Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017 Illinois QSO Party- ND9E

My plan

This was my 5th or 6th year for the ILQP. The first couple of years I operated as a portable station from the 3 county corner of Massac, Johnson and Pulaski. Then I switched to being a rover station to try to get more counties activated but I always make this county corner one of my stops. This year I decided to focus on just 2 operating locations and reduce my travel time plus is also simplified my setup as I did not have to be equipped with mobile antennas. 

Also in the plan was to operate from WWFF POTA park locations as this was a big help to me during the Missouri QSO Party this past spring.


Friday and Saturday was spent prepping for the event and most of the time was spent testing antennas or practicing putting up different antennas. Since I was determined to operate on 80 meters this year my thought was to put up a high 80 meter dipole. After a few practice sessions I determined that this would take too much time plus looking at the places on Google Earth I probably did not have room for the dipole anyway. While sitting in the garage wondering about my options and looking at the AH-4 tuner on the back end of the truck I occurred to me that since I was using the tuner for the balanced feed of the 40 meter dipole plus I can use the tuner to feed a vertical that I could set up an inverted L like I have done at home. So the mast on the truck would be pushed up as high as I am comfortable with and then only need to set up one other support. I made a pair of cables that hooked up the ladder line to the tuner. Alligator clips go to the top and bottom terminals on the AH-4 tuner.

Everything was packed up by Saturday afternoon with only minor items to address Saturday evening.

Alexander/Pulaski county line/KFF-0283 Cypress Creek

I opened the contest from the Alexander/Pulaski county line which is also within the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. The contests that I usually participate in have a lot of search and pounce but I am slowly learning to break that habit and go straight to running. I found a spot on 7.245 and stayed there around 2 1/2 hours. I had planned to only be at that location for 2 hours and 45 minutes but I had never made it to 20 meters which does not benefit the other IL counties but it benefits the folks chasing POTA and also the out of state people working the ILQP. I had 3 park to park contacts for POTA. Turns out 20 meters was not very cooperative so I called it quits after 3 hours on site.  Now it is starting to drizzle so I took down the antenna. The setup for this location was a 40 meter dipole feed with ladder line to my AH-4 tuner. Apex of antenna was about 20 feet with the ends at 12 feet. See picture below.

Massac/Johnson/Pulaski county line/KFF-4112

It is about a 40 minute drive from my first location to this 3 county corner. As I said before it had started to drizzle and by the time I got to my second location it was truly raining. I scoped out this location and felt that I did not have the room to put up the dipole in the orientation that I wanted unless I went into a farmers field. I did not have permission plus the beans had not been harvested yet. So since I already had the AH-4 wire tuner mounted on the trailer hitch I decided to set up an inverted L. The mast was put up to 25 feet with a pulley and I had brought around 100 feet of wire so I pulled the wire up 25 feet and then the remaining wire sloped down towards the north with the end at 12 feet high. I also deployed 2- 100 foot tape measures where I could for radials. It took me 20 minutes to set this up and now it is really raining and I am soaked. 

I got back on the air around 4:40 PM CST with some good runs on 40 and 80 meters. This antenna was more noisy but that was expected. One of my goals this year was to get on 80 meters by the time it got dark.  Around 6 PM the truck suddenly shook, like when someone bumps into you at a drive-thru. After a few moments I thought the antenna or mast must have failed. Sure enough the painters pole 80 feet behind the truck had a guy rope/stake failure. Did I mention that it was still raining? Now I take off walking behind the truck and with all the rain the mud was now ankle deep. I fixed the pole and now the antenna was back up and now I had to wade back through the mud. Once at the truck I changed shoes, turned up the heater and turned on the heated seats to get warm.

I did some runs on 80 meters until 7 PM when I was seeing spots for folks moving all around looking for someone new to work. I tried to get some of the mobile stations on CW with no luck. At 7:15 PM I decided that the rain wasn't going to stop and I was tired so I started to pack up and make 2 more trips through the mud.

It continued to rain the entire drive home and the truck interior (or me) smelled like a wet dog. I arrived at home at 11 PM and decided that the stuff in the bed of the truck could not get any wetter so I left it until the morning.

The clean up/ drying out

My first head slap to myself was that I left a bucket in the bed of the truck which had my tape measures that I use for radials. The bucket had 4 inches of water in it! I took the tape measures and fully extended them to dry and then I flooded them with WD-40. Then they were blown out with compressed air and time will tell if I salvaged them or not. All of my spools of ropes were unrolled and in piles all over the driveway to dry. Next it was onto drying out the masts. All the masts were slid apart, wiped down and allowed to air dry. The picture below was just a small area used to dry out ropes and tapes measures.
Everything was dried out by Tuesday and the masts were reassembled. All items have been cleaned and put away!


It looks like I may have a final score around 70K with 102 multipliers. This turned out to be a very good outing for me and may be my highest score yet for ILQP. 

Lessons learned

Rain- I need to be prepared for a rain event. I knew rain was in the forecast and I had made some provisions for rain such as spare shoes and rain jacket but I did not consider the items in the bed of my truck. There was nothing I could have done for the masts but I could have carried the ropes and tape measures in something with a lid. 

Operating strategy- Things improved this year by limiting my travel time between locations. I think just hitting 2 locations works best for me. Still need to spend time on 20 meters so to get the state multipliers. 

Antennas- The dipole worked well on 40 meters but it did not do so well on 20 meters but most folks were saying 20 meters was poor that day. The inverted L worked well and it allowed me to get on 80 meters which was a big boost to my score. 

Step stool (don't laugh)- This small fold up step stool goes on most portable outings as it is much better then trying to stand on the bumper of the truck. 

Cup holder upgrade- As you can see in the below picture I lose my cup holders when the radio is installed. I made up a cup holder out of some PVC fittings and screwed it that 2x4 you see sitting in the trucks existing cup holder.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

KFF meet up for World Wide Flora and Fauna

I saw on the KFF Facebook group that there was a planned meet up for the US arm of the WWFF for the 9/30-10/1 weekend. Since my truck is already setup for the ILQP,  I decided to head out on Saturday morning with the goal to hit 3 parks at the Carlyle Lake area in Illinois. These have been on my radar for some time now so I had already picked out my locations by using Google Earth. I took the lat/long for these locations and entered them into my WAZE app on my phone so I could navigate between them.

KFF-4114 Carlyle Lake Fish & Wildlife Area

Carlyle Lake is a man made lake located in the center of Illinois and was created by damming the Kaskaskia River. It is the largest man made lake in Illinois and covers 26,000 acres. KFF-4114 is on the northern tip of the lake and has a secluded parking lot mainly used by waterfowl hunters. I had the parking lot to myself so I had room to put out my ground radials without fear of someone driving over them. 54 contacts were made with 3 park to park QSO's. Most of the contacts were on 40 meters with a few on 20 meters. You can see the lake way off in the back of the picture below. 

KFF-0991 Eldon Hazlet State Park

Next stop was Eldon Hazlet State Park with offers many spots to operate from especially since this is the "off season" for the park but there are still many campers around the place. 40 meters continued to be my main band to operate with 74 contacts made along with 7 park to park QSO's. It was beautiful weather the entire day and even though I planned to operate from the truck but I did want to have the windows down but the horse flies were out and they were quite large. So I wound up with the windows up and running the truck. Below is a picture from this location. 

KFF-1025 South Shore State Park

Arrival time here was around 4:45 PM and again I found an empty parking lot. I set up on an edge so my radials were in the grass and out of the way in case someone showed up. This parking lot is very large and of course when the one other person drove in they had to come check out the weird looking truck with the tall green mast. Putting the "amateur radio" signs in the windows really helps to answer folks questions. I ran 40 meters only from this location making 58 contacts with 4 park to park QSO's. By this time I had already been sitting in the truck for 9 hours and still had another hour home so I called it quits for the day. 

All logs have been checked, submitted to the KFF coordinator and uploaded to LOTW. I was a great day playing on the radio. 

Thanks to Jason W3AAX for heading up the KFF group and cranking out the great looking awards. Also thanks to Bob KA9JAC processing the 9 area call logs for KFF.