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K4UPG FOBB 2013 Antenna on da Ground!
Jul 31st, 2013 by kmack

Grrrrrrrr! and then more Grrrrrrrr’s! FOBB 2013 was a gud one! Grrrrrr!

Anticipated rain and thunderstorms and was not disappointed. Accordingly, I took up my backpack and walked about 1/2 mile to set up under a small pavilion in our housing development’s lakeside park. So far, so good. Originally I planned to have an EFHW for 40m and another one for 20m. Upon unpacking, realized my 40m wire was in my other pack at home. SHUCKS. I had already put a shot over a 40′ high branch and pulled up a paracord to hook to the wire which was not available. Oh well… it happens even to the best of us, eh?

Grrrrr! So I tried to set up the 20m EFHW and after another great shot with my 1 1/2 oz sinker and pulling up a line realized the tree wasn’t going to give me a good shot as it was too close and not very high. Grrrrrrr=ed a bit more!

K4UPG site FOBB Pic

K4UPG FOBB 2013 BB#23

Rethinking mode kicked in and was glad I got out early so all the wasted time did not mess me up. Pulled out my handy 20 ft Jackite and a 17 ft crappie pole and decided to give up on a typical K4UPG “hang ‘em high” antenna and do a very Lazy L. I tried to orient it for a bit of slope towards 330 degrees which shoots from FL to Iowa and provides decent coverage of most of the US. Turned out that low antenna worked great but I think the band was pretty doggone decent for a change too.

So about 15 min before FOBB start time fired off a CQ and made a contact and shot the breeze for a bit to warm up. Nice QRP to QRP contact but not counted for contest. Just for grins. I did notice a few “early out of the blocks ops” were calling CQ BB about 10 min before the clock struck go! Grrrrrrrrr! Sync those watches gentlemen!

Contest Started:

First station heard was Cam out in California N6GA but no joy when I responded to his CQ as there was a mini-pileup on him. Grrrrr… Heard a few more 6’s during the day but no peep from Rem Bear or any others I recognized. I did end up with eight PB’s for the day though and a great TU and Grrrrr to my fellow PB’s: AF40 Chuck- PB 153 TN my last contact of the day (more later); Snowbird FL Bear Don K3RLL PB 187 in PA with his new KX3; Jeff K9JP PB 175 in MI was the loudest signal of the day and blew my ears out till I got the RF and AF turned down Grrrrr! didn’t recognize you as a PB… sri bout dat; N1EU Barry in NY PB 336 got a Grrrrr!; N3AAZ John in MD PB 276 sri 2 ya… missed a Grrrrr!; W1PNS Pete in MA PB 348 got a Grrrrrr!; W5ESE Scotty beam me up Bear PB 287 missed a Grrrr too; WA8REI a perennial PB contact for me gave me a PB 21 style Grrrrrrr! I was closing a contact and Blackjack Bear called me on the guy’s freq so kept it REAL short and sweet as I felt like if we tried to QSY there was too much traffic and we’d not make the connex. Sri Ken Bear was a messy QSO cuz of that. Missed hearing Larry W2LJ this time and listened fur some of you udder PB’s but no connex. Grrrrrr!

All in all worked 25 QSO’s in 17 states and all of them were BB’s! Lightning came up as I was finishing my QSO with AF4O and it was TOO CLOSE. Almost blew me out of my seat but I held onto the key and finished up. Sitting there holding the wire and I started singing, “Antenna on the ground, antenna on the ground, when da lightning is around get your antenna on da ground” to the tune of the famous “Pants on the Ground” song by “General” Larry Platt.

Thus ended a nice outing after 2 hrs and 45 minutes but I truly enjoyed this one. Great number of participants and bet I could have almost doubled the numbers if the lightning did not end the day. Was hearing a lot of new calls just prior to shutting down. At least I got to give the serious contesters some points this year. Maybe next year will be my turn fur sum extra Q’s ? Grrrrrrr!

72 from Orlando, Kelly K4UPG PB 173

Double Dip Weekend August 2012
Aug 13th, 2012 by kmack

Homebrew Buddipole inspection

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.

K4UPG Skeeter 2012

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:

Date Time Call Band Pwr RST RCV SPC Nr
8/12/2012 17:12 N0SS 20 CW 2.4 559 579 MO #122
8/12/2012 17:17 W0EA 20 CW 2.4 559 559 IA #22
8/12/2012 17:23 NK9G 20 CW 2.4 559 559 WI #75
8/12/2012 17:25 VE3WDM 20 CW 2.4 559 559 ON #15
8/12/2012 17:37 KQ2RP 20 CW 2.4 449 439 NJ #27
8/12/2012 17:39 AB4PP 20 CW 2.4 579 599 NC #79
8/12/2012 17:42 N0JRN 20 CW 2.4 559 559 MO 5W
8/12/2012 17:46 N3AO 20 CW 2.4 449 559 VA #109
8/12/2012 17:49 W4MPS 20 CW 2.4 599 559 NC 5W
8/12/2012 18:00 KR9Z 20 CW 2.4 449 449 IL #10
8/12/2012 18:06 AA4GA 20 CW 2.4 579 569 GA #2
8/12/2012 18:08 N7UN 20 CW 2.4 579 559 NJ 5W
8/12/2012 18:14 WF4I 20 CW 2.4 559 559 NC #71
8/12/2012 18:18 K3RLL 20 CW 2.4 449 339 PA #21
8/12/2012 18:31 KX0R 20 CW 2.4 449 359 CO #69
8/12/2012 18:36 W2LJ 20 CW 2.4 579 599 NJ #4

A good time was had by me!

72,
Kelly K4UPG

QRP TTF 2012
Apr 29th, 2012 by kmack

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!

Just above sea level

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!

72,

Kelly K4UPG

BS goin' up

Buddistick on the way up

Contest Point Giving for Christmas
Dec 19th, 2011 by kmack

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!

HB Sprint 2011 daylight

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.

Almost 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.

Duh-tective sends his confession and apologies!
Aug 27th, 2011 by kmack

Made one of those last minute decisions to go out and operate in the last minute announced QRP-ARCI Welcome to QRP Event. Packed my trusty Sierra and End Fed Half Wave with Stuner (ala Stu KI6J) and went down to the lake park to take over the shelter. Hurricane Irene’s leftover wind gusts of up to 30 mph made the launching of antenna supports a bit more challenging than normal, but I used a bit heavier sinker than normal and only need one do-over shot to get my two lines in the air.

QRP ARCI Welcome Aug 11

K4UPG setup for QRP ARCI Welcome to QRP Event 2011

Ran my EFHW in a L configuration with the vertical side up to about 33 feet and the horizontal side going to a nearby tree that was well placed for hanging my antenna. I started on 40 m and shortly after light off worked QRP contest regular W4BAI and felt good about the day. But either the band or the connection quickly began to let me down with signals diminishing quickly into the noise floor. Reluctantly shortened the antenna to switch to 20m and for some reason signals there were even lower in strength… and the antenna was not loading. Hmmmm! Could not get the LED to even dim–what could cause that? Changed my coax from rig to tuner, double checked the banana plugs and all seemed well there, but no match and the signals I heard were WAY down in the mud. I tried to check freq with a QRL? on several spots and called CQ until I was tired of pounding brass with no response heard. No fun…

Then the DUH-tective showed up and solved the problem.

Seems I had not switched the band module in the Sierra and it was still on 40m but the antenna was a 20m EFHW. DUH… my sincere apologies to anyone that got qrm’ed by my QRL’s and CQ’s into a mis-matched antenna. This is one time that I was glad to be running QRP at only 2.4 watts out. A quick band switch and I worked another contest regular K0ZK and then in the next QSO worked NE5DL for both QRP ARCI and SKCC number exchanges in two different QSO’s. Had a bit of distraction in the middle of our first QSO as the rain started and was pounding into my back as the 30 mph winds sent the rain horizontally! A bit more with Dave and I called it a day before the rig got wet. Good thing the DUH-tective showed up.

Black Racer Buddy

My sole visitor was a Black Racer about 4 ft away from me!

Hey, I was outdoors, saw a nice looking 3+ft long Black Racer snake about 4 feet from my operating position and made a couple QSO’s despite the goof ups. Who could ask for more?

Balancing Act
Dec 7th, 2010 by kmack

balancing work and life demands

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!

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173

Giving Out Points Again!
Oct 17th, 2010 by kmack

Nice weather and an open schedule allowed for some radio time this weekend. The QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party made some buzz so I loaded up the gear and headed out by the lake.  I put up an 88ft doublet in an inverted vee. I shoot a line over a tree limb at about 40ft and use that for the center and have two 17ft Crappie Poles that I use for end supports. That allows me to reorient the antenna to suit the conditions.

Ground Mount Closeup

Ground Mount Closeup

One of the things I threw together is a simple mount for the crappie poles. I use a 2ft piece of PVC with a couple bolts inserted at right angles to one another at the base to keep the pole from going all the way through to the ground. The PVC is attached to a 3ft piece of aluminum angle iron that with 3 stainless steel hose clamps.

crappie pole

Crappie Pole End Supports

The poles are pretty limber and take a bit of a bend but do a good job of handling the 24 gauge teflon wire I use.  As you can see in the pictures, the mounts do the job and don’t cost as much as commercial counterparts.

So it was a good day and I made a few contacts, enjoyed the outdoors and had a nice picnic lunch with my XYL down by the lake between QSO’s.  The bands were pretty decent and I gave points to 20 of the more serious contestants out there.

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173

p.s. The Polar Bears will be out and on the air next weekend. Give a listen, hear?

I am a CPG
Sep 13th, 2010 by kmack

Spent my birthday participating (casually) in the Straight Key Century Club Weekend Sprint. My Lake Fredrica neighborhood site was where I set up my shelter and 3 antennas. I had a 40m dipole fed with twinlead up 40 ft and running E-W. An End Fed Halfwave for 20m was nearly vertical suspended by a nearby tree. A twinlead 44 ft doublet on my 20 ft Jackite with the ends at 16 feet was setup running N-S to give me a bit of a mini-smorgasbord of antenna choices. Since it was really sunny, I hooked up my ACME GC100 Solar Charger and VW Solar Panel.

Bands were decent with 40m quiet and some DX coming through early from Eu stations. Nice to hear that again. 20m came alive and was pretty much the go to band for the majority of the day. I did check 15m a couple times but did not hear much and no one replied to my CQ’s.

In the middle of a QSO, my Jackite pole decided to collapse but I was able to finish the QSO with one end of the dipole about 4 feet above the ground. hi hi

The highlight of the day was my last QSO with EA3NO, Lluis in Spain. As the special station for the sprint there was a lot of competition but Lluis hung in there with my weak signal and pulled me out of the crowd after a couple attempts. THANK YOU FOR THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT Lluis!

Still wondering what a CPG is? Contest Point Giver! I am a really casual contester. Really the only reason I participate is that contests offer a fairly good opportunity to make some QSO’s. When you are QRP you have to do a lot of listening, plus pounce and search, but serious contesters will dig out weak signals to make the QSO’s so it is fun. I enjoy giving out points and reading the mail on ops that are faster than my cw comfort zone. Good practice, eh?

Here’s some photos from the day. Enjoy!

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173 SKCC #5415

Duh: Learning Curve #3–Coke Choke Works!
Sep 9th, 2010 by kmack

Had a great time setting up the C Pole antenna in a tree suspended configuration. My good friend and cohort, Jim Diggs, K4AHO came by with his AIM 4170 Antenna Analyzer and we were ready to tune the antenna and get a feel for it.

LESSON: A good analyzer makes tuning an antenna fast, simple  and accurate! The AIM 4170 gave us a TON of info (most of it going over my head) and let us see how the C Pole was doing in several areas.  Take a look at this output! (Click on the image for a larger version)

C Pole Plot

K4UPG C Pole Scan Results

LESSON: I followed Niel’s directions, but did not have a small plastic coffee container so used a Quart Coke bottle instead. So I call it a Coke Choke and it seems to work well. Here’s a photo to show it off!

Coke Choke

Coke Choke Ready for Duty

I think this one is a keeper. Goes up easily, hears well and loads nicely too. I made a few brief contacts and called it a day, but look forward to more C Pole action in the days ahead.

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173

p.s. Don’t forget to vote in the Ideal Ham Radio QTH poll on the blog!

Duh: Learning Curve #2
Sep 1st, 2010 by kmack

Sunday I got the itch to get online. That means backyard portable when you live in an antenna restricted condo. So I put a card table up in the back porch and my 20 ft Jackite and 20m End Fed Half Wave in between the buildings.

Doggone noise and weak band conditions ruined the day so I decided to experiment with the new C Pole antenna that  Neil W0VLZ had suggested. To get rid of a hunk of fiberglass gel inside the barrel of one of the Black Widow Crappie poles I used my cheapo Harbor Freight rotary tool which is a lame imitation of a Dremel tool but gets the job done. A few minutes of fitting and I was good to go.

I’m pretty impressed with it though conditions did not allow for any QSO’s yet. I cut the wire a bit longer than Niel’s directions but it tuned up 1:1 at 13.889 on my MFJ 207 Analyzer. At 14.060 it was a bit over 1.4:1 which is plenty usable. Next time out I’ll do a bit of trimming and be right on the money! Compared to the EFHW in a 20 ft L configuration, it did seem a bit noisier but with condx so difficult it would be hard to tell without some instrumentation.

LESSON: The C Pole is a pretty fine design. I need to work on the physical setup to improve the way the antenna hangs. The crappie poles I used were a bit too flimsy on the top section and leaned inward from the weight of the wire. A better tippy top support system is needed.

LESSON: Niel’s C Pole base design and specs worked very well.  Lacking an empty plastic coffee can, I used a quart diet soda bottle of the same dimension and it worked very well for the balun section. With winds of approximately 15 mph and gusts to 20+ the antenna was stable and I did not use the spikes for the outriggers that I had prepared. Great work Niel. The weight of the base makes it a good choice for backyard or campground use.

LESSON: The C Pole would be a fantastic portable antenna sans the earth side supports. Chuck Carpenter W5USJ has posted a picture of this configuration. Take a look. One point hanger  and spreaders at the top and bottom and simple stake to the ground for anchoring it and you are good to go. I will be testing this next time out by the lake. Winner!

LESSON: The off center fed dipole folded like this and deployed vertically is a good compact option for antenna restricted hams. I bit more work on the frame and support system may pay good dividends in stability and efficiency.

Hope to fly this new antenna in its tree configuration this weekend. I’ll update my results then.

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173

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