Saturday, December 26, 2015

RaDAR Roving at Conservation Park

I changed my original plan to visit Topsail State Park and decided to make a first visit to Conservation Park near Panama City Beach, Florida. Conservation Park has a extensive network of unpaved trails. They make for easy passage and are popular with bike riders. The scenery is mostly pine trees and low brush. I did encounter some small ponds.

This was an opportunity to take Suzy for the walk and use the dog stroller for the gear. The dog stroller can handle quite a load and the top makes for a table. The Alexloop was my only antenna. The loop was on a short piece of pvc conduit above the stroller. My nick name for this affair is the RaDAR Rover. I had the Icom 7100 inside the rover with a battery. I also had a new yaesu FTM-100DR radio that I put on the top of the stroller. I had a two meter ground plane for that radio. It just turns out the RaDAR Rover is very convenient to traverse the trails. There is no setup of antennas at stops. I made a couple of SSB contacts while in motion.

I made contact with Les W8YCM/6Y5 in Jamaica at the trail head on 18.157.5. Then we treked to a convenient spot with a bench. There I did have five contacts. First was Bob WB4BLX in Panama City on 10.113 CW. That was followed by WD8MHT Raul in North Carolina on 10.115 CW. Next I was called by Kelly K4UPG/P in Sanford Florida. That was great, I know Kelly and gave him a heads up I would be on 30 meters. Then on 17 meters SSB I worked 6Y9/100IARU and K9BHP in Chicago. Well that was my five contacts and time to hit the trail.

We made a big loop that returned us to the stop with the bench. On that trail I stopped for one QSO with Chris WD1W in Vermont. He was quite impressed I was using a dog stroller. At the stop I worked Gary KB1WY on 17 SSB. At that point I got a call that my wife needed me. I started out for the trailhead. Along the way and in Motion I had another QSO with Les W8YCM/6Y5. He put 6Y5CN on the mic for another contact. To put a cap on this I heard Budd W3FF tricycle mobile in California. He could hear me somewhat but I had no problem copying him.

Now a new twist on this outing. I used the Koomot app for the first time. I heard about it from RaDAR friend Pat Hopkins. It can record the path or "tour" on a map and show photos where they are taken. This is a interesting way to document a RaDAR outing. Try the link

Also, I have to say Suzy our one year old basset is a natural at RaDAR. She loves heading out on the trail. We put in almost four miles today. She is now taking a well deserved nap.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Planned National Parks On The Air Activation on Jan 1st 2016

I plan to activate the Gulf Islands National Seashore SS08 located on Okaloosa Island, Florida on Jan 1st 2016 from 15:00 UTC to 21:00 UTC.  I will be using 40 - 17 meters CW and SSB. I will operate on or close to HF Pack Frequencies.

The rules for NPOTA activators and chasers is at There are already many planned activations starting on January 1st. Go to and click on all upcoming events.


Greg N4KGL

Sunday, December 13, 2015

National Parks On The Air Test Run

I am pretty excited about the 2016 ARRL National Parks On The Air Event. I have one designated NPS Unit within an hour's drive from Panama City. It is The Okaloosa Island Unit of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. I decided to go ahead and operate from there as a test run for an activation I hope to make at the first of January 2016. If you look at Google Maps the park is not very large. Its main feature is the shoreline on the bay. It is popular with kite surfers.

I had done lots of study of the site using Google Maps. I picked out a picnic area for operating. I wanted to take Suzy of course. A study of the rules says she cannot be on the beach, but can at the picnic area. More on that later. Arriving at the site I had a pleasant surprise. There was a scraggly fifty foot pine with a picnic table beneath it. I could not have asked for better to deploy the Chameleon Tactical Dipole Lite. I shot a line over a high limb with my Big Shot slingshot first thing. The sixty foot legs of the dipole or doublet stretched out perfectly to neighboring palm trees.

A pine in just the right place for the Chameleon Tactical Dipole Lite.

The next antenna I deployed was the Chameleon vertical consisting of a Hybrid base and the MIL Whip/Extension. This amounts to a 18 foot vertical. I wanted it as close to the saltwater as possible. I ran 100 feet of RG-8 coax over a sand dune toward the shoreline. It was still fifty feet from the water. That was OK as I did not want to have a antenna interfering with anyone walking on the shore.

The Chameleon Vertical about 50 feet from the saltwater bay.
My visit coincided with the December RaDAR Roundup and I advertised my plan on for the RaDAR Community. I was able to switch between the vertical and doublet. The rig was the Icom 7100 with a hefty 40 amp-hour battery. The temp was in the seventies. It was mostly overcast with a cool breeze. Bottom line I could not ask for much more from a portable location.

The Icom 7100 control head.
Now for operating. I had a great run of contacts on 17 meters SSB using the vertical. The bay was between me and stations from the Northeast to the Northwest. So  I will give the saltwater some credit for the performance of the vertical. The highlight of the day was a call from RaDAR operator Micky NY2MC. He was deployed on a mountain at a fire tower in New York State. He was using a a Alpha antennas 13 foot whip. We had a nice QSO. It was not a struggle at all. I switched to the tactical dipole briefly and Micky said the vertical was at least a S unit stronger.

The Icom 7100 base, battery and a LDG IT-100 the tool box.
The other string of contacts was a reach back to the Panama City area. This calls for a NVIS antenna and this is where the Tactical Dipole Lite comes in handy. I contacted the club station W4RYZ in Panama City. Bob Leasko was the operator there and he gave me details on the Christmas party at the club that I was missed. I also contacted Vic K4GXV and Bob WB4BLX. WB4BLX was mobile in his truck. I was pleased to get a call from friend Tom WD0HBR in Dothan. He called on his 5 watt QRP station using a fifty foot wire antenna.

The view toward the bay.
I sampled the other bands and worked a few ten meter contest stations. I dialed back the power to five watts and worked. W2JK QRP portable in New York on 14.060. My operating wound up with a QSO with Les W8YCM/6Y5 in Jamaica. You can find Les on 18.157.5 most days now.

I did learn things on the test run. A careful reading of the signs said I needed to pay the "Iron Ranger" a vehicle fee. It was $15 for a week.  I complied and found out the "Iron Ranger" was a pay box. I might want to invest in an annual pass. Anyway, this requirement was missed in my advance research. I just happened to have exactly $15 dollars in my wallet. Late in the day a Sheriff's Deputy drove by and stated NO PETS IN THE PARK! I said I thought dogs could be in the picnic area but not on the beach. He said NO DOGS! So I put Suzy in the truck. It was time to pack up anyway. A park volunteer came by and asked what I was doing and she thought it was cool. She said the officer was in error on the pets policy. She said she would tell the Deputy.

I say this test run for National parks On The Air was a great success. I had more than the ten contacts that are required to activate the NPS unit. I am getting setup with Log Book Of The World which is necessary to claim credit for activating or chasing. I think NPOTA will be very popular. However, you know the tough weather is going to affect operating in the parks in the Northern USA. So it may really get going in the summer of 2016. I hope to return and activate the Okasoola Unit on January 1st or 2nd if weather permits and Suzy does not get kicked out. Hi Hi

Greg N4KGL

Friday, December 11, 2015

RaDAR Roundups Start December 12th 2015

RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. The RaDAR Roundup encourages contacts between RaDAR fixed, field and moving stations. The Roundup will be the second Saturday of the month except April, July and November. The RaDAR Challenge is the first Saturday of those months. If you will be in the field or moving please post your Roundup plans on the RaDAR Ops website twenty four hours in advance if possible. Please exchange grid squares during RaDAR ops. Good luck and be safe!  Note please utilize the RaDAR Ops site  on any day not just the Roundup day. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

National Parks On The Air Is Coming in 2016

The ARRL National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) event runs in parallel with the National Park Service's centennial. The program runs from 0000 UTC January 1, 2016 through 2359 UTC December 31, 2016.

Goals of National Parks on the Air

a) Promote the capabilities of Amateur Radio to the general public through operations at eligible NPS Administrative Units.

 b) Promote the NPS Centennial and the heritage of the National Park System through Amateur Radio.

 c) Encourage portable Amateur Radio operation from as many of the 408 officially-listed National Park Service administrative units and the 25 recognized Affiliated Areas as possible. Checkout this NPOTA/SOTA map.

See the rules at Note: You will have to use Logbook Of The World..This will be nice for Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) operators as activators since there will be a lots of chasers looking for you. 

As far as I can tell, the Okaloosa Day Use Area which is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore is the closest opportunity for me. It is 1.5 hours west of Panama City. There are several other National Seashore sites between here and Mississippi.

The Okaloosa Day Use Area, open from 8:00 am to sunset, is located on the Northside of US Highway 98 near Fort Walton Beach, FL. This quiet water area features white sandy beaches, calm waters, picnic tables, a boat launch, parking, and public restrooms with outdoor showers. Currently, there are no fees collected at this area.

I would like to be there on January 1st to kick off NPOTA. Of course, I can go anytime in 2016 and multiple times as I read it.  I like the fact it has the saltwater bay on the North shore. This will facilitate taking advantage of the saltwater effect for vertical antennas. Some horizontal antennas would also be in order.

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Perfect Day for RaDAR Field Ops

Suzy and I were truly blessed with a beautiful day on Saturday November 28 in Port Saint Joe Florida. The temps were in the seventies and there was an almost cloudless blue sky. I had the day to spend operating as Linda had to work at the CVS Pharmacy in town. I chose Jetty Park which in on the bay at the Marina in Port St Joe. I decided to be a RaDAR field station instead of a moving station this time. I also offered to meet up with hams on a schedule. I had several takers. There was plenty of competing activities this time of year.

I had researched the Jetty Park site via Google maps. I wanted to take advantage of the saltwater by setting up an vertical. It almost always works out that you adjust your plan when you get on the site. I found a parking place that worked out well for Suzy, the gear and the antennas. The spot near the saltwater was seventy-five feet away over a rocky bank. I used the Chameleon Micro Hybrid with the MIL whip mounted on an umbrella stand. It was right on the sea wall. That extra coax came in handy. My first schedule was on 30 meters so I wanted an antenna to cover the low bands. I chose the Chameleon Tactical Dipole Lite. I put twenty feet of camo poles to make a mast which employed the hitch mount on the back of the truck. The two sixty foot wires stretched out nicely from there without getting in anyone's way.

The Chameleon Hybrid Micro base and the MILwhip/extension on the seawall.

The Chameleon Tactical Dipole Lite
Here are a few operating highlights:

  • I did not find Kelly K4UPG near Orlando. I think we were too close for 30 meters at the time.
  • I had scheduled to work a friend Bobby AK4JA in Newnan Georgia on several bands. I worked him barely on 30 meters CW early. I missed him on 17 meters. Later in the day we worked each other on 40 meters CW and 60 meters SSB with good signals. 
  • I worked Mike KM4ELJ on 12 meters CW which was a surprise. He lives in Youngstown Florida. That is quite a distance for ground wave so not sure of the mode of propagation.
  • One motivation for the vertical by the saltwater was to enhance the chance to work Eddie ZS6BNE in South Africa on 12 meters. Eddie could not be reached but his friend John ZS5J was there and we had a solid contact on the vertical. John had a yagi on his end.
  • I had two contacts with John W8JER in Michigan. John and Micky will be coming South to Panama City in January.
I used the Icom 7100 100 watt rig.

The sports-brella came in handy for shade

Craft at the Marina
At the end of the day I had nineteen contacts. 1 on 60 meters, 3 on 40 meters, 4 on 30 meters, 6 on 17 meters, 4 on 12 meters and 1 on 10 meters. I was avoiding the CW DX contest. Suzy really settled in and was sunning among the rocks and greeting the visitors. She happened to find a rib bone at the picnic area. I think it was fresh from the group that just had lunch so I let her have it. It was the first real bone she ever had. She made quite a treat of it. Linda and I had supper at the Sunset Restaurant so she got something out of the trip besides work. I'll be lucky to get out to operate on such a nice day this season. It was a real treat for me.

Sunset over St Joseph Bay

Suzy again!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

An Enjoyable Saturday doing RaDAR!

Saturday morning, I headed to the walking park one mile away with Suzy, I had the KX3 and Alexloop in a backpack. Suzy was distracted by all the scents in the grass next to the road and it was a slow go. So I turned back and picked up the dog stroller will now call a "RaDAR Roller" I added a PVC tube to support the Alexloop. I have found Suzy makes better time with the stroller next to her. Maybe she thinks it is another dog in the pack. I scanned the bands and ended up on 40 meters CW with the Alexloop. I worked a friend I know in Orlando, Jim K4AHO. We chatted for a while and discussed meeting up at the Hamcation in Orlando in February. The Alexloop did the job on 40 meters which is always amazing.

The RaDAR Roller with the Alexloop.
 After I returned to the house, an order from Chameleon Antennas was delivered. It was a Hybrid base and two V1L mobile antennas. This was a special deal since the items have some cosmetic flaws. I said to myself those the two mobile antennas could make a rotatable dipole. I had done similar with ham sticks. To my surprise the V1L looks to have a little bit of a coil loading built in. I happened to have all the other gear to mount it to the hitch of the truck available. So you have to wonder is this going to out perform hamstick dipole. The answer is yes it did!

The rotatble dipole with the Chameleon Hybrid base and two V1L mobile antennas
From my front yard, worked ZL4YL with 599 on 28..027. Nice DX. The rig was the KX3 running 10 watts. I also worked a NP3, a YV4 and New York on 17 meters SSB, a YV6/4 on 12 SSB and HP1IBF on 17 CW. HP1IBF just happens to live in Panama City like me but he is in the country of Panama. Hi Hi! Note I will take a ZL anyday! The Chameleon powered rotatable dipole passes the test with flying colors.

This is what a QSL from ZL4YL looks like.
So the RaDAR Roller and the rotatable dipole are two more tools in the N4KGL RaDAR tool box. These two will likely factor in on my upcoming Saturday in Port St. Joe, Florida, November 28th. I hope to work Eddie ZS6BNE among other RaDAR operators that day. BTW, I heard a ZS today on 17 meters SSB.

Suzy at the park.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Sunday RaDAR Walk

There is a "walking" park one mile from my home. So I walked over with Suzy our basset puppy. I pushed the dog stroller loaded with the Icom 7100 and battery. At the park, I used the Chameleon Hybrid Micro with the MIL whip initially. I worked Bob WB4BLX/M on 17 meters SSB who came over with Vic K4GXV. Both Bob and I worked Dan W2AI in New York on 15 meters SSB. I deployed the 60 foot wire over a tree limb and connected it to the Hybrid Micro. Then I worked AA6AC in Oxnard, California. on 15 meters CW I actually worked him before when I was in Oxnard on a work trip a few years ago. To finish up the five, I worked WB4MED in Bellegrade, Florida on 40 meters CW and then KB3CVO on 17 meters CW.

I did meet one of the walkers in the park. She came over and asked if I needed any help. She asked several times. It seems she thought I might be homeless. I did convince her that I am just a radio hobbyist from the neighborhood. But you know pushing a cart around might look that way. I guess that is "daring to be different" as Eddie says. So with five at the park I departed for home and did work five more from the front yard. So I got in two locations doing RaDAR. RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. Please see the new RaDAR Ops site Eddie ZS6BNE setup at

Sunday, November 8, 2015

N4KGL's On-foot Outing for the November 2015 RaDAR Challenge

The Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) Challenge is sponsored by Eddie ZS6BNE. The rules are published in the SARL Contest Manual. Note, that it is no longer a contest but a challenge. The challenge is unique in that it encourages moveable stations. The stations move specified distance based on the mode of transportation. I chose to move by foot which requires a distance of one kilometer.

In Northwest Florida, we have many good venues for portable and moveable stations. This year I picked the parks in Port Saint Joe, Florida along the Bay Trail. Suzy my basset puppy was my companion. I previously have been on the beaches at St Andrews State Park, but they don't allow dogs on the beach.

The locations in Port St. Joe, Florida
Certainly, moving on foot brings to mind lightweight gear and QRP power. However, I really did the opposite this time. I have a dog stroller which came about because I thought it would be an idea for Suzy. But, I found Suzy has no trouble on one kilometer hikes. Therefore, loaded my Icom 7100 with a 40 amp hour battery in the cart. In addition the cart can anchor a Chameleon whip antenna. So during the challenge, Suzy and I setup a at five locations and made four one kilometer transitions from location to location. I will give you some notes about each location. 

Location 1 was at Pate Park which has some tall pines. I used the Chameleon Tactical Dipole Lite. It has two 60 foot legs. I used a pine tree to setup an inverted vee configuration. I focused on 40 meters because I get help from hams I know nearby. I worked Bob WB4BLX and Vic K4GXV on SSB and CW who were setup at the Bay County Florida EOC. I also worked Jim K4LIX from Callaway Florida, Mike KK4ELJ from Youngstown Florida and Tom WD0HBR in Dothan, Alabama all on 40 meters CW. So having more than enough, I headed to location 2 with the cart and Suzy.

Location 2 was at Jetty Park. It has no trees so I used the Chameleon Hybrid Micro and the MIL Whip/extension. I reestablished contact with Bob WB4BLX and Vic K4GXV at the EOC on 40 meters CW SSB. Signals were very much down compared to the tactical dipole lite at location 1. I also worked Jim K4LIX. I decided to try 20 meters for fun and worked N0KOE in North Carolina CW. I got a 589 report.


Location 3 was at a pavilion over the bay at Pate Park. It is a different antenna challenge having a roof overhead. I ended up draping the tactical dipole along the rafters and the railings. It worked fine. I worked KC1DXD and KC1EVT on 20 meter SSB. I worked WH6LE in North Carolina and KE5AL in Texas on 20 CW. They were doing the SKCC Weekend Sprint. Last was XE2JS in Chihuahua City, Mexico on 17 meters SSB.

Location 4 was in the George Commerce Park area along the bay. I did some meandering in the neighborhood to get the one kilometer distance in. The Chameleon Hybrid Micro has a 60 foot wire if you are not using a whip. I used that wire as a sloper from a pine near the bay. I worked WB7T in El Paso Texas on 10 meters SSB. Then I had a string on 17 meters SSB including K5VWZ Texas, K4GW mobile in North Carolina, KC9PXJ in Illinois, KG5AYF in texas and W8YCM in West Virginia.

Location 5 was back at Pate Park. I setup at a jetty leading out to the pavilion. At this location I had saltwater on both sides. This was a perfect place to use the Chameleon Hybrid Micro and the MIL whip. As vertical polarization can really pay off near the saltwater. It did pay off as I had a string of ten 17 meter SSB contacts to end the day. I won't list them all but they included Gordon KB2SSZ in New York who had gone out doing RaDAR earlier but was back at the shack, Happily, I worked N0OY who was doing pedestrian mobile from Kansas.

I enjoyed doing RaDAR at the Port St. Joe parks and especially Suzy's company. RaDAR is fitting your gear to the venue and your movement plan. The cart and the Chameleon Antennas fit the bill. Of course the next RaDAR Challenge in April will be an opportunity for a different venue and/or different gear. My RaDAR friends including Fred VA3FAL and Tom G0SBW did not have cooperative weather. We will see who may report in at the RaDAR Community on Google+. 

RaDAR can be practiced at any time. It does take some effort to pack up from one location and move to the next but the change of scene and the different antenna challenges are rewarding. Thanks to Eddie ZS6BNE for coming up with the RaDAR concept. Eddie is evolving it over time. Eddie's blog is

Greg N4KGL

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

N4KGL Blog Five Year Anniversary

I have enjoyed blogging here for the past five years. I do it so I won't forget the all the fun I have had doing Ham Radio with many friends. Below are some memorable photos. Thanks to all who follow the blog!

Greg N4KGL

Eyeball QSO with Astronaut Doug Wheelock after our ISS QSO

Hanging an antenna from The St. George Island Lighthouse

Participating in a NM4T Monte Sano Event during the Huntsville Hamfest

Beach setup for the RaDAR Contest

HF beacon rocket launch

Testing two Bravo 7K antennas as a parasitic array at Sandy Point 

Operating from a sand dune at Oxnard Beach California

Operating US Islands event from Shell Island, Florida

The view from Dowdell's Knob in Georgia for SOTA activation 

Practicing for RaDAR Challenge with Suzy

Micky KE8ASK and John W8JER first visit to the Samson rocket launch