Had a great time setting up the C Pole antenna in a tree suspended configuration. My good friend and cohort, Jim Diggs, K4AHO came by with his AIM 4170 Antenna Analyzer and we were ready to tune the antenna and get a feel for it.
LESSON: A good analyzer makes tuning an antenna fast, simple and accurate! The AIM 4170 gave us a TON of info (most of it going over my head) and let us see how the C Pole was doing in several areas. Take a look at this output! (Click on the image for a larger version)
K4UPG C Pole Scan Results
LESSON: I followed Niel’s directions, but did not have a small plastic coffee container so used a Quart Coke bottle instead. So I call it a Coke Choke and it seems to work well. Here’s a photo to show it off!
Coke Choke Ready for Duty
I think this one is a keeper. Goes up easily, hears well and loads nicely too. I made a few brief contacts and called it a day, but look forward to more C Pole action in the days ahead.
Kelly K4UPG PB #173
p.s. Don’t forget to vote in the Ideal Ham Radio QTH poll on the blog!
If there were no limits (job, family, taxes, spouse, etc.) on where you could set up your ideal ham shack here in the USA, where would you go?
Think for a minute where the propagation, weather and other conditions create the ideal spot to operate. Then leave your vote in the poll on my blog and write a comment if you’d like to let us know why…
Nice to dream a bit, isn’t it?
p.s. Sorry and deepest apologies to the great state of Arizona… must be AZ Brain Freeze at work, it is on the bottom of the list until I figure out how to move it up higher in the software.
Orlando, FL btw
Back in 1964 as a novice, it seemed like the strongest signals I heard in Central Indiana were the Florida stations. Man, seemed like they were always there, louder than anything else. As a new ham and teenager, I always thought how cool it would be to live in Florida, the land of fantastic propagation.
Memory Lane...The First Rig
Sure been disappointing lately… the bands are noisy, the thunderstorms consistent and sometimes it seems like no one else is on the air. What happened to my Florida ham radio paradise dream?
Are the bands working elsewhere? Boy, we have had some poor conditions lately. How about you?
On a high note (pun intended) it was pretty cool to watch QRPSPOTS.COM yesterday as lots of hams helped give signal reports to the Iowa High Altitude Balloon launched by W0OTM team! Congrats on creating some excitement and interesting reports. Now, if I can just get my antenna up to 30,000 feet or more, maybe my FL QTH will be ham radio paradise after all.
Here’s an email from my good friend and cohort in the Central Florida QRP Group. Jim wanted to share his latest mods for the Rockmites and some thoughts on the NEScaf filter. I think you will enjoy his notes too …
I thought I would bring you up to date on my latest project. I just finished a Small Wonder 20+ and used it on the Flight of the Bumblebees. I found my earbuds a little weak on audio output and the IF bandwidth of the SW20+ a bit wide for my liking. I read the specifications on the NEScaf filter offered by the New England QRP group and decided that that would be the best solution to my problem and be usable on other radios as well. I ordered, built and installed the NEScaf board in a TenTec TG-24 enclosure. I tried it on the SW20 and it sounded like a viable solution.
The Rockmite and NEScaf filter in Ten Tec Enclosures
I also have a 40 Meter Rockmite in a TG-24 enclosure and decided I would see how well the RM/NEScaf combination sounded. The Rockmite, of course, uses a DC receiver and the bandwidth is determined by the upper response of your ears… My RM sounds like about 40 khz wide, hears the whole band for me as my response is in the upper tens of kHz. Yes, I know, at my age 69 it shouldn’t be but is. Been tested. At any rate suddenly the Rockmite bandwidth is manageable. I had some audio artifacts, whistles and the RM sidetone would drive the NEScaf into cutoff which only a power cycle would clear. I googled the problem and Charlie KE2SP advised lowering the NEScaf input Z with a 10 to 47 ohm input load. I installed a 27 ohm resistor on the input connector and suddenly all artifacts, whistles and sidetone problems disappeared. WOW, the RM is really sounding great! Except the RX/TX was very low. I measured it at 500 cycles and the NEScaf would not tune down that low…
Closer Look at the Finished Rockmite and NEScaf
After considering several approaches to the problem and considering that the RM crystals don’t oscillate on exactly the QRP frequencies, I settled on completely revamping the RX/TX method used in the RM. Using the RM40 as a test bed, I removed D5, D6, R9 and R10. I purchased 2 Murata trimmers( TZ03 Series) from Skycraft, our local Surplus emporium, and installed them in the holes for D6 and D5, R9 combination of holes. I had to cut a small run on the right side (antenna connector side) to isolate that pad from Vcc and jumper to two trimmers together… I also had to drill out the pads to accept the trimmer leads. The Fet Q2 does a great job in switching to second trimmer in and out for the offset. The alignment was not difficult but I recommend using a freq counter connected thru a times 10 scope probe to the physical top of R5 (base of Q5). Don’t have to key the Tx to see the freq… I set the trimmer in the D6 position for the higher freq (7.030750 Mhz) and the other trimmer for the lower frequency (7.030000 Mhz. The trimmers I use are available at Digikey. I used the Red colored model (4.2 to 20pf, N750) but the Blue colored (2.7 to 10pf, NPO) might have been a better choice. These guys are Digikey p/n 490-1971-ND and are $0.43 each… I also changed the RM40 volume control from an audio control (1 Megohm) to a RF front end attenuator control (1.5 kohm) and there is a noticeable improvement in the overload and broadcaster breakthru problem. I strongly recommend these changes. If you can build the RM you can certainly modify it… If you break it, build another… I plan to make the same modification to my RM80. (CLICK THE THUMBNAILS for larger view)
Rockmite Mode Closeup 1
Rockmite another closeup
The Inner Workings of the NEScaf and Rockmite
How did it work? Well, the RM/Nescaf stack is now a real radio not just a toy. I worked WD8MHT Raul in Waynesville, NC one morning this week and we had a great conversation. He was 569 to me and I was 439 to him. His TS570 was working hard but copied me no problem. The amazing thing for me was that there was a really strong signal at 700 cycles and Raul was about 200 cycles higher. I tuned the Nescaf center freq on Raul and sharpened the bandpass and turned up the volume and he was armchair copy the entire QSO… WOW, not a struggle… I have since used the NEScaf on my SW20+ and yes, it works great…
I have attached a couple of pictures of the stack and the innards of the RM for reference. The switch on the front is for a future expansion.
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.
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!
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.
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!
A fitting end to this season of PBMME … Saturday the weather was finally decent here in Orlando and with 80F temperature and lots of sun, I certainly earned my red neck for the season! I set up my portable station near the tall pine trees in our neighborhood park on Lake Fredrica. A few curious neighbors came by to find out what the crazy guy with the wires in the tree was doing!
I am really liking the latest antenna launching combo shown in the photo below. I have been using a slingshot taped to a shelf bracket and equipped with a spincast reel, but have been considering other alternatives. The monofilament fishing line is prone to wind knots and tangles and does not always slip through the branches as well as I’d like. I found an old post by Russ Carpenter, AA7QU, a co-founder of Adventure Radio Society, which described using an archery reel and super slick braided line. Sure is nice to learn from those that have gone before! The bright yellow line is very easy to see though very thin, 3x stronger than monofilament and flies through both air and branches with ease! KEEPER! Think I will do away with the spincast reel and save it for the grandkids!
Antenna Launching options
Here's my site for the event
Great trees for antenna wire hanging!
If you look closely, you can see the 30m half wave going up to the tree on the left. Nearly vertical for 46 feet and is spooled on a Coleman Camping clothes line and used with a 3 ft counterpoise.
To the right is my 20ft Jackite pole and a W3EDP 84 ft antenna with a 17 ft parallel feed with 3/16 inch PET pipe spacers about every 2.5 ft. it tunes 80-15m with my BLT+ tuner.
The Polar Bear QRP Group is a great bunch of guys… (no yl’s or xyl’s that I’ve heard yet) and our monthly outings are something I look forward to each month. The Yahoo Group is a good source of information and laughs as we swap stories and share our adventures. If you like QRP and portable operation, this is the group to join.
13 March 2010— Central Florida QRP Group outing. Breakfast and operating in the Lake Nona area of Orlando, FL. email K4UPG for details.
24 April 2010 QRPTTF just announced it will continue this event. Website will be updated soon… here’s the LINK.
Stay tuned for more details.
Tuff day on the ice floes in Central Florida. I was not able to use my
target location because of rain and wind direction, so I operated from
the back porch of our condo with my Sierra and SST working through my
Buddistick up about 15 ft on a painter’s pole. Temp hovered in mid to
upper 40′s but with the wind and dampness it felt colder at times.
Band condx were poor with brief bright spots when the QSB let up and
signals sounded fairly decent. I started on 30m but it was pretty quiet
so I tweaked the antenna in the rain for 20m and found it even
quieter… Back to 30m after checking 40m which also was noisy and
almost no signals heard.
First QSO was K9DP Dan in Smithville, TN… He was 569 until QSB hit
hard but we had a 25minute ragchew that was nice. He gave me a 599 and a
couple others did later making me wonder why they could hear me better
than I was hearing them? Then read the mail for a bit on a few other
stations but didn’t get a rise when I tried to connect. Tried to connect
with K9QB but after a few weak QRZ’s we both moved on for better luck.
Finally heard a PB on 20m, WD4MSM, Barry in Indiana working someone
else. When they finished the QSO I called Barry and we had a short QSO
although the QSB was up and down and made copy tough at times. It was
good to be able to Grrrrowllll. Tried to find others and even using the
QRP Spots and K3UK spotting pages could not connect. Then I called CQ
and Guy rose out of the Band N7UN was in the log… Good to connect with
another Bear but the copy deteriorated quickly so we kept it very short.
Thanks Guy for digging my signal out. Next was Frank,, KB3AAG to finish
my day. His signal totally got lost in the noise and so it was a short
QSO to end the day.
Whew… many antenna changes, tweaks and lots of tuning, listening,
trying to hear today. I think the bands were pretty void of activity
except for us QRP types. Not often that happens, eh?
Thanks to all who went out and gave it a go. Missed talking to our
Canadian and West Coast guys this time… let’s keep trying. Also quiet
without Ken Bear raising a ruckus from MI and no Alpha Bear on the AT…
See ya in March… Grrrr!!!!
Kelly K4UPG PB #173
45F a bit of sun and a lot of wind! Today I escaped being selected for jury duty so opted to get the oil changed in my car! I called and my shop was not too busy and said, “come on down!” So I packed my 30m SST, BLT+ tuner and accessories and took off. Instead of sitting in the waiting area and reading out of date magazines and watching silly game shows, I walked out to the parking lot and threw some wire into a couple small trees. I only got the main 46 feet wire up about 15 feet on one end and sloped it through another small tree and out to my camping table. I ran a counterpoise of 23 feet to the same small tree and hooked up my trusty BLT+ tuner.
My Oil Change Parking Lot QTH for 30m
A quick tune found a couple week signals. I tuned the antenna a bit, called CQ with no luck, then heard a decent 579 signal calling CQ. Bill, NG3O in Columbia, MD replied and although I wasn’t strong (539) he thought he could copy me. He sure did a great job and we enjoyed a nice QSO for almost 30 minutes. Sure is pleasant to work a good fist without any QRM. He said I was his first Oil Change Parking Lot QSO.
A few minutes later, I connected with Rudy, W8RJW in Columbia, SC. He was a strong 589 and gave me a 559. We had a nice qso for several minutes too. It was a fun way to pass the time while I waited on my car maintenance to be done.
The band got pretty quiet afterwards and though I heard a few more stations, it was time to pull the plug, take down the wire and go home. I think I have figured out a new way to pass time when the opportunity is present. Hope you will give it a try too!
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
Jim K4AHO is ready to go on 20m CW
Jim's got one for the log!
Don K3RLL (ex-WA3ZBJ) working 20m on Kelly's Sierra
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!