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

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 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 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.