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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

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?

Give a Hoot? How NOT to Avoid Mosquito Bites!!
May 31st, 2011 by kmack

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.

ouch

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!

Why Do We Do It?
Apr 24th, 2011 by kmack

Another QRP To The Field is in the books. Some may wonder why we do it…why spend the time and energy to take our rigs outdoors and operate? Guess if you have never done it, you will never know! The weather made things tough for many parts of the country, but it was sure sweet to live in Florida for this one. Sunny and a warm 87F with a bit of breeze down by the lake made my day a very special one.

K4UPG QRPTTF 2011 Site

K4UPG QRP TTF Lake Fredrica 2011

The bands were fair to poor, but who cared? I was enjoying my hobby, making a few contacts, giving out points to the more serious contesters and spending time in the outdoors. It is a bunch of fun to make contacts with 2 watts and change, use a straight key and launch an antenna up about 35-40 feet in the pine trees.

Between QSO’s the ospreys provided some entertainment as they swooped down into the lake to snag a fish for their dinner while 4 guys on jet skis raced around our little lake. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon. That’s why I do it! How about you?

Good Customer Service is NOT Dead!
Nov 5th, 2010 by kmack

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?

My 20 Foot Jackite Pole

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!

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173

Computer Does Not Save Time
Oct 13th, 2010 by kmack

Remember when we used to think computers would save us time?

angry

Why did we think the computer would save us time?

I spent the last 6 hours running updates, fixing the problems the updates created and figuring out how to install the updates that would not install automagically. Grrrrrrr!

Think I need some time to play radio, but I won’t be taking a SDR radio with me for a bit. Grrrrr…. need to recover from the 26 reboots and all the time wasted surfing and reading the small print.

Good thing there is a QRP ARCI event this weekend and the following weekend is our Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Event. Grrrr! I’m ready for some CW. CU on the bands!

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173

Duh: Learning Curve #5 Old Lessons Remembered
Sep 23rd, 2010 by kmack

POLL RESULTS SO FAR:  West Virginia is in the lead for best Ham Radio QTH in the USA… One more week of voting… Have you voted yet? Here’s the link to vote!

Last weekend I played in the QRP Afield event and had fun with fellow Polar Bear QRP Club members on the air. It was a great time. Once again, the antenna tweak won out and under the influence of a great blog post by Polar Bear #20 VA3SIE, Martin in Ontario about the 88ft Doublet, I caved in and put one together the night before the event. Oops, I did it again! But this time I had excellent results and the antenna worked as advertised.  LESSON: Sometimes it pays to follow your heart and not your head.

cd logo

Civil Defense Logo

I also remembered how I learned a lot as a young teen aged ham via the Civil Defense program. Remember that time?

Watching a weather report about tornadoes reminded me of a great learning experience. The Palm Sunday Tornadoes of 1965 hit the counties north and east of my home in Elwood, IN. At only 15 yrs old, I was the assistant emergency coordinator and ran the 6 meter emergency communications net on Sundays.  Our county and city Civil Defense teams had setup equipment and were ready for disasters and those tornadoes reeked havoc on our area.

Palm Sunday Tornado Map

Path of the Palm Sunday Tornadoes

Our teams rolled out the emergency vans, and the adults helped this young ham handle traffic for the state police and other government emergency responders.  The old yellow CD Gonset Goonie Bird rig is still something I remember fondly. I loved running that thing!

LESSON: Give the young hams some responsibility and empower them. They will be there when the time comes and will never forget how older folks treated them as peers and gave them an opportunity to do something important. I bet that kind of opportunity will still attract young people to our great hobby. We need them! They need us!

Goonie

The Yellow Goonie Bird

Duh: Learning Curve #4 Oops I did it again!
Sep 16th, 2010 by kmack

Ever see one of those tie bars or pins that say, “IYKDWYBDYKGWYBG”  My dad had one back in the days when men wore ties. The thing used to bug me cause he didn’t tell us what it meant right away. We tried guessing for a few days before he got tired of 7 kids all ganging up on him.

It is the famous If You Keep Doing What You’ve Been Doing, You’ll Keep Getting What You’ve Been Getting!” Not sure who gets the credit for that one, but it sure stuck with me all these years. Of course, I’ve heard my bosses recite it a few times along the way too.

Hole in the Head?

It only hurts when I laugh, or think, or move, or...use a new antenna in a contest!

That’s what this series of posts is about. Not repeating mistakes I’ve made. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes and save a bit of time. Or maybe you’ll just get a laugh and some relief from knowing someone else made the same mistake you’ve made. HA!

Well, last night, I did not follow my own advice. I put together a new antenna a few hours before the NAQCC Sprint and set it up. LESSON: As previously mentioned, don’t try to use a brand new antenna in a contest.

Ooops I did it again. Strike TWO! It was a disappointing night and too late to try to get another antenna up before the 2 hour sprint was over. So no contacts for me, I’m still scratching  my head. Was it the antenna, me, or the band conditions? BUT… I don’t think I’ll pull that one again. Unless I have a hole in my head…

72,

Kelly K4UPG

p.s. Don’t forget to take the poll on my blog for the best ham radio QTH in the USA! It is on the left side column.

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