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!
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!
Great weather here in Orlando for a good afternoon of QRP Portable. The QRP To The Field contest is always a good time to get out and give out a few more points to the serious contesters. I enjoy the concentrated QRP contacts and hearing my virtual friends once again. Every QRP event has a few regulars that are almost always heard. This year the bands were only so-so in Florida with lots of QSB on 20m which was by far the best for the day. It was solid at times and then signals would suddenly drop to the noise level which made RST reporting fun!
Mt. Cedar Tree: Just above sea level
Because of band conditions, I spent most of the 4 hours on 2om, but I did check 15 and 10m on an hourly basis. To do that, I pulled out my Ten Tec Argonaut 509 and used a Buddistick with the base up about 12 ft. I called CQ about 50 times on 15 m but heard almost nothing on 10m all day. On 15m I heard a couple Eu (IV4 and DK) stations but was not getting a response to my calls and only heard 1 or 2 US stations so I assume the band conditions here weren’t quite right for those two bands.
Managed 18 QSO’s in 4 hrs of switching between my Wilderness Sierra to an EFHW, Delta Loop for 20m, and the Buddistick / Argonaut combo for 15 and 10m. 40 m was full of Florida QSO Party stations and a couple of nearby (within 4 miles) stations were pounding my receiver and causing the AGC to go nuts when I tuned across them so I only managed a single contact on 40 before retreating back to 20m.
I’ll be looking to give out more points in upcoming contests. So call CQ and I’ll be out there lookin’ fer ya!
Buddistick on the way up
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?
Another QRP To The Field is in the books. Some may wonder why we do it…why spend the time and energy to take our rigs outdoors and operate? Guess if you have never done it, you will never know! The weather made things tough for many parts of the country, but it was sure sweet to live in Florida for this one. Sunny and a warm 87F with a bit of breeze down by the lake made my day a very special one.
K4UPG QRP TTF Lake Fredrica 2011
The bands were fair to poor, but who cared? I was enjoying my hobby, making a few contacts, giving out points to the more serious contesters and spending time in the outdoors. It is a bunch of fun to make contacts with 2 watts and change, use a straight key and launch an antenna up about 35-40 feet in the pine trees.
Between QSO’s the ospreys provided some entertainment as they swooped down into the lake to snag a fish for their dinner while 4 guys on jet skis raced around our little lake. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon. That’s why I do it! How about you?
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.
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…
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.
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!
Kelly K4UPG PB #173 SKCC #5415
After last week’s plea for antenna ideas for my antenna restricted condo, I received a good number of comments both on and off blog. Thanks for those… great food for thought. That is why I enjoy our QRP community. We don’t hesitate to share ideas with one another.
This morning as I took my daily walk around the lake, I met our condo association president. He graciously is allowing me to sink a pipe that will serve as a base to set up my Jackite poles in the backyard. I will be able to pop a cap on the top and keep the dirt and water out and just slide my fiberglass poles into the mount and be on the air in no time. YAHOO… that is a pretty good solution for now.
C Pole Antenna by W0VLZ
But being the antenna tweak that I am, I continue to look for the best alternatives I can find. I’ve started to put together the parts for the C Pole antenna that Niel W0VLZ pointed out to me. He has a fine site with lots of good QRP info too.
So, do you have another idea that can top that one? Or maybe you have a thought for what kind of vertical setup I might use with the new mount?
I’m standing by for my next project assignment.
What is it about low power operators that binds us together? I’ve been reflecting on that a bit lately.
As a student of anthropology and culture, I see a bit of a tribal influence among the amateur radio ops of the world. We tend to cluster into tribes based upon our modes of operation and other specialized pursuits like contesting, fox hunting, award seekers, etc. Each tribe has its own special characteristics, culture, jargon and social structure.
What I enjoy most about the QRP tribe is that the Elmer spirit is still very much alive and well. Although we all are a bit competitive and like to think we have a line on the best way to do QRP, there is a healthy amount of sharing of information, expertise and even hardware. Groups like Adventure Radio Society, NAQCC, Flying Pigs, Polar Bears, AZ Scorpions, NE QRP, North Georgia, 4 States, etc breed healthy competition and provide us with sources of information and expert assistance when needed. I sure am enjoying getting to know, both on air and in person, some of the people that make these groups work.
My recent connection with Diz W8DIZ while operating the FOBB, prompted me to go back and read the history of the Flying Pigs and to read through the archives of the Bacon Bits Newsletter. There is real gold and a wealth of interesting info that’s been recorded and made available freely. Other clubs have the same heritage. I say a BIG THANK YOU to all the QRP groups for sharing their experience and stories. It makes me feel proud to be part of the tribe!
What about you? What do you enjoy about QRP? Leave a comment and share your thoughts and story.