Last weekend was a fun one for me. I had an open day following a morning commitment, and then I was free to operate in the QRP TTF event. I had originally planned to strike out to a nearby trailhead for the extra multiplier but a hastily planned meeting nixed that plan. So I operated from the park area by Lake Fredrica in our housing development. It is my favorite spot due to the nicely spaced tall pines and open area to a sandy beach on the lake. The lake is spring fed and one of the clearest natural lakes in the area despite being surrounded by civilization. It is also a nice quiet RF location free of most appliance generated noise that is so common these days.
Being a dedicated Contest Point Giver, I set out to give some points to the serious ops among us. What a treat to casually listen, and try to improve my cw copying speed by listening to all the exchanges going on during events like this one. I love the fact that the SOTA gang was included and there were a few Florida QSO Party ops on 20m where I spend most of my time. It was also Polar Bear QRP monthly outing time and I got to Grrrrrr to several of my fellow Polar Bear ops. Thanks and an extra long Grrrr to Larry W2LJ, Perry N5PJ, Barry N1EU, and John N0EVH and hope I did not miss any other PB’s.
My view of the lake K4UPG
In the end, I had a fun day. Seems the bands were not solid, but I’ve gotten used to that in this current solar cycle. I kept hearing the same stations over and over. Now and then a new call would appear but most of the time they disappeared before I could work them with my Sierra at 2.4 watts. Even with my jumper dipole up at 45 feet I suspect my signal isn’t always loud enough to attract much attention. So I search and pounce and enjoy reading the mail and waiting to pounce. I did collect 14 different states and give myself a bit of multiplier for that fortunate turn of events.
Nothing like spending time outdoors doing something that I love. I especially appreciate my fellow QRP ops and the fun we have making QSO’s with limited power and gear.
CU on the air!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
K4UPG demonstrates how to get to FOBB in STYLE!
While everyone is thinking about antennas, staying cool and planning for the upcoming FOBB, I been checkin out a new ride! What do you think? Buzz- Buzz! Does this shout FOBB or what?
Now I can settle down and get ready for FOBB action with my untested top secret antenna. It will be all out for me again this year! Lookin’ for my friends out there on the ether and praying we don’t get lightning again like we did in 2009.
The last few years 20 meters has been the go to band, but it sure has not sounded very good here in Central Florida during the contest hours, so it will require being ready to shift bands to take advantage of the conditions.
BumbleBee #010 is gonna be listening for you all and lookin’ for the promised post of last year’s results too. CUL and 72– K4UPG
Lots of ways to do QRP!
For the past several months we have considered traveling to nearby communities in Central Florida to help QRP operators connect with one another. We’ve gotten a good response from hams in Lakeland and Port Orange areas, and we hear of active groups in the Melbourne and Daytona Beach areas. Lakeland has an advocate, Ren KG4BAS who contacted us about getting together and a possible Central Florida QRP Group in Lakeland. WAHOO!
We’re excited to see the interest and look forward to our first meet up Saturday 14 May, 2011 at Lake Parker Park in Lakeland at 0900. Here’s directions from Ren:
I-4 West to exit 32.
Make left onto 98S and go .4 miles to Griffin Rd.
Make left and go .7miles to the end of Griffin Rd.
Make right onto Lakeland Hills Blvd and go .3 miles to Granada.
Make left onto Granada and go .2 miles to Gate 2 entrance of Lake Parker on left.
Hope you can join us. Bring something to drink and snack on, your QRP gear, operate, show n tell, get ideas for your portable ops and enjoy the outdoors.
Questions? Contact Ren or Kelly K4UPG. See ya in the park!
Kelly K4UPG, Jim K4AHO, Ren KG4BAS and the Central FL QRP Group!
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 frenzy at the vendor area of Hamcation!
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?
Kelly K4UPG PB #173
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!
Calling all Central Florida QRP Ops… there’s a small group of us in Orlando that like to gather together on the 2nd Saturday of the month for some breakfast, show n tell, and portable ops in a nearby park.
K3RLL in action with KX-1
We just had a nice time of antenna tweaking and operating down by Lake Sylvan. There’s still room for more of you, so mark your calendars and plan to join us on the 10th of December 2010. Leave me a comment if you’d like me to send an email reminder to join us, or if you’d like to get on our list for future outings. Snowbirds are welcome too!
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?
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!
Nice weather and an open schedule allowed for some radio time this weekend. The QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party made some buzz so I loaded up the gear and headed out by the lake. I put up an 88ft doublet in an inverted vee. I shoot a line over a tree limb at about 40ft and use that for the center and have two 17ft Crappie Poles that I use for end supports. That allows me to reorient the antenna to suit the conditions.
Ground Mount Closeup
One of the things I threw together is a simple mount for the crappie poles. I use a 2ft piece of PVC with a couple bolts inserted at right angles to one another at the base to keep the pole from going all the way through to the ground. The PVC is attached to a 3ft piece of aluminum angle iron that with 3 stainless steel hose clamps.
Crappie Pole End Supports
The poles are pretty limber and take a bit of a bend but do a good job of handling the 24 gauge teflon wire I use. As you can see in the pictures, the mounts do the job and don’t cost as much as commercial counterparts.
So it was a good day and I made a few contacts, enjoyed the outdoors and had a nice picnic lunch with my XYL down by the lake between QSO’s. The bands were pretty decent and I gave points to 20 of the more serious contestants out there.
p.s. The Polar Bears will be out and on the air next weekend. Give a listen, hear?