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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

N4Y 2018 Winter Field Day Report

We had a great experience doing Winter Field Day at Falling Waters State Park, Florida.  The participants were Bob KK4DIV and his stepson Michael, Chris VA3ECO, Dennis WA6QKN and myself N4KGL. Our call was N4Y, the category was 2O, and the section was Northern Florida. Our power output was at QRP levels less than 10 watts and 5 watts on CW. Our power source for the radios were batteries.

Greg N4KGL's tent and 100 ft loop antenna

We arrived Friday, January 26th for the night. The 24-hour event started Saturday at 1PM CST. Both Bob and I had campsites across the road from each other. We both used tents. The social part of the event was fun. Chris volunteered to be the camp cook. He cooked eggs for breakfast and Saturday night he warmed up his wife's chili. Dennis supplied ice cream on Friday Night and key lime pie on Saturday night. Bob's Stepson Michael rode his bike around the park. However, he picked up quite an interest in the radios. Michael made some on-the-air contacts. He is now all fired up to get his license. There were plenty of hands to help with the setup. Tom WB0HBR and his wife Sandy came up on Friday afternoon. 

Michael (future ham) and Chris in the eight-person tent

On the technical side, Bob used his Yaesu FT 817, and an off-center-fed dipole hung from the trees. I used an Elecraft KX3 with a PX3 Spectrum Scope. My antenna was a 100-foot loop 30 feet across and 20 feet vertical supported by three 30 foot poles and fed at the bottom center with some ladder line. My initial plan was to use the Icom AH-4 tuner and an Artcraft adapter box. The box and tuner work fine, but it was just too cumbersome to use for the pace of the event. I switched the Icom tuner for a Chameleon 5 to 1 transformer and used the internal tuner in the KX3.

Chris VA3ECO preparing breakfast. Thanks Chris!
As you would expect QRP takes more effort to make contacts than 100 watts. We did get 20 CW, 21 digital and 20 SSB contacts. I was impressed that Bob's FT 817 with 5 watts got almost all the digital contacts and some on SSB. Our QRP contacts do count twice what it would have been at 100 watts per the rules. 74% of our contacts were on 40 meters. The rest were 13% each on 20 and 80.

Bob KK4DIV operating
Bob used 10 by 10 canopy for his operations. He had a four-person tent that he and Michael slept in.  On my side, we used a 14 by 10 tent for operating and sleeping. It fit the bill. We got several inches of rain Saturday night into the morning. There was some water seeping in on the floor of the eight-person tent. The water chased Chris out to his car as he was sleeping on the floor with a foam pad.

Dennis WA6QKN operating
The event was enjoyed by all, and we would do it again next year. Chris is just down for the Winter from Canada. All this is good practice for the ARRL Field Day in June. I have a reservation for the same site plus the adjacent one. However, I am considering switching to a pair of campsites across the road that are next to a large open field. I feel that Winter Field Day is growing based on the on-the-air activity. We are looking forward to both events in the coming year.

Michael warms his hands
More photos are at this link.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Anticipating Winter Field Day Jan 27/28

In less than two weeks, it will be Winter Field Day. I have a campsite at Falling Waters State Park near Chipley Florida reserved for Friday and Saturday night. WFD is a 24-hour event starting at 1 PM CST Saturday, January 27th. Our call will be N4Y,  category 2O for two transmitters outside. Our ARRL section is Northern Florida (NFL).

Amateur Radio Field Days have an emergency preparedness angle, but they are lots of fun to plan and do. It is also an opportunity for social activity among hams. This WFD I have partners Bob KK4DIV, Dennis WA6QKN, and Chris VA3ECO among others. Bob KK4DIV has the campsite across the road from mine.

Staging the KX3/PX3
I always wanted to do a QRP Field Day. Well, this is my chance. My primary rig will the Elecraft KX3. The WFD rules define QRP as 5 watts on CW and 10 watts peak for digital and phone. The gear will be powered by LiFePO4 batteries from Bioenno. I have enough battery for a 100 watt Field Day so running QRP should not be an issue. An adjunct to the Elecraft KX3 will be the Elecraft PX3 spectrum scope. In addition to spotting signals, it has a text display and a keyboard interface that helps you do PSK-31 without a computer. It also supports keyboard macros that will apply to CW as well. I will run the N3FJP Winter Field Day Log on a laptop.

A view of the 100-foot loop
The antenna will be a 100-foot loop 30 feet across 20 feet vertical fed at the bottom with an Icom AH4 tuner. This antenna takes up only 30 linear feet, needs no trees. and was designed to fit the campsite. The antenna has carried the day many times since ARRL Field Day last June. I am using an ArtCraft box to control the AH-4 from the KX3.

We will be trying for one satellite contact during WFD for bonus credit. We will see if the sats can be worked among the trees. For shelter, I plan to use a Coleman 8 person tent. I am not expecting brutal cold, but there may be some rain. I have spent the least amount of time on what to eat.

Eight Person Tent

Even if you are warm and snug at your shack, N4Y welcomes your call.  For WFD you would be 1H one transmitter at home. If you are going remote for WFD post your plans on the Amateur Radio Field Day Google Plus Community

Friday, January 5, 2018

ARRL 2018 Grid Chase EL79 New Years Day Activation

The 2018 ARRL Grid Chase is a year-long activity focused on working grid squares. The goal is to work as many unique grid squares as possible. Contacts must be uploaded to Logbook Of The World by both parties to get credit. The scores are available on International Grid Chase web page. Scores are reset monthly, but totals for the year will be kept. It is not necessarily a portable event. However, you can generate some interest in your portable ops by activating grid squares with fewer hams. My home QTH in Panama City is EM70. Our neighboring grid square EL79 is mostly salt water. That makes it a good candidate. 

The van with the loop antenna behind it
Dennis WA6QKN and I decided to activate Grid Square EL79 on New Years Day. We chose to travel to St. George Island State Park about 70 miles from Panama City. The park is KFF-0635. The temperature was in the 30s with some wind. To pull this off, we operated Sonic style (ala the TV commercial) which was Dennis and me in the front seats of the van. We used the Icom 7100 with its own battery. The antenna was the 100 ft loop supported by three poles. EL79 is sought by satellite operators who routinely chase grids. So I brought my portable satellite gear. We had a special request from K6FW for a contact from California.

Dennis and escaped the cold in the van."Sonic" style
We planned to start with a SO-50 Sat Pass. Then we allocated two hours on HF followed by a SO-91 Sat Pass. So here is how it went.
  • 4 contacts on SO-50
  • 23 contacts on 40 meters
  • 60 contacts on 20 meters
  • 7 contacts on AO-91
  • 94 contacts total 44 have been confirmed on LOTW
  • According to the Grid Chase page, we had 30 unique gids.
  • There have been 151 QSO for EL79  in Grid Chase
The satellite setup with a Kenwood TH-D72a HT and an Elk antenna.

It started slowly on both 40 and 20 meters. The spots eventually kicked in. On 20 meters it was a monster pileup. So I am calling it a success. The loop antenna has been a winner every time I have used it. Dennis WA6QKN was a great buddy and a big help with antenna setup and logging. So expect a return sometime this year. I also plan to do some activations of EM61 in Alabama. There are not many hams in that grid.

Here is a video covering my portable satellite gear.