Wednesday, August 26, 2020

POTA activation of K-7368 Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site-ND9E


K-7368 Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Recently I was looking at the POTA map for Illinois and noticed some new dots on the map and one of them was only 10 minutes from my house! I have been wondering when Cahokia Mounds might make it on the POTA list. Local officials have been trying to get this location under the National Park System for years and it sounds like they are getting closer. This site has been a grade school field trip destination for decades. There is some pretty cool history to this place.

I have not done a park activation in almost 10 months so I set up everything in the driveway the day before and all went well so I was clear to activate the next day. My operating position was my truck as usual using an S-9 vertical with my AH-4 wire tuner. 3 radials at 31 ft long. Radio was an IC-7100 running through a PowerGate with a 35aH battery that fed a DC booster. 

I opened on 20 meters at 1913z but only could drum up 14 contacts with 3 park to parks.

Switched to 40 meters and ran 103 contacts with 3 more park to park contacts. 40 started off slow but really picked up towards to end. Maybe next time I can attempt a late shift activation. 

Noise levels here were about a S3 on 40 meters so that was a pleasant surprise. I did not get any west coast stations which is normal but what was not normal was I did not have any Texas contacts. I guess everyone was getting prepared for the hurricane. 

73 Scott

Monks Mound

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Rig control is back after lightning damage!

The radio used in my shack is an ICOM 7200 that uses a CT-17 interface for rig control. This interface and the serial port card in my PC are the weakest link when it comes to surviving lightning. Usually a nearby lightning strike takes out the RS232/TTL converter chip in the CT-17 interface. This is a 10 minute job to take the cover off of the box and pop the IC out of the socket and insert a new one. Sometimes the serial port card on the PC goes out but that has only happened twice.

So we had just finished Field Day and the storm hit the next day just before the 13 Colonies got started. I had made my first contact for the 13 Colonies and was making my second contact when I noticed my log was missing the mode and frequency information. I quickly changed the IC in the
CT-17 but that didn't fix it so I switched COM ports and that didn't fix it. After a few minutes of troubleshooting and expecting the worse, I determined that the 5 volt regulator on the board was bad. I did a quick web search and found out that part is discontinued. The specs showed it was nothing special so I was going to substitute a different part but I found old stock from an Ebay seller. I purchased 3 from Ebay but it took 2 weeks to get here from California.

The regulators arrived and that night I installed it and we had 5 volts again! LED on the CT-17 was nice and bright. When I plugged in the remote cable from the rig the LED got very dim. Rig control still didn't work. Well crap. So I grabbed my IC-703 QRP rig and hooked it up and I still had no rig control. This told me that the IC-7200 radio was probably ok. I tried the other COM port again with no luck. I measured the output of the new regulator and it was 2 volts. I removed the RS232/TTL IC and the voltage came back up to 5 volts.

Another new IC was installed and rig control was back! Not sure if one of my spare IC's was bad or the low voltage made it go bad but the final body count was 1 regulator and 2 IC's. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

13 Colonies chase

July 1

I started chasing the 13 colonies and bonus stations on July 1st and was happy to easily get 3 stations the first day. K2K-20 CW, K2B- 20 CW and WM3PEN- 80CW

July 2

K2G- 20 PH, K2E-15 PH, K2L-40 PH, K2J-40 PH

It has been nice to work folks again on 15 meters!

July 3

K2K-30 CW, K2M-15 CW, K2M-30 CW, K2D-40 CW, K2G-40 CW, K2A-40 CW, K2H-40 PH,
K2H-40 CW, K2F-40 CW, K2C-20 CW and K2I-20 CW. 

I could work more stations to fill in band slots and modes but I have other things going on to spend time on. No need to send in for certificate because I don't have any place to put it! 

It is a great event that I look forward to each year. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

2020 ARRL Field Day-ND9E

2020 Field Day

I did not have time to setup portable or even put up a portable antenna at home this year so I decided to stay home and operate as a 1D station like the majority of folks. Glad the ARRL changed the 1D rule for this year. 

Operating time was Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I started on 40 meter PSK31 and had so much fun that I didn't try 20M until 10PM. It was nice to operate on 10 and 15 meters again. Lots of folks are saying the bands were horrible but if you get 6, 10 and 15 meter openings it couldn't have been too bad. 

I had my normal trouble getting California and western stations but I never spent any time on 20 meters during Saturday afternoon. 

My final score was 750 per the ARRL. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Winter Field Day 2020

This was my 5th Winter Field Day event which was scaled down from previous years efforts. I was not able to operate the entire time and some other operators had other commitments so this was a
1 Home station this year.

I had planned to at least get an 80 meter wire antenna up but mother nature decided to flood a good part of my backyard so I had to use my 32 foot vertical which hurts me on 80 meters.

I was able to operate some Saturday evening so I missed the chance for any 20 meter operating and 40 meters was about dead so I had to limp along on 80 meters. Sunday morning I was able to make 20 and 40 meter contacts and I mainly focused on PSK31. Operating was done only on 20, 40 and 80 meters. I tried Sunday for any 15 meter contacts but had no takers. I did learn that on my IC-7200 I could use the manual notch filter (MNF) to knock down some of the monster PSK31 signals and restore my waterfall display. Usually the MNF is used to notch out birdies or someone that is tuning up near your frequency.

The station setup was a IC-7200 radio, LDG tuner, Signalink USB for digital, K42 CW reader for CW and the ground mounted vertical.

 Total Contacts by Band and Mode:

 Band       CW   Phone     Dig   Total       %
 ----            --      -----        ---     -----       ---
   80           4         1           24      29        29
   40           7        14          30      51        50
   20           6         8            7       21        21
                  --      -----         ---    -----       ---
 Total        17       23          61     101      100

Final results

Operator ND9E
17 CW contacts
23 Phone contacts
61 digital contacts
9 multipliers

Total claimed score was 4722

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

2019 Illinois QSO Party recap

Calling CQ, rinse and repeat

Alexander/Pulaski county line operation

I stuck with the same operating plan as the last 2 years by starting at the Alexander/Pulaski county line. This location is at boat ramp on the Cache River wildlife area that is seldom used. My travels started at 8AM and took 2.5 hours to get there which cut me a little close on setup time but I was mostly ready to go by 11:35. I ate a quick bite and got the logging PC and headset ready. AA0Z Kyle was operating as a rover this year so I sent him a text message and we met up on 80 meters and made an official contact right at the Noon start. Once again 40 meters was long and in-state contacts were tough but I was able to work the northern half of the state. People need to try 80 meters earlier in the day for in-state contacts. I operated until 2:30 and then did a quick tear down with a 40 minute drive to my next location. Here are pictures from this location. 

Antenna was a 40 meter dipole fed with ladder line to an AH-4 tuner. 

Pulaski/Johnson/Massac county line operation

This county line operation started at 4:30 by using an inverted L fed by the AH-4 tuner. I have a narrow area to erect the antenna and the dipole would not have been a good fit for the space. 40 meters was in better shape now but I think a bunch of folks were already starting the move to 80 meters. After a good run on 40 meters I went to 80 meters. Search and pounced on 80 CW and gained some new multipliers. Then I started a run on 80 phone that lasted for an hour and ended 10 minutes before the contest ended. 

I did have a weird thing happen on CW from this location. When I first tried CW the radio would briefly key the radio and unkey. At first I thought I had RF getting into the keyer but the display on the keyer looked normal. I must have bumped the speed control on the keyer because it was set for 136WPM. I bet the stations I tried to contact were wondering what was happening!

My score was down from last year as I hit 56K this year. 

Scoring history for ND9E
2019 56K (rover)
2018 86K (rover)
2017 71K (rover)
2016 31K (rover)
2015 9.8K (rover)
2014 71K (portable)

Map of Illinois counties contacted

Map of states contacted

Sunday, September 1, 2019

US Islands QSO Party, WWFF and POTA weekend

On Saturday August 24th, the annual US Islands QSO Party was scheduled and I combined two of the islands with WWFF and POTA parks to help drive up contact points for the USI QSO Party. My original plan was to hit 4 islands along the Mississippi River near Alton IL but things changed along the way. 

Original plan: 
Cora Island MO006R
Ellis Island MO003R
Chouteau Island IL003R
Walker Island IL019L

I started at Cora Island MO006R which is also part of the POTA program as K-0374. 40 meters was very kind to me so I stuck with it for most of this location. Advertising the POTA program on the DX cluster is what boosted the QSO count. 68 contacts were made with 5 of them being islands. Logging this year for the USI QSO Party was done on N1MM+ which worked well on my small Winbook PC. Below is a picture of my standard portable setup. 31 ft mast with an AH-4 tuner using tape measure radials.

My stay at Cora Island went long so I decided to skip Ellis Island since it was not part of WWFF or POTA and therefore it would be hard to get many contacts there so I went onto Chouteau Island in Illinois. 

Chouteau Island IL003R is also a park in the WWFF and POTA programs. KFF-4116 for WWFF and K-4116 for POTA. I primarily worked this location as a park but used the USI Facebook group to let the island chasers know where to find me. 80 contacts were made here with all but one on 40 meters. 
Contact was made with 4 islands from this spot.

It was decided to skip Walker Island and get home to mow the grass as the weather forecast did not look good for the next two days. Turns out this was a good call as we received multiple inches of rain on Sunday and Monday.


For only operating from two locations this needed to generate 5 different logs not counting LOTW. 

Cora Island- USI rover log for MO006R, POTA log for K-0374 (Big Muddy)

Chouteau Island- USI rover log for IL003R, WWFF log for KFF-4116 and POTA log for K-4116

Cabrillo logs went to USI and ADIF logs went to POTA and WWFF. Then the Cora Island log had to be uploaded to LOTW as a different location since it was in Missouri and under a different county. 


It was a good outing even if it didn't go as planned. There wasn't any radio or antenna issues. I got the usual stares at the big antenna attached to the truck but ever since I started putting signs in the window saying "amateur radio" people have pretty much left me alone. See the links below to these fine organizations. 

US Islands program US

World Wide Flora and Fauna (USA) WWFF-KFF