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Hamcation 2013 and QRP
Feb 10th, 2013 by kmack

One of my favorite events is the Orlando Hamcation. This year I didn’t really have a “get list” so could enjoy more time with fellow QRP ops. Our Central FL QRP Group regular Jim Diggs K4AHO helped us get a QRP Forum and Jim Stafford W4QO came in from Georgia to help bring a good session about working DXCC with QRP. Wow! Jim also did a lot of recruiting of QRP ops as he manned the QRP ARCI booth and allowed us to hang out and assist. We had quite a good turnout of QRP Ops from FL and all over the US and a few overseas members too!

 

W4QOatHamcation2013QRPForum CFLQRPHamcation2013 Crowd at Hamcation 2013 QRPARCI booth Hamcation2013demoN4KGL  Carl AA2JZ brought some of his homebrew masterpieces and along with some QRP rigs W4QO displayed we got a lot if interests and questions on what was in the Altoids tins.

After the QRP Forum, Greg N4KGL gave us a demo of his Alex Loop and KX-3 at a nearby picnic table. The weather and bands were both cooperative and we were all impressed with the way the antenna and rig set up and operated!

Thanks to all who joined in the fun. Check out our Central FL QRP Group blog for details on our outings.

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

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.

Anticipation – – – HAMCATION & IDGOTAES
Jan 21st, 2011 by kmack

DEAL

Tailgate action as K4UPG buys a MFJ 207

Wahoo! It is that time of year again. I am counting down the days to one of my favorite ham radio activities… Orlando Hamcation is coming on Feb 11-13.

After reading the editorial in the new issue of World Radio Online a cord was struck that resonated with this here ham. I realized that I have a common disease. The article says, “Seems there are a lot of radio amateurs suffering from IDGOTAES.” OH NO… I have it. Throughout the month of December and most all of January, I’ve been sidetracked with other priorities and without realizing it have become afflicted with IDGOTAES. ( “I Don’t Get On the Air Enough Syndrome” )  This is a bad one and only can be cured by some serious outdoor QRP activity if you are a true portable QRP op like me.

Praise the Lord, there’s some good opportunities to get on the air coming up and one cannot find a better place to stock up on goodies than the vendors, swap tables and tailgate are  of HAMCATION. So kick off the winter snow-bound blues and git on down here and enjoy with me.

Feeding

Feeding frenzy at the vendor area of Hamcation!

tailgate

Tailgate area is HUGE!

We’ll be holding an unofficial gathering of QRP types on Saturday Feb 12, 2011 at Hamcation. Let’s meet up at noon at the QRP ARCI booth and swap stories and get to know one another. Look for the wild eyed guy in the bright yellow cap that says K4UPG on it and his very distinctively white haired partner Jim K4AHO won’t be far away! Be there and let’s get over this dreaded disease together as we plan some Central Florida QRP Group outings for the rest of the year.  QNI? Ya hear?

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173

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

I am CAD afflicted
Oct 25th, 2010 by kmack

Yep, it is confirmed now for sure. Compulsive Antenna Disorder has haunted me since I was first licensed and ran a coax fed 80 meter dipole on multiple bands without a tuner.  The first time the symptoms were noticed by my family and friends was when I got a couple OO tickets for out of band harmonics. Hmmmm… what’s up with that? So a bit of reading and the antenna tweaking began and that’s when it all started.

Soon thereafter I tried to load up a nifty pin from my Junior Prom Boutonnière that reminded me of a triple stacked halo for 1296 Mc (MHz for the newer ones amongst us).  Then it was the handheld yagis for 432 Mc that we used with some military surplus gear that used dynamos so we could chase tornadoes. (We thought if it bounced off the moon, it should bounce off of a tornado!) The saucer sled that became a parabolic for listening to satellite telemetry and on it goes… Compulsive Antenna Disorder has had a firm grip on me for some time now.

Antenna Farm

Am I dreaming? Thanks wiki images!

As a QRP operator, I am always looking for more antenna power. I know that somewhere out there simply MUST be a silver bullet, that magic QRM and pileup busting antenna that makes my 2 watts output sound like a full gallon.

I can say one thing for sure, I know a lot of non-silver bullet antennas, as I have a box full of them.

But they still make a few QSO’s at times and I’m having fun along with a bit of frustration and disappointment as I deal with my CAD affliction.

I’m told that much like telegraph key collectivitis there is no known cure or relief. I share in your grief brothers and sisters…

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173

Duh: Learning Curve #6 What’s a ham to do?
Oct 1st, 2010 by kmack

Here’s my dilemma:

I am a rookie homebrewer. My kit experience is good, but I have struggled to build direct from schematics. Part of it is my lack of ability to conceptualize the physical layout and part of my challenge is lack of building experience and mentoring.

Boxes

What should I use?

Several of my antenna tuner projects seem to have a TON of hand capacitance effect. They are built in plastic cases, some from the Shack and some from the local surplus shops and hamfests. Most commercial tuners are built in metal cases and I wonder if that would eliminate the sensitivity to the tuning hand?

I have a couple metal enclosures I can use and a great ham friend sent me some thin copper with adhesive tape on the back.  I am thinking of slapping some copper tape inside the plastic cases and see how it works.

So, I am putting it to the vote:

Which material should I build with?

  • Metal case is the only way to go (79%, 11 Votes)
  • Use the copper tape inside plastic case (14%, 2 Votes)
  • Just use the plastic case (7%, 1 Votes)
  • Give up and buy a commercial tuner (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

Loading ... Loading ...

And for the record, the vote in the poll  for best ham radio QTH in the US was won by West Virgina. Here is the top 5:

  • West Virginia (17%, 11 Votes)
  • Kansas (14%, 9 Votes)
  • Texas (8%, 5 Votes)
  • Hawaii (6%, 4 Votes)
  • New Hampshire (5%, 3 Votes)

Thanks and 72,

Kelly K4UPG

New Open Source Rig Project? Dah Mini-Pig+
Sep 27th, 2010 by kmack

The QRP-L reflector has been buzzin’ with the news and chatter (positive and some negative btw) about a new project to design and build a new transceiver for QRP HF use. YAHOO!

Manhattan Style

K8IQY Style Test Setup

What I love the most about this is that the QRP community is able to contribute ideas, resources and participate much like the Open Source software community operates. This could really be a fun project for our Central Florida QRP group. After all, we are not that far from Diz W8DIZ who is facilitating and coordinating this project.

If you like to build, experiment and try some QRP operation with a new rig… you should tune in and join the fun.

This is the last week to vote in the poll on my blog for the best US QTH for ham radio… Here’s the standings as of Sunday at 2100 EDT:

  • West Virginia (17%, 10 Votes)
  • Kansas (16%, 9 Votes)
  • Hawaii (7%, 4 Votes)
  • Texas (7%, 4 Votes)
  • New Hampshire (5%, 3 Votes)

You can cast your vote by following this link!

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173

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.

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

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