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

Sunday, November 8, 2020

N4KGL RaDAR Challenge Report for November 2020

The RaDAR Challenge is very much about making choices. Key choices include the rig/antenna, the venue, and the means of transportation. My choices for the November 7th, 2020 Challenge were:

I chose the Icom IC-705 because it's my new rig, and I better try it out. It weighs a couple of pounds and runs 10 watts. A hundred-watt rig would have made contacts easier, but that is more bulk and weight to carry. 

The new Icom IC-705

I chose the Alexloop magnetic loop for its small size, quick setup, and rapid band changes. It does not require a tuner. That's a good thing since the IC-705 does not have an internal tuner. Would a dipole have done better? Probably, but it takes more time to set up, and it is hard to have a dipole that is resonant for all bands between 40 and 10 meters. Also, the magnetic loop is vertically polarized on the horizon. That fits in with my choice of venue.

My Alexloop is the ultimate in portability.

I chose St. Andrews State Park as my venue in-part because it gives me access to the saltwater shore. The saltwater effect will boost your HF signals. That is a good choice if you run low power. This effect applies to vertical polarization, and I have that with the Alexloop.

Saltwater is your friend for QRP.

I chose to ride my bike. The required distance is two kilometers. My rides took about eleven minutes. I strapped the Alexloop case and my tripod for the loop to the luggage rack on the bike. I carried the rest in my backpack.

The Alexloop in its bag and the tripod on my bike.

The goal is to make five contacts and move. Making five contacts with ten watts and a mag loop can be tough when you need them in a hurry. So you have to leverage anything that will help. My leverages included:

I got a little help from my friends. My first contact was a local ham Bob WB4BLX. He found me on 20 CW. My second contact was Myron WV0H in Colorado on the same band. I also worked a couple of friends on two-meter FM Simplex, Frank W4IMH, and Bob N4RJJ. I got a 20 meter SSB call from Bob KK4DIV, who was doing RaDAR in a Conservation Park a few miles away. A RaDAR to RaDAR contact is awesome. I must also thank Dennis WA6QKN for help setting up and logging. It was a team effort.

I used CW for about half of my contacts. CW can help out when you are doing low power portable. It is definitely worth learning if you do QRP. It happened to be the Weekend Sprint for the Straight Key Century Club. They always want my SKCC number.

I took advantage of Parks On The Air or POTA since I was in a state park. I put in some spots on the POTA website. I got a few contacts that way, but not the usual pile-up. Note that it is work to get their grid square when they don't expect to give it out.

I also checked in with the 17 meters group on 18.157.5.  I worked Bud W3FF tricycle mobile and VP2IMI in the Caribbean there.

In summary, I operated at four stops and took three bike rides in four hours. That was twenty contacts in total. The bands included 40 CW & SSB, 20 CW & SSB, 30 CW, 20 CW and SSB, 17 SSB and 15 CW. There was quite a lot of activity on 17 meters and some on 15 meters. So, solar cycle 25 is helping out as well. 

So frankly, it takes a bag of tricks and good luck to make those RaDAR contacts when you need them. The Alexloop came through. Our reports were sometimes weak but copiable and sometimes S9 on the other end. It is a challenge to break pile-ups with a mag loop. I did not spend long trying. The Alexloop has a special place in my antenna repertoire since it is the most portable of the lot.

My advice is to do lots of portable work, try lots of gear, and see what you like. Eventually, your skills, your equipment, and knowledge of the HF bands will mesh. Then you will be in the flow zone for the four hours and have a satisfying experience doing Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR).

Dennis WA6QKN at our favorite picnic table by the Grand Lagoon.




Friday, November 6, 2020

Retired Life: Camping and Ham Radio

Linda and I decided we would do camping in our retirement which started in March of this year. We now have a twenty-four-foot Coachman Spirit trailer to enjoy. Towing and setting up a trailer has been a big learning experience for me. Starting last Saturday, we camped four nights at Three Rivers State Park on the Florida side of Lake Seminole. Our first trip with the trailer was a success.

Our trailer at campsite 13 at Three Rivers State Park

Of course, any campsite is a portable operating opportunity. In particular, State or National Parks qualify for Parks On The Air, POTA program. Three Rivers State Park is POTA K-1922. I decided to try the new Icom 705 with the Elecraft KXPA100 Amplifier for this activation. The antenna was the SOTABeams 40-30-20 link dipole. 

I used the Icom IC 705 and the Elecraft 100 watt Amp

It turns out POTA has a large pack of hungry hunters. I got several pile-ups going. In particular, the hour before sundown on 40 meters SSB pulled in sixty contacts in one hour. I had 172 contacts in all including nine park-to-park contacts.

A view of Lake Seminole



Suzy has claimed the bed for her R&R.

N4KGL RaDAR Challenge Plans for Saturday 11/7

My four-hour window for the challenge will start between 1500 to 1600 UTC, 9 to 10 am CST. The venue will be at St. Andrews State Park near Panama City, FL. I plan to take advantage of the saltwater effect on the Grand Lagoon on the Northside.  There are a picnic table and a pier right on the saltwater. It will be any which way I can to get five contacts to allow me to move to the next stop. Dennis WA6QKN will assist.  I'll be riding my bike two kilometers between stops.


My rig will be the Icom 705 and the Alexloop. I will check the high bands for intercontinental RaDAR DX. Eddie ZS6BNE, I see on VOACap there might be a path to South Africa on 10 meters. I do like 17 meters for RaDAR in particular 18.157.5 USB. On CW, I'll try 14.061,18.071, 21.061, and 28.061. Look for me on RBN or Ham Alert. The park is POTA K-1917. Check for my spots at https://pota.us/#/.  I will also be looking for local contacts on HF and two meters FM on 146.565 simplex. I'll give updates on the local 145.210 repeater. Note, I would like your six-digit or more grid square in the exchange. 

RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio founded by Eddie ZS6BNE in South Africa. See the RaDAR Challenge rules at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/  Go out portable and give RaDAR a try or chase us RaDAR ops. RaDAR to RaDAR is an exciting goal.

Good Luck and be safe,

Greg N4KGL



Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Skeeter Hunt 2020 for N4KGL

Skeeter Hunt is an annual QRP event sponsored by the New Jersey QRP Club  I operated outdoors portable from Dothan, AL. The temps were in the 90s but picking a shady spot helped. Tom WD0HBR allowed me to use the vacant lot next to his Mother's house. My rigs were the Wilderness Sierra kit on 40 meters and a Wilderness SST-20 kit on 20 meters. The antenna was the 68-foot end-fed that Myron WV0H built for me. I enjoyed spending time with Tom who helped me copy the weak sigs. Suzy enjoyed the afternoon as well. It was a pleasure running into my friend  Bobby AK4JA from Georgia on 40 meters. I had 18 contacts of which 14 were fellow skeeters. The rest were 100-watt stations. The Skeeters were not as plentiful as they could have been due to conditions, but enough for a fun afternoon. 



The Sierra and the SST-20, both are Wilderness kits I built.

Suzy relaxing in the shade




Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Saltwater Effect Presentation

I have taken advantage of the so-called saltwater effect for vertical antennas while operating QRP portable right on the shoreline around Northwest Florida. My presentation discusses an attempt to quantify the saltwater effect using the Weak Signal Propagation Reporter WSPR beacons. The initial data shows the advantage of operating on the saltwater shore. I used a Microsoft Access database to provide data analysis. I am looking for collaborators to continue his experiments and make them more rigorous. This talk was prepared for the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo and played on August 9th, 2020.



I have created a groups.io group for the saltwater effect. Send an email to saltwatereffecthamradio+subscribe@groups.io to subscribe. If you want to share your experience using the saltwater effect post there. I am open to collaborating on data analysis and future experiments.

Greg N4KGL

Friday, August 7, 2020

Saltwater Effect Talks on the QSO Today Ham Expo

 Learn how operating near the saltwater shore can enhance your portable operating experience!


Tom Robinson Saltwater Amplifier Talk in Track 2 on Saturday 8 August 3:15 pm CDT

Greg Lane Saltwater Effect Talk in Track 2 on Sunday 9 August 1:15 pm CD


Register for the expo at

Friday, July 10, 2020

N4KGL Plans for the 11 July RaDAR Challenge

N4KGLwill operate RaDAR Challenge from Opal Beach on Santa Rosa Island in Northwest Florida. The island is very narrow with the Gulf of Mexico on the Southside and Santa Rosa Sound on the Northside. We will use a vertically polarized antenna to take advantage of the saltwater effect. Since the IARU HF Championship Contest will be underway, we will check 17 meters first, then 40 or 20 meters.  We will use low power and be on foot. Doing RaDAR, we will make five contacts and move one kilometer to the next stop, and repeat for four hours. Our start time is around 1600 UTC.

Opal Beach is part of the National Parks Gulf Islands National Seashore and Parks On The Air. K-0661. We will spot to https://pota.us/#/ You can also set up your HamAlert for N4KGL  We welcome all chasers and especially RaDAR to RaDAR contacts. If you are out doing RaDAR or chasing, let me know via lanekg@gmail.com



RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. The Challenge rules are at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/ Thanks to Eddie ZS6BNE for the RaDAR concept. Good luck, and stay safe! 

Dennis WA6QKN and Greg N4KGL


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Amateur Satellite Contact with a HT and a Whip Antenna

This is the case of many ideas coming together from hams that share. I discovered the RH-770 antenna while reading. 
"VHF, Summits and More: Having Fun With Ham Radio" by Bob Witte K0NR. Bob has had success with this extra-long antenna doing VHF SOTA activations. I bought the HYS BNC model on Amazon for $17. 

The HYS BNC RH-770 telescoping whip antenna

My handheld radios have SMA connectors. I was tipped off by Bradford K6LCS on work-sat.com about the Gulyas SMA to BNC adapters. I feel pretty good that I can manage such a long antenna with the Gulyas adapter on my HT. The RH-770 is about a yard long. It telescopes and is not that heavy. A check on two-meter simplex has confirmed much that the HY-770 outperforms my other HT antennas, even the longer ones.

The Gulyas SMA to BNC Adapter

Given the enhanced performance of the RH-770 antenna, I wondered if I could use it to work one of the FM birds like AO-91 or AO-92. So I dashed out to the front yard for a pass of AO-91. I was using the RH-770 and my Yaesu FT-60 handheld. I use a speaker/mic to allow me to move the antenna around for the best reception and still talk.

The Yaesu FT-60 Handheld HT, speaker/mic and antenna.

On this pass, Denny K5DCC was on. I enjoy listening to Denny's interviews on the Digicomm Cafe Radio On The Rocks Podcast. Denny promotes the sats on his shows and often interviews hams he meets on the birds. I gave Denny a shout, and he called me back just as AO-91 was going out of range. I held the FT-60 over my head and vertical at that point.

The RH-770 Whip collapsed

Any time I make an FM sat contact, I consider it a stroke of luck due to the congestion on the passes. Thanks for the QSO, Denny.  I'll see if I can repeat this feat again. It is much easier to grab the HT with a whip instead of my Elk log-periodic antenna.

73,

Greg N4KGL

Confirmation of my K5DCC contact on LOTW.



Tuesday, April 7, 2020

April 2020 RaDAR Challenge Report

Here in Florida, we are under a Stay-At-Home order due to the Coronavirus. This thwarts all social activity. In particular, the beaches and state parks are closed. Fortunately, recreation like cycling is allowed. So Dennis and I made our RaDAR Challenge plans and chose Conservation Park near Panama City Beach as our venue. This park has miles of trails suitable for bikes.

N4KGL pulling the gear with a bike trailer.

I chose to go with the Icom 7100 as our HF rig. The antenna was the SOTA Beams Band Hopper link dipole supported in the center by the SOTABeams Tactical 7000 telescoping pole. I brought an angle iron stake with a small hammer to pound the stake in the ground. As you can imagine this is not backpack gear. I loaded the rig in a toolbox that fits on my bike trailer. I also put a 40 amp-hour Bioenno LiFePO4 battery in the toolbox. I could have gone with the Elecraft KX2 in the backpack but nevertheless, I brought the big guns. In addition, I packed a Kenwood D710 into the toolbox for VHF. It will do packet comms with its built-in TNC. It is also a full-duplex radio for the FM satellites. I brought a SOTAbeams Travel mast and a rollup J Pole for the VHF antenna.



Local contacts are valid for RaDAR. We made a lot of those of VHF and HF. It is nice to involve my nearby ham friends in the RaDAR experience.

We rode our bikes to the first stop at EM70BG22 and setup. The four-hour clock started at 10 am. I manned the radio and Dennis did the logging. We worked W4IMH, W4NNO, and N4ROJ on two-meter FM simplex. Frank W4IMH was about 40 miles away in Fountain, Florida. To finish the five we worked two Missouri QSO Parrty stations on 40 meter SSB.

N4KGL at one of the spots

At the second stop at EM70BG26, we worked my RaDAR friend John VA3KOT in Southern Ontario on 20 meters CW. The next three were QSO Party stations on 20 meters SSB and the last contact was Mark KD4IMA on two meters simplex.

At the third stop at EM70BG19, we tried the Noon pass of the AO-92 and AO-91 FM Satellites. The rollup J pole did a fair job on receiving. I heard myself of the downlink at times. However, with the congestion on the satellites, we had no luck. We then worked Bob WB4BLX and Rick NZ2I on two-meter simplex and also on 40 meters CW. The last contact was Nebraska also on 40 meters CW.

WA6QKN with a mask
We doubled back for the fourth stop at EM70BG26. At this stop, we tried a two-meter packet contact with Bob KK4DKT in Lynn Haven. Despite the luck we had on simplex voice we could not connect with packet. We did pick up KK4DIV, N4STC, on two-meter simplex. On 40 meter SSB, we got KK4DIV, N4STC, and KD4IMA. We stayed on since he four hours was winding up and we worked George W4GHG in Lynn Have and a Tennesse and Louisiana contact out of town.

One of our transitions on bikes

Our bike transitions of two kilometers took about ten minutes. I estimate our setup and teardown were about 15 minutes each. With the support of local hams, it did take long to get the five contacts. We got in four stops in four hours. The toolbox packed with radios and battery is my go box for emergencies. Two-meter simplex, as well as HF, worked well for local contacts. There were friends around the country looking for us but missed us. Spotting ourselves proves difficult.

Chris VA3ECO has taken up RaDAR and was out for three hours and did two locations. There is still snow on the ground up there in Ontario, Eddie ZS6BNE had success on the satellites in South Africa. See his blog.

With the Corona situation giving us cabin fever, it was enjoyable to get a dose of radio and exercise outdoors doing the RaDAR Challenge.

73

Dennis and Greg




Friday, April 3, 2020

Our RaDAR Challenge Operations are On for April 4th!

The RaDAR Challenge is a portable amateur radio operating event with movement between deployments via foot or various conveyances. Operate in a four-hour window of your choosing in the UTC day. No specific venue is required, although parks are a natural choice. You may operate any band and mode except repeaters. Satellite and digital contacts are encouraged with bonus points. You must make five contacts to move to the next location. The rules are available at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/.

The April 2020 RaDAR Challenge is this Saturday. Normally we would be operating from a State Park, but the Governor closed the State Parks due to the COVID-19 situation. Per the Gov. DeSantis' 4/1/2020 Executive Order "Essential Activities" as: "Participating in recreational activities (with social distancing guidelines) such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, running, swimming, and taking care of pets." Therefore I believe RaDAR is essential. Fortunately, Conservation Park in Panama City Beach is open. There are miles of dirt trails for hiking or bike riding. This park is an excellent fit for RaDAR.




Dennis WA6QKN and Greg N4KGL are doing the RaDAR Challenge on the Osprey Trail in Conservation Park. We will ride bikes between stops carrying our radio gear. Our callsign will be N4KGL and our four-hour window will start at 10 AM CDT or 1500 UTC. We must make five contacts to move down the trail. The required distance on bikes is two kilometers or 1.2 miles. We will look for contacts anyway we can get them that includes RaDAR to RaDAR, local contacts or search and pounce. Our first choice for HF is 40 meters followed by 20 and 17 meters, CW will be around 7.030 and SSB is TBA. On VHF we will announce our ops on the 145.210 Repeater. Simplex contacts will count so switch over to 146.565 FM to work us. We can work you on multiple bands modes and multiple stops.

If you will be operating RaDAR or chasing us sent me an email at lanekg@gmail.com and I will send updates to your email. We appreciate the efforts to find us. It can be challenging.

Have a great weekend and have fun on the radio.

Dennis WA6QKN and Greg N4KGL.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Get Ready for the Next RaDAR Challenge April 4th 2020

RaDAR Is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio


The next RaDAR Challenge is April 4th, 2020 UTC. RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. Movement is encouraged between deployments via foot or various conveyances. Operate in a four-hour window of your choosing. No specific venue is required although parks are a natural choice. You may operate any band and mode except repeaters. Satellite and digital contacts are encouraged with bonus points. Remember it is five contacts and move. Get into the flow zone. Detail rules are available at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/


I encourage all hams to participate  Let us know your plans and results. Good luck and be safe!

Greg N4KGL
www.N4KGL.info




Tuesday, February 18, 2020

POTA and RaDAR on the Florida Gulf Coast

Chris VA3ECO, Dennis WA6QKN, and I had a fun adventure Saturday, February 15th operating Parks On The Air and riding our bikes. We met at Grayton Beach State Park and set up at a pavilion next to the lake. I had all my gear, including an Icom 7100 and a battery in my bike trailer. Dennis and I unpacked the tuner and poles and set up a 39-foot antenna wire. My 25-foot pole supported the far end. The rig end had a six-foot pole to raise the wire above the ground.  The radiator came down the short pole and was terminated at the tuner. We spread out a couple of 30-foot counterpoise wires on the sand. I put a spot on the POTA site. The contacts on 40 SSB came quickly. We stopped at 22 since we wanted to start our bike ride to the next park. Chris had a 17-foot telescoping whip mounted to his bike and his Yaesu 857 in the basket. It did not fair very well on PSK due to RF feedback problems. Chris did get an SSB contact on 20 meters. 


Our modest 39-foot wire antenna faired well.
We discovered that Highway 30-A toward Top Sail Hill State Park was closed. Therefore we rode seven miles East to Deer Lake State Park. The hour journey took us through the Watercolor seaside community. At lunchtime, there were throngs of pedestrians and other bikes on the path. The bell on my bike came in handy to part the crowd.

Staging our bikes at Grayton Beach
Deer Lake State Park has a boardwalk out to the beach. Dennis and I set up at a bench stop along the way. We strapped the 25-foot mast to the railing. Once again, we spotted ourselves on the POTA site for 40 meters SSB. We had a flood of 66 contacts in that many minutes. Chris set up his bike station further along the boardwalk. He moved the whip to the bike handlebars and got eighteen contacts on 20 meters SSB.


Chris VA3ECO operating his RaDAR equipped bike 

We all felt good that we took advantage of some beautiful blue sky weather, played with radios, and got some exercise. We made almost one hundred Parks On The Air contacts altogether. I believe the bike, trailer, and Icom 7100 are viable for the RaDAR Challenge. Our ride between parks would take up two of the four hours. However, doing multiple parks also fits into the Florida State Parks on the Air Contest on the same weekend. We have a month to mull over the options. The RaDAR Challenge is April 4th of this year.

The beach scene at Deer Lake State Park

The bike ride between Grayton Beach and Deer Lake State Parks

Friday, January 31, 2020

N4Y Winter Field Day 2020 Outing from Falling Waters

This year we had a setup similar to previous Winter Field Days at Falling Waters State Park near Chipley, FL. At campsite 5, Linda and I had a camper. We also had a tent for operating. Chris VA3ECO and Dennis WA6QKN used the tent for sleeping quarters. Tom WD0HBR and Sandy joined the group for Friday set up and dinner at the Mexican restaurant in Chipley. George W4GHG brought his family on Saturday and made his first out of town HF contacts. Bob KK4DIV and Carla had a tent site and station at the other end of the campground. Visitors included Frank KC8VKA and Rick NZ2I.

Dennis WA6QKN in operating tent

The N4Y class/category was 2O. We used non-commercial power. Chris helped out with a satellite contact for 1500 bonus points. This year, I created a logging program I call Cycle 25 Logger. It worked well enough. A couple of improvements were noted.

Carla and Bob KK4DIV camping and operating.
We balanced our time among eating, socializing, and operating. Chris warmed up Margot's Canadian Chili Saturday night. Chris also cooked eggs for breakfast. We found plenty of activity on the 80, 40, and 20-meter band. However, 15 meters was dead, which could have boosted our multiplier of 9X. Digital PSK-31 contacts were our biggest point maker.



Here is Bob KK4DIV's excellent video on Winter Field Day



The experience was enjoyed by all. We plan to combine camping and radio for the Florida QSO Party from Three Rivers State Park near Sneads, FL in April 2020.


The Falling Water's namesake


Monday, January 6, 2020

My Solar Cycle 25 Reboot

I am attaching some significance to Solar Cycle 25 for my ham radio experience. I got my Novice and upgraded to general during Solar Cycle 20. However, I took a 25-year break from the hobby and missed the peaks for Solar Cycle 21, 22, and 23. In 2008, I got relicensed and I have been active during Solar Cycle 24. I see the upcoming Solar Cycle 25  as a great opportunity to personally enhance my amateur radio experience. I have not pursued aspects like contesting, DX, or Awards. So I should at least dabble and keep records in those activities.

My Splash Screen

Keeping records is my weakness even though I design databases at work. So my Cycle 25 Resolution is to log my contacts. There are dozens of computer log programs out there. However, since I have so much database experience, I will create a logging database for my own purposes. The first phase is to design the schema, tables, fields, and relationships. The more complete and correct the schema is, the easier creating the application or GUI will be. I actually teach a class on this at work.

My database schema diagram for Cycle 25 logging
The schema is coming along see the relationship diagram. You may glean something from it even if you have not studied databases. I am attempting to cover activations like POTA, RaDAR, Winter and ARRL Field Days, and Satellite Contacts for starters. Unfortunately, every activity and contest is a little different and will require specific fields to support them. Since I can write my own queries against the database, I can do statistics for each activity and overall statistics.

I also have considered multi-station operating at Field Days. It would be nice to use a networked central database for logging. I hear this is really tough to pull off in the field. Therefore, I am looking at an approach to synchronize copies of the logging database via sneakernet every few hours. This is a KISS approach. The database will be implemented in Microsoft Access since I have so much experience with that tool.

Solar Cycle 25 has not been officially started yet, although there are hints that it is on the way. A couple of Cycle 25 sunspots have been spotted. We just have to have faith it will start at all. It is up to the Sun. I am looking forward to it.