Monday, September 4, 2017

2017 Tennessee QSO Party- ND9E

Last year I stumbled upon the Tennessee QSO Party during the Labor Day weekend and operated from home. I had planned to work it in 2017 as a rover due to it being on a Sunday and I would have Monday as a recovery day. Well life got in the way this year so I decided to spend all of Sunday afternoon and evening working it as an out of state station.

My plan


I figured that 40 and 80 meters were my only chance due to being so close to Tennessee and my main antenna at home is a 31 foot vertical so I decided to put up a 40 meter Horse-fence antenna NVIS style. The 31 foot vertical would be used for any 80 meter contacts.

Operating strategy would be to work phone and CW on 40 meters as long as I could find new stations. I would check digital formats such as PSK-31, RTTY and FT-8 for any contacts. 

Equipment was my IC-7200, LDG AT-200 Pro tuner, Signalink, and the K42 CW Keyboard system. 

My entry would be: Out of state, Single operator, low power and mixed mode.

Antenna pictures




Horse-Fence NVIS antenna plot


Final results and observations

My operating time was around 7.5 hours and one of my off-spring noted that I am now called iron butt for some reason. I did remember to eat and take care of some things during the contest. CW wound up being my main mode especially for chasing a couple of the mobile stations which always makes things exciting. Spent most of the day spinning dial on 40 meters phone and CW. I checked for any digital activity 4 or 5 times but never found any stations calling CQ. I will be watching the final results to see if there were any digital stations that submit a log. 

I noticed that around 6 PM some stations disappeared from 40 meters so I went to 80 meters. I found a clump of stations on the 80M CW portion of the band. So from 6 PM till the end of the contest I bounced back and forth between 40 and 80. 

I did work the K4TCG bonus station 3 times for 300 bonus points. Below is the summary from the N3FJP logging program.


I had a great time in the contest and the timing of it being on the Labor Day long weekend will make this one of my planned events for years to come. Hopefully in the next few years I can pull off a rover or portable operation in-state. If I work from home again an 80 M NVIS would be good to have also. 

Thanks to the Tennessee Contest Group for a great event. 






Monday, August 28, 2017

2017 US Island QSO Party

On Saturday August 26th, the US Islands Awards Program held their annual QSO Party where much  like other QSO parties you can be a chaser or an activator. Activators are made of rovers, portable and expedition classes. I choose to operate as a rover station again this year operating from my truck. Here is a breakdown of my island adventures.

Cora Island- MO006R- Missouri

I am fortunate that in the St. Louis area there are around 6 islands that have easy access. I selected 4 of them where I can drive onto the islands. Cora Island looks more like a swamp at times but usually I am the only person there while operating. The Kansas and Ohio QSO Parties were also just getting started so the bands were packed. I managed 12 phone contacts with 2 island to island contacts. The first island contact was with K4I on VA069L which had just been qualified a few minutes prior to our QSO.  The second island contact was with VE3SCN on ON023.


Ellis Island- MO003R- Missouri


Next island was Ellis Island which was about a 10 minute drive from Cora Island. Here I made 10 contacts which is normal from here as the noise level is higher here probably due to being across Mississippi River from some industrial buildings. I did manage 2 more island contacts. Contact was made again with island ON023 but this time it was from a different call sign. Hopefully I did not mess up the call sign or island number. This call was VA3TIC. My second island was FL003S which was being activated by Greg N4KGL. Greg is a very active portable operator and has been active with the NPOTA, POTA and RaDAR. Check out Greg's excellent Google+ group. Link is below.



Chouteau Island- IL003R- Illinois


I crossed the Mississippi River at Alton IL and headed to Chouteau Island. There is some farming that happens here but it is mostly known as a large former landfill. My vantage point from the truck was staring at the large mountain of trash! This is an island due to a channel that was cut though to help with barge traffic which is known as the Chain of Rocks Canal. 

I made 22 contacts total with them being 10 phone and 12 CW. I made 3 island contacts here with K4I again at VA069L, NC6Q at CA074S and VA3TIC again at ON023. 

Here is a picture of the truck at Chouteau Island. 31ft mast and with tape measure radials. 




Walkers Island- IL019L- Illinois

This was my final stop of the QSO Party. This island is in the middle of Horseshoe Lake Park which is part of the Parks on the Air program as KFF-0998. I was hoping that this also being a park would drive up the QSO count.

All the contacts were on phone and mostly 40 meters. I hated to switch bands as the contacts kept coming so when I hit the point where the spots had stopped and I started calling CQ,  I switched to 20 meters. I made 128 contacts in 107 minutes of operating time. There was another island contact made with NC6Q on CA074S. 



Wrap up

The truck was unloaded on Saturday night and I began working on the logs. As a rover, you submit a log for each island. There is no logging program out there just for this event so I used N3FJP, exported the ADIF file to Excel and then created a template so I did not have to write out the log sheets. Logs get sent in on Tuesday night. 

Please check out the US Island program with the link below. Also visit their Facebook group. 





Sunday, June 25, 2017

2017 Field Day

Things at work have changed drastically for me so I have had to put ham radio on the back burner since April. I did get the chance to participate in the ARRL Field Day. Band conditions seemed pretty good on both days and if you were in the mid-west the weather was fantastic!

Due to work obligations I could not really commit to a Field Day outing with a group or by myself so I operated from home as a 1D station. Other times I have operated from home I was a 1E station running on batteries but I did not have time to set them up.

My operating windows were an hour in the afternoon and around 2 hours in the evening. I also got 30 minutes on Sunday morning.

I made contacts on 6m through 80m mostly on CW.

Claimed score was 438. Here are the QSO breakdowns.



Here is the map from N3FJP.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run- recap

The MOQP wrapped up on Sunday and I have been "recovering" the last couple of days. Here is a rundown of what happened, what failed and what needs to improve.

Saturday

Started at Hawn State Park as planned and was on the air right at 1400z. Since I did not have much room around my parking spot I elected to just use the mobile antennas. I noticed that as I spun the dial that I was not hearing any MO stations,,,,,,hmmmn, that's odd. I made 11 contacts from this park. As I was leaving the park I looked over and someone was setting up an antenna behind their truck and I thought, "there is one of our kind" so I stopped to say hello. I met Wayne KD0NEO and gave a quick introduction and then left him alone since he was working on a cable problem. 

I moved over to St. Joe State Park and again I could not hear any MO counties. Dang this was going to be a rough day unless thing improve. Luckily most contacts I made were more interested in the POTA credit. I had a couple of mushroom hunters that were suspicious of what I was doing but I explained it to them and they thought I was the weird one. I made 17 contacts. 

After an hour and a half drive I was at Lake Wappapello State Park. This time I had room for a better antenna so I put up the 31ft vertical with 2 ground radials. By now I decided that 40 meters was just going to be long for the day and I had better milk the state and park contacts the best I could. I made 35 contacts from the 2 county line of Butler and Wayne counties. I tried a 80 meter mobile antenna and heard just noise. Maybe later. 

Then it was a 30 minute drive to the Mingo Wildlife Refuge which has the Bollinger/Stoddard county line running through it. Conditions were improving on 40 meters and I had my best run of the day by making 70 contacts. I should have spent some time on 20 meters but I was having fun on 40. I did get one MO county from here. Again I used the 31 ft vertical. 

Next was the drive to Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau County. I arrived  after dark just before the park closed but I found a parking spot next to the outside of the gate. There was not room to setup the vertical so I tried to run with the mobile antennas. No luck on 40 meters after calling CQ for about 20 minutes and I could not spot because of no cell coverage. I tried the 80 meter mobile antenna again and I could hear lots of MO stations but none could hear me. I have to get this
80 meter thing figured out. I left there with no contacts so I decided to start the 2 hour drive home. Arrived home at 11:15PM, did a quick trash clean out of the truck and dropped into bed. 

Sunday

I started on time at the Robertsville State Park in Franklin County and expected to hear the big signal from W0S since we were in the same county but conditions were still the same with 40 meters being long. I used the 31 ft vertical again and had to explain to another mushroom hunter that I was not doing surveillance on his spot. I made 14 contacts from here. 

I tried to find Ron Robinson State Park using Google Maps but never could find a park entrance so rather than hunting for it I headed to my planned 3rd stop which was RT 66 State Park.

At RT 66 State Park conditions were not too bad but 40 meters was still too long. I made 28 contacts between 20 and 40 meters including 2 DX contacts while using the 31 ft vertical. Lots of dog walkers were giving me the "eye" as they walked by. Below is a picture with the vertical deployed.



At this time I was considering changing my plan as I as still waiting to hear if someone had activated St. Louis City or not so I went onto Babler State Park. 

At Babler I found a nice secluded spot where I could try setting up the NVIS dipole even though the conditions were not favoring NVIS operations but I needed to practice setting this up by myself. My practice session in the driveway helped a bunch as I was able to set this up in under 15 minutes. I did a quick check of the SWR and it looked great but the noise level on the radio sounded funny. Hmmmnnn, what did I do wrong? I checked 20 meters but still sounded weird. Connections were checked and still no change so I put up the vertical but had the same result. I am thinking, did the apocalypse happen and I missed it? I checked my phone and it had no service so what do I do? Time for lunch! While eating lunch I was spinning the dial on 40 and heard one weak station and it was W0S. He was a S1 signal but why not try it. We managed a contact and since he was on a 3 county line I got counties number 3, 4 and 5! At this point I had had enough so I bailed out 2 hours before the end of the MOQP and decided I better go home and cut the grass. As I was leaving the park my cell service came back and I saw on Twitter that we had just experienced a large solar flare so now I know what happened. As I drove home listening to 40 meters the signals started coming back around 2:45PM. Here is a picture of the 40 meter NVIS setup. 


Overall is was still a good weekend. Band conditions were poor for a state QSO party but workable for the POTA. 

My 31 ft vertical is still my go-to antenna while roving. 

I need to make some improvements to the truck antennas especially for 80 meters. 

Thanks to the BEARS group (W0MA) for hosting the QSO Party and to the admins of the WWFF program. 


Friday, March 31, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run - Ready to go!

Today I finished testing the radio, both headsets, logging tablet, keyboard, put the phone chargers in, and setup the voice memories in the IC-7100. I am always surprised how long this process takes. It included 2 of my re-purposed android phones downloading and updating multiple apps. One phone is used mainly for navigation and the other is running the Hamclock app/APRSDroid. I also use 2 voice recorders that pick up the QSO audio as backup devices in case I log something wrong or log while I drive. Usually when driving I search and pounce so after each contact I will say out loud something like "N0KTK at 2220z on 40 meters". The QSO is also logged in on the SD card in the IC-7100 so between the 3 logging recorders I usually can piece together the QSO after the event is over.

Interesting thing happened when I was checking the 2 voice recorders in that one of them showed low battery and I had replaced these batteries in December. So when I went to check the batteries in the recorder the batteries were starting to leak. When I checked the other one they were leaking also. Weird that they both failed that quick. I will now store them with the batteries removed.

After dinner I worked on Google Earth and Maps so I could have a custom map on the tablet for back up purposes or just for the entertainment value. Here is a screen shot of my Saturday locations.


Here are my Sunday locations.

Final picture of the bed of the truck. 



Items left to do:
Put together the food for Saturday
Load IC-706 in truck as a spare
Post my Saturday plans to the POTA Facebook group


Hope to work you during the event!



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run - 1 Day out

I took a vacation day to help prepare the truck. It rained on and off for most of the day but I was able to stay busy. The first break in the rain allowed me to tune the 20 and 40 meter resonators. Here are the antennas mounted.

20 meter antenna sweep


40 meter antenna sweep (much more narrow)



I decided to mount a 80 meter Diamond antenna and see how it tuned up. Very narrow banded so I added my Dentron Jr. manual tuner. This will help the 40 and 80 meter antennas to cover the entire phone portion of the band. 

80 meter antenna sweep

Using the RigExpert antenna analyzer with it's "Multi-SWR" mode, it can show you the SWR on 5 bands simultaneously. Here I was only interested in the 20 and 40 meter bands. 



Next was an experiment with a 40 meter dipole which used a product called a Horsefence Antenna. They are produced by KF4BWG in are available in different bands. They are not pretty and would never pass a HOA but they and very broad banded. I forgot to save the sweep but I set it up as an inverted V for NVIS operation. The SWR was 1.6 to 1 or better over the entire phone band. 





The ends of the dipole are 5 ft log broom handles with an adapter on top which gives me tie points for ropes. I have to be able to set this up myself so I worked on the ropes so that they all have D-rings on them and already tied to the tent pegs. Here is a picture of one of the four ropes that are ready to go. Also there is a picture of a very cheap rope tensioning clip I got off of Amazon. 


I do not plan to deploy the inverted V antenna at every spot but I hope that I can use it a couple of times. My schedule only has me at most locations for only 90 minutes. This setup make more sense for a 3+ hour event. 

Final picture is hard to see but I decided that I better guy the 20/40 meter resonators. I used mason string and the smallest bungee cords they make to add a slight tension to them. The mast will move if it hits something. The 80 meter antenna is to the left on this picture. This is my first time running this antenna setup. 


Tomorrow afternoon I have to get it all finished and there are many things on my list left to complete.





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run - 2 Days out

As luck would have it this was the nicest evening to work outside this week but things at work went a little long so I lost some daylight but managed to start on the antenna mount. The crude temporary mount has served me well on 2 trucks so far. It drops into the pockets built into the bed liner. I then use a couple of straps to help defy gravity in case of a large bump in the road or launching over a railroad track when I am not paying attention!

First picture shows the bottom side of the ball mount. Usually I would mount my AH-4 wire tuner next to the ball mount but this year I am going to try using the Hustler resonators.

(Told you it was crude)



Picture below shows the mount as it is first dropped into place. 



Next step is to connect the 2 side bonding straps and the strap that goes down to the frame. 1" stainless braid. Connection to the edge of the bed is all stainless hardware.




Then to put on the gravity defying straps. 



Last picture taken in the dark but you get the idea. It wins an ugly award. Let the antenna shammers bash away! 



I do hope to try a screwdriver antenna someday. I saw this setup at Dayton last year and would love to try it sometime.



Tomorrow it is supposed to rain throughout the day. Hopefully I will get the antennas tuned!