Polar Bear Summer Picnic Event Jun 2010
Jun 19th, 2010 by kmack

My favorite QRP group is the Polar Bear QRP gang! We have a good time and enjoy outdoors activities and trying to connect with one another at least once a month with some kind of activity. To escape some of the heat, I got an early start on the day. I wanted to try out a new mini-bac antenna configuration and knew it would take some time to get it up into the trees. BOY WAS THAT AN UNDERSTATEMENT! It was 110 ft doublet with a 40 ft feedline that was setup as a ladder line. Not an easy one to get up single-handed. Thanks to some tall trees, was able to get it up about 40-45 feet in the pine trees. It loaded great on 40m, but was disappointing on 20m so I ended up setting up my W3EDP in an L from my 20 ft Jackite pole to a nearby cedar tree at about 35 feet.  The sun chased me into the treeline where I settled in to chase bears.

Abandoned mini-back doublet feedline hangs in foreground

My xyl Connie took a picture that shows the mini-back feedline hanging in the breeze after I shifted positions and setup the W3EDP in the shade. Grrrrr!

Osprey perched right above my head...cell phone picture

Was able to work a couple of the Polar Bears, Mike W3MC in MD and Guy N7UN up in the mountains on a trail(?) in NJ. I heard VA2SG but he was at ESP level briefly then faded away. I did hear a few others working him though. WA8REI was working Guy but I could not hear him at all and ended up tail ending their QSO to connect with N7UN.

Got to work a few others through the QSB and poor signal strength on 20m including Pastor Les, K4NK in SC, KE5SBZ, Ed in TX, N1FJ in MA, and Phil W3HZZ in Atlanta so it was a nice way to spend a few hours outdoors in the heat.

Connie brought me a picnic lunch and we enjoyed the osprey and bald eagle show as they fished Lake Fredrica.

Had to drink extra coffee to copy speedy W3MC's signal

This is the life... outdoors and ham radio...making QSO's...PTL!

K4UPG Back in Action!
Jun 6th, 2010 by kmack

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

QRP TTF 2010 * Disappointed in Orlando!
Apr 25th, 2010 by kmack

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.

Packed up and ready to roll

K4UPG ready to roll to QRP TTF site

Kitchen Sink Approach

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!

Wind knot

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.

Don't fee the Gator!

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.

Hontoon Island Qualification Report
Apr 4th, 2010 by kmack

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 site

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!

Polar Bear on Hontoon Island
Apr 1st, 2010 by kmack

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.

Main pic

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!


Hontoon Fishing spot

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.

Closing Time is Dusk

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!

Lakeside Ops
Mar 14th, 2010 by kmack

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.

Bart MFJ 936B at the lake

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!

Lakeside in March

K4UPG on 30m lakeside in SE Orlando, FL

Who’s Polar Bear Enough?
Feb 26th, 2010 by kmack

Yahoo! This weekend is another outing of the Polar Bear QRP Group. Who will venture out into the winter weather and once again seek to contact fellow Polar Bears for a nice BSO?

Which of the intrepid bunch of QRP crazed Polar Bears will overcome the cold and actually enjoy the challenge of punching a peanut whistle signal through another weekend’s RTTY contest bunch?

Will the sunspots be with us and bounce our signals out of the neighborhood and enable us to contact our Polar Bear cuzzins in Canada (VG3SIE/P) on the mountain tops, in Alaska on the ice floes( KL7WP & KL8DX ) , in Scotland in the highlands ( MM0CWJ & MM0FMF ), outside Buckingham Palace ( 2E0RKY ), in Spain’s coastal range ( EB3EPR ), or in a dark snow den in New Jersey ( N7UN/2 ) On a windy slope in Utah ( AD7KG )?Will our Ohio Bears freeze their acorns off in the park ( WB2DFC ) ? What will it take to get a signal into the Goat Den to our pals Rooster and Peanut and the old Goat himself ( WGØAT )? Will the Revenuers catch up to Hillbilly Bear in the park at Chickasaw ( AF4O ) ? Who will connect with K3YTR and the 2m HT from the hospital bed in Pottstown? Can anyone guess which antenna trick will be used by our Illinois Bear (N9SKN) ? How will the Florida Bears fare with the rain and cool wind from the northwest can it dampen their signals ( K4UPG & KC4TM ) ? And how about the Alpha Bear ( WB3AAL )on the Appalachian Trail with his snowshoes and 4 wheel drive truck for backup?


FYBO 2010 Central FL Style!
Feb 15th, 2010 by kmack

We enjoyed decent weather, though cold for us southern types at 60F. The bands were in pretty good shape too but we had a good bit of competition in the QRP section of the bands with several state QSO parties on the air at the same time.

Setup started a bit before 9 am local time.


KJ4BR K3RLL KG4LAL setting up 40m SSB Station

Wally calling CQ on 40m SSB

Wally calling CQ on 40m SSB

Jim K4AHO is ready to go on 20m CW

Jim K4AHO is ready to go on 20m CW

Jim's got one for the log!

Jim's got one for the log!

Don K3RLL (ex-WA3ZBJ) working 20m on Kelly's Sierra

Don K3RLL (ex-WA3ZBJ) working 20m on Kelly's Sierra

Kelly K4UPG working 20m CW

Kelly K4UPG working 20m CW

We spent more time talking than operating, but this was a fun event for us and none of us thinks we are heavy duty contesters! We love to make qso’s and shoot the breeze about our antennas and homebrew gear.   In between conversations and coffee breaks we did work a few stations.

Final Score  29 QSO’s X 22 SPC = 638 X Temp Multi (x2) = 1276 x Field (x4) = 5104 X (alt pwr dna) = 5104 + WQ7RP (+100) = 5204 measly points

We moved to the larger pavillion of picnic area A at Sylvan Lake Park in Sanford and had more trees and space to hang wire and put up verticals. This spot seems to be a winner for us and we are planning to hold GatorCon 10 there in July. We’ll be recruiting more active QRP ops for that one. Stay tuned!

BSO day!
Jan 30th, 2010 by kmack

Today was Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Event! I wore my new Polar Bear hat and it brought me luck. I setup in the 3 story prayer tower at Pioneers, my ministry headquarters. That kept me out of the weather and got me up in the air a bit which helped my W3EDP antenna do its thing.

Pioneers Headquarters Prayer Tower on left

Pioneers Headquarters Prayer Tower on left

Bands were pretty good and there were a lot of QRP signals out there as well as SKCC and FIST ops. I worked a few of my fellow Polar Bears:

  1. K6BBQ Rem in California
  2. WA8REI Ken in Michigan
  3. VA3RCS Martin in Canada operating a club call
  4. N0EVH John in MO

Then I worked a few non-PB’s and had some good QSO’s with SKCC members.

  1. AD4YB Ed in NC
  2. WD0ESF Mike in KS
  3. KK7YJ Jim in MT
  4. KK7UV Steve in MT
  5. K3y/7 Alan (K07X) in WY
  6. K2USA Howard the op in NJ on 20m SSB to test my Argonaut 509  in that mode

Next weekend is the FYBO and the Central FL QRP Group will be operating its first multi station- multi operator event at Sylvan Lake Park in Sanford, FL. If you’ll are down this way look us up. If not, give a listen for K4AHO which is the call sign we will be using.

Here’s to many good QSO’s. Thanks to all the good ops with good ears that heard my peanut whistle 2 watts today.

Cold Got On Me! Portable Ops in cold weather…
Jan 9th, 2010 by kmack

The last few days our local news was full of stories about the cold weather that gripped Orlando. I signed up for a shift to operate special station K3Y/4 for the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) as part of the celebration of the 4th year anniversary of our group.  That meant going outside and setting up antennas and sitting out in the sleet and cold rain that was falling. YIKES!

Tough sending even with fingerless gloves

Tough sending even with fingerless gloves

Good thing I have lived in cold weather before. I had to dig a bit, but found my long johns, thermal tee shirt and other cold weather gear. My favorite bear coat, Purdue stocking cap and fingerless gloves finished off my official Polar Bear outfit.  I did my duty but nary an answer to my endless CQ’s on 20m, then 40m and eventually 30m! Two hours of calling and zip to show for it. I’ll be back… ya’  cannot discourage a POLAR BEAR QRP Op that easily!

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