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

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.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

My Ham Shack On the Lake and the Island, Hi Hi

It is hard to beat the view I had at Frank Jackson State Park near Opp, Alabama. Linda and I spent five nights in our camping trailer there. My shack was a table with a full view of the lake. I used the Icom IC-705 with the Elecraft KXPA100 Amplifier. I had room for the SOTABeams 40-30-20 Bandhopper link dipole. I also set up the N6BT Bravo 7K vertical right by the water.

My shack on Lake Jackson

Jim KC4HW also spent several nights at the same park. Jim and I went over to the SEARS Rocket launch on Saturday in nearby Samson. It was a banner day of launches with some high power two-stage rockets going up. I launched my Totally Tubular Crayon Rocket. 

Jim KC4HW and Suzy next to the Totally Tubular Rocket

Radio-wise activating a park for Parks On The Air gave us lots of contacts. On Sunday, I had ninety-seven POTA contacts including a string on seventy on 20 SSB. Fortunately, Jim helped with the logging. Jim has some interest in POTA for his camping trips in the future.

The Bravo 7K Vertical lakeside. It did well into Canada and the West Coast on 20 meters.

There is an island within the Frank Jackson Lake. It is named Memorial Island and is AL021L in the US Islands Directory. On Tuesday, Suzy and I went across the boardwalk to the island. The spot we picked was already taken by an armadillo but he eventually moved on. I used the Icom IC-705 at ten watts. We gave out the POTA number and the US Island number. On 20 SSB, I had fifteen contacts including one with our buddy Chris VA3ECO who was operating his remote station from an island in Ontario. On 40 SSB we also had fifteen contacts including one with my buddy Bob KK4DIV who was camping at the Ocala State Forrest.

Our setup on Memorial Island, USI AL021L

We enjoyed the beautiful scenery and got a good dose of rockets and radio on this visit. Jim treated us to burgers on Sunday night and gave me some camping and radio tips. I was glad to get to know Jim better. He lives near Slocumb, Alabama not far from Dothan. So this was nice camping for December. I put in a reservation for May of next year. On that camping trip, I can return to Memorial Island for the US Islands One-Day-Getaway event on May 8th.

73,

Greg N4KGL


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