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QRPSPOTS.COM and IHAB Do it Again!
Oct 2nd, 2010 by kmack

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.

iHAB Logo

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!

Toe Dipping & Antenna Modeling
Aug 9th, 2010 by kmack

Tin Foil works!

I still think the tin foil does the magic!

After years of neglect, this analog era ham is willing to admit I only understand a bit about digital electronics. (Yep! Pun intended.) Well into the second week of my sabbatical leave, I have begun to plot out a course of study to get up to speed on the state of the art that I have so long neglected. Should be fun. There seems to be a good bit of open source help online these days and I have my trusty ARRL Handbook, Extra Class study guide, Antenna Handbook and assortment of other aids.

Any suggestions from the veteran techies out there will be greatly appreciated.

I am a learn by doing/hands-on sort of guy and find deep theory puts me into a semi-catatonic state after a few minutes.  For me, it’s a whole lot more fun to take a stab at things and find out if they smoke, and it also makes a lot more sense when I can dink and tweak and see what that actually does. But since that is a bit expensive, perhaps I should learn how to use software like spice to do simulations? Any recommendations for how to learn this software?

Another area of toe dipping will be learning to do antenna modeling. For years I’ve looked at those charts and made little sense out of them. HA… I like to throw wire out and see what happens, but in the summer heat, maybe it is wiser to do a bit of modeling from my air conditioned den?

Wild Delta Loop Model

Thanks WX7S-- Your site looks AWESOME for learning this stuff!

I’ll try to share some of the learning curve, but would love to hear from some of you that have gone before. Shortcuts are nice. WX7S your site looks like a great place for me to start! Thanks for the effort it takes to do that.

This weekend (Sat 14 Aug 2010) the Central Florida QRP Group will gather for breakfast at 0730 (Denny’s in Sanford, FL) and off to Sylvan Lake Park in Sanford, FL at 0900 EDT to operate. If you like cw and qrp or are just plain curious… come join us!

FOBB Ain’t Broke… SO…
Jul 26th, 2010 by kmack

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 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.

72,

Kelly K4UPG  BB #10

MEN OF ADVENTURE by Dan Caesar NI9Y PB #218
Mar 19th, 2010 by kmack

These last two Polar Bear adventure radio sprints in January and February was quite an experience operating QRP (5 watts or less) outside in the snow. I never thought I would never do anything like this in freezing weather. There I was knee deep in snow; with a wind chill around 15 degrees, under an open air shelter at Cobus Creek Park, located in the northwest corner of Elkhart County in January. I was invited by Bob, KB9IVA, who said it would be fun. So I got my portable gear and winter parka and headed out to the site. When I arrived Bob wasn’t there. I got out of the warm car and looked over the snow covered picnic table. The bright sun reflected off the stone on the side of the building helped warm things up a bit.

initial setup

First one gets the warmest spot!

Then the sun disappeared and it became colder.  The heated outhouse was open so I warmed up for a few minutes.

QRP in the parking lot!

QRP in the parking lot!

It was too cold for me to set up outside so I operated in my mobile on 40 meters.  Bob arrived in a snowmobile outfit with a bag full of tools, and his ICOM-703 and MP-1 portable all band vertical antenna.

The antenna would not tune properly so I ran 25 feet of RG-59U coax from my mobile antenna to the picnic table.  Then the portable battery pack ran out of juice.  So I took my emergency car starter battery and hay wired a connection to the ICOM-703 and we were back on the air.  When it’s cold radios and batteries don’t work properly.  Wires become stiff, batteries quickly discharge, and the straight key was difficult to use.  Not to mention your exposed fingers feel frostbitten.  I had forgotten my gloves but you couldn’t send CW with them on anyway.

antenna vertical

Our vertical in the park!

Cold stiff hands on a very cold key! YIKES!

Cold stiff hands on a very cold key! YIKES!

I was more prepared for the February sprint but didn’t count on blowing snow.  Participating in this sprint was, Bob, WA9S Keith, and Steve KB9ZVJ and I Ni9Y.  Keith arrived late and operated inside his Jeep.  I Made a half-dozen contacts from Utah to Colorado to the East coast with my HB1-A 4 watt transceiver using a 50’ end-fed wire only 27 inches high.  Then the wires snapped off my battery pack.  So we quickly repaired the pack with a new connector and we were back in business again.

Snowy Location for the PBMME

2 Cold QRP Guys operate in the Feb 2010 PBMME

Bob had his IC-703.  His headphone band cracked in two in the cold.  Bob’s straight key was almost brittle and hard to use with gloves on.  Steve operated SSB with his Yaesu rig, powered by a riding mower battery, feeding a sloping 20 meter dipole about 5 feet high.

A snow proof antenna for 20m

A snow proof antenna for 20m

Last man sending!

Last man sending!

It was getting too cold for me so I packed up and left as the snow began to really come down. Steve saw me packing so he packed up and so did Bob.  Keith stayed behind moving to the picnic table and made more contacts in a small blizzard.  Then Park Ranger paid a surprise visit to find out what in the world was going on.  The ranger was satisfied that we weren’t suspicious characters after Keith explained the situation.  The ranger failed to notice Keith had wrapped his antenna rope around the door handle on women’s entrance to the outhouse. There was no way anyone could open that door.   The ranger probably thought we were a bunch of nuts playing radio in the snow.  It was fun and we probably will do it again next season.  Only next time I will be more prepared for polar bear weather.  Oh yes I forgot to say this was the POLAR BEAR MOONLIGHT MADNESS event.  You can read all about on their website http://www.n3epa.org/Pages/PolarBear.htm.  Polar Bears all over the country and in Europe participated in the madness.  The final polar bear event was held March 20th but I took a pass on that one because all the snow is gone so it wouldn’t be as much fun operating in warm spring weather!!!

The MEN OF ADVENTURE will soon take off again.  Barry, WD4MSM says “QRP To The Field” has just been announced for 2010.   He recalled that we took part in the 2009 version that had as its theme “The Great Depression.”  We operated from the WPA site of Monkey Island in Mishawaka (the bridge to Monkey Island was built by the WPA).

This looks as if it might be an ideal outing for us.  Saturday, April 24, 2010
Spicer Lake Nature Preserve http://www.sjcparks.org/spicer.html
Small picnic shelter available; Trees for antenna support if needed;
Restrooms (heated and immaculate) just steps away; Ample parking for hundreds!
Just minutes from South Bend; Plenty to do for family members and visitors (trails, grills, visitor center, two lakes, etc.); Handicap accessible trails and parking immediately next to the suggested operating position.

You to can join the MEN OF ADVENTURE even if you don’t have a QRP rig.  Just show up to learn about portable operation and how to put up antennas where they don’t belong.  Who knows maybe you to will be just as nuts as the other members of the group are?  Present company accepted.

That’s it for this edition.

73’s Dan, email DAN

p.s. Consider operating the special event KØS Strange Antenna Challenge Special Event — May 29-31, 2010.
Start Date & Time: Saturday, May 29, 2010, 1000Z
End Date & Time: Monday, May 31, 2010 at midnight (local time zones)
This is not a serious event.   We are all out here for fun!  K0S will employ out-of-the-ordinary antennas to promote Amateur Radio and making do with what might be available during an emergency.  Individuals and clubs may participate as “satellite stations” by using anything but wire or pipe for a radiating element and adding “/K0S” to their call signs. Details are on the KØS, Strange Antenna Challenge Web site. Strange antennas used in past events, dating back to 2002, have included folding chairs, paint easels, ladders, tape measures, dog kennels, fences, cots and chicken fencing with a trampoline as a ground plane. “More people share in the fun each year,” says Erik Weaver, N0EW, a Strange Antenna Challenge founder. “I hope you give me a call this year with your very own strange antenna. Now let’s play radio!”

Then the sun disappeared and it became colder.  The heated outhouse was open so I warmed up for a few minutes.
A New Thing? Central Florida QRP Group is Forming!
Mar 14th, 2009 by kmack

This morning  14 March 2009, five Central Florida qrp ham radio operators met at a Perkins restaurant in Altamonte Springs at 0730 EDT. We were dreaming and scheming about getting a group together for portable ops, homebrew building sessions, elmer, and on-air cw practice and other activities. Some pretty sweet qrp rigs were on display too.

No officers, no members, no dues, just come and participate… any takers? Let us know and we’ll be glad to help you get hooked up. Contact K4AHO or K4UPG via the qrz.com info.

More details to come soon.

72,

Kelly K4UPG

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