Last weekend was a fun one for me. I had an open day following a morning commitment, and then I was free to operate in the QRP TTF event. I had originally planned to strike out to a nearby trailhead for the extra multiplier but a hastily planned meeting nixed that plan. So I operated from the park area by Lake Fredrica in our housing development. It is my favorite spot due to the nicely spaced tall pines and open area to a sandy beach on the lake. The lake is spring fed and one of the clearest natural lakes in the area despite being surrounded by civilization. It is also a nice quiet RF location free of most appliance generated noise that is so common these days.
Being a dedicated Contest Point Giver, I set out to give some points to the serious ops among us. What a treat to casually listen, and try to improve my cw copying speed by listening to all the exchanges going on during events like this one. I love the fact that the SOTA gang was included and there were a few Florida QSO Party ops on 20m where I spend most of my time. It was also Polar Bear QRP monthly outing time and I got to Grrrrrr to several of my fellow Polar Bear ops. Thanks and an extra long Grrrr to Larry W2LJ, Perry N5PJ, Barry N1EU, and John N0EVH and hope I did not miss any other PB’s.
My view of the lake K4UPG
In the end, I had a fun day. Seems the bands were not solid, but I’ve gotten used to that in this current solar cycle. I kept hearing the same stations over and over. Now and then a new call would appear but most of the time they disappeared before I could work them with my Sierra at 2.4 watts. Even with my jumper dipole up at 45 feet I suspect my signal isn’t always loud enough to attract much attention. So I search and pounce and enjoy reading the mail and waiting to pounce. I did collect 14 different states and give myself a bit of multiplier for that fortunate turn of events.
Nothing like spending time outdoors doing something that I love. I especially appreciate my fellow QRP ops and the fun we have making QSO’s with limited power and gear.
CU on the air!
One of my favorite events is the Orlando Hamcation. This year I didn’t really have a “get list” so could enjoy more time with fellow QRP ops. Our Central FL QRP Group regular Jim Diggs K4AHO helped us get a QRP Forum and Jim Stafford W4QO came in from Georgia to help bring a good session about working DXCC with QRP. Wow! Jim also did a lot of recruiting of QRP ops as he manned the QRP ARCI booth and allowed us to hang out and assist. We had quite a good turnout of QRP Ops from FL and all over the US and a few overseas members too!
Carl AA2JZ brought some of his homebrew masterpieces and along with some QRP rigs W4QO displayed we got a lot if interests and questions on what was in the Altoids tins.
After the QRP Forum, Greg N4KGL gave us a demo of his Alex Loop and KX-3 at a nearby picnic table. The weather and bands were both cooperative and we were all impressed with the way the antenna and rig set up and operated!
Thanks to all who joined in the fun. Check out our Central FL QRP Group blog for details on our outings.
If you are old enough, I bet you remember the game Fascination and that song in the commercial that stuck in your head all these years? For you new ones, here’s that commercial in YouTube format.
If you change the word fascination to Speculation, that naggy song becomes Speculation, Biased Speculation… the game we love to play! Seems like today’s political and journalistic culture has invaded ham radio if you follow the threads on QRP-L reflector about the Ten Tec 539 which is yet to be released. It has been diced, sliced and all sorts of factless speculation has already been thrown out as to why it won’t be popular or competitive with brand x’s new scrumpdillyicious xcvr. Whew!
I think it is a sad sign of the times that instead of waiting for things to be released publically and from the source, products are already condemned as unworthy and judged based on hearsay and not true facts. It is bad enough that our culture does that in tv news broadcasts. Everyday we endure seeing the accused virtually tried and convicted on the screen by endless talk show hosts and experts often months before the courts are convened. I hate to see that culture spilling over from the current US political context where finger-pointing, wild speculation, and always attempting to avoid responsibility and accountability begins to be spewed out on our hobby.
I for one will look forward to the final roll out of what looks like a very nice new transceiver from a US company before I make that buying decision. Might be something I want, but who can tell until the process is finished and we get to see the final product? From here, it looks promising despite the speculation that is taking over all the airwaves and culture here in the USA. As for me and my house, we will wait for the facts!
Great weather here in Orlando for a good afternoon of QRP Portable. The QRP To The Field contest is always a good time to get out and give out a few more points to the serious contesters. I enjoy the concentrated QRP contacts and hearing my virtual friends once again. Every QRP event has a few regulars that are almost always heard. This year the bands were only so-so in Florida with lots of QSB on 20m which was by far the best for the day. It was solid at times and then signals would suddenly drop to the noise level which made RST reporting fun!
Mt. Cedar Tree: Just above sea level
Because of band conditions, I spent most of the 4 hours on 2om, but I did check 15 and 10m on an hourly basis. To do that, I pulled out my Ten Tec Argonaut 509 and used a Buddistick with the base up about 12 ft. I called CQ about 50 times on 15 m but heard almost nothing on 10m all day. On 15m I heard a couple Eu (IV4 and DK) stations but was not getting a response to my calls and only heard 1 or 2 US stations so I assume the band conditions here weren’t quite right for those two bands.
Managed 18 QSO’s in 4 hrs of switching between my Wilderness Sierra to an EFHW, Delta Loop for 20m, and the Buddistick / Argonaut combo for 15 and 10m. 40 m was full of Florida QSO Party stations and a couple of nearby (within 4 miles) stations were pounding my receiver and causing the AGC to go nuts when I tuned across them so I only managed a single contact on 40 before retreating back to 20m.
I’ll be looking to give out more points in upcoming contests. So call CQ and I’ll be out there lookin’ fer ya!
Buddistick on the way up
The weather was too nice to sit inside. In the low 70’s with a very slight breeze so after church and a short nap I headed out to try my hand at giving out points in the QRP ARCI Homebrew Sprint. My startup was delayed by curious folks in the lakeside park wondering what in the world I was doing and how I got that string and wire so high up in the nice tall pine trees!
Next to the Lake in the Sun
I checked 40m first with an inverted L end fed half wave and my trusty Stuner (KI6S Stu’s kit) and decided to change to 20m after not hearing much activity. 20m was decent and there were a few of the big gun qrp contest regulars shooting it out. N4BP, K4BAI, K0ZK and a few other were running stations while the little guys like me were mostly doing Search and Pounce. Hey it is fun even if you cannot run a frequency, right?
Sun went down about 1745 local and the mosquitos were quick to find the hole in my hat and attack. This time I remembered the repellant and after a few bites I took time to spray my hat and hair and the backs of my hands. The temperature dropped fast and my hands got a bit stiff pounding out the morse code on my J-47 straight key. 50 degrees is cold for a Florida evening. The darkness also brought out the raccoon family and it was fun to shine my flashlight on them and watch them stand on their hind legs and stare into the night wondering what the funny guy was doing in the dark.
Sun is almost outta sight
40m came to life after sunset and I finished with a respectable 20 contacts for about 3 hours of operation and was able to give some Christmas contacts to the needy fellow contesters who were chasing another certificate. What a great way to spend the afternoon… by the lake in the sun and outdoors playing radio.
Wow! Great way to bring together a lot of ham radio ops on a Saturday using all sorts of technology! Way to go! QRPSPOTS.COM is normally used by QRP ops to spot each other when we are out operating portable or to alert others of band openings. It was ALIVE with reports and updates from all over the USA and even a few DX ops adding input too! In addition, several QRP reflectors were buzzing with updates and info. What a great community effort this turned out! Congrats to all and thanks to QRP ARCI for helping get the word out.
Iowa High Altitude Balloon Project
One of the 4 States QRP bunch, Terry WA0ITP, provided the 20m beacon again and has some great info on his informative website.
But for me, the coolest thing was listening in on the streaming webcast of VE3EN and his wonderful IC-7700. Sure wish I had thought of recording a bit or doing a screenshot to share here. But what a treat to listen in and hear the beacon’s signal right up until touchdown. Thanks Kevin for a fun way to eavesdrop on this event since the lawn mowing crew took over my condo’s yard and didn’t allow me to put an antenna out today. There is a ton of info and creative website construction on Kevin’s website and it is worth spending some time looking at the solar cycle data.
Congrats to the team for a successful event today and for bringing so many hams together for a good learning experience and something out of the ordinary. Well done W0OTM, well done indeed!
The QRP-L reflector has been buzzin’ with the news and chatter (positive and some negative btw) about a new project to design and build a new transceiver for QRP HF use. YAHOO!
K8IQY Style Test Setup
What I love the most about this is that the QRP community is able to contribute ideas, resources and participate much like the Open Source software community operates. This could really be a fun project for our Central Florida QRP group. After all, we are not that far from Diz W8DIZ who is facilitating and coordinating this project.
If you like to build, experiment and try some QRP operation with a new rig… you should tune in and join the fun.
This is the last week to vote in the poll on my blog for the best US QTH for ham radio… Here’s the standings as of Sunday at 2100 EDT:
You can cast your vote by following this link!
Kelly K4UPG PB #173
Here’s an email from my good friend and cohort in the Central Florida QRP Group. Jim wanted to share his latest mods for the Rockmites and some thoughts on the NEScaf filter. I think you will enjoy his notes too …
I thought I would bring you up to date on my latest project. I just finished a Small Wonder 20+ and used it on the Flight of the Bumblebees. I found my earbuds a little weak on audio output and the IF bandwidth of the SW20+ a bit wide for my liking. I read the specifications on the NEScaf filter offered by the New England QRP group and decided that that would be the best solution to my problem and be usable on other radios as well. I ordered, built and installed the NEScaf board in a TenTec TG-24 enclosure. I tried it on the SW20 and it sounded like a viable solution.
The Rockmite and NEScaf filter in Ten Tec Enclosures
I also have a 40 Meter Rockmite in a TG-24 enclosure and decided I would see how well the RM/NEScaf combination sounded. The Rockmite, of course, uses a DC receiver and the bandwidth is determined by the upper response of your ears… My RM sounds like about 40 khz wide, hears the whole band for me as my response is in the upper tens of kHz. Yes, I know, at my age 69 it shouldn’t be but is. Been tested. At any rate suddenly the Rockmite bandwidth is manageable. I had some audio artifacts, whistles and the RM sidetone would drive the NEScaf into cutoff which only a power cycle would clear. I googled the problem and Charlie KE2SP advised lowering the NEScaf input Z with a 10 to 47 ohm input load. I installed a 27 ohm resistor on the input connector and suddenly all artifacts, whistles and sidetone problems disappeared. WOW, the RM is really sounding great! Except the RX/TX was very low. I measured it at 500 cycles and the NEScaf would not tune down that low…
Closer Look at the Finished Rockmite and NEScaf
After considering several approaches to the problem and considering that the RM crystals don’t oscillate on exactly the QRP frequencies, I settled on completely revamping the RX/TX method used in the RM. Using the RM40 as a test bed, I removed D5, D6, R9 and R10. I purchased 2 Murata trimmers( TZ03 Series) from Skycraft, our local Surplus emporium, and installed them in the holes for D6 and D5, R9 combination of holes. I had to cut a small run on the right side (antenna connector side) to isolate that pad from Vcc and jumper to two trimmers together… I also had to drill out the pads to accept the trimmer leads. The Fet Q2 does a great job in switching to second trimmer in and out for the offset. The alignment was not difficult but I recommend using a freq counter connected thru a times 10 scope probe to the physical top of R5 (base of Q5). Don’t have to key the Tx to see the freq… I set the trimmer in the D6 position for the higher freq (7.030750 Mhz) and the other trimmer for the lower frequency (7.030000 Mhz. The trimmers I use are available at Digikey. I used the Red colored model (4.2 to 20pf, N750) but the Blue colored (2.7 to 10pf, NPO) might have been a better choice. These guys are Digikey p/n 490-1971-ND and are $0.43 each… I also changed the RM40 volume control from an audio control (1 Megohm) to a RF front end attenuator control (1.5 kohm) and there is a noticeable improvement in the overload and broadcaster breakthru problem. I strongly recommend these changes. If you can build the RM you can certainly modify it… If you break it, build another… I plan to make the same modification to my RM80. (CLICK THE THUMBNAILS for larger view)
Rockmite Mode Closeup 1
Rockmite another closeup
The Inner Workings of the NEScaf and Rockmite
How did it work? Well, the RM/Nescaf stack is now a real radio not just a toy. I worked WD8MHT Raul in Waynesville, NC one morning this week and we had a great conversation. He was 569 to me and I was 439 to him. His TS570 was working hard but copied me no problem. The amazing thing for me was that there was a really strong signal at 700 cycles and Raul was about 200 cycles higher. I tuned the Nescaf center freq on Raul and sharpened the bandpass and turned up the volume and he was armchair copy the entire QSO… WOW, not a struggle… I have since used the NEScaf on my SW20+ and yes, it works great…
I have attached a couple of pictures of the stack and the innards of the RM for reference. The switch on the front is for a future expansion.
Various QRP related email reflectors and lists are full of chatter about the Flight Of the BumbleBees (FOBB). Comments about the CW being too fast and the weather being too hot at this time of year make it sound like a broken event. IMHO it is far from being broken! It is probably the premier QRP event of the year. And I say, if it ain’t broke… yep, you guessed it, don’t fix it.
Sunday the bands were full of QRP ops, both home based and portable, so the activity really did make a BUZZ despite band conditions that have not been all that helpful to hf qrp contacts. The weather was HOT, but hey, find some shade, altitude or water and go for it. Historically this is the time of year for this event and as others have commented, it keeps our activity up during the summer time when vacations and mowing the grass take their toll on ham radio activity.
As far as fast cw, I’m not fast (not even close hi hi), but it sure is fun listening to the buzz on the bands rather than QRN and a high noise level with only a few weak signals. Certainly I am not a hard core contester. My cw skills are still in need of practice, but isn’t that what events like this provide? I often have to listen multiple times to get the callsign and info but that repetition and practice pushes my speed and confidence level up every time I try. After listening to a fast op several times I have the info I need and then I jump in and have fun making a contact at speeds faster than my comfort zone. Most of us slow guys can send faster than we can receive, right? Come on in, the water is fine, and FUN!
My XYL, Connie and I drove over to Honeymoon Island State Park on the Gulf Coast in Dunedin, Florida. This is a very pretty beach, not overly crowded most of the time and has been one of the top rated beaches in the US for several years. The weather cooperated, there was no sign of the BP oil spill that has run so many tourists to other locations, and we snagged a primo spot to operate right next to the water.The only negative, if you call it that, was that the view was sometimes distracting, but sure was enjoyable.
K4UPG Distracting View from my FOBB 10 Site
K4UPG Honeymoon Island FOBB Site July 2010
My trusty Sierra and Buddistick provided plenty of action so I never switched over to my mini-bac Delta Loop backup antenna. I also stuck to 20m the whole contest since 40m has been in such poor condition here in Florida lately.
One of the great things about these events is the leveling of the playing field. It is fun to contact the guys that write the articles, create the websites and design the equipment that we use for our hobby. My score was modest at 26 QSO’s, 18 Bumblebees and 17 states and provinces but it was one fantastic day of activity for me! Being able to connect with the big guns of QRP was a thrill too!
W8DIZ Stops By to say Hello to K4UPG
K4UPG search and pounce FOBB 10
For me, one of the highlights was when W8DIZ rode over to meet me as I was setting up my site. Diz lives about 3.5 miles from Honeymoon island and is a regular bicycle visitor of this great beach location. I’ve been a customer of his toroid and kit business and have benefited from the info he has shared, not to mention being one of the movers and shakers of the Famous Flying Pigs QRP group. Diz I was honored that you took time out from a busy family day to swing by and say HI! Thanks for the help getting our screen house up too!
Thanks to Adventure Radio Society and the guys that put this event on for all of us. We appreciate the effort it takes and you deserve the very best of 73’s from all of us.
Kelly K4UPG BB #10
On the road again… happy feet dance! K4UPG is loaded and ready for a good day by the lake operating the QRP To The Field event for 2010.
K4UPG ready to roll to QRP TTF site
Loaded with ALL the options!
Then came the wind knots in the antenna launching rig! I wanted to get a doublet up as high as possible. Took nearly 2 hours to get my antennas up in the air. LESSON LEARNED: It is really helpful to have another person along to help untangle all the knots that wire and string seem to make all by themselves. Getting the antenna up quickly is a key to portable ops. Grrrrr!
One of several tangled messes that delayed the antenna deployment
LESSON TWO: After a delayed start, I spent a lot of time moving my portable table to keep out of the direct sun! With temperatures in the upper 80’s it was HOT and direct sun causes my Sierra to drift a bit which makes qso’s more difficult. Need to get a sun shade setup and not waste time moving my position.
The band conditions were pretty poor and I did not hear as many stations as I had hoped. The ones I did work were tough going and seemed like others could not hear me responding to their CQ’s. I didn’t even hear a lot of Florida QSO party ops, but sounds like others that were farther away did. In 5 hrs I managed three whole qso’s with TTF stations. I did hear one Polar Bear– Martin operating as VA3OVQ but he could not hear me when I replied to his CQ.
Warning sign about 30 feet from my operating site!
It was fun to be outdoors and playing radio! I did not get eaten by our neighborhood gator either! Maybe next time out will be better contact-wise.