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!
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.
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.
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:
A good time was had by me!
If you are old enough, I bet you remember the game Fascination and that song in the commercial that stuck in your head all these years? For you new ones, here’s that commercial in YouTube format.
If you change the word fascination to Speculation, that naggy song becomes Speculation, Biased Speculation… the game we love to play! Seems like today’s political and journalistic culture has invaded ham radio if you follow the threads on QRP-L reflector about the Ten Tec 539 which is yet to be released. It has been diced, sliced and all sorts of factless speculation has already been thrown out as to why it won’t be popular or competitive with brand x’s new scrumpdillyicious xcvr. Whew!
I think it is a sad sign of the times that instead of waiting for things to be released publically and from the source, products are already condemned as unworthy and judged based on hearsay and not true facts. It is bad enough that our culture does that in tv news broadcasts. Everyday we endure seeing the accused virtually tried and convicted on the screen by endless talk show hosts and experts often months before the courts are convened. I hate to see that culture spilling over from the current US political context where finger-pointing, wild speculation, and always attempting to avoid responsibility and accountability begins to be spewed out on our hobby.
I for one will look forward to the final roll out of what looks like a very nice new transceiver from a US company before I make that buying decision. Might be something I want, but who can tell until the process is finished and we get to see the final product? From here, it looks promising despite the speculation that is taking over all the airwaves and culture here in the USA. As for me and my house, we will wait for the facts!
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
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.
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!
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!