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Monday, August 10, 2015

How I Worked VY0M From a Tent

In my last post I described my QSO with VK2SSI while experimenting with portable antennas in my backyard. Well the reason I was testing portable configurations is because I needed work Cezar, VY0M, from Melville Island, IOTA NA-248, located in the Canadian arctic.  I knew that the scheduled expedition would occur during the week that I was at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM attending a training class and I would be sleeping in a tent for the week. New IOTA's are getting rare for me, with 1,050+ confirmed so I didn't want to miss this one.

I experimented with multiple antennas as I didn't know what I would be allowed to do at the camp. Would I be allowed to put up an antenna in camp? Would I have to find a remote location somewhere else? How long would my batteries last? So my plan was to try a Buddipole vertical first. It was relatively low profile and wouldn't attract a lot of attention. So I set up the station, in my tent, for a dry run.

As luck would have it, there was a 110v plug in my tent, the power intended to power a light and possibly a fan, so exit the batteries and in with the power supply. I set up the vertical and the antenna worked fine. I was using a Yaesu FT-857, which is a very capable radio, especially for portable use.  With 70 watts I worked into Europe with good reports, so I was thinking that I might just get by with this set-up. However, the first day that VY0M came up, he was on SSB. I never heard a peep from him and decided it was time for plan B.

After erecting the vertical, a few around camp inquired about it and everyone thought the radio set-up was cool, so the next afternoon I decided to put up the bright orange Jacktite, 30 ft.  collapsible pole with an end-fed long wire through a 9 to 1 balun. After I got everything connected, I turned on the radio and tuned the antenna with an LDG tuner. Everything looked good, so I checked the spots on my iPhone and Cezar had just moved to CW. I went to 14.040 and there he was with the fluttery signal common to stations in the far northern latitudes. After two or three calls I had him in the log, Victory dance. All the planning had paid off and I had another IOTA in the log.

What a blast ham radio is. Below is video of the set-up, right after I made the QSO. I didn't have the narrow CW filter on the FT-857, so the stations you hear are actually 1 KC up, but you can still hear Cezar's fluttery signal if you listen closely.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Working VK2SSI From My Backyard

 I've written multiple times in this space about the magic of ham radio. It will always be magic to me.

This past weekend I was testing portable configurations for a trip I will be taking to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico next week. I am the President of the Alamo Area Council of the Boy Scouts and will be going through some training there. So, this trip I will not operating from a summit, but rather I need to work an IOTA Island that I need that will  QRV the week I am there.

I use EFHW's from summits all the time, but at QRP power levels, this time I will be running ~100 watts from a battery, so I thought an on air test would be a good idea. I conduct such tests in my backyard "Outdoor Radio Laboratory". I test portable configurations in an outdoor environment to simulate the conditions I will be operating in. I was running ~100 watts from an old Yaesu FT-100D to the EFHW  on a 30' pole tied off in a tree. I was tuning on 17m and I found and was able to work VK2SSI on OC-194, Solitary Island. So a portable to portable QSO would bode well for the capability of the set up.

Below is a video of the set up.


I think I have more fun in my backyard than in my regular shack.

Friday, July 10, 2015

SOTA Activity Weekend September 12th & 13th

 September 12th & 13th is the annual "Summits-on-the-Air" Activity Weekend

North America SOTA Activity Weekend 2015 is a casual event involving tiny battery-powered radios on mountain summits.  It is not a contest but is intended to introduce "Summits on the Air" to newcomers with home stations who try to work summit operators during one or two days. There are no rules regarding power levels, modes or number of bands worked, but please be courteous when more than one station is trying to talk to a SOTA operator on a summit.  The SOTA operators have just climbed mountains as high as 14,000 feet; they use low power; and they don't receive on split frequencies. 

Check SOTAWATCH.org to spot who is on which mountain.  Summits are numbered, and you can hover your cursor over the number to see the name and point value for each summit.  Expect the website to show activity near 7.032, 7.185, 10.110, 14.342, 18.095, 18.155, 21.350, 24.905, 24.955, 28.420, 146.52, 446.00, and 61 Khz up from the bottom of 20, 15 and 10 meters CW.  Participants are invited to collect points toward certificates and trophies offered by the thirteen-year-old international SOTA group (SOTA.org.UK).  As we learned in past years, this is a barrel of fun for both hill climbers and home operators.  See you then. 



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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Magic

I think this video will spark memories of what brought you to ham radio. Click on the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxU1ZhINaHk
 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Field Day 2015

ARRL Field Day in an annual operating event designed to demonstrate and practice portable station operation. The Field Day exercise is important in that it shows how radio amateurs can be mobilized in the case of an emergency of any sort. Those involved in the planning of a Field Day understand the detailed planning required to construct, operate and tear-down a quality operating station. There is also the social side of Field Day that is the annual highlight for many clubs, that is a side benefit of the operating activity.

I haven't participated in Field Day for a couple of decades. This year I was invited to participate in the Field Day operation of W5YA. W5YA has won their entered category numerous times and has finished in the top 10 of all Field Day stations multiple times, operating QRP. Their success is directly correlated to meticulous planning and the excellent execution of that plan by the team of KT5X, K1JD, K5KM, NM5S, K7SO, K6XT, W0CCA and WD9FJL. The primary antennas are wire antennas strung in the trees at the Field Day site near Chama, NM.

My role this year was to fill in some shifts at the CW stations but primarily to supervise the operation of the GOTA (Get On The Air) station along with my son, Michael Jr., AB5EB. The GOTA station used my call, AD5A, as the GOTA station must operate under a different callsign than the primary Field Day station. The GOTA operators were my grandsons Reid, KF5GYE, age 14 and Boogie, KF5GYD, age 13. Both have their General tickets, but are not very active, which is a requirement of the GOTA station. My son and I would coach them during the event. Neither of my grandsons do CW, so we would be operating SSB, QRP. Not the easiest of assignments. Operating on a crowded band with beginner level operators is quite a learning experience for all involved. What was slightly frustrating in the first 12 hours was a delight in the last 12. Both boys learned a lot about operating QRP, proper procedures and amateur radio etiquette. In the final hours of the event, no coaching was needed. They  learned to handle both calling CQ and answering stations in a pile-up. Overall a fantastic result, the boys finished with 158 SSB QSO's from the GOTA station using 5 watts from a KX3 and a wire in the trees.

The final tally hasn't been made yet, but the CW station contributed over 1,400 QSO.s with wire antenna's and 5 watts of power. A very cool accomplishment and a testament to what is possible with amateur radio. Teaching us those lessons and getting new hams involved is what Field Day is all about.

We camped in a tent for two nights so I got to enjoy my son and grandsons in a great outdoor radio experience. Below is a video of the two GOTA operators. KF5GYD is operating and KF5GYE is cooking. The video should give you a flavor of Field Day.

video

Monday, May 18, 2015

SOTA Mountain Goat Trophy Arrives

My engraved SOTA Mountain Goat trophy finally arrived. It took 118 summit activations to earn this little piece of glass making it priceless, to me at least.

My Ph.D. in Portable Mountain Ops
No two trophies are alike, each is hand chiseled. Pretty cool!!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dayton Finale

Dayton Hamvention 2015 is over for me. I have a plane to catch Sunday morning so I made my final rounds through Hara Arena just before 5:00 pm. I will be back, good Lord willing and the creek don't rise. It was a good time and I now have lots of ideas of things to do in and around the shack.



Below is a picture of the new K3S. There are some significant differences that I'm sure will be documented soon. Some of the differences will be mods that can be applied to current K3's, other changes will not. Only minor changes to the appearance of the radio

                                   K3S

There are always new things to discover and I came across a neat product for portable QRP practioners. One of the processes to getting efficient in portable QRP operation is to try to figure out a reasonable antenna configuration. Enter PackTenna, www.packtenna.com .


The product is a prepackaged antenna system, including the telescoping 32 ft. pole. The antenna is an innovative design that allows you to configure the antenna as a dipole or a vertical. Check it out.

                                             PackTenna

Finally, I didn't get away without a couple of catches of my own. I found a Navy Flameproof straight-key and a 100 year  commemorative version of the Vibroplex Original semi-automatic key. Both are seen below.


So another Dayton experience in the books, can't wait to go again.