a jumpers on the caps to have the option of using half of each capacitor. I understand you need less capacitance for the higher bands.

The result is a little oversized for QRP portable. Also after some reading on the net, there is some discussion that a L network is preferable but this is my baseline experiment with the T network. I might employ this at my Dad's house where I hope to do some operating from his workshop.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

20 Meter Delta Loop Back Yard Portable

I always wanted to try a delta loop and I had my chance early on the 4th of July while visiting my Mother-In-Law in Conyers, GA. I got the idea from this link. I used a LDG 4 to 1 balun at the top and about 70 feet of wire. It tuned to resonance easily. The tip of the delta was about 20 feet and the bottom flat section was about 10 feet high. I setup with the 3 watt SST and worked ID, CT and OH. So I'll add this to the BYP Backyard Yard Portable playbook. Here are some pictures. The actual wires of the loop were pretty much invisible to the camera.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Destin FL QRP Portable Ops

I spent some time in Destin FL as my wife was working there and would have to drive herself home late at night. So my first setup was day time just across the bridge at the National Sea Shore. I put the Buddistick on the picnic table. The conditions were not great on 20 meters and I had one ham tell me I was 119 and to go QRO.  My luck was better with a contact with N4EX/2 in northern NY state near Montreal. I also had the start of a QSO with K1GCD in Maine but he lost me.

The second setup was in the Target Parking lot after dark. I started with the 40 meter hamstick dipole but that was not cutting it. Then I went to the Buddistick at 20 feet on the mast with the radial going over to a light pole. That did a god job on 40 and I worked W0ERE in MO, W4EDE in Miami Beach and K4IBZ over in Crestview FL.

So the eight hours went by pretty quick and enjoyed the time on the air.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shortened Dipole with Matching Section

I tried a shortened dipole (inverted V) by using the IMAXMIN.EXE program on the W5DXP no tuner page. The minimum dipole length the program will accept is 107.19 feet for 3.5 MHz. So I went with 108 feet. The Imax or good length of open  wire feeder is 29.7 feet for velocity factor of .9. My chosen feed-line is 300 ohm window line from DX engineering. Note I am using a bead type choke balun at the end of the 300 ohm feed-line and converting to coax.

I tried this out with a portable mast consisting of 4 foot military mast sections. The bottom is a tripod using a tripod adapter I found on EBay. There is a six foot section of PVC conduit at the top. This gives the antenna a support at the center of 23 feet. The ends are going to stakes or a low fence. The ends are only about 3 feet off the ground. The SWR was very good at 3.5 MHz. A pleasant surprise is that 7 MHz the SWR is under 3 to 1. A full size 80 meter dipole will have a very high impedance on 40 meters. But this dipole is usable on 40 meters with a the internal tuner of my IC-703. I had done a similar check out for a 7 Mhz dipole at 54 feet of length and it tuned under 3 to 1 on 20 meters with a 14 foot 8 inch feed-line.

Now back to the 108 foot dipole. I got it to work on 20 meters by reducing the feed-line to about 24 feet. To try out different feed-line lengths I have a lot of 300 ohm sections of different lengths. I am using the European terminal strips ( the larger size) to join the sections and this works well. So you might say the the 108 foot dipole is like the G5RV and I would say you are right. I don't have one but it likely works the same. The 54 foot dipole is close to a G5RV Junior.

Now I am looking to use either the 108 or the 54 foot version at Field Day based on space available. I am not convinced the guys on the mast are needed with the tripod. They may backfire if a car catches one and turns the whole rig over. I have some homemade A-frame masts from a prior Field Day that I could use to get the ends of the dipoles up at 13 feet.

So credit goes to Cecil W5DXP for this no tuner concept and for me it explains what is going on for the G5RV type antennas.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

QRP session with WD0HDR

I met my friend Thomas at a park area in his sub-division Saturday morning. Thomas, WD0HDR, is a long time friend of the Lane family and recently moved back to Dothan after many years from Nebraska. Fortunately QRP is a our common interest and you may work him on 40 meters. We got on 40 and 20 meters with IC-703 and the Buddistick which was supported by a mast with a tripod at the base. The mast is made up of 4 foot military mast sections and the tripod adapter is a new find off of EBay.

Greg N4KGL

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Inverted V Checkout for Parking Lot Portable PLP

It turned out after the morning rain cleared, I setup at George Park in Panama City. One goal was to test various inverted Vs with the 20 foot mast on the back of the truck as the center support. The two legs of the inverted v dipole were the Coleman Laundry line spools with 85 foot of wire in each. So I wanted to get the length for several bands. The lengths worked out to be

40 meters: 30' 9"/31' 9" some how I got the two legs a foot different.
30 Meters 21 9" each leg
20 meters 15' 5" each leg
80 meter 62' 6" each leg

So as I went along I was making contacts including

40 meters with Sierra at 2 watts
     K3AP Bob Ocala, FL
    WR4Z Jimmy Panama City, FL (I had sent Jimmy an email and he found me)
     K3RLL Bob Cassadaga, FL ( He was QRP in a park like me)

30 Meters Sierra at 3 watts
     W5TZC Larry Bismarck AR

20 Meters SST at 3 watts (It was the FISTS Sprint)
     W3OKC Steve PA
     KG2GL Tony NJ
     KA8HFN Larry OH
     W2ED Ed NJ
     AK5D Dave NM
     W7GVE Ed AZ

On 80 meters I just verified the inverted v tuned. I am really pleased with the Coleman laundry spools for wire. It does not cause any problems to have the extra wire spooled. So now I have more configurations for Parking Lot Portable ops where the space is available for the ends of the inverted V.

Greg N4KGL

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Michigan Mighty Mite

A very simple transmitter. The circuit is at this link. Mine is for 40 meters. I setup the components each with their own terminal strip. There is Velcro on the bottom. The components can be placed on the board covered with matching Velcro. The idea was that I could disassemble and have the Grand Kids reassemble. Well maybe.

I got lucky and worked KE4WKH Orange Beach, AL. So that was about 115 miles. My power meter showing 1 watt out and my batteries are at 13.9 volts. That is a bit more than most get but I have 11 AAs in my battery pack. You will also notice the antenna switch that has the antenna as the common and switches to the receiver or the MMM. It is nice that on transmit the signal can be heard in the receiver as that is good for spotting and sidetone.

It is challenging to make contacts being rock bound. I just have to be patient and persistent. This takes me back to the Novice days! The MMM is being picked up by CW skimmers on the Reverse Beacon Network as far as Maryland..

W3EDP Antenna Checkout for PLP

I tried it and I like it. The W3EDP is a 85 foot long wire and a 17 foot counterpoise. The LDG 817 tuner lets me match it for 40 through 10 meters. I used LDG 1 to 1 balun directly on the tuner output for all but 15 meters and then switched to the LDG 4 to 1 to get 15 meters to tune. So this is just another possible configuration for Parking Lot Portable (PLP) ops.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

QRP To The Field 2011

Well I had a big day QRPing Saturday with the QRP To The Field (QRPTTF) contest. I was Parking Lot Portable (PLP) behind the Mother-In-Laws condo in Conyers GA.. You could be Home, Yard or Field and I counted myself as Yard even though Conyers is not my home QTH.

I started out on 40 meters with the Buddistick on the mast. I decided to use the Icom 703 with the full five watts this time. I worked a few stations before the 11 AM contest start.  I was very pleased to run into K4MTI Mike Kirby in Panama City just by luck. He gave me a good signal report. My second contest contact was Kelly K4UPG from Orlando. I call him a QRP neighbor. QRP neighbors for Panama City are pretty sparse. Signals were good for mid-day and the states were FL, FL, OH, AL, GA, GA.

So I decided to go to 20 meters and it was nice there as no other contest going on.  I used the Hamstick dipole on the mast for 20. I was very pleased to work WG0AT for the first time. Steve is one of the more famous hams due to his Rooster and Peanut goat videos on YouTube. So the SPCs were NY, OK, ON, CO, NJ, TX, SK, NV, VT, MN, TX, MA, WI, PA, NH. I think the SK in Canada was the longest distance about 1500 miles.

Then it was back to 40 meters. I worked Dave AB9CA/4 another QRP neighbor.  He is in Loxly AL near Mobile. I worked him twice on 40 as the upper part of the band counted as a different band. The states on 40 for the wind up were AL, LA, AL, VA. The band was a mess after dark with RTTY and lots of stations but, they were not doing QRPTTF.

So the total on 40 was 10 and on 20 was 15 for a grand total of 25. It was fun QRP event.

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Eyeball QSO with Astronaut Doug Wheelock KF5BOC

My first and only ISS contact was with CDR Doug Wheelock on 8/29/10. Since I got an invite to hear Doug talk to students in Ashford AL on April 14th. It was a great opportunity to hand deliver the QSL for the contact. Doug visited a number of schools in Alabama and also was on the Rick and Bubba show. 

CDR Wheellock gave a great talk for Ashford students. He said your math problems you do now give you problem solving skills you will use later in life. While Doug was the Commander on the ISS they had to solve a serious cooling pump problem. It took three spacewalks to resolve. And even with that challenge Doug took time to make contacts with schools and hams from the ISS.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

PBMME Video from VA3SIE

I operated from the SEARS rocket launch site in Samson AL last Saturday and bagged one Polar Bear, Martin VA3SIE. It was a QRP to QRP QSO. He was on his KX-1 and I was using my SST at 3 watts. The Polar Bear Ops Yahoo group is at this link.. See Martin's YouTube video from Mount Foymount, ON below. My CW is in the video's audio at about 8 minutes. They were having more appropriate weather for the Polar Bear Midnight Madness Event than us. It felt like 85 degrees at the field.

Here are some photos from the Samson, AL launch site.

Thanks for the video Martin. A very nice day!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

N4KGL Beacon Rocket March 12th Launch

The N4KGL Beacon Rocket was launched at 1733 UTC on March 12th from the SEARS launch site in Samson, AL. The rocket was powered by a Aerotech H123. This picture on the left shows the 33 foot antenna hanging from the rocket. The on-board one watt transmitter was operating on 14.060 The flight time was one minute and 45 seconds. Reports included Ted, AB8FJ who gave it a 579 in Loveland OH, Jim WA2OQJ in Long Island NY, and N0WX Mike Northfield MN. Thanks to all listening including Graham VE3GTC, WJ5O, and  Ron WB3AAL.

I have a photo show at this link and an album at this link.

Thanks to Jim WA2OQJ for a recording. I am thinking about including an altimeter which would give an altitude profile of the flight. With the altimeter it would be a neat idea to change the beacon message at apogee to get a reference point for those recording the beacon.

Thanks to the ground crew including John Hansel K4JGH.

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, February 27, 2011

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park Florida POTA Activation

ham-stick dipole up 20 feet
 I was able to activate a park for Parks On The Air (POTA). The St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is located near Port St. Joe in North West Florida. With the temps approaching 70 degrees and lots of sunshine it could not have been a better day. I started out with my ham-stick dipole for 40 meters and the Sierra which puts out 2 watts on that band. I worked K4AHO Jim in Orlando. I did not have any more luck on 40 meters so I switched to 20 meters with my SST at 3 watts and changed the ham-sticks to 20 meters. It was a tough go a first because There was a DX contest dominating the frequency range of my SST. I did manage too sneak in a contact with DL8UKE. Then things picked up working the FISTS K6JSS/2 station. This was followed by KB3AAG Frank in Delphene, PA and W5HNS, Henry.

Of course the other visitors at the park were interested in the setup at least two thought I was tracking tagged fish. The mast with the ham-stick dipole makes a good combination for this type of ops since it stays within the foot print of the truck.

Wilderness Sierra on my lap shack

Pelican sunning at the park.

N4KGL Radio Beacon Rocket Feb 12th Launch Report

Thanks to all who were listening for the N4KGL/B beacon on 14.060 MHz which was launched at 1730 UTC on Saturday Feb 12th from the SouthEast Alabama Rocketry Society (SEARS) Launch Site in Samson, AL. Here is my report:

The boost on the H123 motor went well and apogee is estimated to be 1500 feet. There was no excessive tilt due to the trailing antenna wire. The ejection charge went off near apogee and the four foot diameter chute deployed. At that point something began free falling. As the items left under the chute were being pushed by the wind I had to keep my weak eyes on that part. The chute part landed three minutes after pushing the button to launch. So I thought there was a three minute hang time for the beacon but that was not the case because the recovered part under the chute was the booster and not the beacon payload. After getting back to the flight line the beacon was still transmitting on the ground. At that point I found my rotatable dipole could null out on the signal and give a line on the beacons direction. I took the SST-20 and started walking around with just a little wire as an antenna. So it was helping the location effort but someone found the beacon payload before I did. The payload was intact and undamaged. There was no damage to the trailing wire. The forces at apogee ejection caused the payload to separate. The payload was connected with a cardboard tube that had two screws instead of a glue joint and the cardboard screws tore from the screws.

Here are the reports

WA2OQJ Jim Long Island NY: warbly signal 559 gone at 1731 I also monitored the Beacon freq. at launch time and within seconds of the quoted launch time 1730 utc I was treated to the sound of N4KGL/B coming out of my FT-817's speaker! 559 sig rpt here in Long Island NY. I give it a 9 tone wise only because the chirpy/warbly sound I could not be sure was from the transmitter itself or the because of the speed of the rocket's ascent.

WJ5O Bill Troy AL: I heard two beacon message ID's abt 41 seconds after the launch....Very clear and easy copy... Ground mounted vertical antenna.

N0WX Mike Northfield MN: Heard the beacon clearly at 17:31z rst 567 some chirp on signal. Strong enough that a qso would have been easy. Had to use narrow filter to block other stations 72 Mike

VE3GTC Graham Embrun, ON: I could occasionally "hear" a signal that would be on the right
frequency and at the right time but could only make out the occasional G
or K or L. The signal report for the Rocket Beacon would be RST 228 or
in SINPO 13442.

AB9CA/4 Dave Loxly, AL: I made a recording from about 1725 to 1735 in case you want to hear what it sounded like from here. I was likely in the skip zone although at one point I hear something in there that could be you. It is just a brief letter that is immediately wiped out by the QRM.

K4KQZ John Columbia TN: No Copy Lots of QRM

I am estimating the beacon was in the air for one minute. It takes 10 seconds to get to apogee based on simulations and then the payload would have taken 50 seconds to fall. That would be 30 feet per second in free fall. The payload had the CG in the center and would have a good bit of drag since the payload would be mostly horizontal. The one minute duration fits with the report from WA2OQJ Jim.

I was very pleased with the reports from NY and MN and in particular W5JO in Troy AL because he would be direct wave instead of skip. So what I have learned is the design of the rocket is appropriate for the task. I will have to rework at the construction so the payload stays with the rocket. The hang time next try would be less maybe two minutes instead of three minutes. The chirp may have been because I am running a 12 V transmitter on 9 volts. The battery was the same one I had done testing with. So a fresh one might do better.

Thanks to all who were listening and thanks to John K4JGH, Cliff K4CTO, Dick K3IJD, and Dr. Roy Houchin and his friend Projestus who assisted in the launch and the recovery. 


Panama City, FL

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

N4KGL Beacon Rocket Launch Planned for Feb 12th

I plan to launch the N4KGL Beacon Rocket at approximately 1730 UTC 11:30 Central on Saturday February 12th from the Samson, AL launch site. The CW Beacon will be on 14.060 and identify as N4KGL/B. The power is 1 watt. The expected altitude is 1500 to 1700 feet and the flight time will be 80 to 100 seconds. If preparations are on schedule I'll send a post to QRPSPOTS.com at 1700 UTC. If there is a change of plans I'll post it to QRPSPOTS.com. I would love to get any reports via QRPSPOTS.com or LaneKG@gmail.com. Please give the UTC time and note any variation of the signal. I will also have my SST QRP rig on at the site and may give a CQ 14.060 + or - after the rocket is recovered.

The launch is with SouthEast Alabama Rocketry Society SEARS www.sears572.com and my N4KGL blog is N4KGL.info.

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, February 6, 2011

N4KGL Beacon Rocket Version 2

 The N4KGL Beacon Rocket has been revised to have an improved payload design and rocket booster. The payload incorporates the toroid transformer instead of the Par Matchbox.  This makes the payload lighter and more streamlined. In the payload top down there is a 9V battery, ID-O-Matic 2 code identifier, 20 meter CW transmitter with 14.060 MHz crystal and the toroid transformer antenna coupler. Near the rocket mid point will be attached the 33 foot wire antenna which will trail the rocket.

The antenna coupler matching is required because the antenna is a end fed half wave having a high impedance and the transmitter output is a low impedance. I may replace the 9V battery with a 11 AAAs to get the power up from 1 watt to 2 watts.

The rocket booster is a 3 inch diameter section with fins having a 38 mm motor tube. It has a dandy transition from 3 inch to the 2.2 inch BT-70 payload tube. The booster will have a 4 foot diameter parachute. I plan to recover the payload and the booster together for now. Thanks for Cliff Oliver of SEARS for loaning me the booster.

I did a simulation with a H123 aerotech reload and I get an altitude of about 1700 feet and a 100 second hang time.  This seems like a good plan.

I am going to test the beacon today by having the payload near the ground and the end of the 33 foot wire about 25 feet high.

If all goes well the maiden launch will be at the February 12th SEARS launch from Samson, AL. I will announce the launch via QRPSpots.


Ground test results from Panama City FL

02/06 18:13N4KGLSignal was a 229 with HF9V on the ground.WB3AAL
02/06 18:0914060.0N4KGL599 into EPA with beam at 30 ft up.WB3AAL
02/06 18:0314060N4KGLvia @N4KGL: N4KGL 14.060 1800 UTC QRP Gnd testing rocket beacon 1w frm FL cpy?N4KGL

Monday, January 17, 2011

What does Sputnik have to do with it?

While we are talking about beacons, Sputnik's four whip antennas formed an angle of 70°. Two were 2.4 meters long and two were 2.9 meters. The radios transmitted a signal that alternated between 20.005 MHz and 40.002 MHz, spending 0.3 seconds at each frequency. If the whips were used in pairs the short set would have been resonate at 29.5 MHz and the long set at 24.5 Mhz. I'd love to see the hookup. Learn more about Sputnik and the role Ham radio played at this link

Sunday, January 16, 2011

N4KGL Rocket Beacon Antenna Test

I tested the end fed half wave with the toroid transformer from the driveway today. The high end was 24 feet up. I worked K3Y/2 SKCC special event station using 2.5 watts. I got a 449 report. He was 910 miles away in Tuckerton, NJ.That is about par for QRP. So I am thinking this arrangement is good enough for the beacon rocket. There really is no way to know the impedance while it is airborne I just want to be as good as I can be to the transmitter.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

N4KGL Beacon Rocket Antenna Coupler

I wound the FT-114-43 toroid with 4 turns on transmitter side and 32 on the antenna side. I setup a sloping half wave with the high end 24 feet high. I could not get the SWR down and the noise bridge had the R near zero. So I started taking off turns on the antenna coil and the SWR got better and better until 19 turns it was about 1.5 to 1 then I shortened the antenna a bit and it went to 1 to 1. This might be a mirage but I'll take it. So I might try to make some contacts with this wire and see if it is an antenna or a dummy load. With the 4.75 ratio I ended up with that would say the antenna has an impedance around 1200 ohms. I did all this testing in the driveway and I may have gotten a couple of passer-bys interested in ham radio.