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

Thursday, August 12, 2021

My APRS Pico Balloon Flight, July 2021

I launched a pico balloon from Oklahoma on July 20th, 2021. It carried a Skytracker payload developed by Bill Brown, WB8ELK. I got APRS reports from it for ten days. The SSID was N4KGL-11. It cruised above 28,000 feet and gave us much entertainment. Boy, this pico balloon flight was fun!


The launch was over Keystone Lake at Keystone State Park, Oklahoma

The ten-day flight started in Oklahoma did a trip to Mexico and back, then to the Gulf of Mexico, and was last heard from in Colorado. 


This is the solar-powered Skytacker payload developed by Bill WB8ELK It only weighs 12 grams.


The balloon Bill supplied was similar to a party balloon. It was underinflated intentionally. I used a party tank of helium from Walmart. It had about three grams of free lift beyond the weight of the payload. 

A short launch video.

Here is a recorded talk for Beginner's Academy. I gave about the experience.



Saturday, August 7, 2021

Our Month-Long Camping and Ham Radio Adventure, July 2021

Linda, Suzy, and I took a month-long camping adventure that was a mash-up of camping, family, sightseeing, and ham radio. The primary motivation was to visit relatives in Kansas and Oklahoma. We camped in a 24-foot travel trailer. All our stops were at state parks. I planned the stops to be a little over two hundred miles apart to make the travel not so taxing. Of course, this was a great opportunity to activate each state park on the journey for the Parks On The Air (POTA) program.



I really had to make some choices among my rigs and antennas. Even the weight of the ham gear becomes a factor when towing a trailer. I choose the Icom 705 for QRP with an option to use the Elecraft KXPA100 to get to 100 watts. The antennas were the Alexloop mag loop, SOTABeams Band Hopper link dipole, and the N6BT Bravo 7K vertical. With this gear, I could pick and choose based and the time and space I had at each campsite. 

The 100-watt setup at Lake Lurleen State Park in Alabama

POTA is one of my favorite portable outdoor activities. I had a great time activating the state parks. I did thirteen activations among the nine state park stops for 482 contacts total. The POTA hunters were very appreciative of my activations. I appreciate their help. 

My POTA Activations



I was also chased by ham friends from Florida, Canada, and Colorado.

Contacts with friends via Ham Radio

Along the way, I operated in the Summer RaDAR Challenge from Stockton State Park Missouri, 


and the Flight of the Bumblebees from Keystone State Park, Oklahoma. 



The highlight of the trip was launching an APRS pico-balloon payload from Oklahoma. I tracked it on APRS for ten days. I'll do a separate post with the details.


Our goal was met with a week's stop in both Kansas and Oklahoma for visiting relatives. Linda and I also visited Elvis's Birthplace in Tupelo, Missippii, and his Graceland home in Memphis. We enjoyed the Museum of the Automobile next to Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas.

A view of Lake Bailey at Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas

Linda on the porch swing at Elvis's birthplace home in Tupelo, Missippii

Suzy had many walks to meet and greet other campers. She also claimed the bed and the couch in the trailer as hers.

Suzy in the trailer



73,

Linda and Greg




Tuesday, June 29, 2021

ARRL Field Day at East Bank Campground in Georgia

Linda and I are trailer camping during our retirement. So a campground was our Field Day venue. I chose East Bank COE Campground on Lake Seminole. It is not that close to Panama City or Dothan, but it did have ample green space for antennas. 


Site A-10 at East Bank Campground

Fortunately, Rick NZ2I came all the way from Callaway, Florida, to join me to make a two-person 1B GA entry.

Rick NZ2I, a great friend

We made use of a Clam Venture screen shelter that was very easy to set up and did fine. We also made use of an Icy Breeze portable air conditioner. We had one brief shower when setting up. Otherwise, the weather was good but hot. 

The new Clam Venture Screen Shelter


My setup this time was the Icom 7100 and three antennas, an Inverted L with the Icom AH-4, the SOTABeams 40-30-20 link dipole, and the Bravo 7K vertical. Rick NZ2I arrived about an hour before the start and helped finish the antenna installs.


The Bravo 7K vertical did great to the West Coast and Canada


During the day, we had plenty of contacts on 20 meters. Rick made some phone contacts. Each antenna did well, including the vertical. Unfortunately, the PL-259 on the AH-4 got erratic and then failed. The other two antennas carried on. Unusual for me, I had some success with PSK-31 on 20 meters. 

The Icom 7100 was the rig this year.

A prospective ham from nearby Grand Ridge came by. He saw us on the Field Day Locator. He has been doing quite a bit just receiving with a Baofeng, including satellites. We think he is pretty close to getting his license. 

We had a couple of visitors

We took a liberal supper break and had pizza. Rick cooked apple cinnamon dessert using his dutch oven. It was delicious. Then we got on 40 meters and finished out one hundred contacts, including Myron WV0H in Colorado on CW. 



On Sunday morning, we got sixty-six more contacts. 15 meters opened up, and that's always exciting. We had enough fun to call it done by 10 am. Rick needed to get back to Callaway, FL. My attempt for the satellite bonus failed. I tried the 70-degree elevation pass of AO-91. I heard myself briefly through the satellite but no luck with getting a contact.

It is nice to hear wall-to-wall activity on HF. Ham radio is very much alive, CW phone and digital. So hopefully, every ham got a taste of Field Day. Make sure you got it covered next year. If you don't like the heat, there is always Winter Field Day. Bob KK4DIV and I have reservations for Pine Log State Forrest for Winter Field Day near Panama City. Come join us!

Sunset over Lake Seminole


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Camping, POTA, and a Ham Buddy Reunion, Mobile, Alabama

My camping plans for Meaher State Park this May at Spanish Fort, AL near Mobile, served several purposes. First, it was an opportunity to catch up with two of my ham buddies from my teenage days growing up in Dothan, AL. The Mobile Hamfest on Saturday was our gathering place. Forrest is a lawyer in Mobile and Curtis is a semi-retired broadcast engineer in Lucedale, MS. This reunion was fifty years in the making. It was very enjoyable to remember our early ham days and find out what these two have been doing since. My third buddy, Lionel, could not come this time, but another reunion is in order for all of us.

Teenage Ham Buddies: Left to right, Greg, Curtis, and Forrest

Meaher State Park is POTA reference K-1047. I set up my Icom 7100 and the SOTABeams 40-30-20 link dipole made fifty-eight SSB contacts for the park activation. 




Some research revealed that the Mobile-Tensaw Delta Wildlife Management Area, K-3699 starts right across the highway from Meaher. The Five Rivers Delta Resource Center is part of the wildlife area and that is where I set up. It just happens K-3699 had never been activated. My first activation of K-3699 was a test of the new Alexloop HamPack. I set up at a park bench and ran the Icom 705 at ten watts. I got nine SSB contacts and four CW contacts for the activation. See the YouTube video below for my experience with the Alexloop HamPack developed by Alex, PY1AHD. Later, I returned for a second K-3699 activation and got exactly one-hundred contacts, The bands were pretty good. I did a park to park with G-0022 Langstone Harbour Conservation Reserve in England.



So I guess this camping thing is working out. There is much more camping planned this summer. 

Linda and I enjoyed the sunset at Meaher.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Dennis Walker WA6QKN Is A Silent Key

It is a great sadness to learn that Dennis Walker, WA6QKN, passed away on June 12th, 2021. Dennis was 74 years old. He grew up in California and served in the Air Force. He worked many years at the Navy Lab in Panama City as a civil service employee. Dennis retired from the government but continued to work for defense contractors until recently. A number of years ago, Dennis overcame a severe bout with cancer. 


Dennis's favorite hobby was ham radio. He was involved with repeaters and packet radio in the past. In recent years, Dennis enjoyed operating amateur radio on the outdoors. Dennis and I enjoyed many outings together, putting parks and islands in the air. Dennis was the ultimate friend, a team player, and was always ready to help others. Dennis is survived by his wife, Lana.


If you follow this blog and my YouTube channel you have seen that Dennis and I had lots of fun together. He is greatly missed.

Greg N4KGL

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Florida QSO Party From Falling Waters State Park

The object of the Florida QSO Party is for all stations to work Florida and Florida stations to work everyone. Florida counties are multipliers. Some counties don't have hams active in the party. Mobiles usually operate in those counties as they rove across the state. Washington County is one of the more rare counties. Since I was camping in Washington County, I was in the Expedition Category. I got plenty of kudos for handing out Washington County. On Saturday, we had a heavy thunderstorm for the first few hours. After the storm passed, I operated from the truck since everything outside was wet. I got fifty SSB contacts. Sunday was a better weather day and I worked 122 more contacts. I had 23 Florida Counties, 39 states, Italy, and the US Virgin Islands. That was enough to feel like the portable station was doing well. I used the Icom 7100, an Icom AH-4 tuner, and a one-hundred-foot inverted-L antenna on 30-foot poles.

My portable setup with Suzy enjoying the sun.

I certainly will keep the Florida QSO party on my list. The setup is a good one for doing Parks on The Air while camping with our travel trailer.

 

My Icom AH-4 Remote Tuner



The poles supporting the Inverted L extend into an adjacent field.

a

Friday, April 9, 2021

April 2021 RaDAR Challenge Report

For this RaDAR challenge,  I chose to operate from Solomon Park near my Dothan, Alabama home. The weather was perfect for operating outside. My video below shows my setup time was ten minutes. I used the SOTABeams Band Hopper link dipole supported by a SOTABeams Tactical 700 telescoping pole. It took a while to get my first five contacts. Conditions were not that good. Then I made a one-kilometer walk, returned to the park, and finished with five more contacts. 



On 20 meters CW, I worked John VA3KOT in Ontario. He was not operating portable due to their COVID lockdown. John suggests there could be a Canadian chapter of RaDAR. Sven VA3SVN sent a note he and a friend operated portable during the challenge. Chris VA3ECO had an adventurous RaDAR Challenge from his island location in Ontario. Please watch the videos below. 



Note, RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio which originated in South Africa by Eddie ZS6BNE and his friends. Eddie gave a talk on RaDAR at the March 2021 QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo. Also, see http://radarops.co.za/


Chris VA3ECO


N4KGL's 2021 POTA Chase Royale

I plan to do Parks On The Air (POTA) activations while camping at seventeen state parks in 2021. I’ll keep a tally of on-the-air contacts I make with friends and local club members. Please register with me at lanekg@gmail.com to get my schedule and receive notifications. The next activation will be at the end of June.


For the POTA Chase Royale I’ll give out points as follows.

·       From Home: One Point per Band per Day per Park

·       Park to Park: Two Points per Band Per Day per Park

I’ll share a spreadsheet of your scores as we go. I will issue certificates at the end of 2021. Of course, my logs will be uploaded to the POTA Database for your hunting credit. Find out more about POTA at parksontheair.com



If all goes as planned, I will visit the following parks:

Cheaha SP, AL
Clinton SP, KS
East Bank COE, GA
F. D. Roosevelt SP, GA
Falling Waters SP, FL
Frank Jackson SP, AL
Keystone SP, OK
Lake Charles SP, AR
Lake Lurleen SP, AL
Meaher SP, AL
Oak Mountain SP, AL
Petit Jean SP, AR
St George Island SP, FL
Stockton SP, MO
T. O. Fuller SP, TN
TomBigbee SP, MS
Top Sail SP, FL
Unicoi SP, GA


Friday, March 5, 2021

Get Ready for the next RaDAR Challenge April 3rd, 2021

The next RaDAR Challenge is April 3rd, 2021, UTC. RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. Movement is encouraged between portable 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. Detailed rules are available at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/ Portable operators and chasers are welcome to participate. Make your plans and share!


Greg N4KGL

Vintage Radios Used for the Classic Exchange CX Event

March 2nd was my first time participating in the Winter Classic Exchange CW event. I loved it, especially the drift and chirp I heard on the air.  Your multiplier in the event is the sum of the ages of your gear. I used my three oldest radios, including the Ameco AC-1 transmitter, Heathkit HW-8 transceiver, Drake 2-NT transmitter, and the Drake 2-C Receiver; this gear gave me a 235-year multiplier. Twelve of my twenty QSOs were QRP. Also being crystal controlled on the AC-1 and the 2-NT presented a challenge. This event was a great warm-up for Novice Rig Roundup also this month. 

Drake 2-NT Transmitter & Drake 2-C Receiver estimated age 54 years each.

Ameco AC-1 Transmitter estimated age 51 years.

Heathkit HW-8 Transceiver estimated age 38 years counts as 76 years.





Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The February SKCC Weekend Spritathon from the Dothan Shack

For the Straight Key Century Club February WES, the theme was boat anchors, another name for vintage rigs. I operated from the Dothan Shack sixteen hours on Saturday of the thirty-six possible hours for the WES. There were a couple of slack hours for lunch and dinner. I decided to stop at one hundred contacts. 


The first 45 contacts were using the Drake 2-NT and the Drake 2-C which let me give out a nine tube bonus to the other ops. I did not work any other tube stations, although I think they were out there. You have to run when you use xtals instead of hunt and pounce. By the way, I ran right through a storm of RTTY QRM. About mid-course, I switched to the Elecraft KX3 and KXPA-100 and did some hunt and pounce. 

My WES Stats


I worked two Dothan locals, Alton W4IDH and Tom WD0HBR. I also worked Costa Rica for a DX contact. The pace really picked up when 80 meters opened up Saturday night. We all had room to spread out. See the attached score. The SPC count of 33 was pretty good. It is nice to see how popular the SKCC is and have so many ops show up on straight keys and bugs

Example Crystals for the Drake 2-NT

Saturday, February 6, 2021

My 2021 Winter Field Day Experience, N4KGL

Our Winter Field Day venue for 2021 was Three Rivers State Park, Florida on Lake Seminole. Four other hams from the Panama City area had campsites there as well. We chose to operate under our own calls. I decided to operate QRP using my Icom 705. 

I considered about eight different antenna options and could not make up my mind. I consulted my antenna mentor, Myron WV0H in Colorado, and he suggested two more options; a loop and an inverted-L. I took his advice on the inverted-L. I implemented my inverted-L with a 100-foot radiator supported by three Jackite 31-foot poles. I had about 27 feet vertical and about 73 feet horizontal elevated at 31 feet. I used Myron's favorite wire which was 26 gauge. This thin wire presents almost no load on the poles and is practically invisible. The counterpose was 31 feet long elevated at about ten feet. That length was just what I had handy. My Icom AH-4 matches the inverted-L antenna on 80 through 6 meters. 

I had WFD contacts on 80, 40, and 20 meters. I did not feel it was a struggle making contacts even on SSB at ten watts. I believe this setup will be my Field Day go-to from here on out. It took up about half of the horizontal distance of my previous go-to which was an 80 meter End Fed Half Wave. I also did not have to support the EFHW transformer with my camo pole tripod mast. Those camo poles are heavy and take up a lot of room in the truck.


Given all this, I made 54 contacts. I did not get into a good rhythm until Sunday. Of course, we had interested visitors, great social time, and I took Saturday night off. As you expect, we all dealt with interference among our stations. Score-wise my contacts would be the equivalent of 108 contacts at 100 watts. It was enough to get a taste of the action. The bands were quite busy. For me, it is the experience, not the score. 

My gear in the tent

All the campers including Ryan K1OSE, George W4GHG, Daniel K1MDA, and Bob KK4DIV said they had fun and are looking forward to the ARRL Field Day in June. Chris VA3ECO did not come down to Florida this year. However, he braved the elements in Ontario and drove out on a lake ice road to make his WFD contacts. All of us are going to have our scores applied to the Panama City ARC aggregate score.

Daniel K4MDA in his gazebo.

Linda and I have our own travel trailer now and we can take Suzy, our basset She has a blast greeting the campers and claiming our bed. Linda and I continued to East Bank Campground, also on Lake Seminole, for a few extra days of camping. We liked that campground so much it may be my venue for ARRL Field Day in June. While at East Bank, I deployed the same inverted-L I used for WFD. I had some good QRP QSOs there. I am glad o many hams from our club enjoyed WFD from the field and some from home. We are looking forward to more camping and radio including the Florida QSO Party in April and the ARRL Field Day in June.

Chris VA3ECO doing WFD in Ontario


The inverted-L antenna deployed at East Bank Campground.




Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Looking Forward to Winter Field Day 2021

Winter Field Day this year is Jan 30/31. It starts Saturday, 1 PM CDT and lasts 24 hours. The event is similar to the ARRL Field Day and is growing every year. The purpose is to foster Ham camaraderie, field operation, emergency operating preparedness, and just plain on the air, outdoor fun in the midst of winter for American, Canadian, and DX Hams. This year due to COVID, individual stations can contribute their score to a club and the score will be aggregated in the WFD results.  The WFD rules are at https://www.winterfieldday.com/ 



I plan to operate Winter Field Day camping at Three Rivers State Park near Sneads, Florida as a QRP station, call sign N4KGL. I will park our trailer at site 13 and have the adjacent site 11 to pitch an operating tent on. There are fellow hams camping at four other sites in the park. We all will be using our own calls and contributing our scores to the Panama City ARC. We are usually joined by Chris VA3ECO, but he is not making it down this winter, He will be roughing WFD from Ontario. Dennis WA6QKN usually joins us also, but he is dealing with health issues.


I will be using my Icom IC-705 transceiver at 5 watts on CW and 10 watts on the phone and digital modes. I have a hefty Bioenno 40 AH battery which should cover the whole event running QRP.  I'll focus mostly on CW but will try for at least one contact on all bands and modes for the multiplier.I will use my Toughbook laptop for logging running N3FJP WFD software, I'll try the PSK-31 digital mode using another laptop with the Ham Radio Deluxe/DM 780 software.  The antenna will be a 100 foot 26 ga wire in an inverted L configuration supported by three 31 foot Jackite poles. The antenna can be matched on the 80 through the 6-meter bands with the Icom AH-4 tuner. I am rusty on the FM amateur radio satellites, but I try will them using my Kenwood DM-710 and an Elk antenna. The ISS cross-band repeater is expected to be operational. 

The weather forecast at this time is 63 degrees F and cloudy for the Saturday 1 pm start and falling to 51 degrees at midnight.  Starting about 3 am, showers are expected for the rest of the event and warming back up to 70 degrees F. This is pretty mild weather so I should make it through in short pants.