Homebrew Buddipole inspection
Great weekend of QRP Portable fun. Saturday our Central FL QRP group had some new ops join us and we had a good time comparing antennas and rig setups at Sylvan Lake Park in Sanford, FL. As is typical, we did more talking than operating but did manage to sneak a few qso’s in on 20 and 17 meters. The contesters in Europe were hot and heavy on 15 m too so made for a fun day despite the heat and high humidity. I was a bit disappointed to not be able to snag any fellow Polar Bear QRP ops on 30m but the band did not stay open long and the other stations were operating on alternative bands.
Sunday after church was the first annual NJQRP Skeeter Hunt. So glad to work Skeeter Hunt promoter and fellow Polar Bear, Larry, W2LJ before the lightning ran me off. Larry was my last QSO of the day as a thunderstorm started making LOTS of noise and it was my signal to pull down the 31 ft Jackite and wire and get out from under the shade of the 50 ft tall pine trees down by the lake! YIKES… just made it too!
I ran my Sierra at 2.4 watts out into an end fed half wave suspended as a sloper from the 31 ft Jackite pole in a WNW direction. I normally use the trees to get a bit more height for my wire, but the Jackite goes up and down faster and with storms coming, I chose the simple and fast way to git ‘er done. Turned out to be a good choice. Band conditions were pretty good on 20m and I was hearing a good bit of activity. After 1800 the Caribbean, Central and South American SSB stations were causing a good bit of QRM down here in FL. They all seem to run power and gain antennas so we learn to listen through the chatter here in FL. The approaching storm was obvious as QRN increased with distant lightning stirring up the noise and crashes. Nonetheless, the signals were pretty good despite the distractions and there were some SKCC, FISTS and other cw fans out there having fun too which made the band busy.
I built a simple key and am posting a photo of my K4UPG Knee Cap Key. Used the lid of a bulk black peppercorn jar and made a simple non-iambic key with paper clips, standoff and a bit of wire. It actually worked fairly well, but not good enough to use for the whole contest. As a long time CPG (Contest Point Giver) I decided that was a good way to give myself some points so took advantage of the bonus points! It did inspire me to try a more substantial lid and make a strap to use it as a leg key for portable ops.
Umbrellas for the rig and the op!
It was fun to hear so many familiar calls and work a few of our fellow Polar Bear Ops who were out for the fun too. Sure appreciate the effort to put this event on the calendar and process the results. Thanks to the NJQRP group for the support of our niche in the hobby and to you Larry for the time you devote to contests, blogs and getting us all out and on the air.
Here’s my results before the storm drove me for cover:
A good time was had by me!
For some reason around the Christmas season every year, I think of one of my favorite films… Evil Roy Slade. This year, I had planned to do some serious kit and homebrewing on my days off. But I managed to cut my stubby index finger while trying to fix our dishwasher. Somehow some broken glass was in the drain basket when I went feeling around. OUCH… ever try to solder and handle small parts with a wounded finger? How about operating a straight key like I do?
So I share a clip from my buddy Mickey Rooney and his character in the movie. Hope you have a Happy Holiday!
BREAKING NEWS! Mack has rebooted and W4AX.com is back online. It is a huge blessing and thanks again to Mack and the host of others who serve all of us! YAHOOO>>> Grinches lose! W4AX.COM is online again! Belay my last!
A few years ago, we did not know the term, Software Defined Radio but now it has become one of many new technologies that we hams are learning to adapt to our needs. As an antenna restricted condo dweller, I’ve found it most helpful for being able to listen to the bands at various times through the day.
W4AX.com during IARU CW contest
Yesterday I learned my favorite site, W4AX.com is shut down due to abuse by non-hams and other constraints. A big thanks to Mack, W4AX and others who are the unsung heros that provide services like these and have allowed access to others over the years. The Reverse Beacon Network is another great service and we often forget the time and expense that our fellow hams have put into keeping them going. As a blogger with multiple sites, I understand the challenges and resources it takes all too well.
I’ll miss being able to check the bands 24 x 7 on my favorite site, but perhaps it will prompt me and others to set up our own SDR site and share it with others. I salute those who like Mack paved the way for new technology to provide access to so many hams. Sorry that the burden got too heavy to keep it going, but know your work was appreciated by many. I’ll be sure to let others who are working behind the scenes know that they are appreciated too.
Blessings gang of pioneers and Happy Holidays to you all!
This coming Saturday at the Melbourne Hamfest and ARRL FL State Convention QRP ops from around the state will gather for a time of eyeball QSO’s, bragging, show ‘n tell and maybe even some operating from the picnic tables in the park next door!
Looking for Something?
Get there early and do your tailgating and swapping so you can gather at noon near the front entrance. Look for K4UPG’s gawdy yellow hat and come up and say HI! Some of us want to go to lunch together and depending on the number we have a couple places in mind that are nearby the event site.
So come one and all (even the curious) and join the fun.
GATHERING: Front entrance to Auditorium
DATE: Saturday, 8 October 2011
TIME: 12:00-12:15 EDT
Bring some gear if you want to play radio in the park or on the beach later in the day!
The Hoot Owl Sprint sponsored by the QRP-ARCI requires one to operate from 2000-2359 local time. The objective (?) is to test our ability to operate QRP Portable in the night hours, portable if possible. I chose a secret location with TALL pine trees next to an alligator occupied lake in the SE suburbs of Orlando for my site. Knowing the place is prone to giant mosquitos, I planned to use my screen house enclosure. Weather was HOT and WINDY with gusts of over 25mph so that killed option to hide from the critters inside my screen house. SHUCKS. But, the good news was the wind also blew the mosquitos out of the air so I settled in for operating from my portable table in the middle of the tall trees.
Wind did blow Ole’ Murphy in and added a couple hours to getting my 88 ft doublet up into the pines as my 1 oz sinkers hung in mid-air. The tension on the line with all that wind equaled the weight of the sinker and once it got up over the 60 ft limb it merely hung in space and didn’t descend no matter how many things I tried. Very frustrating! Eventually my Scottish and Irish nature won out over nature and I settled for a 45 ft high perch for my antenna in a slight horizontal vee config favoring NNW direction. From FL this is not a bad direction to point as it covers the better part of the USA! So with my jeans and a light jacket to break the wind, I began my contest effort, missing the first hour due to delay in getting the antenna up, so it was really dark by the time I made my first contact which was my good friend and fellow Polar Bear QRP group member the Hill Billy Bear, AF4O in Tennessee.
What a mess, I had just turned the rig on and had not even setup my BLT+ tuner but heard a quick CQ from AF4O and wanted to make the contact. I didn’t notice until afterwards that I was still in SWR position and not in operate, so the contact I made with him was thru the LED SWR Bridge which must have reduced my 2+ watt output to the lowish milliwatt range. How’s that for QRPp? Amazing that we even connected and my keying was so poor as the wind was blowing so hard the tuner was getting airborne during our brief exchange! Finally settled down and taped it to the table for the rest of the evening. Thanks for hanging in there with me Chuck! Operating in a strange place, in the middle of nowhere in the dark was a bit unsettling I was to learn.
The night effort was fun and I got to work several Polar Bear friends, Larry W2LJ, Hank WQ8RP using his club call, and Martin VA3SIE/VE2/P (what fun to send that call each time, eh?) Sure worth the effort to get out and experience the wierd band conditions. 20m was open until midnite but was pipelining to various parts of the country with STRONG sigs until it shifted to another region without much warning. It was either good or bad like that all evening but much more reliable than 40m here in the FL area.
Achilles HEAD shot
The lesson of the night was an itchy one. I was well covered from potential mosquitos and the wind was in my favor. BUT, they found my Achilles heel (or should I say Achilles HEAD?) They managed to bite my head without my noticing in the upside down U-shaped area where the cap adjuster is in the back. I am sporting about a dozen (almost the same as my 3 hr QSO total of 13) bites that itch like crazy in that small area that was not well covered by clothing or insect repellent. So next time I go out contesting in the night, I’ll be prepared… Look out, I’m ready for ya skeeters. Grrrrrrrr!
Lots of ways to do QRP!
For the past several months we have considered traveling to nearby communities in Central Florida to help QRP operators connect with one another. We’ve gotten a good response from hams in Lakeland and Port Orange areas, and we hear of active groups in the Melbourne and Daytona Beach areas. Lakeland has an advocate, Ren KG4BAS who contacted us about getting together and a possible Central Florida QRP Group in Lakeland. WAHOO!
We’re excited to see the interest and look forward to our first meet up Saturday 14 May, 2011 at Lake Parker Park in Lakeland at 0900. Here’s directions from Ren:
I-4 West to exit 32.
Make left onto 98S and go .4 miles to Griffin Rd.
Make left and go .7miles to the end of Griffin Rd.
Make right onto Lakeland Hills Blvd and go .3 miles to Granada.
Make left onto Granada and go .2 miles to Gate 2 entrance of Lake Parker on left.
Hope you can join us. Bring something to drink and snack on, your QRP gear, operate, show n tell, get ideas for your portable ops and enjoy the outdoors.
Questions? Contact Ren or Kelly K4UPG. See ya in the park!
Kelly K4UPG, Jim K4AHO, Ren KG4BAS and the Central FL QRP Group!
What if we had a super hero for ham radio? Many hams are sci-fi fans and love movies and TV shows like Star Trek, Star Wars, Superman and all those other great gadget filled plots. Who hasn’t grown up dreaming of flying to the rescue of the world?
Wanted: Super Hero (tks to Wiki Commons)
If we were to design our own super hero, what would be the unique abilities and powers that he or she would have? Imagine the cw speed that a super hero could handle while building a surface mount kit using heat vision or x-rays. Hmmmm…. Antenna man? Sparks? Capt. Hertz? Contester Supremo? Commander QRP? Elmer? What would we call this super hero?
It’s your chance to sound off… let’s hear your thoughts. Leave a comment and dream on…
Tailgate action as K4UPG buys a MFJ 207
Wahoo! It is that time of year again. I am counting down the days to one of my favorite ham radio activities… Orlando Hamcation is coming on Feb 11-13.
After reading the editorial in the new issue of World Radio Online a cord was struck that resonated with this here ham. I realized that I have a common disease. The article says, “Seems there are a lot of radio amateurs suffering from IDGOTAES.” OH NO… I have it. Throughout the month of December and most all of January, I’ve been sidetracked with other priorities and without realizing it have become afflicted with IDGOTAES. ( “I Don’t Get On the Air Enough Syndrome” ) This is a bad one and only can be cured by some serious outdoor QRP activity if you are a true portable QRP op like me.
Praise the Lord, there’s some good opportunities to get on the air coming up and one cannot find a better place to stock up on goodies than the vendors, swap tables and tailgate are of HAMCATION. So kick off the winter snow-bound blues and git on down here and enjoy with me.
Feeding frenzy at the vendor area of Hamcation!
Tailgate area is HUGE!
We’ll be holding an unofficial gathering of QRP types on Saturday Feb 12, 2011 at Hamcation. Let’s meet up at noon at the QRP ARCI booth and swap stories and get to know one another. Look for the wild eyed guy in the bright yellow cap that says K4UPG on it and his very distinctively white haired partner Jim K4AHO won’t be far away! Be there and let’s get over this dreaded disease together as we plan some Central Florida QRP Group outings for the rest of the year. QNI? Ya hear?
Kelly K4UPG PB #173
When Work Gets in the Way of Ham Radio
Every now and then we hit one of those seasons of life where our work gets in the way of our hobby. For the past month, seems like work has overtaken the time and my radios have sat idle for WAY TOO LONG.
Thankfully, this weekend brings some relief and our Central Florida QRP group will take to the outdoors for our monthly outing. No one will be able to complain about the weather being too hot either, as the northland has sent us a reminder of why we moved to Florida. When it gets below 55F we get cranky and it looks like it will barely go above that temperature this weekend.
So look out for us this Saturday, 11 December 2010 about 1500-2000 UTC on the QRP watering holes on 40m, 30m, 20m and who knows where else. We’ll be out there with rusty fists on the keys once again. YAHOO!
Recently I began a project for a wire vertical antenna and it called for a 20 ft fiberglass or non-conducting pole/mast of some sort. Not to worry as I have a trusty 20 ft Jackite pole in a nice green color. I put the antenna together but the vertical wire was too long and so there was considerable slack wire swinging in the breeze. After some head scratching, I measured my 20 ft Jackite and found it was only 18 ft long!!! YIKES! Did it shrink?
Did it shrink? Nope, it is all good to go!
Thanks to the internet, I was able to send an email to Jackite products and ask if that was normal. In a short time, I received a very nice response from the Jackite vp and an offer that was over the top and way more than I was expecting. It was more than I could accept as I’ve been quite happy with the product otherwise. Turns out that it was a small quality control issue that I can tweak and correct personally.
I get no monetary or other gain out of this, but did want to give credit where credit is due. This level of customer support is often lacking in today’s busy world. I am glad to give a shout out to this company and its products! They do the job and the company stands behind them with good service. Outstanding job Jackite!