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!
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!
Kelly K4UPG PB #173
Now into the third week of my sabbatical, I am surprised how much I want to get out and operate my QRP portable gear. Guess I have deprived myself over the years of being a confirmed workaholic and avoiding time off, vacations, and time for my favorite hobby.
Grrrrr! The Polar Bears Are On The Loose!
This should be a good weekend for QRP portable. The Polar Bear QRP Group will be out for another Polar Bear Summer Picnic Event and Polar Bears from Spain to the West Coast of the US will be out looking for BSO’s. Grrrrr! I am PB #173 and we’re over 200 members now. With the new Twitter and APRS connections to QRPSPOTS.COM which also point to the excellent spotting site of K3UK with a section for FISTS/QRP Ops to spot and sked one another, there are plenty of ways to use technology to help find each other. Add in a few other contests and state QSO parties, and there should be some buzzing going on this weekend. Makes me wonder when the FOBB results will be announced! Buzzzz Buzzzzz
I’ll be out and if all goes well I will be field testing a new C Pole antenna based on the suggestion I received from Neil W0LVZ. I added some switchable capacitance to my BLT+ and have rewound the main toroid to see if I can push the range a bit more with it so will have a delta loop and probably my W3EDP in the air too. I love playing with antennas and am still amazed when the ones I build actually make contacts!
Give a listen for me on the QRP watering holes on 40m, 30m and 20m Saturday morning. I’ll be self spotting on QRPSPOTS and the K3UK sites to make it easier for you to find me. Let me know how my newest antenna is workin’.
Many work responsibilities have kept me off the air more than I’d like lately.
But we did manage to break away for a few days with family in Tennessee over Memorial Day. It was great to have an opportunity to get together with Chuck, AF4O the Hillybilly Bear and fellow Polar Bear QRP group member. We had an opportunity to work a bit of QRP portable in the Chickasaw State Forest in West Tennessee. It is a very natural and beautiful location and Chuck took me to his special spot in a very old and interesting cemetary set deep in the very tall hickory tree forest. Wow! I believe the latest date on the grave markers was 1927 and there were many from the early and mid 1800’s. It is a lovely and isolated spot.
K4UPG running a 30m EFHW sloper from the edge of the forest cemetary
Chuck said to bring along a screen shelter and I sure was glad I did! This was also a great spot for deer flies, hornets and other interesting biting bugs!
He had a nice setup and was running a random wire on 20m which he launched by throwing an antique glass insulator from an old telephone pole over a tree branch. He has a better arm than I do… think that heavy insulator would have broken my arm!
Back at the in-laws home in Jackson, I had some time to operate deck portable and was ably assisted by my niece Chloe. Conditions were horrible, but it was fun to be outside and hearing some sweet dits and dahs for a bit.
Now I am gearing up for the next outing of the Central Florida QRP group. The weather is HOT and the summer thunderstorms are back, but life and radio must go on… cu on the air!
AF40 downs a Mountain Dew and doesn't miss a character of CW
Chloe gives me advice on copying cw through the QRN
Great weather, great site, and despite so-so band conditions but we made over 25 contacts to be able to submit our qualification of Hontoon Island, Deland, Florida as an official island to be listed and activated as a US Island On the Air.
The main picnic area near the ferry landing
The team consisted of Wally Crew, KG4LAL, Jim Diggs, K4AHO and Kelly, K4UPG. We used the special event callsign K4T on operated on 20m cw and ssb, 30m cw and a few unsuccessful attempts at 40m & 15m cw. Jim was our secret weapon on 20m with his good cw, K-1 and a Par End Fed antenna in vertical configuration on a 33 ft MFJ telescoping mast. Without his contribution we would not have been successful! So a big thank you Jim for your good operating skills and equipment that made it happen in less than 8 hours at QRP levels.
FL481 is ready for future activations!
Thanks to the Polar Bear QRP group, QRP-L members, 4 States QRP Group, GORC, QRP Spots, US Islands organization and HF Packers that helped out by listening and attempting to connect with our effort on Hontoon Island. It was fun to work as a team!
Look out Hontoon Island the Polar Bear of Florida is coming your way! Good Friday, 2 April 2010 Polar Bear QRP member #173 (aka K4UPG) will attempt to qualify Hontoon Island as a US Island on the Air by making 25 contacts including at least 2 DXCC entities.
Hontoon Island is a beautiful place for some QRP Portable Ops
Activity will start about 1400Z after the ferry ride over to the island. Plan is to use special callsign K4T for recognition.
Look for us on 30m cw (10.106-10.116 MHz) and 20m cw 14.050-14.070 MHz and on the hour we will check 15m 21.060-21.070. If anyone shows up to assist, will also attempt ssb on 14.250-14.260 MHz island corridor. All ops will be QRP so we’ll need your help to pull us out!
Fishing is good!
If things go well, our Central Florida QRP group may consider this as a new operating site! If you are in the area, come on and check it out with us.
Hontoon Island closes when the sun goes down!
Thanks to Florida State Parks for the fine pictures!
P.S. We did it 4.2.2010! Over 30 QSO’s update coming! I am TIRED!
A fitting end to this season of PBMME … Saturday the weather was finally decent here in Orlando and with 80F temperature and lots of sun, I certainly earned my red neck for the season! I set up my portable station near the tall pine trees in our neighborhood park on Lake Fredrica. A few curious neighbors came by to find out what the crazy guy with the wires in the tree was doing!
I am really liking the latest antenna launching combo shown in the photo below. I have been using a slingshot taped to a shelf bracket and equipped with a spincast reel, but have been considering other alternatives. The monofilament fishing line is prone to wind knots and tangles and does not always slip through the branches as well as I’d like. I found an old post by Russ Carpenter, AA7QU, a co-founder of Adventure Radio Society, which described using an archery reel and super slick braided line. Sure is nice to learn from those that have gone before! The bright yellow line is very easy to see though very thin, 3x stronger than monofilament and flies through both air and branches with ease! KEEPER! Think I will do away with the spincast reel and save it for the grandkids!
Antenna Launching options
Here's my site for the event
Great trees for antenna wire hanging!
If you look closely, you can see the 30m half wave going up to the tree on the left. Nearly vertical for 46 feet and is spooled on a Coleman Camping clothes line and used with a 3 ft counterpoise.
To the right is my 20ft Jackite pole and a W3EDP 84 ft antenna with a 17 ft parallel feed with 3/16 inch PET pipe spacers about every 2.5 ft. it tunes 80-15m with my BLT+ tuner.
The Polar Bear QRP Group is a great bunch of guys… (no yl’s or xyl’s that I’ve heard yet) and our monthly outings are something I look forward to each month. The Yahoo Group is a good source of information and laughs as we swap stories and share our adventures. If you like QRP and portable operation, this is the group to join.
After a couple days of HEAVY rain, it was good to see the sun again. Following a great breakfast and heavy discussions of antenna theory, propagation, politics and diets, we hit the field next door. The wind was very strong gusting in the mid 20’s most of the day. This made launching antennas a bit complicated, but it did help dry out the ground.
Tiny Loop goes into action
Bart AI4NF brought his new MFJ 936B Loop tuner and setup very quickly. It seems to hear very well and soon the sound of cw was in the air. 20m was pretty active and eventually a signal was even heard on 10m! What a blessing! We did learn that the antenna was coupling to the metal frame of the card table and made it difficult to tune. After putting it on the small cooler it tuned more normally, with a very sharp and obvious peak when in resonance. Later we put the cooler on top of the table and that solved most of the problem and eliminated some of the ground coupling and loss.
I got to test my clone of Nick WA5BDU’s End Fed Halfwave Matching Device. It worked great and I was able to tune sloping half wave antennas on 40 and 30 meters. This tuner is unique in that it is simply a toroid and does not use a capacitor at all! On the bench it tunes 3-12Mhz at 1:1-3 to 1 half wave antennas. Next outing I hope to test the 80m halfwave and see it theory and practice agree.
Great day to be out at the lake even if it was windy!
K4UPG on 30m lakeside in SE Orlando, FL
Tuff day on the ice floes in Central Florida. I was not able to use my
target location because of rain and wind direction, so I operated from
the back porch of our condo with my Sierra and SST working through my
Buddistick up about 15 ft on a painter’s pole. Temp hovered in mid to
upper 40’s but with the wind and dampness it felt colder at times.
Band condx were poor with brief bright spots when the QSB let up and
signals sounded fairly decent. I started on 30m but it was pretty quiet
so I tweaked the antenna in the rain for 20m and found it even
quieter… Back to 30m after checking 40m which also was noisy and
almost no signals heard.
First QSO was K9DP Dan in Smithville, TN… He was 569 until QSB hit
hard but we had a 25minute ragchew that was nice. He gave me a 599 and a
couple others did later making me wonder why they could hear me better
than I was hearing them? Then read the mail for a bit on a few other
stations but didn’t get a rise when I tried to connect. Tried to connect
with K9QB but after a few weak QRZ’s we both moved on for better luck.
Finally heard a PB on 20m, WD4MSM, Barry in Indiana working someone
else. When they finished the QSO I called Barry and we had a short QSO
although the QSB was up and down and made copy tough at times. It was
good to be able to Grrrrowllll. Tried to find others and even using the
QRP Spots and K3UK spotting pages could not connect. Then I called CQ
and Guy rose out of the Band N7UN was in the log… Good to connect with
another Bear but the copy deteriorated quickly so we kept it very short.
Thanks Guy for digging my signal out. Next was Frank,, KB3AAG to finish
my day. His signal totally got lost in the noise and so it was a short
QSO to end the day.
Whew… many antenna changes, tweaks and lots of tuning, listening,
trying to hear today. I think the bands were pretty void of activity
except for us QRP types. Not often that happens, eh?
Thanks to all who went out and gave it a go. Missed talking to our
Canadian and West Coast guys this time… let’s keep trying. Also quiet
without Ken Bear raising a ruckus from MI and no Alpha Bear on the AT…
See ya in March… Grrrr!!!!
Kelly K4UPG PB #173
45F a bit of sun and a lot of wind! Today I escaped being selected for jury duty so opted to get the oil changed in my car! I called and my shop was not too busy and said, “come on down!” So I packed my 30m SST, BLT+ tuner and accessories and took off. Instead of sitting in the waiting area and reading out of date magazines and watching silly game shows, I walked out to the parking lot and threw some wire into a couple small trees. I only got the main 46 feet wire up about 15 feet on one end and sloped it through another small tree and out to my camping table. I ran a counterpoise of 23 feet to the same small tree and hooked up my trusty BLT+ tuner.
My Oil Change Parking Lot QTH for 30m
A quick tune found a couple week signals. I tuned the antenna a bit, called CQ with no luck, then heard a decent 579 signal calling CQ. Bill, NG3O in Columbia, MD replied and although I wasn’t strong (539) he thought he could copy me. He sure did a great job and we enjoyed a nice QSO for almost 30 minutes. Sure is pleasant to work a good fist without any QRM. He said I was his first Oil Change Parking Lot QSO.
A few minutes later, I connected with Rudy, W8RJW in Columbia, SC. He was a strong 589 and gave me a 559. We had a nice qso for several minutes too. It was a fun way to pass the time while I waited on my car maintenance to be done.
The band got pretty quiet afterwards and though I heard a few more stations, it was time to pull the plug, take down the wire and go home. I think I have figured out a new way to pass time when the opportunity is present. Hope you will give it a try too!